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    Holidaying in France - please help us!

    Ok, I'll admit it, I've never been to France (apart from driving through it to get home from Germany and back again) and it had never been on my list of destinations so I am so not sure on what to expect and where to go...at all!

    We like, solitude, out in the sticks, wildlife and off-grid camping, hence the Hebrides and West coast have always been our destination and only a short drive a way. So, that's kinda the criteria. I also like sea fishing (best get that in).

    Now, regarding the fishing, the west coast\Atlantic beaches of France will suffice for Bass (Sea) but what about our other criteria, what is the Aquitaine area like? We quite like the idea of small villages\farmers markets\vino\sea and so forth to. We don't want to stay in the high season but rather May\June or September time.

    What would be the best route through France to Aquitaine?
    Best\quickest ferry route (driving from Scotland)
    Dog passport\what vets on way back?
    What about Toll roads, heard they can be a nightmare?
    We don't want over crowded aires either
    I cannot speak French to any decent degree and nor can the wife but probably bit better than I can

    Finally, is it safe (as far as you can get) in that area and importantly any wild camping marks?

    Quite 'picky' but it's just us and why we love Scotland, if we replicate that a little with decent sunshine in France we'd be happy.

    Cheers
    Neil
    Last edited by Pugs; 09-03-2016, 13:48.

    #2
    answer

    hi. I hope I can answer some of your questions. first of. yes the toll roads have become expensive, but the B roads are free and more interesting so you will be ok there. many of the free stop overs in the south have been taken over by not so nice people and are best avoided, like wise the area on the French/ Spanish borders. On the plus side there are many good cheap stop overs as the French love motor homes. when you get to French visit the supermarket and you will find camper stop books. or better still look up on the web the town, village you wish to visit and then look up motorhome stop overs etc for that location. you can google earth it to have a look see.
    I travel with 2 dogs. one pug and one French bulldog. the French vets can be found in most towns and citys and understand the pet passport very well. costs vary but around 15 to 30 euros for two dogs is the norm. its 6 euros total in Germany for my dogs.
    as to the route, well that depends on your crossing point. if its Calais lets say, then I would drive down to the south from that point and then across to the sea. the French a roads are fast with lots of places to pull over at 20k marks. but tolls as I said are high, and there are lots of them.
    if you try going across French from Calais you will always find paris in the way and its a pain to drive around.
    I know longer wild camp. sorry to say that there are just too many bad people around and for the cost I always hole up and play safe. there are however some places in small villages that you will be very happy with.
    French is expensive for what there is and these days I go to Italy. in fact I am off in two week time and I am also a fisherman and will be taking my fly rod for a bit of swff. my trip is from Calais to trier in Germany which is full of roman sites, then to ingolstad which is a very nice small town, then into Italy to a small hill top village at asolo then to pomeii and then to the sea side for some good food and fishing. and the back to asolo and then speyer for the vets and home. just over 2000 miles and the only tolls are Italian which are very low. Germany as a lot more to offer for campervans then French and is a lot cheaper, Italy much the same. if I can help in any other way. my email is
    [email protected] michael

    Comment


      #3
      Sorry for the late reply, but thank you very much for the informative post. We've only had the camper a year and wild camp here in Scotland and it's safe but from what you say France and other areas can be a bit dodgy for 'wilding'. Just not sure we'd like to be closed in, in an aire but if we could find small village run aires that would be better, yes? We do have a Dogue De Bordeaux (French Mastiff) who likes to make his presence known should anybody get a wee bit too close to the camper.

      Decisions to be made!

