France/Italy Part 9: The Final Chapter

Bluebell the motorhome is safely parked up outside our house again, having done a 3094 mile journey across France and Italy in the space of 3 weeks and 1 day. She has had a pamper and is looking clean and tidy again, and is looking forward to a little rest!

We arrived back at lunchtime yesterday after a really pleasant last day in Calais stocking up on wine, beer and cider, and then a lovely evening on the aire at Wissant soaking up the sunshine!

Our return journey on the Euro Tunnel was smooth, and once again, we’ve come away massively impressed by the service- the smoothness of travelling with the pooch in tow is brilliant and we can’t praise their system enough.

I wanted to do a last post sort of thing to round off our amazing trip. On the way home we did some number crunching, and we are stunned to discover that we spent just over £1000 – which we think is brilliant for a 3 week holiday, and especially one where we saw so many places, and travelled so many places.

Fuel
Obviously the main expense was fuel- driving a diesel was much more economical on the continent than petrol (especially compared to our first trip abroad when we went in our petrol Talbot!). Diesel in France was cheaper than the UK- on average we paid €1.32 pl ish for Diesel in France topping up when we could at supermarkets rather than petrol stations on the motorways. Diesel in Italy is much dearer- on average we paid 1.60 pl ish there.

Tolls
Another large proportion of our spend was toll charges. I know you can easily travel through both countries quite easily without using the toll roads, however as we were covering a large area in a short amount of time, we made the choice to take tolls when we could. In France the tolls tended to be much more expensive than in Italy. On average we paid around €20 to travel around 100 miles in France (it did depend on the area) whereas in Italy the same distance tended to be between €5 and €10.

Eating out
Eating out in Italy was much cheaper than we thought it may be. We managed to grab lunches for under €10 a dish, the main expense was the accompanying beer, but if you drank wine by the carafe it was much much cheaper!

Accommodation
In both countries we found it was easy to find free stopovers, and in fact the first 10 nights we paid nothing for our stopovers. In France it is especially easy, as the signage to the motorhome points tends to be very good. In Italy, the areas are there, however the signs are much more sparse. We found that the paid sostas tended to be signposted more readily than the free ones. In most major towns in both Italy and France you can easily find water and emptying facilities and often this is free or included in the cost of your stop.

Our bible was the Camperstop Europe book which we relied on daily to find where to head to. What was invaluable to us was the GPS coordinates that we were able to input into our Garmin Sat Nav. They were 100% accurate everytime, and we cannot praise it enough.

Highlights
Wilding camping here- Rome De Tarn – a stones throw from a beautiful river, and completely away from it.

Staying in the alps here- La Breole and stumbling across the most beautiful Alpine lake

Lake Orta, Italy free sosta here

Venice

Florence

Pisa

Monaco/Monte Carlo – underground motorhome parking follow signs for Fontvielle €8 for 4 hrs

St Tropez aire here

We had the most amazing time, and can’t wait to get out again! Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions please get in touch!

Until next time
Lx

France/Italy Part 8: Champagne – St Valery Sur Somme – Wissant (Calais)

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the official aire on the outskirts of the pretty St-Valery- Sur Somme, along with 30 odd other vans from right across the continent. Amazingly, and happily, we’ve re found the sunshine here on the north coast!

We’ve both got a slight sense of dejavu being here, as this was the very first French aire that we visited over two years ago in our dear old Daisy! We decided earlier today that this would make a perfect stop off on our journey back to Calais, and we weren’t wrong! The town here is very pretty, in fact the streets here have inspired many artists over the years to paint watercolours of the town. It’s very traditionally French, with a pretty harbour, a long promenade, and lots of little bars and creperies dotted along the Main Street facing out to sea. When we last visited in 2011, it was February and very much out of season, but now it’s even prettier as most of the houses have beautiful floral displays outside their houses, and lining the streets- it’s gorgeous.

We had a easy journey here from Champagne, with a stop at Amiens to get Jazz’s pet passport sorted for our return. We got a bargain actually, the vet only charging €20 – half the price of when we came in May and went to the vet in Honfleur!

We spent an hour or so chatting to a fellow Brit at the aire, who has been over here for 5 months with his wife. They are also coming to the end of their adventure, returning to England next week. I’m so envious of anyone able to tour over here long term. I would love to, but have some convincing to do to Keefy first! It was great to swap stories and advice and nice to meet a chatty fellow Brit!

