Our first trip abroad....

Discussion in 'The Beginner' started by vin.egan, Sep 18, 2015.

  1. vin.egan

    vin.egan Funster

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    So on Monday we set off for France, only had a few days available because of work so decided to go and see Barrie and Linda (fellow funsters) near La Rochelle, dip our toe in the water so to speak, because I`ve driven extensively years ago through Holland and Germany with business, made the decision to go through the tunnel in our MH, yes I know there are some ferries that will be cheaper but the convenience and speed of crossing outweighs any small difference in cost, for us it was £168 return.

    the tunnel was very quiet and because we were early we got an earlier crossing at no extra charge, swift and smooth as its always been, no delays, friendly staff, gas bottle checked that it was off, on the train, France in no time.

    We had thought about driving to Abbeville and finding an Aire, note to self, next time, write down the Aire locations as my phone decided to drop any internet so locating was impossible at the time. However, Abbeville was easy to find not using the motorways, once there our first dilemma not being sure exactly where we could park as far as wild camping goes, we headed to the centre of town and found a lovely spot next to the river that as far as we could see would not cause a problem to anyone else, however, being English and a worrier, decided that "what if" should take precedence because what if we woke to be surrounded by the local market/ gendarmes riot training ground/add whatever worry you could invent insert here.

    Its getting late so we headed off out to the motorway and just south of Abbeville was an Aire, yes one of them lurid gas you rob you while you sleep jobs, that always happens, it had a petrol station and although was quite busy, not that noisy, we parked up and thought, sod it, take a chance, so we did, and I have to say had a great nights sleep, up at 9, breakfast, shower, ready for the road by 10.

    because we had a lot of miles to do and not a lot of time we made the decision (mistake) to hit the motorway despite the extra cost that would get us to where we wanted to be quicker, thus allowing us more time to mooch on the return leg. To cut this short, our brain plan was "it can`t be that dear? go for it" for future reference, DO YOUR RESEARCH will be the mantra, because 87 euros later, yes eighty seven, (Abbeville to Noit approx) I know, I`m not proud of my error, but it happened, if others can learn then chuckle away at my stupidity.

    Anyway, after a lovely evening at Barrie and Lindas `Aire`, the night which was promising to be a peaceful affair was interrupted by the mother of all thunderstorms which lasted until dawn, even the neighbouring cockerel that we where warned about would wake us up didn't start crowing till 8am, couldn't cope with the competition I guess.

    Farewells till next time made and the route home set on our new sat nav, latest Tom Tom, a week old with the latest software and map updates, have you guessed where I`m going with this? yep, they lied. fortunately I`m not totally bereft of grey matter and am aware that a 4 ton burstner will not squeeze, no matter how hard you`d be expected to breath in, down a cart track in the middle of nowhere, made of soil, with a ditch either side. So, ignoring stella or whatever her name is, followed what I thought would be a better route, amazingly I was right and we where soon on the right track heading north.

    The French countryside is amazing, the sights sounds, not to mention the villages with waist threatening fresh pastries and more, well worth any detour.

    So fast forward to our evening stop, tired going dark and not an aire in sight, armed with our newfound confidence of wild camping because we are at one with nature (cough, well sort of) but mainly because we were tired and couldn't be bothered driving any further, turned off the main road and headed for the nearest village, Cailly as it turned out, beautiful, old, atmospheric and a car park slap bang in the middle of town, inspired with our now fully experienced seasoned traveller knowledge, we parked up and settled down for the night.

    And yes, you guessed it, I didn't sleep a wink, every noise was the gassing burglar, every car was the French foreign legion here to evict me with tear gas and stun grenades, and yes, as I`m sure you know by now, we couldn't have stopped at a nicer place, a lazy start, a walk around the village, stock up on a few essentials, my god, the bread should have a health warning, more so because its so fresh and warm and, and, and.

    an uneventful trip up to Le Shuttle, via a couple of quick stops along the way meant we were 3hrs early, no problem, would you like to go on the next available train? no charge, the nice lady said. and so it ended, back in blighty, home, with a hatful of memories and a learning curve that was enjoyable if not a little stressful at times, but overall has made us certain we will be returning as soon as we can.

    What did we learn? plan the journey but make it flexible, you will change your mind, take enough food for the first night or two, learn a few basic phrases, it amazing wen you try how well its received, don't be an uptight brit, relax. Stay off the motorways (haha) there's so much more to see and do.

    Most of all, don't put it off, Just do it!


    p.s. if you've read all that and are still not sleepy you need to see a dr about your insomnia :)
     
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  2. Ja63

    Ja63

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    We are just planning our first trip to France in our new motorhome.....some great tips (and chuckles) in your post.

    I'm nervous about aires/ wildcamping, I suppose that comes from our first 6 weekends away being on sites in UK and coming to the realisation that the rumours about UK being motorhome UNfriendly are indeed sadly true :( I'm also a little jittery at the thought of the Chunnel crossing with the current problems at Calais but it is essential because we have two nervous little dogs. Your post has put my mind at ease a little.

    Quite funny too....make sure you write a blog if you do a longer trip in future! (y)(y)
     
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  3. Tweedie

    Tweedie Funster

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    Great post, great humour. We are also planning our first trip to France in our new motorhome next year. Have bought All The Aires books and French Passion so spend hours reading these and reading this forum and blogs for tips and advice. Must admit think we will be a bit apprehensive when the time comes for our first Aire stop. We are not Sat Nav users, can''t decide if we should invest in one for France or rely on the good old map reading skills, will see.... Thanks again and great reading (y)
     
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  4. vin.egan

    vin.egan Funster

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    Thanks for the kind comments,

    Like I said, just do it you won't regret it, just go with an open mind and use plenty of common sense, we learnt so much on that first short trip.

