Montreuil-Bellay 

From Spain we entered France and our first French overnight stop of Capbreton. It's actually quite shocking how much prices increase as you cross over the French/Spanish border. Not just fuel and wine (and the total absence of any beer worth drinking) but just general produce as well. Lidl is 20-30% more expensive on most items and we find ourselves wishing we had stocked up. The perils of crossing a border on a Sunday.

Capbreton Fortifications
Still, Capbreton makes for a nice overnight stop right on the beach with its eroding and toppling WW2 fortifications. Most of our stop over points here on in are chosen for convenience and because they are free; Contis Plage, Roullet-Saint-Estephe and Montreuil-Bellay. This method doesn't always yield a spectacular aire but the small town of Montreuil-Bellay proved a worthy stopover and a fantastic location next to a river and a few minutes walk from the town.

Back on the motorway we keep seeing decorated Renault 4's hurtling past at breakneck speed. It turns out they are all returning from a 6,000km charity rally to Morocco, the Tous En Pour Le Trophy, where each car must carry at least 50kg of goods to donate to local causes. Much of their route in Morocco is off piste which could account for the poor state of many of the cars. Yes, that's right we couldn't not mention Morocco even though we're in France!


We're aiming to get 200 miles a day under our belts as we head up towards Calais and our next stop is Le Mans. A big city it might be, but it has a free aire right in the center with free water and waste. A grey day contributes to a relatively uninspiring walk around and back in the van for tea. We're really not fans of big cities, it has to be said.

Gace Aire infront of the Chateaux
Our overnight aire of choice this time is Gace, with it's impressive Chateaux where motorhomes are allowed to park only between 5pm and 10am it can't really be anything else. The bells fortunatly stop chiming at 11pm and resume at 7am to ensure we are on our way the next day.

We arrive at Saint-Valery-en-Caux and then realise it is in fact a weekend and the aire is no longer free. Still, we've managed to avoid paying for the last 6 nights so we cough up €4.50 a van for the privilege. The aire is a prime location right on the harbour walls and we watch fisherman bringing in their catch followed by a swarms of seagulls. Wrapped up in our winter coats which have been unpacked from the depth of our van, we walk up to the top of the cliffs. Why can't the French clean up after their dogs?

The rain is belting down the following day as we edge ever close to Calais and Le Touquet Paris Plage want €14 for the privilege of staying overnight. I don't think so. We settle for an aire in Bologne Sur Mer where we chance that the appalling weather and gale force winds means the man won't come to collect his €5. We're right and we escape without paying the fee.
Saint-Valery-en-Caux 

We're getting nervous now, the winds have not let up and we sail tomorrow back to blighty. The Dover Port website describes sea conditions as "Rough" and "Gale Force 8-9 winds". Sophie starts looking pale. Adam's mum, despite her not long conquered fear of ferry's, seems game for anything. We arrive at Cite De Europe, all the motor homes are abandoned at funny angles all over the car park and we soon see why as we are buffeted in danger of being toppled over unless we do the same. We do the only sensible thing - buy as much wine as possible to weigh down our vans! After which we head for the ticket office in Calais where the winds rock us to sleep.

The next day the wind subsides but the ferry is still running late as a result. This gives the dog patrol longer to inspect the waiting cars and it's not long before 4 illegal immigrants who get bundled out the back of a French curtain-sider alongside us in the queue for the ferry, sniffed out by a playful black Labrador. The crossing is like a mill pond and somewhat surreal given the previous two days weather.

The beautiful Montreuil-Bellay

We roll off the ferry and towards customs. We don't actually know how many bottles of wine we have or if the limit is 90 liters per person or per van. As we snake through the checkpoint 8 customs officials stand with arms folded and weigh us up. Adam almost makes the decision for them, since we always get stopped here anyway. But not this time! We get waved on through, maybe we're looking too respectable in our old age?