So we’re now on the last leg of our adventure, travelling north up the peage to Calais. Today’s poa is to hit Cite Europe for a maccy d’s and then a good ol shop- we are then going to the aire at Wissant for a chill ready for our train tomorrow at 9am. We’ve had a brill time, and I’m truly sad to be gong home. I know I could carry on! I think Keefy is looking forward to some home comforts though! Haha

Until next time
Lx

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France/Italy Part 7: French Riviera – Chateauneuf Du Pape – Dijon – Champagne

Bluebell the motorhome is safely parked up amongst some warehouses and caves that make up a champagne maker/distributor on a France Passion site near Epernay. We’re slowly adjusting to being back int norton areas, the weather has changed, and we’ve both had to dig out our jumpers!

We found a fantastic aire on the beach just 3 km from St Tropez, and did something which we rarely do- stayed there for more than one night! When we arrived, we were pleased to see that dogs were allowed on the beach- something that is a rarity in Europe during the heights of summer, and to have found a gorgeous little beach right in the heart of the riviera was brill. Our pitch was 50 metres away from the sea and we had an amazing view of all the luxury yachts just off the shore! It was just the sort of place we were after, and we had an amazing 2 days relaxing on the beach, swimming and sleeping!

We reluctantly packed our things up on Saturday morning to turn Bluebell round and begin the journey north. We both didn’t really want to leave, but equally, we didn’t want to have a mammoth drive back to Calais, we wanted to pad it out a little. So we set off Chateauneuf du Pape, where we’ve been before, and loved. It was supposed to be only a 2 hour journey, but unfortunately we weren’t the only ones heading north, and our journey time was doubled with traffic jams for the majority of the journey! Once we arrived all thoughts of traffic and leaving the seaside vanished- we both adore the wine, and got so excited see the vines, and find the France passion vineyard that we stayed at last time. It’s a beautiful house, surrounded by vines and mountains, and is blissfully quiet. We had a fantastic afternoon and evening, trying the wines, buying the wines, then of course drinking the wine!!

Inevitably, next morning we both awoke feeling a little worse for wear! We popped into the local supermarket to stock up on a hangover kit- annadin, coca cola, chocolate and fizzy water and set off to Dijon. Once again, we weren’t the only ones travelling and we hit huge delays, turning our 3.5 hour journey into a 7 hour beast. We later found out that this particular weekend is known as Black Saturday/Sunday as everyone is travelling back home after their hols!

We were intending on staying on a France Passion vineyard near Beaune, but we still we to feeling quite up for wine tasting, so opted for a free aire in the pretty town of Nuit St George. It was a pretty little town, and we enjoyed a short wander round, but we opted for an early night and locked ourselves away at only 7pm!

Next morning we awoke feeling much brighter, although the weather was still grim, and we set off towards the champagne region. On the route we mused about whether we had done the right thing leaving St Tropez when we did. We’ve still got a few days before we need to be at Calais, and the weather is depressing- maybe we should have stayed put in the sun for a couple of extra days and then done the long journey back in just two days. With the heavy traffic it feels like we’ve driven for long periods of time, and its seeming quite relentless. Never mind, next time we will know!

We reached our France passion mid afternoon after trying and failing to find two other France passion sites! We love France Passion and will always support it, however find the directions often impossible to follow. Why they can’t use coordinates I don’t know, or even a road name would be good! Never mind!!

We had a nap when we arrived, you know what they say- as you get older it takes longer to shift the hangovers….! After a nap and a freshen up we felt much more up for trying out the champagne that is made on the premises. It was nice, and we ended up with a bottle to save (!) maybe for Christmas. We had a chill and watched some Sopranos and hit the sack at 10pm! It was very quiet and again, we both slept like logs! We’ve made an appointment for Jazz for his return to England tablet in the vets in Amien, so we shall stop there on the way to St Valery Sur Somme, which is where we plan to spend our penultimate night in France.

Until next time

Lx

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France/Italy Part 6: Venice- Pisa – San Remo – Monaco

Bluebell the motorhome is parking overlooking the one and only Mediterranean Sea. We had a fantastic 3 days covering about 500 miles! We hadn’t really intended on travelling so many miles at this stage in so little time, but there were a few reasons why, come Monday morning, we adjusted our route to swing by the French Riveria a few days earlier than planned. The main being the heat- we had a terrible nights sleep on Sunday after our day in Venice mainly because of the heat, but also because we’d managed to pick the sosta which was about 300metres from a bar, which at 11pm at night turned from quiet bar in the middle of nowhere, to rave bar which I’m not exaggerating here, attracted probably 100+ cars traipsing in and out until 4 am. Usually we would have left, but we were trapped in the parking area by a height barrier, which allowed the cars in and out, but not us! So we had to grin and bear it, and eventually drifted off as the sun came up, but woke feeling terrible!

