France Spain 2009

Our first continental trip after converting the van, we did do a shakedown trip to Ross on Wye just in case there were any problems, but all we found was a loose wire to the reversing cameras. Left Birmingham 14:00 Thursday 23rd April travel to Dover to catch ferry to Calais.
discovered stowaway as about to depart
We normally like to catch a late ferry from Dover as it is cheaper and avoids the rush hour hassles of the M25, and also gives us a full days travel in France the next morning. We normally park on Carrefour Cite Europe motorhome car park for the first night, but this time parked at the channel tunnel dog check in car park, because as we drove past it on the way to Carrefour we noticed other travellers parked up for the night in relative security, so we pulled in and parked up. You could say we spent the night in the doghouse, this seems a secure place to stay, plenty of light, other travellers stopping for the night and port security nearby, and of course its free. I also expect any passing thieves would suspect that because you were parked here it would be more than likely that you would have a dog or two on board.
CIMG0301 Next morning bright and early we set off for Epernay in the Champagne region. I find travel in northern France above Paris is a bit monotonous with wide open fairly flat agricultural regions. Possibly better off on the motorways up here, but we do not use motorways if we can help it, mainly main and secondary roads, sometimes even back roads. Also in a large van motorway toll fees can be exorbitant, and are only worth paying if you are pushed for time. There's a lot more to see travelling off the motorway system and you can keep the speed down rather than being swept along in the hurly burly. There are plenty of picnic areas and lay bys and nothing like the amount of traffic there is in in England.

we went to the municipal campsite at Epernay its an excellent site and very popular, its situated inside the sports complex,and on the banks of the river. It is in the heart of the champagne region, a very nice site with above average amenities and English speaking staff.
20,000 hectares of vineyards stretch all around you, whilst under your feet lie 200 million bottles of champagne ageing in 120 kilometres of cellars carved out of the chalk soil over hundreds of years.The most famous champagne producers amongst the many grand houses and mansions lining the Avenue de Champagne allow Epernay justly to lay claim to the coveted title of the Capital of Champagne.


We left mid-morning heading south towards Challon de Champagne we decided to stop at Arnay le duc , and found the camp site, camping de l’Etang de Fouche which was a large municipal site with new amenities. There is a lake on site with numerous activities. A very nice site, but rained all night so we did not linger too long. We are using Alan Rogers campsite guide loaded into Garmin Nuvi satnav to find sites and it works very well this guide is highly recommended and will load into most sat navs as POI’s. ( points of interest )
Located in the heart of Burgundy, halfway between Paris and Lyon on the R.N. 6 (highway Nr 6) near the A6 freeway (Pouilly-en-Auxois exit), ARNAY-LE-DUC is a charming little city with a rich historical and cultural heritage.

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We had no plan or itinerary but would like to be south of Lyon before stopping for the night. I always find there seems to be less traffic the further south you go, but It definitely gets warmer and drier. We decided to head for camping Castlelet at Tain le Hermitage just south of Lyon. A site we have stopped at before, this is a nice clean site with good flat firm pitches, it does have above average site fees though. We spent a pleasant afternoon and night here before pushing on South. as I have said when travelling we are in no hurry and travel between 150 and 200 miles a day.
Weather still unsettled so decided to keep moving South. Stopped at Camping Municipal Lupin highly favoured by the Dutch and only 11 euros a night. Weather now a lot better .
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Set off next morning direction Beziers 

We had been running a freezer off the inverter during the trip and it is working perfect with minimal drain on batteries even when run for 24 hours with no engine charging the batteries, also virtually silent you cannot hear it running, which is one thing I was worried about as the fridge freezer at home is quite noisy, we left the inverter on which was running the fridge and the freezer off the batteries for most of the day well the van was not running without any problems.
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Travelled another 2 hours and stopped in the languedoc region at Camping le Fun, not Fun at all very poor site, run down and has seen much better days. I Got bit by a dog in the morning nothing serious but drew blood. Keep well clear of Camping Le Fun. Tanks emptied batteries charged and ourselves refuelled time to push on its only a short run from here to the Spanish border. So crossed the border at Le Perthus a french town sitting on the Spanish border, a town missed by most travellers who whiz past on the motorway oblivious of its existence. We crossed the border, parked up and strolled back into France we walked around the shops, very popular with the Spanish and the French, as various articles are cheaper than elsewhere in there respective countries. Visited chemist for antiseptics etc for dog bite. Walked back into Spain which was fortuitous as the Spanish police had closed border to vehicular traffic and were examining all vehicles, this does not happen very often , but can be quite a holdup when it does. Had lunch and carried on into Spain, 

Arrived at camping Solmar Blanes Costa Brava mid afternoon 15 euros per night large swimming pool 2 bars 2 restaurants tennis courts basketball football excellent toilet blocks large supermarket we have stopped here several times in the past. See website below for full description.
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all settled in for an extended stay
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Write and post your blog in the sunshine
Blanes is where it all begins. The Costa Brava starts at Sa Palomera, a rocky promentory halfway long the beach and continues north all the way the France. Once used for shelter by the town’s fishing fleet, the promontory has the remains of an old fire-tower – a primitive lighthouse – at its summit and is still lit up by fire each year during the Costa Brava’s international fireworks contest in July.Climb on to Sa Palomera, passing the fishing boats which are washed up on the shingle beach, for some of the best views of Blanes.South of here the beach stretches on, as far as the eye can see, passing hotels, campsites and the mouth of the river Tordera at the start of the Costa Marema.To the north, a wide promenade with gardens, play areas and restaurant tables on the street leads around to the town’s attractive, and still busy, fishing harbour.Blanes is still a working fishing port, where the arrival of the fleet each evening is followed by an animated auction in the fish market – you can witch it all happening from the upstairs bar. Fishermen mend their nets, old men sit on the sea walls and the sailors’ chapel of Nostra Senyora de L’Esperança is adorned with nautical themes. Blanes may be one of the Costa Brava’s largest resorts, but with a population of more than 20,000 it has managed to absorb the tourists without losing its soul.The Old town, just behind the seafront, has survived almost unscathed, with Gothic chuches, medieval houses, fountains, shrines and a lively daily produce market.Out of season this is a real Catalan town, best experiences during the sunset promenade when everyone from grandmothers to tiny children put on their best clothes and stroll to the sea.