      Comment


        #4
        Last year we spent nearly two months going down the middle of France across the Pyrenees into Spain, down to Valencia and back up via the east of France. We didn't stay at any camp site, but we did see an English car broken into at a motorway service station. The screen washer chappie told us that happened because the vagabonds thought it was an English car so it would have money in it, and they wait till they see the occupants go into the restaurant. In this case the owners lived in Spain, had imported the car but hadn't got it registered there yet, so it had no money or passports or anything and the bandits got away with nothing other than a Police car chasing them at high speed. That was the only bother we heard of. We just parked up in the middle of town in a car park, or down a side road in a layby or places like that. We stayed at one or two Aires, which were a bit of a luxury, what with free electricity and water and drainage. I wouldn't go to the south coast, personally, specially in the summer when it gets over 40 deg C. Spring and autumn are best.
        Again as has been said, steer clear of the toll roads. At least they are well marked, unlike the M6 Toll here which is at the end of signs directing you to the M6, not M6 Toll. You end up paying £11 for 2 miles of road, and saying things to the toll collector that your vicar would not want to hear.
        Last edited by gasgas; 21-03-2016, 18:25.
        In that day you will cry out because of your king you have chosen. 1 Samuel v18

        Comment


          #5
          Lost in France

          Once you've toured France, and I don't mean belting through it in a rush to get somewhere else, you'll fall in love with this beautiful, unspoilt and peaceful country. It's got more going for it than Germany IMO; the Alps and the Pyrenees - proper mountains these, not to mention the land of the lost volcanoes in the Auvergne, beautiful medieval villages, the early and late warmth in the South of France, endless empty beaches, and unlimited history and culture from prehistoric cave dwellings through to Roman Provence, to magnificent fortresses perched high on crags above mighty rivers and the historic landing beaches of June 1944 in Normandy. It'd take you a lifetime just to see the best bits.
          Another tip, untick the box in your satnav that says motorways and tolls, and just take it easy and unwind.
          Last edited by roadster55; 18-04-2016, 18:46.

          Comment


            #6
            We have spent several holidays touring Brittany, which doesn't really consider itself part of France. The folk are friendly, and many speak Breton, a Celtic language. Like Wales, place names and official notices are presented in both Breton and French.

            September is usually one of the driest months of the year, and we've had good weather in May/June too. Driving in Brittany is a delight, with quiet roads and beautiful scenery, particularly the coast. We found fantastic Aires, not crowded, and in wonderful locations along the coast and inland.

            There are standing stones and other ancient monuments scattered across the whole region, you don't have to visit Carnac to see them, although a drive around the megaliths there is worth a half day, just tio see the sheer number of stones.

            If you are interested in birds, then the Morbihan is worth a visit, both there and the North and west coasts are good places to spot migrating birds in September.

            Our 2 dogs love the area, beaches are generally dog friendly, and the dogs have been welcome in bars and restaurants. Visiting the vet before the journey home is straightforward, and the dogs have been treated kindly.

            We would echo Roadster55's sentiments regarding Normandy, and learnt much that we didn't know about the Landings. We happened to be in the area around June 6th last year when a one/two week festival celebrating freedom is held across the region, with all sorts of events and re enactments taking place in the towns and villages. This was the only time we had difficulty finding a space on Aires - actually it was impossible - we stayed on an acsi campsite very reasonably, and found many of the re enactors were staying there too, along with their vintage bikes and vehicles. Very interesting!

            Comment


              #7
              Back off to France in about 4 weeks to our now usual campsite for a few days, after that who knows for a couple of weeks.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq9_h8RtHKY

              This will cost us 18 euros a night on ACSI.
              A lot of useful info has been posted already.
              Good advice to avoid Autoroutes if you want to see the best of France.
              Never park on a motorway service area overnight especially down south towards and including Spain. ACSI sites out of season and municipal campsites are the way we go. Never tried wild camping, like our home comforts too much.

              Tony Anchorman

              Comment


                #8
                Avoid leaving the van unoccupied at supermarkets too, especially near the channel ports ... one person stays while the other shops. Consider installing a bolted-down lockable strong box/safe and possibly a 'Disc Lok' anti-theft device. When parking leave wheels 'kerbed' on full lock. Don't overtake in built up areas / villages and stick below 50kph when passing through. 'Priorite a droit' is still the rule in many places so don't assume that car whizzing down to a side junction is going to stop!