We made the decision to fuel with coffee and croissants and hit the road to Pisa. It was a long old journey (4hrs on the motorway) but we were sure we were doing the right thing, as neither of us had been to Pisa. We found the sosta in Pisa easily, it was very well signposted for a change! Before heading into town to see the famous tower, we grabbed 40winks which helped. It took us a little while to actually locate the tower once we’d made it into the town itself, but once we did, words can’t describe how exciting it was! I think we were both wary as we had heard that it was a dump there (especially the outskirts) from various people- I can honestly say, we didn’t find it like that at all. The piazza where the tower and cathedral are are beautiful, and the rest of the town has its own charm, along with the usual touristy shops and fashion shops. The tower itself was worth every single mile we drove to get there. Seeing it for real, not on tv, or in a book, is just so cool. We’ve read every tour book going, we’ve even watched a documentary, but seeing it for real, and how it defies gravity is just mesmerising. We stood looking at it for at least an hour, then spent another hour trying to get the right angle to take the famous pic of us pushing it up. On the way Keith said to me “I’m not sure you should do that picture, it will be embarrassing”- as soon as we arrived all you could see were tons of people doing the same thing! Haha!

We had a good relax at the sosta that night but it was so hot and muggy. It was evident we were going to get a storm. And my gosh, did we get a storm! It lasted about 3 hours, from 1-4am and was great to watch, but we were hoping to have a good nights sleep, and this just never happened!

Next morning, we were due to stay in Lucca just down the road. The storm hadn’t cleared the air at all, and it was 35 degrees at 9:30am. We both we craving a different sort of heat, it was just so humid down there, so we made the decision to leave Lucca for this time, and drive all the way up to San Remo, on the Italian Med coast. It was another long drive, but as soon as we arrived at the sosta in San Remo, we knew we’d done the right thing. Although it was still 35 degrees, there was a nice sea breeze and we had the most amazing view of the sea and palm trees from our van. We enjoyed a cycle down to the main bit of San Remo, was was traditionally Italian and the coastline was so pretty. We had a great nights sleep, which was overdue, and woke feeling fresh as daisies! Today’s plan was to follow the coast round to Monaco, and then Nice.

We managed to find the motorhome parking ok in Monaco, but it was definitely down to luck rather than signs! The motorhome parking area is underground- Monaco is obviously way too posh to have big white boxes on wheels parked up!!! We had a fab time wandering round the harbour, celeb spotting and trying to figure out who owned which huge boat. We then head across to an aire just outside of Nice. It was ok, but didn’t grab us, so we filled with water and head on- our book indicated there was an aire at nearby Cannes, and failing that there was a France passion near too. Leaving that aire was the biggest mistake we have made all holiday. We promptly got stuck in a 2 hour traffic jam on the way to Cannes, then the aire was non existent, the town grotty, amd no parking whatsoever! No problem, lets try the France passion site- oops, another 45 min traffic jam, the France passion site was nowhere to be seen. By now, it was gone 6pm! We’d left Monaco at 2pm and travelled 25 miles!!! We decided to leave that area and carried on a bit further round the coast towards St Tropez, towards an aire that was in the book. Unfortunately luck was not on our side, well it was coming up to 7:30pm- the aire was crammed full, so we’ve ended up just down the road on the sea front with 5 other vans who tried the aire unsuccessfully! We did however manage a dip in the sea, we’ve got a private beach here, and the view is pretty good!!

Until next time

Lx

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France/Italy Part 5: Lake Garda – Verona – Venice

Bluebell the motorhome is parked along with several other European vans on the outskirts of the one and only Venice! Today we crossed over the 1500 miles milestone, and we are thrilled we’ve made it this far! Amazingly, we’ve only used 4 tanks of fuel- so were averaging around just under 400 miles per tank- we’re happy with that!

Yesterday we spent a day mooching in charming Verona, which we thoroughly enjoyed, and we got another freebie on our overnight parking as when we pulled into where the sat nav told us the official sosta was, we saw 10+ vans in a huge car park next door. We pulled in and asked a French motorhoming family a) was it possible to stay here overnight and b) how much? We were pleased when they said it was ok and free, and celebrated by having a pizza lunch in the main square. Verona is a lovely place to spend the day, we enjoyed taking in the sights, including the amphitheatre and of course the famous balcony from Romeo and Juliet (however my guide book told us that this is infact not true, it was erected by Verona council in the 1920s to boost tourism!) it was still a great sight to see, and we thoroughly enjoyed it there, despite the 40 degrees heat!!

