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Hints and Tips from our first long trip (Latest - 27. Cap Corse Site Review)

DM

DM

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DM

DM

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14. Overnight Stops
Is it just me? I can't wait to go on holiday to relax - and then I can't - well - relax! I get figity if I'm not busy and Mrs DM can't bear to think that she might have missed a sight-seeing opportunity! So we often arrive at our planned overnight stops very late because we have been maximising activity / sight-seeing time. So. a) there doesn't seem much point forking out for expensive campsites when we only spend a few hours there and, b) we'd probably be too late to get in. So we were keen to search out simple and cheap overnight stops. But where to find reliable information about them?

I decided to invest in the Camperstops book. It's a Dutch publication but produced in several languages including English. It's expensive - £27 -but claimed to have the greatest and most upto date info about overnight stopovers. We used it wherever we could on the trip. On balance it was a worthwhile purchase. We used it for 8 stopovers out of 17 nights. Prices varied. I think 3 were free and others varied from 6 to 13 Euros. So the book easily paid for itself.

It's worth noting though that they offer a smartphone app which is free (with ads) so you could just download that. My view was that they should charge a small subscription for the app - say a tenner - but give you a year's free subscription if you buy the book.

Most of the locations (but not all) are also on searchforsites . In some cases searchforsites info was more upto date. It had more recent costs for some locations and correctly noted that one destination we headed for is now daytime parking only. That led to a slightly nervous search at 11pm on a pass in Corsica with prominant no motorhomes signs in every space large enough to park a mini (the original one)! The gods smiled on us though and we happened upon a campsite with a roadside bar still open where they were happy to take our money - phew. The lesson was cross-reference information wherever possible - especially if you've only one option. Wild camping is pretty much outlawed everywhere on Corsica although I don't know what the implications would be if you found a quiet pullover and just ignored the signs.

The type and quality of stopovers varied widely. From a gravel car-park with no facilities - but a stunning beachfront location on northern Cap Corse - to well equipped and secure sites with CCTV, water, hook-up and disposal facilities (Como). Our experience was that it generally paid to have a back-up plan. On 3 occasions we were not comfortable staying at the first location for security reasons. One was a lay-by outside a leisure centre in Orleans, another a town-centre car park in a small town near Avignon already populated by what looked like semi-permanent travellers. But we found some gems as well including a great riverside site just outside Orleans, a vineyard near Avignon, the beach on Cap Corse, and a Ski Lodge car park in Belgium (yes you read that correctly)!

One absolute requirement is an on-board loo. I think only one of the sites we stopped at had toilet / shower facilities but most had a toilet waste disposal facility.

One thing we felt was lacking was good and reliable reviews. The Camperstop App has a capability for reviews but we didn't find a single review for any of the locations we used. They don't seem to have a collaborative community. Which leads me to think that we could do with a better club facility for reviewing sites. I know that the forum can be used but it doesn't really lend itself to easy searches for sites based on maps / location / type etc. It would be fantastic if we could have a facility that enabled sites (including regular campsites) to be searchable in a data base with a map search facility and the capability for members to leave reviews. I reckon this community would rapidly build up a huge information resource that would be specifically relevant for campers rather than Mortorhomes. If it were a VIP member only facility then that alone would be worth the membership. I'd certainly trust member reviews on this site over other resources.

How about it @Kev @Martin ?
 
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GrannyJen

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14. Overnight Stops
Is it just me? I can't wait to go on holiday to relax - and then I can't - well - relax! I get figity if I'm not busy and Mrs DM can't bear to think that she might have missed a sight-seeing opportunity! So we often arrive at our p,anne overnight stops very late because we have been maximising activity / sight-seeing time. So. a) the doesn't seem much point forking out for expensive campsites when we only spend a few hours there and, b) we'd probably be too late to get in. So we were keen to search out simple and cheap overnight stops. But where to find reliable information about them!

I decided to invest in the Camperstop book. It's a Dutch publication but produced in several languages including English. It's expensive £27 but claimed to have the greatest and most upto date info about overnight stopovers. We used it wherever we could on the trip. On balance it was a worthwhile purchase. We used it for 8 stopovers out of 17 nights. Prices varied. I think 3 were free and others varied from 6 to 13 Euros. So the book easily paid for itself.

It's worth noting though that they offer a smartphone app which is free (with ads) so you could just download that. My view was that they should charge a small subscription for the app - say a tenner - but give you a year's free subscription if you buy the book.

