Yes, in recent times myself and my boyfriend have become the proud owners of a real VW T3. After we rented one in what turned out to be the coldest weekend of February, there was no turning back. We wanted a van of our own. We’ve explored a great number of places in the Netherlands already, and a few weeks ago we decided it was time for out first long trip: a road through France! In this blog, you’ll hear all about our adventures and I’ll provide you with all the useful tips I picked up.
You can look at our whole campervan route through France in Polarsteps here. I must apologize, as the route gets a bit crazy due to a lack of internet at times, but at least it will show which places we visited.
Our first destination was recommended to William by his hairdresser, so we headed to Ardeche. We almost always program our navigation to avoid highways. This is normally far more enjoyable for driving as you come across some great roads and paths. We travelled to Ardeche in three days using this method, feeling like the royalty of the roads while we comfortably drove on. We stayed overnight in two places: Camping Chênefleur in Tintigny en Camping Du Lac Kir in Dijon (the campsites are more fun than the actual camping spots). On the third day we arrived reasonably late at Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. There are plenty of campsites here, where we managed to easily get a spot without any reservations (Camping du Pont d’Arc). But if you prefer security and planning, then naturally you can make a reservation by any of the campsites there.
Kayaking is extremely popular in this area of Ardeche. Rightly so, since paddling about on that gorgeous water between the big rocks is extremely calming. We rented kayaks at our campsite, and were brought to the right spot by a small bus, then we could begin! It was busy on the water, but that didn’t matter, the boats were so striking against the green and grey surroundings and it was simply a lot of fun! A lot of the way was just calmly paddling along, but some parts had a strong current, and on one of these bits William got to enjoy kayaking upside down for a bit.
In the evening we spoke to a German fellow who was situated on our campsite with his T3, and he recommended another campsite a bit further down. Camping Des Grottes was previously a secret hippy spot, but is now a small campsite with space for several tents and 5 campervans. It isn’t recommended for large motorhomes, as the campsite can only be reached through a steep non-asphalt path, and even we found it thrilling to try in our little bus! Luckily once at the bottom our anxiety began to calm and the sweat began to dry. We hung up out hammock, relished in the atmosphere of the campsite, and later fell into sweet dreams with the sound of rain against out roof. We simply felt at peace and content with all. We remained in that state for the rest of our time at Des Grottes. We switched between swimming in the river (extremely peaceful here) with naps, and in the evenings we drank a few local beers at the camping bar where the earlier hippy vibe still hung in the air.
The French Coast
The next stage of our road trip through France was the southern French coast. On the way we stopped for lunch in Avignon and to visit an acquaintance from former travels, but then we headed straight for the sea. As a child I always dreamed of visiting this region of France, the big boats and fancy people of the Côte d’Azur seemed absolutely magical to me. Sadly it couldn’t quite fit in our planning, but the Côte Bleue was also wonderful. If you hope to visit this area, then we recommend booking a campsite. We drove by four campsites that were completely full, until the fifth campsite had space for us for one night. That one spot was of course enough and we had a general feeling that things would work out, but if you prefer security then be sure to book a campsite in advance. Make sure to secure a spot with a sea view, as we were lucky enough to manage that too. We installed the bus, opened the back up and then could already start enjoying it, a process that no luxury hotel could rival.
After that one night we had to leave the campsite, but that was no big deal. Following a recommendation from a friend, we headed to the National Park Les Calanques. We weren’t extremely prepared and visited what I think is one of the busiest Calanques (Calanque de Sormiu), but this didn’t make it any less beautiful. We parked our little bus, hiked for a short while and plunged into the azure waters. If you’d like to head here too, which I more than recommend for a road trip in France,try to read a bit about it first. There are plenty more beautiful bays and fun hikes, which you can reach from different points.
After a visit to the Calanques we decided to just go for it and drive on to Cassis. We had found a random campsite on Google and it seemed to be a good choice for us. The campsite (Camping Les Cigales) was really relaxing and they don’t take reservations so there always seems to be space. The city was also super cosy and social. In the port you’ll find a variety of restaurants, but also in the small streets behind it you’ll find cozy terraces. Within a few minutes of being there, we had decided to stay here another night. Especially once we discovered an ice cream parlour, with big scoops of ice cream that were so delicious that one visit there was simply not enough. Therefore we stayed an extra night, dived once more into those gorgeous waters and treated ourselves to a dinner out at D’une Rive à l'Autre. The Lebanese food served there is beyond delicious, especially the moussaka that was god-like!
Sadly it became time to head back to the North. In a day we covered the Péage to Paris, and our little van managed it very well. We camped at a campsite just outside of Paris, Beau Village, as Paris obviously is entrenched in environmental zones. This campsite was also a great place, and walking distance from a station that takes you right into Paris. We didn’t choose the best day to visit Paris as it began extremely warm and drinking a cold coke on a terrace there costs a small fortune, and then later it began to rain and hail. But that could not completely rain on our parade as we had agreed to see some friends of Williams that evening. We drank slightly too much, had great conversations, and stayed out too late to be able to take the train back to the campsite. So we traded in our camping bed for a one-person mattress on the floor. The alarm went off all too early as we needed to leave our campsite before noon. We drove out of the campsite fifteen minutes late and sadly that was the end of our holiday.
The Campsites We Visited:
Camping Chênefleur in Tintigny (BE)
Camping Du Lac Kir in Dijon
Camping du Pont d’Arc
Camping Des Grottes
Camping Seagulls in Martigues
Camping Les Cigales in Cassis
Camping Paris Beau Village
Tips for your Road Trip through France
We always use Google Maps to navigate and choose the route option “Avoid Highways”. This can sometimes lead you through very small streets so it may not work well for bigger motorhomes, when a motorhome orientated navigation may be preferred.
In France you also need to consider the environmental zones when you need specific stickers. This includes Paris and other spots. It can be a little complicated but a little research will make it all much clearer.
France also has a lot of different driving rules, with specific highways and toll booths, read more about them in this blog.
Did you also drive a great campervan route in France? Share it with us!