We had a chill (or rather bake) in the evening and slept well, despite the temperature in the van remaining stable at 30 degrees all night!

We set off this morning for our sosta on the outskirts of Venice! We both were very excited, I’ve been before but Keith hasn’t! We arrived at 1030 am and set off to find our water bus to the centre. It was great exploring Venice and showing Keith all the sights, but my god, its hot!!! Jazz dealt amazingly with the heat, but what he really enjoys is laying under the tables in European cities, watching the world go by! So, to treat him, and us, we treat ourselves to lunch at a trattoria near to Rialto Bridge, and we had the most amazing calzone pizza! We’ve both been impressed with the prices over here eating out. Today obviously has been more expensive as we’ve been in Venice, but yesterday we had pizza for 6 euros each in Verona overlooking the main square and arena!

It’s boiling again tonight, but it doesn’t matter, bluebell so far is doing great and we are finding plenty of free water so we can shower to our hearts content!

Tomorrow we are heading towards Pisa!! We may miss San Marino this time, as its a 160 mile detour, and we are thinking of swinging back to France for the last week to enjoy some cheaper fuel, but also have a look round the French Riviera! The joys of motorhoming mean we can change route right at the last minute! For now though, I’m looking forward to getting to Pisa, and having a couple of days in Tuscany! 🙂

Until next time

Lx

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France/Italy Part 4: Lake Orta- Lake Maggiore- Lake Garda

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up here overlooking the lovely Lake Garda! It’s been a hot day again tots, nearly 37 degrees on one pharmacy temperature sign that we passed! Yesterday, we begrudgingly left Lake Orta for Lake Maggiore, just down the road. We nipped into the supermarket on route to stock up on supplies, everything here is more expensive than France, but looks delicious! We carried on to the sosta at Cannobio, which we knew was going to be our first night of paid parking, but had been recommended to us as a place to visit. As luck would have it, we ended up not having to pay as the machine was broken! Result!! We parked up between two Italian vans, and promptly got told off in loud and fast italian! We still aren’t exactly sure what we did, it was definitely a space, however we think the gist was that they were friends and wanted the free space to be their communal area! Well, luck wasn’t on their side, as they’d inadvertently picked on the wrong Brit, my northern stubbornness wasn’t going to let them intimidate us, so I said in my best italian that we were only there for the one night and there was nowhere else to park- if id have known the Italian for “so there” i would have no doubt dropped it in- a mixture of hormonalness, and fed up ness of being bipped during our journeys made me grouchy!!

We set off to explore the town, which is pretty pastel coloured fronts, a huge promenade and lovely restaurants and bars overlooking the lake. It’s much bigger than Orta, but equally as charming. We picked up a leaflet for a cycle trail and set back to pick up the bikes. It was a great trail, took us into the mountains and back down to the town. We stopped at the beach for a cheeky dip in the lake to cool off, then set back to the sosta. I should have known, Italians are clearly a match in the stubborn department as the northern me, and they had promptly set out all their gear right outside our door. It was so spread out we couldn’t even get to the back of our van with the bikes!!! We’d noticed that a space had come up down the pretty end of the area, however I was reluctant to move, I wanted to remain stubborn!! In the end, we did, and we were rewarded with a fantastic campsite size pitch, in its own private glade, and a view of the river and mountains! We enjoyed the evening chilling with some local wine and watched the sun go down. It was wonderful.

This morning we decoded to give Como a miss, and therefore set off towards Garda. It was a very easy journey, although 3 hours, it was mainly motorway. The tolls here are so cheap compared to France! Our 120 mile journey on the motorway cost no more than €10, in France I reckon it would have been nearer €40.

We’ve pitched up on a massive sosta next to the lake on the outskirts of Sirmione. We cycled into the town this afternoon and had a wander and some famous ice cream- I had apple and Keith had raspberry, it was gorgeous! The sosta costs €18 with services, including free wifi. It’s landscaped like a campsite and as that feel to it, but we are happy enough to pay for it, we know we are safe, and we have just watched the most amazing sunset from our window. Besides, an actual campsite here would be double.

Tomorrow we are moving on to Verona to reinact Romeo and Juliet and have a wander!!

Until next time,

Lx

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France/Italy Part 3: Pont D’Arc – The Alps (La Breole) – Italy(!) Lake Orta

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a wonderful free Italian Sosta, overlooking the beautiful Lake Orta. The sun is shining, it’s very hot, and we are having a wonderful time!

