Trev and Pat’s French adventure 2008 3 April – 4 June Motorhome swift Suntor 580PR 2008 Books used: All the Aires France 2008. Caravan club guides. We started with a ferry trip from Dover to Calais on Thursday 3rd April at 5.30am. Time deliberately chosen for the cheapest fare. This meant that we landed in Calais at 8.00am local time. Ferry trip was great as it gave us time to have a good breakfast and wake up a bit before hitting the French roads and negotiating driving on the right hand side of the road instead of the left. Of course we got lost immediately we left Calais port, and ended up in the town, just where we didn’t want to be!! Recommend having the Sat Nav set up before you disembark to avoid just that. We took the A26 Autoroute from Calais and headed for our first stop at a very small campsite close to St Quentin. (Camping Caravaning Le Vivier Aux Carpes, Seraucourt le Grand) OK for an overnight stop but not recommended for much else. No heating in the showers and freezing cold. Ok for fishing though I think, too cold to contemplate. Friday 4th AprilMoved on to Chalons en Champagne, an Aire from the All the Aires in France book. It’s by the side of a working canal in the middle of the village and was beautiful and totally free. Water and waste available and just around the corner from a shop on the village square. Used the N44 to Laon and then onto Reims and then headed for Epernay. Across very rural roads which were narrow and windy. Passed lots of Champagne producers on the way. Saturday 5th April Moved on again as we wanted to find some warm weather. It was sunny, but very cold at night with frosts. This time we moved onto a site in the Caravan Club book at Resevour de la Liez. Used mostly the N and D roads as they are toll free but are generally good roads and you get to see a bit more of the French countryside and villages. Handy for picking up supplies whilst on the move. Took the De to Chalons en Champagne, the N4 to St Dizier, the N67 to Chaumont, D619 to Langres, the N19 to Langres and then the D74 to Resevour de la Liez. Campsite not fully open as it was very early in the season, so no shop, but the bar and restaurant were available. Weather diabolical so ruined what should have been fantastic views of the lake. Sunday 6th April On the move again as we wanted to get further down south asap. This time onto Chalon sur Saone. Again this campsite in the Caravan Club book (Pont d Bourbarrine camp site) but wouldn’t recommend it, very very run down. Reverse polarity electricity which blew our heating fuse. The site was on the banks of the Saone river but it was very industrialised on the far bank which spoiled it. Lots of road noise which kept us awake all night. Monday 7th April Got up to snow in the morning which shocked us a bit, but soon up and on our way again. Heading South again this time we took the autoroute as we knew we had to get through Lyon which is exceptionally busy all of the time. The autoroute is the easiest way we know of to get through. Stayed on the A7 until junction 16 then took the N104 for Aubenas then on side roads to the camp. Worth the difficult journey as the scenery was magnificent. Site on the side of a Ravine run by Sunelia, however, not very well set up for motorhomes and we had to dump our waste water into a grate in the middle of the entrance road as there was nowhere else. We spent 2 nights here to have a break from travelling. Wednesday 9th April Off to the south coast today, route took us up and over the mountains so a difficult drive again, however well worth it for the scenery which was breathtaking. From St Alban Auriolles we took the D111 for Ruoms, D579 to Vallon Pont d Arc, D4 to Bourg St Andeol, the D%9 for St Paol Trois Chateaux, the N7 (South) to junction 20 (A7) , The A7 South to Salon de Provence, the A8 to junction 38 Frejust then the N(8 to St Raphael. Stayed at Douce Quietude which is just outside St Raphael. We’ve been here twice before so know it well. Facitilities are good, excellent shop and restaurant. Bus just outside the camp into the town. Stayed here for 3 weeks, lots to see and do but we just chilled for most of the time, went along the ‘Cornish’ and had lunches on cliff top laybys. Parking for motorhomes difficult in the towns, most car parks have hight restrictors so can’t be used, and on road parking is banned in some places. NB: We had difficulty checking our tyre pressures in France. Most of the petrol stations have machines which