    Barrie and Linda gave us some great advice regarding wild camping, which encouraged us to do it, most towns have an aire, maybe it's just a car park or layby you are allowed to stop in, again just use common sense, the town car park we used was almost empty apart from a couple of cars and a row of bottle banks, now we've done it, it'll be so much easier and less stressful next time.

    With regards sat nav, yeah they are great things but I actually forgot to bring my euro road atlas, which won't happen again. It's good to get an overall view of the area to help with planning while there.

    We got our sat nav from tescos using some points so it went from £99 to £60, lifetime maps etc, at £99 I think it's still a good price , Tom Tom start 25 5" with Europe.

    I personally wouldn't stop on a motorway aire that didn't have a petrol stn type stop attached as I think they are too isolated and quiet, the petrol stns seem to be well lit and offer for me the security of regular traffic passing through, maybe I'm wrong. However I would now feel confident enough to just turn off the motorway and look for the nearest village.
     
  5. Roxie

    Roxie Funster

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    If you have an Ipad, we can thoroughly recommend CoPilot Truck as a satnav. You enter all the dimensions, weight etc. of your vehicle, and it then sorts the route, either by address, postcode or GPS. It's taken us through ten European countries, including Hungary, Slovakia & Poland, without faltering. The only time we've come unstuck is with roadworks and "deviations" .....but that's not the fault of the satnav.

    Another point to be aware of with Peages is that they often seem to classify motorhomes as Cat 3 (lorry?) on the reader display, whereas we're actually Cat 2 (c.30% lower tariff). This is something we were alerted to by a funster last winter, and it's saved us loads - just pressed the Help button at the barrier and explained " ....nous sommes un camping car...." Not sure where I read it, but I'm sure it will be somewhere in a France thread.
     
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  6. Forestboy

    Forestboy Funster Life Member

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    You have the main ingredient to make a good traveller
    A sense of humour.
    Well done

    Like previous poster said get Co Pilot and forget sat navs its a fraction of the price of even a cheap satnav and far far superior.
     
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  7. vin.egan

    vin.egan Funster

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    we were charged as class 2.
     
  8. milliethehymer

    milliethehymer Funster

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    Great write up, thanks!

    We have our first foreign trip planned for next May, but have taken the cowards way out and booked an organised C & CC tour to North France so we can get our bearings etc. neither SWMBO nor I have any real experience of driving abroad so are somewhat nervous..but the more we read posts such as yours, I have probably erred on the way over cautious side:oops:
     
  9. vin.egan

    vin.egan Funster

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    No, sometimes it's good to be cautious, I find driving on the "wrong side" more tiring, due to concentrating more, I would say the first 10 mins or so every morning till you "warm up" are the trickiest, but other than that I think you'll find it's not scary at all, just take your time, especially at roundabouts.

    Next abroad trip is to a classic bike show in Holland so really looking forward to it.
     
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  10. TheCaller

    TheCaller Funster

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    Probably not a bad idea for a first trip.

    If it's any help, before we took our PVC down to the Twin Lakes meet back in May, I had only driven in France once before, when we took a car to a house Brittany about 15 years ago. Total driving on French soil less than 200 miles.

    This trip, I would say that as a generality, I found driving the van in France was far more relaxing than driving anything anywhere in South East England. Think rural West Yorkshire out of holiday season but with better roads.

    As a precaution, I did download Jim's 'Keep Right' poster, but didn't really need it. It's surprising how quickly the brain adapts.

    The big attraction of France is the lack of planning needed. You can always be assured of somewhere to stop for the night without needing to plan your trip in minute detail. You will need to do your second trip on your own to get the full benefit of this aspect, but it really is a revelation.
     
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  11. Kirsten

    Kirsten Funster

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    Hiya. We have mainly journeyed in France and it is REALLY easy to have a relaxing trouble free time- everywhere is very welcoming; driving is easy as the roads are not so busy as UK [we take it in turns ] and the Sat Nav is [for us] a must.
    OH has an app on I phone which tells you where campsites /aires are near to where you are at the time [cost minimal can't remember how much] it is called All Motorhome Parkings Camper Contact. Works very well in UK as well.
    We have never felt unsure or intimidated in France- staying at aires and France Passion and once or twice we have wild camped- and we are two lone female travellers.
    DID find it confusing at first when there were lots of warnings about Aires BUT there are two kinds- petrol station/rest areas on motorways -NEVER STOP THERE overnight; and 'aires de camping cars' - all over the place and these are in the middle of towns/at the side of canals etc and all have been either beautiful; or functional- or both.
    First time we went abroad in the van [weekend- anxious!] we had read all the rules for aires- no awnings -no bbqs- no sitting outside etc. Went to Le Touquet with no outside furniture - to find the place crammed with[mostly] The French En Vacance- with awnings/small tents pitched out/washing lines strung from the trees/tables chairs pets and children all having a fabulous time.Enjoy
     
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  12. reckless

    reckless Funster

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    We used the channel for the first time on Thursday, up to now Brian has preferred to use Newhaven-dieppe ferry. I can only say it was brilliant and he's a convert. The check-in is super easy and we got a slightly earlier crossing.

    I understand that had we been travelling a day later there were delays because of another migrant death.

    Our experience with aires is a bit like OP - they're often full when we reach them (even though we try not to leave it late) and we're not yet very good at 'winging it'. Campercontact is our must-have app.
     
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