Most of the locations (but not all) are also on searchforsites . In some cases searchforsites info was more upto date. It had more recent costs for some locations and correctly noted that one destination we headed for is now daytime parking only. That led to a slightly nervous search at 11pm on a pass in Corsica with prominant no motorhomes signs in every space large enough to park a mini (the original one)! The gods smiled on us though and we happened upon a campsite with a roadside bar still open where they were happy to take our money - phew. The lesson was cross emergence information wherever possible - especially if you've only one option. Wild camping is pretty much outlawed everywhere on Corsica although I don't know what the implications would be if you found a quiet pullover and just ignored the signs.

The type and quality of stopovers varied widely. From a gravel car-park with no facilities - but a stunning beachfront location on northern Cap Corse - to well equipped and secure sites with CCTV, water, hook-up and disposal facilities (Como). Our experience was that it generally paid to have a back-up plan. On 3 occasions we were not comfortable starting at the first location for security reasons. One was a lay-by outside a leisure centre in Orleans, another a town-centre car park in a small town near Avignon already populated by what looked like semi-permanent travellers. But we found some gems as well including a great riverside site just outside Orleans, a vineyard near Avignon, the beach on Cap Corse, and a Ski Lodge car park in Belgium (yes you read that correctly)!

One absolute requirement is an on-board loo. I think only one of the sites we stopped at had toilet / shower facilities but most had a toilet waste disposal facility.

One thing we felt was lacking was good and reliable reviews. The Camperstop App has a capability for reviews but we didn't find a single review for any of the locations we used. Which leads me to think that we could do with a better club facility for reviewing sites. I know that the forum can be used but it doesn't really lend itself to easy searches for sites based on maps / location / type etc. It would be fantastic if we could have a facility that enabled sites (including regular campsites) to be searchable in a data base with a map search facility and the capability for members to leave reviews. I reckon this community would rapidly build up a huge information resource that would be specifically relevant for campers rather than Mortorhomes. If it were a VIP member only facility then that alone would be worth the membership.

How about it @Kev @Martin ?

A great write-up thank you.

My one quibble would be a plea for yet more searchable databases. My problem is not to find sites but to decide on which resource to use next, from Archies, Acsi, All the Aires to searchforsites and Britstops there is such a choice that I often end up confusing myself :shocked

Reviews can be helpful, but they are only as reliable as on the date they are written, an example being a long drive through France to find a well-reviewed Aire, the last review being a week old, and at 7pm at night finding the Aire full of diggers with big holes between them.:(

I love wild and permissive camping but uncertainty is a double-edged sword, it keeps the hordes away but can also smack you in the teeth.:D
 
DM

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A great write-up thank you.

My one quibble would be a plea for yet more searchable databases. My problem is not to find sites but to decide on which resource to use next, from Archies, Acsi, All the Aires to searchforsites and Britstops there is such a choice that I often end up confusing myself :shocked

Reviews can be helpful, but they are only as reliable as on the date they are written, an example being a long drive through France to find a well-reviewed Aire, the last review being a week old, and at 7pm at night finding the Aire full of diggers with big holes between them.:(

I love wild and permissive camping but uncertainty is a double-edged sword, it keeps the hordes away but can also smack you in the teeth.:D
I think I'm agreeing with you Jen but with a slightly different conclusion. There are lots of resources, including the reviews on this forum. But I find it quite hard to find information here on the forum as it is not indexed or readily searchable. I'd be happy to use the club as my primary source of site information - no need to go to any sites if a member has been there before :D. But maybe I'm being too ambitious.
 
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iamchucky

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3. French Autoroute Tolls
This was the single most frustrating issue on our trip. I researched vehicle classifications before we left the UK. The rules are clear - vehicle classification is based upon the vehicle height without any roofload. The official height of the T6 Cali (according to the spec sheet) is 1990mm. So definitely a Class 1 vehicle. Roof loads do not change the classification. However we had a roofload which took the total vehicle height to just over 2.6m. The lasers at the Toll plazas are supposed to identify the base vehicle height but they don't seem to be able to do this accurately. I think we went through 6 booths and were charged as Class 1 twice and Class 2 four times. There are no manned booths anymore so we pressed the button and tried to argue the case but to no avail (probably due to our limited French). The difference in cost is significant. Class 2 is approximately 50% more expensive than Class 1. We tried to avoid Motorways for a while but whilst some RNs bypass towns and villages others do not and progress was slow - so we ended up back on the AutoRoute.

