Uzerche isn't known as 'the pearl of the Limousin' for nothing. It’s cluster of ancient, turreted buildings, clambering up towards the steeple of its hilltop church, creates one of the most scenic townscapes in all of France, while the languid pace of the river Vézère imbues a sense of calm and serenity across the entire settlement. Slithering around the town in a tight loop, it’s as if the river has squeezed the old centre upwards, the grey-stone buildings crowning the surrounding valley with their spikey rooftops and rows of classical arches.
Were you to climb the church tower and peer from the narrow windows, it would be a struggle to pick out the neighbouring village of Condat sur Ganaveix. Though just six kilometers away, the flanks of trees and numerous shallow valleys disguise it among the countryside, but it’s on the edge of the village, nestled among such lush surroundings, that Camping Moulin de la Geneste is found.
Spread across 10 acres but with only around 45 camping pitches, Moulin de la Geneste is a country campsite as naturally suited to its surroundings as the birds in the trees and the trout in the river. Much of the site is made up of unmanaged pockets of woodland and long grasses, while three specific camping areas provide space where tents can be pitched or motorhomes parked up for the night. The attitude is pretty relaxed. Events are suitably spontaneous and homemade – be it floating candles on the lake, a treasure hunt, story telling in the fairy garden or feeding and brushing ponies – but there are plenty of happy constants to keep you busy through the day. Boules and basketball courts entertain in the warm summer evenings, while managed footpaths lead you through the trees by day, to quiet picnic areas and streams perfect for kids to dabble and splash about during the midday heat.
When you do head elsewhere, though, there is plenty to do. Uzerche itself has a wealth of important heritage – the central abbey is a sign of its pinnacle of influence during the 1100s and the surrounding fort-shaped buildings that were a style of the time have led to the French saying “He who owns a house in Uzerche has a castle in the Limousin”. It’s not a place of fast-paced, fist-pumping modern life, of course, (though join the local canoe outfitters and you’ll certainly find some speed on the downstream rapids) but for a little casual exploration there are few better spots – it’s as if the town were tailor made for aimless ambling.
When you slide your rook across the chessboard back at Camping Moulin you can’t help but feel the timelessness of the whole area: The beautiful Limousin, its mature woodlands and ancient settlements, and the age-old beauty of camping out beneath the stars. “Beware”, their website warns, “You may find yourself staying longer than you planned”. It’s not a counsel to be taken lightly.
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