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I do understand it is now October and I am just getting around to the summer camping blog.

So it is. May it urge you to come to France — and camp!

It’s an odd thing when you look back in time…there are things that stand out as golden. There are others that disappear, like pain does when it’s gone:)

Camping stands out. What’s golden, is what you discover while there:)

I have to say that I did not EVER think I’d be camping in France.

Did not EVER consider the possibility until one day it arose because — well because we wanted to explore more of France in a *real* way, close to the earth, driving around exploring without all the hype of tourism, going where we wanted when we wanted, and eating food we could buy fresh at the markets any given day.

I had NO IDEA this was a common *sport* in France. But I found out quickly.

It is a blast.

We went to what is the main sports chain store in France, Decathlon, and got outfitted for camping…a pop up *Quechua* tent, an inflatable airbed (we ARE in our 50s now), a lantern, table and 2 camp chairs, a very cool little stove to heat water — you know — the usual stuff — but high tech.

The tent was a riot. I graduated from age 17-57 in about 30 seconds. I remember the days of heavy canvas, wet tents — hauling everything heavy — which is why I forgot about it all.

(Brief diversion: Having three children with those memories? Didn’t EVEN want to go there. In fact, I never did. I refused to take them camping. Can you believe it? Lucky for them, their dad stepped in annually:)

Back to it.

Liam pulled the tent out of the back of our little Fiat, pulled the belt off it, literally threw it up in the air, and voila. It opened and dropped ready to fill.

Jumping into camping is was what clued me into that this is what the French do all summer long. First of all, the French love to travel:) And France is so big and diverse, they travel a LOT in their own country; all over it.

They are set up. Geared up. Equipped. They shop at Decathalon and except for the camper vans, we all seemed to have about the same equipment!

(I quietly compared as I cooked…)

The first  campground experience was a  large, flat and grassy place…hot showers, hot water for dishes, laundry facilities — full of French, German, English, Dutch, and a few Spanish license plates too, all visiting our neck of the woods. There were dozens and dozens of campsites. This was SMACK in the middle of  Pont en Bessin, SMACK in the middle of where the Normandy Invasion occurred.

There were a few things that  struck me; one  was the agreement field of the campground. Everyone was respectful, tidy, unto themselves, and quiet. Quiet in a campground? Everyone slept well. There were many tents — this was not an RV campground though there were mini camper vans about — the whole world was there for the same reason; to be outside, sit in the sun, relax, read, visit the area, cook something on the BBQ or visit a local restaurant — it was simple pleasure.

The other one was that we were sitting in the middle of French soil where such history had recently occurred. Just sitting there. In the middle of it:)

We took two camping trips this last summer. The first one here mentioned, the Normandy Beaches, also included Bayeux and Coutances.

The slideshow here is a mix of the Beaches, and Leonardo.

You’ll know the difference (:

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Verville sur Mer, Pont du Hoc — sobering. Necessary.

Necessary for our children and theirs to experience.

The second camping experience was in the Loir et Cher.

The camping was the same — easy, quiet, wonderful — and beautiful. The mist would rise out of the earth at sunset with *the light of France*, a living tapestry of a potential Monet…with  all of us camped at the west end of the campground paying homage to the setting sun in silence.

Common ground.

Beyond that? Was where we went. We visited Amboise, an absolutely charm-filled town, home to King François I, dear friend of Leonardo da Vinci.

He invited Leonardo to come to Amboise in the last years of Leonardo’s life (he died there). The King gave him his ‘smaller chateau’ right  down the road.

It is called Château du Clos-Lucé. Stand at the window of Leonardo’s bedroom, regard the grander chateau of the king  — and know if your friend has gone to bed…that was my experience…mimicking his, I imagined…

It is an intimate, full of golden light space. The renovation is exquisite and gives you an experience of splendor.

What I keep remembering in that splendor of Leonardo’s home is that  his last three to four years of life on earth — were right there. The same handrail. the same banister. The same rooms with the views.

I’ve not been to Italy yet but the culture seeped through in the color and design.

I stand at home here in France in the kitchen, and think I must have gone to Italy! But wait! No! I haven’t! The experience at Château du Clos-Lucé is so fully representative of who Leonardo was. And I received that by hitting the road, camping nearby, and including it as one of the important places we wanted to visit.

Happy Trails!