don’t work despite taking your E2. Took us 3 petrol stations to manage to top up the tyres. Wednesday 30th April Moved on from St Raphael today. Weather has been mixed during our stay with some torrential rain which the locals assure us is not normal for this time of year. From St Raphael we took the coast road through Saint Maxime (Well worth a visit a it’s a beautiful town and has some lovely evening markets in the summer, there is an aire there but we couldn’t find it) to St Tropez then took the D61 to Ramatuelle to the Aire (Again from the All the Aires in France book) which was on the beach. E7.10 per night. Water, waste, showers and toilets. Didn’t know that it was a French holiday weekend and so was absolutely crowded out with about 60-80 motorhomes. So bad in fact that we couldn’t fully open our habitation door in the morning as a French van has parked so closely during the night. Packed up and left very early and went to an adjacent beach car park where we have breakfast and a lovely walk on the beach before leaving. Thursday 1st May Set off towards Marseille taking the D93 to Croix Valmer, D559 to Bormes les Mimosas, N98 to Toulon which we left before the toll. N8 for Aubagine to Cages les Pins. This Aire is not in the book and we just happened across it. It’s set in the forest and is very very quiet, and very dark at night, we could see all of the stars. Cost just E3 for the night. The guardian likes to place you so see her before you park. Water and waste disposal only. Friday 2nd May Travelled on through Marseille (very very busy with traffic and took 2 of us to navigate our way through despite the Tom Tom) and on to the Camargue where it was very very hot! Went across the national park to Aigues Mortes which is a medieval walled city by the sea. Stayed on the aire (again from the book) which was one of two just outside the city. E7 per night. Water and waste. Just a short walk into the walled city in the evening which was well worth it. Shops, restaurants and just lovely streets to wander around. Cages les Pins took N8 to Aubagne, A50 and then A7 through Marseille, A55 to Martiguies, N568 Fos (Ferry across the inlet here), D268 and D36 to Salin de Giraud, D36 and D37 through the Camargue. D570, D58 to Aigues Mortes. Aire by the port E7 per night. Saturday 3rd May Moved on south again, this time to Gruissan Plage. The aire is by the sea and costs just E7 per night. Water and Waste, toilet and I think a shower. Huge aire and again very full but plenty of breathing room. From Aigues Mortes through Grand Motte. D62 to Lattes, D612 through Frontignan to Sette. D2 to Agde and Beziers. Small rough roads to Gruissan Plage. Sunday 4th May Moved on into Northern Spain (Lloret de Mar), again chasing the good weather which seems to evade us for most of the time. Unfortunately for us didn’t know that it was a bank holiday in Spain so had to pay premium price at the campsite E32 for just one night. No facitilites open at all and a long walk into the town. Camping Santa Elena Ciutat. From Gruissan Plage took N9 south over the border to Spain to Lloret de Mar. Watch out for the ‘girlies’ at the side of the road on the Spanish side!!!!!! Monday 5th May Decided to return to France as Spain was so expensive, but filled up with cheap diesel first (lots cheaper than France). A7 back over the Pyrenees heading for Perpignan, then D618, N114 to Port Vendres. Aire by side of port E7 per night. Water and waste only. Tuesday 6th May Moved on up the French coast looking for the aire at Argeles which we never found!! Moved on instead to Duilhac Sous Peyrepertuse, a very very small village in the mountains. No shops so take provisions with you. Also, because of the time of year no water or toilets at the site, but also no charge!!! Fantastic views on the way up/down but roads treacherous, narrow windy and big drops!!! Views amazing at the top though. D81 to St Cyprien than Parpignan by D617. D9 through Estagel, D123 to Duilhac Sous Peyrepertuse. Wednesday 7th May Down the mountain again this morning by the same route we went up, Couldn’t get the motorhome around the corners in the village to get down the other side!!!!! Went to Trebes to an aire by the side of the canal (highly recommended in the aires book). Trev loves fishing so decided to spend a couple of nights here so he could chill out with his fishing rod. Aire is road alongside the canal. Water and waste are at the bottom right hand side as you enter the aire. One electricity