Trip Report: First trip in the van to France in early April

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Trip Report: First trip in the van to France in early April

Postby WestWey » 23 Apr 2013, 22:32

Hi

So, we (me, L and the kids) went to France for a week at the beginning of this month. The day before we were due to go there was sleet, rain and freezing temperatures in East Sussex.

It was the first time we'd taken the van abroad and, despite it being given the once over by Resto Classics (http://www.restoclassics.com/), I was still a tad apprehensive about the kilometers we were about to clock up. As it turned out, the van (named Posy by my daughter) was brilliant, pulling really well and giving me absolutely no problems for the duration. Phew! Glad I got those extra bits and bobs (alternator belts etc) just in case though.

After a hassle free trip through the Chunnel we hit the road towards Rouen. With a bit of luck we managed to avoid getting snarled up in a massive traffic jam and found the N154, heading to our first stop at the municipal site at St. Remy Sur Avre (thank you for the tip Ralf85). The town seemed a little run-down to us but the site was just right as a stopover, we were able to stock up on supplies and there was an amazing boulangerie. The site itself was very quiet (due to the time of year no doubt), well maintained and facilities were good. The kids loved it. As it was rather cold we decided not to put the pop-top up and all squeezed in on the rock and roll bed for warmth. Very cosy!

Image

There was a hard frost in the night. Ice inside the windows in the morning! I'm now thinking about future night-time heating options for when thermo-mats simply won't cut it. Despite the cold night it was a beautiful sunny morning the next day and we headed off to the western Loire...

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The journey was great and a particular highlight was the stretch from Tours to Saumur via the D952 alongside the Loire itself. Saumur looked good too with the kids really impressed with the view of the castle although we didn't stop. Definitely a spot we'll be returning to in the future. Our destination was Camping Le Serpolin (http://www.campingleserpolin.com/) in Cléré-Sur-Layon. The site is owned by a friendly, easy going British couple and is in a very rural spot a couple of miles from the village itself. It's quite small and the facilities were pretty good although we did feel it was a little overpriced compared to the municipal sites we stayed at. Only two hard standing spots but all have electric hook-up (I think). The site is also used as a caravan storage for people who use it as a stop off to/from Spain etc so we did feel a little bit like we were in a caravan park at times. As the sun was shining and I'd felt like I'd done a lot of driving we decided to stay for a few days and explore the area.

Then the weather turned a bit nasty. Really windy/rainy one day. Then just rain. So much rain that the site got a bit swampy and our hard standing gravelly patch started to disappear under water! We still had a good time though and I think the site would be so much better in the summer. The kids loved the local zoo or 'BIOPARC' (http://www.bioparc-zoo.fr/) at Doue la Fontaine which is built within a massive former sandstone quarry which meant it was quite sheltered from the weather. Particular highlights were the rhinos, lemurs and various monkeys. And the baby African goats. I think they were my favorite.

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On our way back north we headed for Camping De La Vee at Bagnoles De L'orne (http://www.campingbagnolesdelorne.com/). It was good to be back on the road and see the change in landscape from the Loire to Normandy. We really loved Camping De La Vee. The facilities there are brilliant and it was really good value. It wasn't that busy but there were still a fair number of Enormo-campers on site there and it no doubt gets pretty busy and booked up during the year.

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The next day we headed north once more, skirting around Caen, through Pont l'Eveque and then finally on to Neufchâtel-en-Bray and Camping Saint Claire (http://www.camping-sainte-claire.com/). (Thanks again for the tip Ralf85!) Another decent site and very handy for the last push back to Calais.

Despite the slightly grotty weather (hence the slight lack of photos of wonderful scenery in this post) we all had a great time and are definitely converts to the idea of French Municipal Campsites and touring more than stopping in one place for too long. It just seemed to work so well. We can't wait to go back and explore more, including trying some Aires, France Passion options. I'm keen on the Auvergne region next...

Oh, the only other thing... What with all those roundabouts I seemed to develop a special ache in the chest/back from the lack of power steering in the van... Blimey! My shoulder is only just back to normal. I must have been using muscles that have lain dormant for much too long. I'll have to start working out before the next trip. :lol:

Thanks to all on here for their advice about routes/campsites when I was planning the trip, plus the kind words of reassurance and wisdom when I was freaking out on noticing that the reverse lights on the van had failed the day before departure...

:ok
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Re: Trip Report: First trip in the van to France in early April

Postby Ralf85 » 26 Apr 2013, 12:58

Excellent report back mate. You are obviously a 'half full' person than a 'half empty' one, after your first taster of camping over there. We had the same lousy weather here too.

From June-August the weather will be good in most of France except maybe the North and East which can be less reliable. St Remy is just a small village on the outskirts of a large town, so it's always quiet, but the pizza restaurant is excellent and the campsite is always busy in the Summer as it is such a good stopping off point for the Brits and Dutch alike heading South(and I'm glad you enjoyed the local baker's produce - it is superb!). The campsite at Neufchatel is heaving with the Dutch and Brits in the Summer for the same reason for those traveling North.
We'll be going over on 28 July, so maybe see you at Dover or on the way. Enjoy your next trip even more in shorts and t shirts.
:ok
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Re: Trip Report: First trip in the van to France in early April

Postby WestWey » 26 Apr 2013, 15:29

cheers Patrick, we can't wait to go back and explore! :D
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