Domaine Les Gandins
Un gandin, you may or may not have known, is a dandy, an aristo, the kind of guy who lost his head to the guillotine when the French Revolution rolled into town. There were loads of them who lived lives of quiet luxury on little estates, just like this one, until the Revolution came along and recommended that that kind of thing ought to come to a stop.
The estates, of course, remained, even though their owners went the way of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Of course, once the dust had settled and the cobbles hosed down, most of them eventually found their way back into the hands of a new aristocracy, as is the way with so many revolutions, but thankfully many of them are now little hotels, B&Bs, gîtes, and campsites, open to the sans coulottes – like us lot. And of all the similar domaine-style campsites in France, this one, at Domaine les Gandins, is surely the dandiest of the lot. A magnificent house, dating back to long before the Revolution, sits at the centre of a glorious little estate comprising various gîtes (including one in a converted pigeon loft), a stretch of sleepy river, a fantastic tree house and – this is where you come in – a spacious and leafy camping field.
The main house, with its red-tiled roof and deep-green shutters is postcard-perfect, and the grounds are all immaculately kept by the friendly French family who own and run the site. With all its attendant facilities, Domaine les Gandins is really something of a one-stop shop of a campsite, so much so that you might be forgiven for pitching your tent one day and staying for a whole week without ever venturing beyond the confines of the site.
For a start, the river of La Sioule is a minute’s stroll through the meadow behind the complex of buildings and past the tree house. It’s not the raciest of rivers, so it’s perfect for a paddle or just for cooling off on a hot summer’s day, and there are plenty of shady places in which to lounge around and listen to the birds or the gentle sound of the water. That’s assuming you can block out the sound of the kids. Then there’s the busy kitchen, which is at the heart of the site and always seems to have steam and smells emanating from inside. Whether you just want a morning cuppa to go with your croissant or fancy taking part in the communal table d’hôte meal in the evening, you’ll find that the kitchen is the social hub around which everything else revolves.
If you do venture off the site while you’re here you could do worse than head down to Vichy. This old sulphur spa town gained notoriety during the Second World War, when it became the seat of Marshal Pétain’s government. Thankfully now it’s reverted to being a thermal spa town next to the wide Allier River, where folk come to take the waters in search of a cure for rheumatism or gout, or just for a stroll through the leafy riverside parks.
FacilitiesThere’s one large chalet-style accommodation block tucked off to the side of the site, with a row of WCs and hot showers, which is perfectly serviceable. There are also laundry facilities. There’s a great tree house between the estate and the river, and down at the bank there’s a communal fire pit and some wooden furniture for lazing about by the water. BBQs off the ground are permitted on the camping field.
Suitable ForTents, caravans. Reservations from 7 nights in high season.
Food & Drink
You can pick up bread from the van that visits the site and there are coffees and ice creams available from the kitchen during the day. Or why not treat yourself to a 4-course table d’hôte meal in the evenings, which is €28 for adults, including wine and coffee. Guests can even get a takeaway to eat back at camp for just €15. There’s also a 2-course kids’ dinner at €12. If you want to self-cater, there’s a small Proxi convenience store a couple of miles away in Étroussat, but it’s only good for the basics. The town of Gannat has a better range of shops.
Mid April – mid September.
The Owner Says
Domaine les Gandins is pleased to announce the installation of an in-ground swimming pool 6x15m. For hours of fun, heated to 27°C and available from April 2019.
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