I have kept all the receipts and will possibly try to appeal - but I'm not optimistic.

I've done some more research since getting home. I think I will get a tag next time we go to France. There is still a possibility (likelihood) of being charged the wrong classification but with a tag you have an on-line account and there is an on-line process for appealing mis-classifications. Interested if anyone has successfully used this process.

DM. We have a SANEF tag. Used it last year in France and made the journey so much easier. When we got back checked the online account and it had classified our Ocean as the wrong class on a few journeys, but the appeals process via the online account is very straight forward and got it sorted reasonably quickly for us.

Highly recommend the tag.

Thanks for your updates - really good read
 
JohnnyP

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DM. We have a SANEF tag. Used it last year in France and made the journey so much easier. When we got back checked the online account and it had classified our Ocean as the wrong class on a few journeys, but the appeals process via the online account is very straight forward and got it sorted reasonably quickly for us.

Highly recommend the tag.

Thanks for your updates - really good read

There are hidden costs with the Sanef tag, I have received a bill for 40 Euro before even fitting the tag and notice that I will receive a further 10Euro bill for using the tag in July and and August.

20 Euro of this will be refundable when I return the tag minus the postage of course.
IMG_1786[1].JPG
 
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iamchucky

iamchucky

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There are hidden costs with the Sanef tag, I have received a bill for 40 Euro before even fitting the tag and notice that I will receive a further 10Euro bill for using the tag in July and and August.

20 Euro of this will be refundable when I return the tag minus the postage of course.
View attachment 23750

I've had the tag a few years now. I got mine via the Eurotunnel offer that was running at the time (I'm sure there are others). Just checked and this still seems to be running. It helps reduce the costs. I agree it's extra compared to the paying at the booth, but we travel down to our destination overnight and the tag is 100% worth the admin charge.

We travelled with a roof box and so think may be the reason why we got classified at some booths as class 2. With the tag easy to get your money back though and so paid for itself last year.

There are more of the drive through booths with no height restrictions... these saved alot of time with not having to Q at the booth.

https://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/traveller-info/sanef-tolling/

upload_2017-7-19_18-10-28.png


Class 1 vehicles are identified as vehicles with overall height under 2 metres and GVW* not exceeding 3.5 tonnes.
Cars with roofloads such as roofboxes or bicycles are still Class 1 even though they may exceed 2m.
Class 2 vehicles are identified as vehicles with overall height from 2 to 3 metres and GVW* not exceeding 3.5 tonnes.
 
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WelshGas

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There are hidden costs with the Sanef tag, I have received a bill for 40 Euro before even fitting the tag and notice that I will receive a further 10Euro bill for using the tag in July and and August.

20 Euro of this will be refundable when I return the tag minus the postage of course.
View attachment 23750
Hardly hidden costs, as fully explained on website, but Additional - Yes.

I never have anything on the roof and therefore can use the 2m height limited barriers. I do it for the convenience. If you carry anything on the roof, and are likely to be Charged Class 2, then it is a lot easier to have this corrected if you have a Sanef tag/account than trying to find a Manned Toll Booth or arguing your case with the French Sanef Authorities.
 
DM

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15. Gas Life Expectancy
Can't think of any amusing anecdotes relating to gas so a short factual post. How long does a gas bottle last? We happened to have a new bottle a couple of weeks before we set off.

We cooked in the van about 3/4 of our nights away. Partly because I seem to spend my life in hotels and restaurants so eating out isn't really special and partly because we did a lot of our driving in the evenings arriving at sites and stop-overs after most sensible restaurants had closed! We also had teas and coffees for breakfast and usually at least one brew-up most days. I carried a spare bottle but we didn't need to use it. One bottle lasted us our 18 night trip. It feels fairly light now but has certainly still got some life left in it.
 
DM

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16. Cali Pics
Many of us seem to have a strange desire to see pictures of ours and others' Californias. I tried not to take more pictures of the van than of Mrs DM on our trip but it was a close run thing. Here's a few.

20170624_064315187_iOS.jpg
Great vineyard stopover just north of Avignon. Free with water and disposal facilities. Felt bit guilty that we were away before the shop opened so didn't even buy any wine - we'll have to go back.

20170624_185007104_iOS.jpg

On the Nice - Bastia ferry. What do you reckon? Would it have squeezed under the hanging car deck - they made us reverse on.