                For us, the most enjoyable area was the Auvergne with it's 'Volcans' national park, beautiful scenery, volcanic craters, plenty of good hiking routes and few people.
                Last edited by mikeroch; 19-04-2016, 13:33. Reason: typo

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thanks for everyone's input. Although we didn't start the post it has been useful as we will be off over the water next Tuesday. We will meander somewhere round France and then drift up to Holland for the international MH meet. Belgium will be a blurr - the only good thing I can say about Belgium is they know how to cook chips. But then they shove mayonnaise over them.
                  In that day you will cry out because of your king you have chosen. 1 Samuel v18

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Reading through this thread, while it certainly is advisable to take care of your belongings and not make things too easy/obvious for low life to nick, just to balance it we've done France about 20 times in a camper van and had no issues at all. I even by mistake left my drivers window open when we parked in Strasbourg centre for around 5 hours with no issue (I must admit when I saw the window 'missing' I feared the worse but then found it inside the door where I'd left it after manoeuvring into the parking space). In the UK we have a land rover nicked (never found), and my wife's car window smashed and radio nicked and the side of here (not smart/posh/expensive) Golf pen-knifed along the side. So, yep, do take care but it is not that frightening over in France and in our experience presents no more risk than the UK.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Journey to France

                      Originally posted by Pugs View Post
                      Ok, I'll admit it, I've never been to France (apart from driving through it to get home from Germany and back again) and it had never been on my list of destinations so I am so not sure on what to expect and where to go...at all!

                      We like, solitude, out in the sticks, wildlife and off-grid camping, hence the Hebrides and West coast have always been our destination and only a short drive a way. So, that's kinda the criteria. I also like sea fishing (best get that in).

                      Now, regarding the fishing, the west coast\Atlantic beaches of France will suffice for Bass (Sea) but what about our other criteria, what is the Aquitaine area like? We quite like the idea of small villages\farmers markets\vino\sea and so forth to. We don't want to stay in the high season but rather May\June or September time.

                      What would be the best route through France to Aquitaine?
                      Best\quickest ferry route (driving from Scotland)
                      Dog passport\what vets on way back?
                      What about Toll roads, heard they can be a nightmare?
                      We don't want over crowded aires either
                      I cannot speak French to any decent degree and nor can the wife but probably bit better than I can

                      Finally, is it safe (as far as you can get) in that area and importantly any wild camping marks?

                      Quite 'picky' but it's just us and why we love Scotland, if we replicate that a little with decent sunshine in France we'd be happy.

                      Cheers
                      Neil
                      We in the past used PO Ferries from Hull but found the drive to France was not a good start due to the busy motorways etc.
                      As we live in Kinross our route is to go to Cairnryan to Belfast and then down through Ireland to either Rosslare(two ferry companies from here) or to Cork to use Brittany Ferries which only sail once a week. The other two ferries, Stena and Irish Ferries sail from Rosslare and all three are overnight sailings.
                      You may think this is a very strange route but having gone to Plymouth,Portsmouth and Hull for many years this is the most relaxed and easy way we have found.

                      I would not recommend going all the way to Aquitaine as it is a very long and if you use motorways very expensive journey. Brittany in September can be very pleasant and many of the campsites are open many of them with British owners. However ,be warned, as this is the end of the season for many campsites they tend to have less facilities.

                      If you would like more information about sites,places to visit, email any questions you have and I will try to answer them.
                      Recommended camp guides are:
                      (1) ASCI guide available from Vicarious Books and this gives a list of campsite with reduced prices when you have the guide.
                      (2) Caravan Club Guide for France which has comprehensive advice,written by members, for the listed campsites.
                      (3) The FFCC Guide which has the most comprehensive list of all sites but lacks a little in detail. This is available from Vicarious Books.

                      We have been going to France for 35 years and could count on one hand the number of bad experiences we have had and this include extensive cycle touring,camping an we never locked our bikes once.

                      Hope this helps but if you require more info please email me and I will do my best to reply.

                      Yours faithfully

                      Jim Connachan

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Have travelled throughout France for years... never pre-booked a campsite cos there's so many, stayed in Aires and wild camped too and never had a problem, even on a 12month trip. If "wilding" bothers you try this organisation... https://www.france-passion.com/en , it's where Britstops got the idea from... it's superb.
                        A bad day fishing is infinitely better than a good day at work.

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