France/Italy Part 1: Calais – Beauvais – Clemont Ferand – Millau – Florac

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a very pretty aire in the town of Florac, which is situated in the South of France, in the Gorges du Tarn region. The sun is shining, and its feeling hot, hot, hot!

We arrived into Calais at 4pm local time on Wednesday, and by 6pm we were pitched up on a free aire with free services (water etc) in Beauvais. It was a handy stopover for us, we didn’t want to be driving too long and the town itself is very close to the motorway. The aire here is lovely, and we were soon set up with a g and t, solar panel on, etc. We had a very peaceful night and set off for our long slog down the motorway to Clemont Ferand. We made the mistake of completely trusting the sat nag, which decided to throw in the Eiffel Tower as a special treat- we ended up driving though the middle of Paris in the van, something which I won’t want to do again, and wouldn’t recommend – however we managed to do so stress free, and got a couple of cheeky glimpses of the famous tower!

Once Paris had been successfully navigated it was a straight run down the motorway, we were heading for a France Passion site near Volvic, which has been recommended to us by Dad and Jenny. We’ve been looking forward to it for years, and had spent near enough the whole journey deciding how we were going to cook the trout that we would catch, as it was raining and we didn’t think the BBQ would be a good idea. Unfortunately the BBQ wasn’t the only thing the rain got the better of, the France passion site were unable to accommodate us on their grass pitches as it was water logged! Next time maybe!

We headed a few miles down the road to a vineyard at nearby Chateaugay. This place didn’t quite grab our fancy, it looked very run down and in the middle of nowhere, and the approach road had pot holes that looked like they would give Bluebell a run for her money, so we did a swift turn and headed onto the aire in the town of Chateaugay. By now, we’d been driving a long time and were getting grouchy. Poor Keith failed to stop at the junction which had a stop sign marked right next to the aire, as we could see for miles there was no traffic. Unlucky for us, the local police were there and we got pulled in on the entrance to the aire for failing to stop! 5 mins later, and lots of eye fluttering from both of us, and they let us go, with just a warning. The aire was nice, there were plenty of other vans and we could see the castle right next door, so we had a quick cuppa and a celebratory cake to have reached our destination despite several hiccups, and had a wander round the town. It was pretty, and we found a great little wine cave inside the castle where we enjoyed trying their own wine, which was delicious.

Next day, we set off bright and early as we wanted to visit the Volvic source which was just down the road, and also nearby Pay de Dome, am extinct volcano which promised fab views. Once we arrived at Volvic we checked out the visitors centre and did the obligatory filling of our empty bottles in their fountain. There wasn’t an awful lot to see as the source is underground, but we enjoyed it all the same- the water from there is drunk all around the world and so now next time we get a bottle, we can remember back to our visit.

Next up, half an hour down the road was Pay de Dome. There is a massive parking area there, and you get the train up for a very reasonable 9euros each return. Jazz was free! The views were spectacular and we loved every second up there. There was a shop, cafe and restaurant, but we enjoyed an hour of wandering, taking photos and watching the para gliders launch off the top! They have balls!!

We left after lunch and hit the motorway again, this time aiming for Millau to see the impressive bridge across the valley. We decided to come off the motorway before it turned into a toll to cross, instead opting to drive down to the town, stay on the aire and do the bridge tomorrow. However, the aire, although nice, seemed to need a degree to enter, so we left it, heading for a wild camping spot I’d read about at nearby Roma de Tarn. The spot was fantastic, we had a private spot right next to the river, in a gorgeous valley. They had even put a picnic table there for us! We enjoyed our evening there, and really relaxed. We even cooked our tea outside! Our drive to the spot took us directly underneath the millau bridge, which was stunning, and so this morning we stopped at the viewpoint and visitors centre for breakfast and a look. It really is amazing, it’s not til you stand under it that you get a sense of how huge it is!

We set off towards our next stop, which is Florac, where we are now. Our drive to get here today was stunning. Right through the heart of Gorge du Tarn, and its been fantastic. Massive gorges, picture perfect river, it’s just stunning. We’ve spent the afternoon chilling (or baking rather) outside the van, and we are now about to head into town for a beer. Well, it is Saturday night!

Until next time

Lx

Until next time 🙂

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France- May half term 2013 (6) Guerande – Honfleur – Whissant – home

Bluebell the motorhome is parked back up outside home, she’s all unpacked, clean, and is having a major rest after driving us around the whole of Brittany, covering over 1600 miles!

We had a long journey from Guerande to Honfleur, we had been unlucky with roadworks on this entire trip, but this journey in particular was road closed after road closed. We just got to Honfleur in time for our 13:30 vets appointment- despite leaving ourselves an extra hour and a half. When we arrived, we were in the horrors, the vets was totally empty, other than workmen! After a sickening moment, we realised we were at the wrong one! 5 mins later, we’d found the right one, and had parked up and were knocking on the door. A very French vet opened up, let us in and made us feel extremely welcome. 10 mins and €40 later, Jazz had had a full check up, some tablets (hidden in cream cheese!) and his passport was all stamped and up to date.

We had to find the back way into the aire as the bride was elevated so you couldn’t drive in the normal way. It was ok for us, as Honfleur was beginning to feel like our second home, we knew the back entrance in but during the afternoon we saw many motorhomes driving around looking lost and stressed trying to follow the non existent French diversion!

We had a great seafood meal overlooking the harbour and an earlyish night- although we made use of our electric hook up- we were able to dig our Keefy’s spare blu ray player out that we carry and watch RV. I love that film, its so so funny!

Next morning, after a lie in, we hit the road to Calais. It took just over 3 hours. We heard for Cite Europe, the massive hypermarket next to the tunnel, to stock up on wine and cheese to bring home. Somehow, we totally underestimated how much wine to bring home, we bought about 10 bottles of red home – we picks done €1 Bordeaux and cotes de Rhone. Shopping done, we headed to find the wire in Wissant. It was very easy to find, it’s just as you enter the town. We took the last space, pitched up for free, and wandered into town. Jazz loved the beach and we had a good hour or so wandering. We used our last few euros on some wine which we happily drank whilst watching the world go by.

Next day, we set off on the 10min journey to the euro tunnel terminal. We were sad to be leaving France, and were both a bit nervous about the pet passport terminal- would our stamps be the right thing? Had we done everything we needed to? Our fears were soon gone, as soon as you drive into the terminal in France, there is a big paw print you follow to a separate terminal. They checked Jazz’s microchip, his stamps in his passport and had a chuckle at his passport photo! 2 mins later, and with a special dashboard sticker, we were free to go. We had arrived over an hour early,in case of any problems, and the we were lucky enough to get on the next shuttle. We literally drove through customs, passport control and onto the train. We were the last vehicle on the train and within 5 mins we were on our way. Absolutely fantastic, we won’t ever use the ferry again.

We really enjoyed our time in Brittany, however I don’t think either of us are in a rush to go back to that part of France. We both had wanted to visit for a long time- and we saw some great places, but we had to work hard to find them. We were disappointed in the difficulties we faced in trying to park the van in some of the towns, as France has such a great reputation for being motorhome friendly.

Our highlights:
France Passion night at the orchard
Mont St Michel
Honfleur
Randomly finding the amazing castle round the corner from the France passion site near Vannes

Until next time
Lx