WOW I definitely underestimated you France and I’m sorry…
I think I took France for granted being just across the water and a ferry ride away from where we live, how wrong was I!! I am already planning our next trip back to this country of ever changing scenery. I mean we are practically neighbours…
So heres how our two week French escapade ended up…
Click on the map markers to open and see our exact locations…
Finally it was time to chase the sun and head south taking Reggie on his first road trip abroad. What better way to celebrate his 1st birthday than hit the road for a two week adventure in France. The day after he turned one we packed the van up and headed to Portsmouth, where we caught the overnight ferry to St Malo.
We always use http://www.ferrysavers.com to book our ferry crossings. there’s a tonne of routes you can take from all along south coast of England including Portsmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Newhaven, Dover, Folkestone over to Cherbourg, St Malo, Caen, Roscoff, Le Harve, Dieppe, Calais and Dunkerque. So check out which one is the best one for you.
We arrived in St Malo at 8am refreshed after our last night with a hot shower and some cosy cabin beds. We had planned to stop and have breakfast here as its supposed to be well worth the visit, however when we arrived it was cold and grey and we just wanted to get to the sun. So we hit the road and drove and drove and drove…. determined to get to the sunshine, we arrived somewhere in the south west of France at approximately sunset and this is what greeted us…
I must admit the reason we fell in love with #vanlife was the freedom it gave us… pulling up on beaches and clifftops, sleeping where ever we fancied and only having ourselves to worry about. I was slightly apprehensive about how brave we would be, being the first trip abroad with our baby boy.. Would we be as spontaneous? Would we still wild camp and “go off grid”? Would we be safe? All those things any new parents would ask themselves. After a night on the vineyard any of our apprehensions dissolved and the real beauty of the trip started.
WHAT TO BRING WHEN HEADING OUT ON A FRENCH ROAD TRIP:
- Full, valid UK driving licence
- Proof of ID
- Insurance certificate
- V5 registration document
- GB sticker if you don’t have EU number plate which shows the country code at the start
- Reflective jackets (one for each of you)
- Warning triangle
- Headlamp beam reflectors (you may be able to do this on your car manually)
- Breathalyser/alcohol test
- Spare bulbs
You will get a hefty fine for not carrying the correct equipment so best to check all the up to date information, which you can find here – https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/travel/country/france/
We spent the next 2 weeks meandering down the west coast stopping at lakes, beaches, sanddunes and wild camping under the stars. Days spent in and out of the water, hiking into the forests and dining alfresco whilst watching dramatic sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.
We tend to travel slow and simple so don’t venture to the touristy bits too much… that said we just had to go to the Dune du Pilat situated in Arachon bay, the highest dune in Europe surrounded by pine forests. It runs along the coast line giving spectacular views over the ocean one side and the forest the other. It is 2.7km in length and 110 metres above sea level. It really is a spectacle not to be missed! There’s so much you can do here from hiking, dune biking, sand surfing, hand gliding and a ton more cool stuff! We stayed next to the ocean in a wild camping spot nearby but there is so many campsites along this stretch I imagine are perfect for a long stay! Oh and don’t forget your camera! You can find out more about the dune and things to do here www.dunedupilat.com
After staying with a friend in Hossegor for the night and eating all the French cheese accompanied with plenty of French wine… we headed for a morning surf where we got woken up by the huge Atlantic waves… perfect cure for a hangover! We headed onto the mountains that evening which was out of this world beautiful… we arrived late at night, it was pitch black and we wondered where we had ended up? We woke in the morning to a low mist, a pack of huskies passing the van and mountain cows around us. It was other worldly and quite spectacular. We spent the next couple of days exploring the mountain passes and lakes nearby before hitting the road to finish our trip by the Med!
We ended up near Perpignan… and it didn’t disappoint! We were treated to the most vibrant sunrises where we had the best seats in the house. UNLIKE the wild Atlantic waves the sea was some of the calmest waters ive ever swam in. Reggie loved crawling and splashing in and out too, it had a very laid back vibe. We visited the most insane gorges nearby – Gorges De Gouleyrous we came across this on the wild swimming France app. You can also buy the wild swimming France book.
The drive was like something out of a fairytale.. twisty, winding roads whilst by passing endless vineyards. When we arrived we hiked down to the gorge where we were greeted with bold teal green waters and rugged rocky falls… it was so clear you could see the little tiny fish darting around and the water was so clean it felt pure! To us it felt like we were in the most secret location tucked away from the rest of the world! We spent the whole day there, never wanting to leave. We drove that night to Limoges as we headed back to Cherbourg for the ferry home!
Swimming in the freshwater lakes and finding unique wild swimming spots in the Gorges De Goulyerous
Raclette (YUM) – We were introduced to this twist on fondue by our friend who put on a raclette dinner party for us! You’ve just gotta try it, if you’re into cheese!
Wine, especially from Bordeaux… (make sure you stock up there)!
Waking up to vibrant orange sunrises in the Meditarrean
Going to bed watching the sunset on candy floss skies over the Atlantic Ocean
Arriving in the dark and being so excited to wake and see where we were
How fresh the supermarkets are… I don’t know, I can’t explain it but everything just seems fresher out in France… the fruit and vegetables are divine let alone the bakeries
Park for night is a great app to help find wild camping spots…
Out Deryan travel cot tent for Reggie worked like a dream..
Take eco friendly soap/shampoo for washing in lakes etc so you don’t harm any of the fisheys, the friendly soap company is great for all your wash stuff.
Our Solar shower.. honestly Neil hated it! Me and Reggie loved it.. It was warmer than our shower at home, admittedly it wasn’t a power shower but it did the job! It holds 20 litres of water and you only need to leave it an hour in the sun to heat up… I mean for £6 what could go wrong?!
Mosquitos – Yep these little nats took us by surprise, especially in the North of France would you believe. Stock up on citronella candles and mossy spray and you will be fine.
Schedule in a trip to the Carrefour on the your way home to bring home all the French goodies… Of course!
Dune du Pilat – get there early to miss the crowds and experience the dramatic scenery to yourself. Also if your looking for a special place to watch the sunset! Then here would be it!
All the places we visited including the wild camping spots are located on the map at the top of this page… if you click on the marker it will give you the exact location, I hope this helps.
We only did the big drives on the way down and back to the ferry port. This was so we could spend as much time in the south as we could. On the long drives we found driving through the night much better! This meant we didn’t miss out on any days, our little one could sleep on the way and it was so much cooler.
For wild camping city stays its a good idea to find a local swimming pool to have a shower in. We found an AWESOME pool in Limoges and ended up spending a whole morning!
Remember the toll ticket machines are on the left hand side so always handy to have a passenger there and some loose change for the machine although they accept most cards as well.
Anyway if you have got this far then Thank you, Thank you so much for reading this post, it means the world to me. We had the best adventure all from the comfort of our home (on wheels) We got to experience so many places and wake up to 5 star views every morning, whilst only spending money on fuel and food. I hope this helps inspire you to take that trip with your baby or helps you plan your road trip route. If you have any questions we’d love to help so do get in touch. And if you were inspired please share this blog with your friends and family.