Rosie and Jim’s big European adventure
Still at Camping Solmar in Blanes 5 weeks later but unfortunately we must soon start moving as we have several things to attend to back in Birmingham during mid June, there is first communion for one of the grandsons, a retirement party for a former work mate, and tickets to see War of the Worlds live at the NIA
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Local Spanish peasants pursuing traditional rural tasks, eg installingWI Fi.CIMG0001a (28)

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We Took a trip on the motor scooter to visit LLoret de Mar to see church and visit second hand English bookshop to replenish reading material. This is a very popular and lively resort full of discos and pubs CIMG0001b (15)

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The church at LLoret is very colourful and has fantastic brightly coloured tiles covering the domes and spires
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traffic islands abroad can be interesting we have collected quite a few
Its now time to move. Have checked batteries regularly and run engine once a week,but on the day of departure surprise surprise a flat battery.Two hours later battery charged and finally on our way. First stop Spanish French Border

There is a small town on the French Spanish border( Le Perthus )crossing that is always very busy with Spanish shops selling cheap goods to the French, and French shops selling cheap goods to the Spanish
Head from here to Beziers south of France found camp site in Rogers guide, but when we arrived it was closed, next 2 sites also closed, reluctant to wild camp as unsure of state of vehicle battery. Next camp was open so booked in and proceeded to find decent pitch, as we drove through site we realised this was a naturist camp as several of the campers were walking around with no clothes on. Very nice site with good facilities there is an adjacent nudist beach site has all facilities restaurant bar swimming pool shop.
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Sorry no pictures of naked people, you would really not want to see them It seems the people most likely to shed their clothes would not win any beauty contests. Fortunately it was not compulsory to strip off.
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There was a very interesting self build a tabbert caravan on a chassis cab, Huge scooter carrier on rear could carry an Harley. Did not ascertain if owners were nudists.
Left site next day heading north weather unsettled stopped at very basic campsite , but only 11 euros per night so cant complain, nice views though.
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Only stopped 1 night weather unsettled and site muddy left next morning Still travelling northCIMG0071 CIMG0073
Decided as it was lunch time we should sample the highly acclaimed French cuisine so we went to McDonalds! no surprises here.
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This painted cooling tower is quite a landmark and can be viewed from the motorway

The roads of middle France are lined with dead men to remind us of the appalling driving skills of the average French car owner.

Actually did stop for lunch on the 45 degree meridian


Stopped in nature reserve (not Naturist ) forest camp site just below Lyon very nice well kept site with very clean facilities met a Dutchman who was on the way to Devon he had lots of questions about driving on what to him was the wrong side of the road. I answered his questions as best I could , and gave him an English camp sites guide. The proprietress wanted to know about Birmingham as she was going to exhibit at the caravan show at the NEC

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Set off next morning destination Beaune to stop at the camping municipal for a couple of nights. This is a pleasant site, but facilities are a bit old and tired, but are clean and usable, . Site is very popular as an overnight stop as in easy reach of Motorway. Beaune is a beautiful town with striking architecture,and well worth a couple of nights stop just to stroll around. Town centre is within walking distance of camp site. 116 individual pitches of good size, separated from each other by neat beech hedges high enough to keep a fair amount of privacy. Over half of the pitches are on grass, ostensibly for tents, the remainder on hardstandings with electricity for caravans. A popular site, within walking distance of the town centre, Les Cent Vignes becomes full mid June to early September but with many short-stay campers there are departures each day and reservations can be made. The Côte de Beaune, situated southeast of the Côte d’Or, produces some of the very best French wines.

pleasant reception English spoken good size pitchesCIMG0202
the picturesque town of BeauneCIMG0211 CIMG0212 CIMG0213 CIMG0214
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The town of Beaune the main tourist attraction is the Hotel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune - a charity hospital founded in 1443 and much venerated by architectural buffs. Today the Hotel-Dieu houses the Musee du Vin de Bourgogne with all sorts of insights into Beaune's prestigious trade. To the north of the town lies the Collegiale Notre-Dame, a Romanesque church with noteworthy woollen and silk tapestries inside.
Big thunderstorm first night lots of thunder and lightning, but next day nice and sunny hence the sightseeing

This is a major champagne producing area , and very popular with organised tours of the grande houses and vinyards
Next morning packed away and headed for Troyes camping municipal again this is a very popular site as it is in easy reach of Calais and handy for the motorway network as I have said before we dont do motorways or toll roads unless really necessary, But the sites in major towns are accessible by any route.
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Stopped for lunch dropped kettle and broke handle off so used electric kettle on inverter but as freezer and fridge both running off inverter kettle boiled, but blew 50 amp fuse. This was the only problem we had with inverter whole trip.CIMG0311
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We arrived at camping Troyes, a couple touring on a trike come over to inspect van they showed great interest in the club so gave them guided tour of the van and details of club. Several american army vehicles arrived on site returning from D day celebrations at Arromanche very well looked after and preserved.
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LeaveTroyes after a wet night and head for the ferry at CalaisCIMG0381
Final day, ferry to Dover then M20 M25 M1 M6 home all these dreary motorways and road works we havent used motorways on the continentCIMG0416