point which is free! So if you can park close by you may be able to use it, we couldn’t get near. No charge for the aire, or electricity. Nice walk along the canal to the 3 locks, spent an entertaining afternoon watching barges and boats go back and forth. Returned down D123 to rejoin the D117 to Quillan. Through Gorges da la Pierre Lys, D118 to Carcassone then D6113 to Trebes, aire just through the village on the right hand side just before canal crossing. Friday 9th May Moved on to Carcassone today, there’s an aire just outside the city walls so you can walk easily. Medievel walled city but far nicer than Aigues Mortes. Absolutely beautiful. Lots of shops, restaurants, bars etc. etc. Aire E10 per night. Water, Waste and toilets. Limited to 24 hour stay. From Trebes take D6113 to Carcassone, aire by the ancient city walls, follow the signs. Saturday 10th May Left Carcasone, would have stayed longer but couldn’t!. Moved on to an aire further along the Midi Canal for more fishing. Very quiet, walking distance to the village for supplies. Limited to 48 hours stay. From Carcasone took N113 to Trebes , D610, then D11 to La Redorte where the Aire is under the bridge on the Midi Canal. Park and fish canal side. No charge. Water, waste and toilet. Sunday 11th May Started on the trip North today, we’ve been out for 5½ weeks now and have only 3½ left to complete the journey. Took the D620 and the N112 to Albi. Aires are a bit thin on the ground in this region so opted for a campsite in Albi for the night. Found one on spec. Camping Caravaning du Languedoc, Parc de Caussels, Allee du camping 81000 Albi. Run by a young couple, very neat and tidy, clean toilets and showers, water and waste, so everything we needed. E12 per night. Would definitely use again if in the region. Museum to Toulouse La Trec in the town. Monday 12th May (Whit Monday) Moved north again, this time to St Cirq Lapopie where the aire is by the bridge over the river. Absolutely beautiful. Big wide river,full of trout, fantastic scenery. Watch out for low bridges though and narrow roads. N88 to Carmaux, D905 Rieupayroux, D911 Villefranch de Rovergue, D911 to Limogne en Queray. Lagagna via D40 and on to St Cirq La Popie. Aire by bridge over river, next to campsite. E7 per night. Water, waste, toilets. Tuesday 13th May After a beautiful sunrise we moved on to Rocamadour, again very narrow roads, high mountains, big drops and low bridges, but well worth the effort for the scenery. No aires in the area (so popular with tourists), so opted for a small campsite and all amenities. Le Relais du Campeur> E8 per night. Very central for the village so were able to go out for a drink at a bar which overlooked the valley and the town of Rocamadour which is spectacular viewed from a distance. There is a lift down to the sanctuary, and then another down to the town but it’s best to take the motorhome to the parking at the lift entrance. Plenty of room and easy access. St Cirq Lapopie, D42 North, D662 to Vers, D653/D32 then D677 to Gramat, D840 to Alvignac and Rocamadour. Wednesday 14th May After visiting the town and sanctuary headed off for Sarlet la Caneda. Aire there is right on the main road and very noisey. The barrier was broken so no charge (should be E7) but decided not to stay and moved onto Les Evzies de Tayac Sirevil and their aire by the river which was only E4, (Collected by the Police in the evening). Water Waste and toilet. Aire is in the village so easy access for the shops and a nice walk. CL style with plenty of breathing space. Watch out for the ice cream shop though, very very expensive. Museums and tourist attractions. Alvignac, D840 to Martel, D803 Souillac, D703 Sarlat la Caneda. D47 Le Evzies de Tayac Sirevil, Aire by the river. Thursday 15th May Moved on again further north, this time to Excidevil. Small French town, very typical, shops, restaurants, bars etc. etc. Aire by childrens play park opposite hospital and old peoples home. Difficult to find, only spotted it because we saw the electricity points on the wall. E3 per night, have to go to Marie to pay which is quite a walk up through the town. Electricity included, water and waste. Very quiet and peaceful. We were the only motorhome on the aire, not surprised really it was so hard to find!! Les Euzies de Tayac Sirevil then D47 to Miremont, D32 and D31 to join the N89 to Thenon, D704 to Hautefort, then heavens knows where until we picked up the D704 again and the D76 to Excidevil. Friday 16th