We had a great nights sleep at our France Passion site in Vallion Pont D’Arc and awoke feeling relaxed and excited that our journey was about to take us into the Alps! It was a longish journey (4 hrs) but spectacular, driving past fields lined with Cotes de Rhone vines, through amazing gorges that make us feel like we were in the Wild West, and then up into the most fantastic Alpine countryside, that was green and spectacular and inspired us to sing songs from The Sound of Music, well nearly!

We arrived at our aire for the night, a free aire, with free services ( we actually haven’t had to pay for accommodation yet, thanks France!) and cycled the 2 km down hill to a beautiful and larger than expected lake. It was buzzing with boats, wind surfers, swimmers, and had the dramatic and spectacular backdrop of the Alps. We had a dip, tried again to encourage Jazz to swim, and then tackled the 2 km back up hill! Back on site, we enjoyed a chill and made friends with both our neighbours, a French couple and a Dutch couple. Unfortunately despite a lovely relaxed evening, we had a terrible night sleep- the aire was next to the football pitch which had youths on playing noisy football til at least 3 am!!!

We got up early the next morning feeling bleary eyed and tired, but nevertheless excited about our impending trip further into the Alps, and then into Italy! It was a spectacular journey, and Bluebell handled it amazingly- the temperature light only came on the once and then the fan soon cooled us down!

We were heading for Cherasco, just near to Bra and Asti, but once we arrived, we didn’t fancy it, and so carried on for our next stop, Lake Orta. It is stunning here, we have fallen in love with it here. We are staying on another free aire (or sosta as they are known here in Italy). Our first impressions on motorhoming in Italy are good, as long as you are organised (which we are). Our book, Camperstops Europe, has proved so far to be invaluable, and as a result we have yet to pay a penny for overnight working, and only 3 lots of 2 euro for services. Tonight is our 8th night! So it’s 6 euros for accommodation in 8 nights. The solar panel is working a treat, so we are able to use everything in the van as though we had electric, and saving all this money on accommodation costs has meant more money for enjoying ourselves! Which we did last night, by indulging in a litre of beer each overlooking the lake, a pizza each, some wine and an ice cream! Britain- wake up!!

Today we are staying at Orta San Giulo, as we can stay here 2 nights for free, which gives us a chance to completely relax, explore and enjoy! It’s a beautiful romantic town with tiny streets and lanes to explore, and we love it here. Will post pics next time- tomorrow we move an hour down the road to Lake Maggiore.

Until then, arrivaderci!

Lx

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October Half Term 2011- Birthday fun in the Brecon Beacons

Birthdays… I have been so lucky. Being a late October babe has meant that I have never had to be at work or school (back in the day!) on my jolly birthday! It’s always been in half term! So I’ve pretty much always gone away!

This year, having enjoyed our previous adventure through Wales, we decided to hit the Beacons, and also teamed up with Dad and Jenny for some R&R, beer, food and walking.

Keith and I started our adventure with a night near Worcester, on a lovely little site on the river. It was lovely, we had a nice wander up the river towards the next village and stopped at a fab farm shop- I bought some marvelous Blackcurrant and Chocolate jam. Yum Yum!

The following day, we set off ready to meet Dad and Jen in Crickhowell and had 2 nights on a lovely, basic little site, overlooking Table Mountain.

Crickhowell is a cracking little village, we really enjoyed our time there. It’s everso pretty, if you are ever heading that way you should be sure to pop for a look around. We enjoyed a walk up to the top of Table Mountain and the views were brill!

The next day, we nursed our sore legs (!) and set off towards Brecon. We were treated to a lovely autumnal day, the colours on the trees were amazing..

In Brecon we visited the cathedral, which was stunning and enjoyed an afternoon of looking around the shops. We then carried on to our site at Aberfran. The site was lovely – all talk focused on where we were eating that night as Keefy had booked a table at a local restaurant http://www.felinfachgriffin.co.uk/.

We enjoyed birthday gin and tonics in Dad’s van and then waited for our taxi to arrive. Our meal that night was absolutely the bees knees!!! It was totally yummy- by far the best meal I’ve ever eaten! So if you’re ever nearby GO, GO GO!

The next day Dad and Jen had to head back to work, so we stayed another night in Aberfran and set out on a little wander round the local area. Our little wander turned into an 11 mile hike (never let Keefy in charge of that again – we didn’t even take any water!!!) but the scenery around that part of the world is truly stunning so it was a pleasure to explore it (I can say that now- at the time, I’m not going to lie, tempers may have got a little frayed in the dehydration of it all, and the ” Its just over that next brow of the hill…” speeches got a little wary after the 20th hill!!)

