Such treats were in abundance in the heart of France’s Dordogne and Charente. For too long – as long as I can remember – the paramotoring community has been travelling to Turkey and Spain for flying trips. Instead I wanted to try something new: not too far from home and easy to access. Paramotor France, only a five-hour drive from Caen, was the answer I was looking for.
My first visit to the Dordogne, to John Cooper’s beautiful farmhouse at Combiers, 35km south-east of Angoulême, was in early October 2022. I came across Paramotorfrance.com online, whilst looking for a new adventure and a new area to fly. A pilot had posted a YouTube video on the website, documenting his one-week experience with John. I could not help but giggle along to the sort of witty pilot banter that we have become accustomed to in this sport (thanks Mark Allison and Lee Jackson).
When I first arrived, Bob the dog greeted me with a wagging tail and a sniff, followed by a beer and a smile from John himself. The base camp property completely exceeded my expectations. The authenticity, cosiness and warmth, and beautiful location next to a crystal-clear river with miles of empty forest, created an instant energy of relaxation and belonging.
As we sat by the heated swimming pool, under the clearest night sky with more stars than I knew existed, we discussed our passion for the sport and trips we had already been on, laughing endlessly. Travelling alone comes with its own apprehension, but the instant sense of being welcomed immediately disperses all anxieties. The night ended with a few empty bottles of the finest French wine, and a bellyful of barbecue that John had prepared. As first impressions go this was top. And yes, the 12-hour drink rule was respected.
One of the best aspects of this trip was that flight availability is abundant, as the weather was perfect every day. Our preference was to fly for two hours in the morning after we woke up, before it became too hot. Locations changed every day, as John has access to six airfields that we could use.