May We saw Oradour Sur Glane on the map marked Martyrs Village and decided to investigate. It’s a small French village where all of the inhabitants were massacred by the Germans on 10th June just after D Day. The original village has been left just as it was after the event and is kept that way as a reminder of what happened. Entry is through the museum opposite. The atmosphere is eerie, no flowers grow there, no birds sing. I’m glad we went but wouldn’t want to go again. We stayed on the aire in the village which is by the sports ground. Water and waste, no charge. From Excideuil through some silly side roads as decided by Tom Tom, then we took matters into our own hands and took the D703 and D704 to St Yriex la Perche. D704 to Limoges, N141 and D9 to Oradour Sur Glane. Saturday 17th May Moved on again, this time to St Armand Montrond and its aire by the canal. Good access for the town which is very busy especially at the weekend. Lots of road noise, motorbikes buzzing around, but fishing in the canal. Watch out for the French who do not clear up when their dogs have fouled, no matter how close to your motorhome door!!!!!!! From Oradour Sur Glane N141 to Limoges, A20 North to junction 12 (Free motorway), Chateuroux. D925 to St Armand Montrond. Aire by the canal, free. Water and waste only. Monday 19th May After having a rest day yesterday, more fishing!! We moved North to St Gondon, a very small village just south just south east of Orleans. Aire in the village by the village pond. Water and waste, free. Visited Marie and saw the Mayor who allowed Trev to fish in the village pond for free!! Very hospitable. Two nights here, mostly on our own. From St Armand Montrond, N144 to Bourges, N151 D940 to Aubigney sur Nere. D940 for Gien, Turn left onto D53 to Poilly lez Glen, D951 to St Gondon. Wednesday 21st May Time to move again, so this time further north to Balencourt so that we can visit Fontenbleu tomorrow. Only took about 1½ hours. Stayed on a campsite as no aire available. (Camping Ile de Boulancourt, 6 allee des Marronniers, 77760 Boulancourt) Good site within walking distance of the village. About ½ hour drive into Fontenbleu but beware they do not like motorhomes, all car parks have height restrictions and no other parking available so best go on bicycles if you have them. We managed after a great deal of difficulty to get a disabled spot outside the tourist information office. Very busy town but the palace is easily accessible. No charge for wheelchair visitors but lots of steps!!. Back to Balencourt for 2nd night. From St Gondon D95 to Sully sur Loire, D948 through Chatenoy, N60 then D975 through Ballegarde to Boulancourt. Friday 23rd May Left our campsite and headed to Chartres, an ancient Cathedral town with medieval houses and buildings. Parking for motorhomes difficult but eventually found parking spaces at the side of the main road. E5.40 for 3 hours. Checked regularly by police. Most parking in the city is underground. Steep walk up the hill to the cathedral but worth the effort. Lots of restaurants, bars and shops in the area. Do visit the cathedral its worth it. From Boulencourt D410 to Malesherbes, D24 to Mareville and Angerville, D838 to join N191 to Ablis, N10 to Chartres. D939 to Brezolles, Aire in village next to the church – Free. Water and waste. Plenty of room. Saturday 24th May On to the Normandy Coast – Honfleur. One of the most beautiful towns I have seen. Easily accessible from the aire which is huge, will hold abt 200 motorhomes. Water ,waste and electricity. E7 per night. D4 and D11.1 to Nonancourt. N154 Motorway (free) to Evreux and Louviers. Join pay motorway A13 to Rowen. Continue on A13 to junction 26 then D89 and N175 to Pont Audemer (where we couldn’t park! No car parks anywhere to be seen at all!!!) Continued on N175 to Honfleur, (across the estuary from Le Harve) Aire on quayside. E7 per night payable at machine. Elec included. Sunday 25th May Decided to go and see the Normandy beaches so set off after a visit to Honfleur. Headed for Ste Mere Eglise where we were disappointed. Expected to see a statue in tribute to American paratrooper who died hanging on the side of the church, instead shop dummy dressed in uniform with English tin hat. Continued along the N13 visiting various sites of interest. Especially worth a visit the American cemetery which is on Omaha Beach. Eventually found an aire next to a garage in St Honorine des Pertes. E5 per night including elec, but additional