Next stop following our stay in Aberfran was Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in the beacons, and we were booked onto the site at the National Showcaves of Wales for the remainder of our week. The walk up Pen Y Fan was HARD!!! BUT, we both LOVED IT! Unfortunately it was a pea souper at the top, so we didn’t get to see the view, but we were treated to some snapshots half way down. I absolutely loved it – I can’t believe I’m saying it! I think Keefy struggled at one point, just before the last haul, and I think he found the true meaning of the Kit Kat mantra “Have a break, have a kit kat” as he gobbled his kitkat down in record time and then shot up the mountain quicker that billy goat gruff.

After a well deserved cuppa in Daisy at the bottom, and a reflection on what we had achieved as the cloud cover broke, we head off to the Showcaves site. I have to say the showers on that site were great, and although we wouldn’t usually stay somewhere like that it was just what we needed at that point in the week, especially as Daisy’s water system had decided to give up the ghost. We also enjoyed our visit to the caves, they were fab. A must if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

All in all, a fab week in Wales, we will definitely return, and attempt Pen Y Fan once more but hopefully so we can enjoy the view next time! 🙂

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“And now it’s time for the feature presentation…”- FRANCE SUMMER 2011

We set ourselves a challenge. How much of France could we see in 2 weeks. The answer: just under 2000 miles worth!

Have a look at our map- I think we did a rather good job, don’t you?!

 

 

I’m going to try and do this methodologically: Here goes…..

Day 1- Calais – Champagne Region. Stayed at a France Passion site- CHAMPAGNE COUVENT-PARENT

Fab journey down and a very exciting experience pulling up onto our first official France Passion site. We didn’t really know what to expect, we just knew we had to say hello. I set about in my best french, and managed to get us some water and a pitch. I was quite impressed with myself. We also managed to establish that they made their champagne in their back garden and we could meet “monsieur” for a tasting at 6pm. It was so exciting. At 6pm the man knocked at Daisy’s door and off we went. He spoke a little english, and I attempted some french. Between us we coped and before we knew it we had done a tour of the factory and were sat with his family in his tasting celler trying out all the champagne. MAN IT TASTED GOOD. REALLY GOOD!!! We bought a few bottles, at a bargain price of 10 euros each. Keefy reckoned it was better than the stuff he had had in Claridges back in his old life. I thought it was the bees knees. Monsieur picked us some fresh figs off his fig tree to take on our onward journey, we slept like a log and it was an absolutely perfect start to our adventure.

Day 2- Champagne region to Dijon.

We stopped at another French Passion site somewhere near Dijon. I was absolutely hanging from the champagne tasting but it didnt stop us pulling up at another vineyard. It was LASHING down with rain, so we thought the best place to hide was the tasting cellar…. hehe. Hair of the dog and all that. My goodness, the wine was to die for. We purchased a few bottles at the bargain price of 4 euros each I think. Absolutely yum tastic!! There was a massive storm that night and we watched an English family attempting to slide there way onto the field at about 10pm. They had done the journey from Dover to there in one. The looked KNACKERED poor things. They were even crazier than us!

Day 3- Down South…..

To cut a long story short. This was the BEST DAY EVER. The reason is because we missed the turn off on the motorway in the pouring rain. Yes you read that right. We may have had a light disagreement as to who#s fault it was that we missed the junction.. but this soon was forgotten when we saw, on the map, a place called CHATEAUNEUF -DU PAPE. It was only the name of our absolutely FAVOURITE red wine int he whole wide world!!! A quick Wiki later and we realised it was indeed THE place, and not only that there was a France Passion site on one of the vineyards. ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT FAIL THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD!!!! I cannot convey how totally awesome staying there was…..

Day 4- Day – Pape to Cap D’Adge

As soon as we turned off at Chat.. du pape.. the temperate and climate totally changed. Up until then it had been chilly and wet. Suddenly it felt like the med. It was hot and dry and there was that cricket sound you only hear when you are abroad. It was fab.

We moved onto Cap D’Adge for a few days on a site soaking up the rays and the sea. It was nice to just stop for a few days and chill. As you are probably working out from our posts, we don’t do that very often at all!!

We had some surprise visitors on the middle night.. my dad and Jenny who were also in France but further north and not having much luck with the weather rang to ask if we fancied going for a bite to eat that night. They drove an entire DAY down south for a lovely meal by the harbour, and then drove back oop north the next day. It was lovely!