Despite 23,000 miles on the 'wrong' side of the road and it feels like we've never left home. Roundabouts feel a little strange though, but apart from that all seems fairly normal and we cruise back up to York in a little bit of a daze. Nearly home we stop for for Fish and Chips. Well you have to, right?

So that's it. We're home. Or is it? Over the next few weeks we will be writing about all sorts of topics which have been asked by our readers that we would like to share for the benefit of others.

The BIG question - did we manage to spend 334 days and 23,336 miles away in Europe for under our budget of £10k? Find out next week as we start to blog our breakdown, tips and a little bit about how many people have been in touch with us during our trip.

Is there anything you would like to know? If so please don't hesitate to e-mail (you can reply to our blog subscription e-mail), comment, tweet @EuropeByCamper or post on our Facebook timeline.

Thank you all for following, it's over for now but not for long!








Adam & Sophie
EuropeByCamper.com

Post a comment

  1. What a great trip ! I don't know you but have enjoyed reading your informative and well written blog ; superb photos too .
    This would make a great book !
    Thanks for sharing all this .

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  2. Heading for England in June...maybe we'll buy an old camper and tour around Europe for a few months. Thanks for your blog!

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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  3. So glad Adam mentioned your trip on TA, I've been following the blog ever since

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  4. Glad you arrived home safely, you stop overs reminded us of some of the places we have visted during our trips to France. Le Man was one, we were on our way to Poiters and hit the main road through the City, with all its traffic lights,in the middle of a busy Saturday with people watching from every pavement as we manouvered our car and caravan through. These days of course there is a by pass and we would be spared that ordeal.....looking forward to reading how your budget worked out and your plans for your next journey.

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  5. Hi guys
    Glad you made it home safely. We leave Morocco tomorrow and head back to Spain.
    Keep in touch - we'll keep following you.

    Kate and Lawrence in the Yellow Unimog

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  6. Hi you guys
    Have really enjoyed reading your blogs, we have bought our first motorhome and are setting off next week through France to Spain an Portugal, we have gleaned some really good tips from you, keep it up and we look forward to following you some more, you never know our paths may cross sometime :)

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  7. Welcome back. I shall miss your cheerful posts from far & wide. My big news is that I have bought my van so conversion now begins in earnest. Question: Should I use TomTom or Garmin. Your account of Morocco suggests Garmin may be better. Both about same for normal motoring. Many thanks. Robin

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  8. Hope you enjoy a few months in Blighty, but are still inspired to take off and discover some more. Loved your blogs over the last few months, and looking forward to more.

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  9. Have just sat and read your trips info all day...had to find out where you went and what you did..it was like a good book. Am trying to convince my partner to leave work and sell up and go travelling for as many years as money allows..we're in our 40s and i am not not sure i want to wait til retirement time. Now i have read this i am even more keen to go asap. Great info about the diff countries and i look forward to finding out how much you spent. Also good to see you travelled in a smaller motorhome, as that is my preferred option, to make travelling easier and less expensive. Will keep checking your site to see any new info and any new travel plans. Inspiring. I just need to inspire him now!

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  10. Welcome 'home' to you both! We are about to set off on our own venture of a similar sort. We've learnt much from reading your posts. Will email you with some questions. Thank you.

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  11. Faboulous blog. It will inspire everyone to get out there and enjoy what Europe has to offer. We've just bought an Adria 4 Twin and are looking forward to our first weekend away in it. Thanks for all your advice & keep doing what you are doing!

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  12. Well done - a fantastic adventure so well documented - a pleasure to follow you. I will curious to see how you did on your budget but no amount of money buys the pleasure and enjoyment of a voyage such as this.

    see you on the road!

    musicbus

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  13. I get many a vicarious thrill from reading your fantastic and informative blog and look forward to hearing about how you managed to live for almost a year on less than £1k a month. We have a motorhome and hope to be able to manage a long trip in it when job commitments/kids allow it but for now, I've enjoyed living it all through your experiences and am taking notes with all your brilliant tips etc. Lisa

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