charges for water and waste. Monday 26th May Continued along the beaches and sites of interest to Pegasus bridge and the café next to it where we had tea. Lots of interesting memorabilia about the liberation. Pity you have to pay at the British museum after the American one being free!!. Returned to Honfleur to the aire. D614 and D614 through Port en Bessin Hoppin to Arromanches les Bains. D516, D65, D82 to Courselles sur Mer and on to Benoville (Pegasus Bridge). D57, D27, D677 and D74 to Honfleur Aire. Tuesday 27th May Travelled north to just south of Dieppe, St Valery En Coux. Highly recommended in the aire book but when we got there was very busy, tightly packed with motorhomes, some double parked. Used the launderette in the town but was very very expensive and cost me about E22 to do a wash and dry!! As a rule launderette’s are expensive, especially on camp sites. I used the ‘bucket’ washing machine for most of the trip ie. Put things to soak overnight under the van, rinse and hang out to dry on the cycle rack next day!!!!! Worked for me. From Honfleur A29 North across Pont de Normandie bridge (Hope you like heights)> E5 toll. To junction 6 (Extra 90 cents toll). D10, D17 Valmont, D17 D925 to St Valery en Caux. Aire along the quayside, very steep drop into harbour, on the point overlooking sea. Watch out for falling rocks from the cliffs along the road and on the aire. Wednesday 28th May One week from returning home, can’t believe its gone so quickly!!. Moved on towards Calais. Stopped off at Le Treport, Aire by municipal camp site. E6.50 per night. Large aire with plenty of room. Electricity included. Water and waste. Fees collected lunchtime and evening. Easy access into town along harbour. Nice and clean. From St Valery An Caux past Dieppe to Crel sur Mer. Took beach road through Criel Plage and Meisnil Val Plage to Le Treport. Thursday 29th May Today is Trev’s 60th Birthday!! Set off for a beach aire which proved to be disappointing. Unkept scrubland and not worth the fee wanted so moved off along the coast where we found an aire at Quend Plage .on a beachside carpark. E7 per night, water and waste E2. Unfortunately absolutely threw it down all day and night. Good access to the town. From Le Treport D940 North , D32 to Fort Mahon Plage Aire. Decided not to stay, just scrub and sand. Moved to Quend Plage via side roads. Aire overlooking the sea. E7 per night + E2 for water. Friday 30th May North again. Visited Le Touquet Paris Plage. Water point at one aire was broken and the second aire was closed for a dog show so moved on to a tiny aire on the cliffs (next to a sewage farm but didn’t smell at all!!) E2 per night, E2 for water – token available from the shops in the village and can be used for water, or electricity (12 hours). Lovely walks down the beach, great views. Good access to the village. From Quend Plage D32D to Quend, D940 to Le Touquet Paris Plage. Then D119, D940 to Equilhen Plage. Sunday 1st June On the move again, the aire is now packed to capacity and beyond, official capacity 5 motorhomes, French capacity 25!!! Stopped off at Cap Griz Nez for coffee and then overnighted at the aire at Les Erables. More like a campsite, toilets, showers, washing facilities, electricity, water and waste. E12.50 per night. Very pleasant spot but difficult access to the villages, very rural. Received UK TV for the first time in 9 weeks. From Equihen Plage D119, D940 towards Bologne Sur Mer. A16 to junction 36, D238 to Wissant. Took divertion to Cap Griz Nez, then returned to D940 North through Wissant to Escalles. Turned right onto D244 to Aire at Les Erables. Monday 2nd June Moved to our final destination for this trip, Calais. The aire is by the harbour with easy access to the town, the beach, café’s and shops. Chip stall adjacent to the aire. Watched the ferry’s going in and out. Stayed two nights E7 per night. Toilets, water, waste. Collected early evening. Went to Port Europe for duty free wine. Avoid the Tesco’s very expensive. Go to Carrefour instead, good wide range of wines at very reasonable prices. Easy access to the carpark. Filled up with Diesel for the last time. The Calais aire is very comfortable with easy access to the port for inward/outward ferries. Wednesday 4th June Back to reality and all the bad news, back to the UK via 6.00am ferry. Alarming thing was that we were the only English speaking passengers besides the crew. All the others were East European going to UK to live. Welcome home!!!!!