Cap D’adge to Carcassonne

We had read about a French Aire in the heart of Carcassonne, and had decided to give it a go. I’m so glad we did. It was brilliant. I think it was 5 euros for the night and was 5 mins walk to the centre. What a magical place it was. We had a fabulous day exploring the streets, and chilling in the bars. Gosh, I love France.

Carcassone to Sarlat

We headed north to the Dordogne and had a great night on a Duck Pate Farm. It was on the banks of the Dordogne, had its own private beach so you could swim in the river and was fantastic. Sarlat is just wonderful- I’ve been there many times on tour and it was every bit as good as I had remembered. The weather was really hot, and it was just amazing!

 

Sarlat to La Rochelle (via La Rocque- Gageac)

We had a fab time exploring La Rocque- Gageac and were itching to get on the river canoeing, but alas we didn’t really have enough time so settled for a quick cold beer and a wander and vowed to go back someday!

La Rochelle was a lovely town. Unfortunately the weather turned at this point, but we still enjoyed wandering the town, old and new.

La Rochelle to Amboise

I had been here before, and knew that Keefy would enjoy the pretty little town, with a fairytale castle and the home of Leonardo da Vinci. We stayed on a rather random vineyard that produced great wine but was fairly new, and a bit of a walk to the town centre. Couldn’t complain though. We had more than got our moneys worth staying at France Passion sites so far on our trip!

 

Amboise to Versailles

Versailles had been on Keith’s bucket list for ages, and he was desperate to go, so we defied everyone’s advice and hit PARIS in Daisy… gulp. We made it, but surprisingly, despite France being a very motorhome friendly country, and Versailles being the most famous tourist attraction in the country, motorhomes were not allowed any where near!!

Thankfully we found a helpful soul who directed us to a campsite nearby and we pitched up within walking distance.. no thanks to the staff at Versailles..

We then queued for about 2 hours to get in! Bless Keith, he was like a kid at Christmas, couldn’t wait to get through those gates! We enjoyed a full day there exploring, my goodness it was so busy!!! Very impressive hall of mirrors and lots of very expensive painting and decor. I have to be honest. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I found it all a bit TOO MUCH! Too indulgent. Too fancy. Too chintzy. TOO BUSY! But Keith, loved it. And I was so happy to share that with him!

 

 

We had THE MOST AMAZING trip!! We fit in so much, we covered so many miles and we spent a fortune because we were driving a petrol motorhome……. but it worth every penny and I think we can both truly say we have the best memories. Chat… pape was obviously a highlight, mainly because we hadn’t planned it. Carcassonne was a treat, and so was Versaille for Keith. Swimming in the Dordogne will be a lasting memory, as will sitting out til 1am watching the clear skies and shooting stars in the Dordogne

Above all this trip highlighted the reason why we own a motorhome. We love the freedom it gives us and wouldn’t change it for the world! Can’t wait to go back! 🙂

 

 

Daisy crosses the Channel – Feb Half Term 2011 – Northern France

France. I love it. I love everything about it. The food, the drink, the people, the countryside, the cities, the fashions, the language – everything. Ever since my first trip to France aged 13, I’ve been hooked.

I couldn’t hold off any longer, February 2011 was the time for us to hit the ferry to France. I was so excited! We had a few things we were wanting to do once over there:

1) Visit Hornfleur and eat Moules and Frites over looking the harbour

2) Visit the Bayeux Tapestry

3) Visit the Thiepval Monument in the Somme (my Great Uncle died during the Somme and is listed at Thiepval)

Our itinery was fairly loose, and we were going to “wild camp” as often as we could, something in which the French were reknowned for, and well equipped for. I’d been telling Keith ever since we got Daisy how we should get our selves across the water and do some motorhoming, French styleee.

The French have this awesome awesome system called “Aires”. An aire is usually an open space/car park area specially set aside for motorhomes, or camping cars as they are know in French. Often they have services such as a water tap, maybe electric, waste dump etc, and quite often they are free or a minimal charge. The aim is to attract campers to the village/town, they stay for free, and then spend money in the area on a meal, in a bar, at the market- wherever and whatever. What a great idea. UK needs to wake up to this, sooner rather than later in my opinion.

Anyway, I subscribed to this fab website http://www.motorhomingfrance.co.uk/ which list all the aires in France, and exactly where they are and what they provide. I had even marked them all on our road atlas for france. Talk about being prepared. What I failed to realise was that a) February isn’t a very popular time to motorhome in France, therefore b) hardly any of the aires that we visited had any fresh water or electric available. More on that in a sec..

