Last year in 2013 we took a road trip in the campervan from the UK to the South of France, it was a pretty epic route of 2,260 miles but it made us realise that travelling in the campervan is a much better experience if we break the route into three hour sections to make the most of exploring as we go. This year we decided to on a Normandy and Brittany trip hugging the northern coast of France driving through Normandy and Brittany making a total round trip (from home) of 1600 miles.
If you’ve landed on this post looking for advice for driving in France, you could check out the post from 2012: Road Trip around France. This post is a log of photos, GPS destinations and direct links to the campsites should you wish to follow the same route.
In the few weeks before departure I like to plot the route on Google Maps and check the street view for each GPS destination, this way I’m pretty confident we’re not going to end up arriving at the back of a campsite on the wrong side of the river. It also helps with driving confidence when you start to recognise some of the streets as you approach the destination for real. Once I have the co-ordinates, I load them all onto the CoPilot Premium Europe HD iPhone app with a pre-loaded map of France.
We prefer the Eurotunnel over the ferry mainly down to some members of the family not being very good at sea! But we’ve also found the boarding to be pretty quick and painless. Most times we’ve just driven straight on and 30 minutes later we’ve driven off in France. This year we had a short wait – enough time to grab a coffee – but it was day 1 of the school holidays and you could see they were running at maximum capacity.
For the third year our first overnight stop was Camping La Bien Assise and we’ll probably be back again. It’s only a few minutes from the terminal and offers a pool, bar and restaurant for weary English travellers (Obviously, if you live in Kent you probably won’t be very weary at this point) for some reason we always get pitched next to fellow British campervan owners, which makes for a pleasant discussion to kick the holiday off. A nice cold pint of Affligem was on the cards at this campsite – as was a visit from some friends who had seen my post on Instagram alerting them to the fact they were only 5 minutes down the road!
We knew that we wanted to visit the historic port of Honfleur so we selected a site (with a pool) close enough to allow us to visit the port in the evening to watch the sunset and relax in a restaurant on the waterfront. We had visited Honfleur some ten years ago before we had children and were happy to show them the old streets and beautiful buildings made famous by painters such as Monet. The light was amazing that evening and many an iPhone panoramic picture was taken (more on my Flickr account) the food was not very amazing and I was again left wondering why the French are so revered for their cuisine.
The next short drive took us to Mont Saint-Michel and to another familiar campsite – we couldn’t miss another visit to the Abbey where so many made a religious pilgrimage. This time it was busy as we were visiting in the day rather than the evening, but the old buildings and cobbled streets are so enchanting you can almost disappear into your own dreamworld. Take a moment, find a quiet spot, meditate and try to imagine what life may have been like on those streets in the 8th Century.
After another campervan breakfast we travelled the last leg of the outward route and landed in Bénodet – a coastal town in Brittany. We’d booked direct with the French site L’Escale St Gilles and in doing so saved a couple of hundred Euro over booking through an operator such as Eurocamp. Be warned that by booking direct you have to follow the French ways, you’ll have to clean the accommodation before you leave – not something you really want to do when you need to be out by 10am. We had this mobile home for 10 nights and didn’t have to worry about popping the campervan roof bed for a while 😉
Bénodet is a beautiful place and there’s plenty to see and do when you are not being lazy and sitting around the on-site water park, bar or restaurants.
The beaches always felt empty and we put this down to the fact that there is a whole coastline of beaches to explore – you just need to pick your favourite. Parking was always free and we never had an issue finding a space.
This is an area to explore and we regularly just jumped in the campervan and drove along the coast. Many hidden treasures were found and most of the time we were only sharing them with a handful of other people.
Concarneau is a must for a visit with it’s medieval walled town on an island in the harbour! Stop and sit under the old buildings and soak up the atmosphere, a great place to buy a few holiday gifts.
For the return journey we only had one thing on our minds – The D-Day beaches, memorials and museums. The kids are at the right age to learn about the World War(s) and we knew we’d be in the right place to teach them. Our campsite in Merville-Franceville-Plage was on a D-Day beach which allowed us to watch the sun go down, sitting on the beach with a bottle of wine, on the two nights we stayed. Ideally placed, we visited Juno Beach and Sword Beach and read memorials for the people involved in the Normandy landings.
We visited and learnt about the Pegasus Bridge. We saw original parts of a Horsa glider and learnt that on the 5th June 1944 181 troops took off from Dorset in these silent wooden gliders to capture the bridge. The museum/memorial was amazing and showed us everything from the steam powered 12 volt generators to the field capsules of morphine. Bringing a tear to many an eye this is a very powerful place to visit.
“Pegasus Bridge, June 1944 B5288” by Christie (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit. (This is photograph B 5288 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)
Check Point 7: Relais Eurotunnel. GPS: 50.9379 n, 1.8096 e
Not exactly wanting to return, we made our way back to Calais to catch the Eurotunnel. We’d had a great time and used the campervan for it’s intended purpose – to explore new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.