20170625_155213922_iOS.jpg

Cap Corse - right on the northern tip of Corsica. we were able to overnight here right on the beach. Amazing views and dead quiet - only about 5 vans and one small motorhome.

20170626_181603779_iOS.jpg

Another stopover on the west coast of Cap Corse. Just 50 yds from the beach.

20170626_200707734_iOS.jpg

My awning LED strip lights in action. A very worthwhile mod.
 
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WelshGas

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Do find the white LED attracts more mozzies?
Agree. Yellow is the colour if you don't want to attract any flying insects.
 
DM

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17. Italian Motorways
We only intended to spend time at Lake Como in Italy so did a quick motorway blast to Lecco as soon as we got off the ferry at Livorno.

Italian Motorways have good and less good aspects. The tolls are fairly pricy. I believe that they are purely distance related with a charge per Km. We paid just over £30 for a 220 mile journey. So just under 14p per mile. About the same cost as fuel. But at least the height issues and challenges that I experienced in France don't apply. Costs only start to go up when you have 3 axles or more - I don't think many of us have added a 3rd axle (though I do seem to recall a pic of a 3 axle customisation somewhere here).

Italy also doesn't seem to have non toll sections around every major town / city as in France - at least not on the route we drove. We collected a ticket when we joined and paid when we exited - one section - so it's a bit simpler with less toll plazas.

The think that I did find a challenge though was the total lack of lane discipline - particularly from trucks. The stretch from Livorno to La Spezia was fairly busy and we found that most trucks and many cars drove straddling either two lanes or a lane and the hard shoulder. And if they weren't already they suddenly remembered to do so just as I was overtaking! I've never used the horn so much on a motorway - I was glad when the traffic thinned out as we left the coast.
 
Amarillo

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15. Gas Life Expectancy
Can't think of any amusing anecdotes relating to gas so a short factual post. How long does a gas bottle last? We happened to have a new bottle a couple of weeks before we set off.

We cooked in the van about 3/4 of our nights away. Partly because I seem to spend my life in hotels and restaurants so eating out isn't really special and partly because we did a lot of our driving in the evenings arriving at sites and stop-overs after most sensible restaurants had closed! We also had teas and coffees for breakfast and usually at least one brew-up most days. I carried a spare bottle but we didn't need to use it. One bottle lasted us our 18 night trip. It feels fairly light now but has certainly still got some life left in it.
What gas did you take? We've taken 2 x 907 campingaz bottles on our Scandinavian trip, and use them twice daily for breakfast and dinner. One is now empty and the other very nearly empty, and we have discovered that refills are not readily available for Campingaz throughout the Nordic countries.

However, the fact that our two bottles have lasted over six weeks of heavy use by a family of four is remarkable in itself.


Follow my blog at www.au-revoir.eu
 
DM

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What gas did you take?
Same as you - 2 x 907s. There were only two of us but most days the kettle went on at least once in addition to breakfast and tea. We also hated water for washing up - albeit sparingly and we used whatever was left in the kettle first.
 
DM

DM

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18. Critters and Creatures
I've got a reasonably high tolerance to uninvited guests - well, lets be honest about this - flying insects than Mrs DM does. Strange, you'd have thought a vet would be more welcoming! I guess its probably because I have built up a tolerance through being brought up on a combination of family holidays in Scotland and school camps in Snowdonia. Don't get me wrong, I still get bitten but I can live with the odd insect in the van. Mrs DM goes instantly into insect avoidance mode when we set-up camp.

So we have strict rules about using insect screens and not having lights on in the van if it is dark and there is a door open. The regime was strictly imposed for the first couple of nights until we realised - there weren't actually many biting insects about in Corsica. Yes - we got the odd bite but really didn't notice where they came from. No midges, no mosquitos, very few flies and only one daddy long legs spotted. A minor invasion of ants was the worst we experienced. I'm not sure if this is normal for Corsica or whether we were just lucky. The weather may have been a contributor - hot and dry but quite windy.

We did come across a few larger animals though.

20170627_071734462_iOS.jpg IMG_1366.JPG

The donkeys were friendly - not sure how far I've have trusted the pigs though.:Nailbiting
 
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Loz

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yes, we found the pigs when we were on the tracks in Corsica, and Cows on the beach!
IMG_0280.jpg IMG_1372.jpg
 
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