First stop in France was the glorious St Valery Sur Somme. What a gem. We arrived in time to park up in what we would learn to be the best aire of that trip. We managed to park up, plug in to get eleccy, fill with water and wander down into town for a Croque Moseur and a litre of red all before 2pm. All was fabulous in the world, we were happy as larry. We had a lovely afternoon exploring the town and headed back to Daisy later on. We had a perfect night on the aire and couldn’t believe we had waited so long to come and do this! Next morning, Keith went for his shower in Daisy and discovered we had no hot water. This later developed into no gas. Bummer. One thing we had been told- make sure you have enough gas, as the french system is different and incompatable with English vans. Crap. We had no gas on the first day of our holiday, and the gas powers the hot water system, the cooker, and the heating, and we are in the middle of winter in Northern France. Our lack of organisation on the gas front was made up for by our over organisation on the things we had stocked under out seats. A quick delve and we felt reassured- we found our electric heater, our old camping stove that we thought we’d cart with us “just in case” and athough we couldn’t do much about the hot water system, we decided just to grin and bear it and book on a site a couple of times for a good hot shower.

One thing I hadn’t quite realised is that in France, in February, pretty much every single campsite is closed. I mean it, we called loads and could not find a single one within the whole of Northern France! So no hot shower for us then this week. Oh well we kept saying, we are camping!

Back to the camping and the tour. Hornfleur. Magical. Especially when it was sunny, which it was when we visited. The aire there is great. 5 minutes walk to the centre of town. You just can’t complain at that. I think we paid 3 euros. Try finding a b&b for that much.

Bayeux Tapesty – one of those moments when you think, yes, I can cross that off the bucket list. AMAZING

Normandy Beaches- especially Arromanches- what a great place. So erie, we sat having a beer in a bar and it felt like we were there in the 1940s. It was so atmospheric, the landing crafts still visible in the water, you could easily imagine the soliders there. Fab

Omaha Beach and the American Cemetry. I have to be honest, this wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to visit, but my Keefy wanted to, and my goodness am I glad I did. It was very interesting. And so unbelievably emotional. We stood on Omaha beach and I just couldn’t help myself, I was so overcome with emotion I found myself crying.

Rouen. Now- this is where we had a slightly unfortunate/worrying incident in Daisy. I was driving. If you have never driven to/in Rouen- here’s a thought. Dont! Seriously the worst place I have EVER driven. EVER. The ring road was like the M25 mixed with Spagetti Junction x 100. To cut a long story short, I had an argument with Sarah (the sat nav), disagreed with the directions, swerved off the duel carriageway to get to road I was SURE we needed to go down. I was so busy “being right” I missed the height barrier signs, and then of course the height barrier, and bammed right into it at 40mph. Even this didn’t stop me, I carried on and then realised- what is the height barrier protecting. The underpass of course. So I had to reverse up a duel carriage way, the wrong way, back through the height barrier that we were too tall for (all with traffic coming our way of course, pipping etc). Screeched onto the main ring road again and hoped and prayed that nothing had fallen off the top of our roof. As sods law would have it, we couldn’t actually pull over for about 10 minutes to check everything. The worst 10 minutes of my life. I wasn’t sure even if the roof was still there. THANKFULLY it was and all was ok. Or so we thought. Later that night we discovered a leak, and unfortuntely that was the beginning of the end! We needed a new roof vent for a start and over the next year we would discover more leaks. But at this point we were blissfully unaware so after several stiff drinks, we could see the almost funny side and were ready to carry on with enjoying our week in France.

Next day we headed to the Somme. We had an incident where we had to stop on the toll road and use the side barrier for Keith to get onto the roof to fix the roof vent. (oops) Luckily we had the right equipement with us, including the high vis jackets, which I was enjoying wearing since we’d bought them specially for the trip (it’s illegal not to have them when you drive in Europe)

The Somme was a great place to visit too. Thiepval was another moving experience as was the circuit of Remembrance that we took part in having found a leaflet with the driving instructions on.

We ate so much lovely French food, and drank some fantastic wines. We survived without hot water and heating for a week and we didn’t have electric either. We showered in cold water using bottled mineral waters as the taps had frozen up and we spent a fortune! But, we had a great week, despite the fact I nearly killed Daisy. Would we do it again? It’s taken me a whole year and a new van, but now we have Bluebell, yes I really think we would. Although I don’t think Keith would let me take Bluebell back to Rouen….

Until Next time!