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

Julie and Archie

Julie and Archie

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4. The Dartford Crossing
I'm sure that regular users of the crossing will think me a complete amateur on this. But I only every use the crossing en route to Dover and it stresses me every time. It is so easy to forget to pay unless you do it straight away. Dartford Crossing, M20, Dover, Ferry , Holiday -Hurrah !!! Oops - forgot to pay............... . I haven't actually forgotten but always worry about doing so. I keep meaning to get an account but have never got around to it. My advice is pay as soon as possible - you can do in advance if you are organised.

At least Mrs DM is becoming much more internet savvy and managed to pay on-line before we got to Dover. We paid for a return journey to avoid any stress on the way home - but of course then neither of us could remember for sure whether we had paid for the return so there was some frantic searching of emails for the receipt.

I have spent several hundred pounds with dartford tunnel - forgot on way out, internet payment not working etc. It's prejudiced against northers
 
DM

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19. Vehicle Documents
We all know that we are required to carry various vehicle items such as warning triangles, breathylisers (in France), bulb kits, reflective jackets etc. But I suspect lots are nort aware that it is a requirement in a number of European countries to carry proof of Insurance and vehicle registration documents.

This is contrary to our experience in the U.K. - particularly in respect of registration documents as we are encouraged not to keep them in the car as they can make it easier for a thief to pass the vehicle on.

I have rarely carried these in the past but did remember this time. I was glad I did when we were stopped at a roadside checkpoint in Italy. As it happens they didn't ask for the vehicle papers but they did want ID documents for all occupants. These were taken away and (I presume) checked. We were kept waiting fo about 10 mins. Interestingly Italians were stopped but were on their way immediately.

An Italian friend that we met there was surprised that we weren't asked for the vehicle papers as such checks are common. In the next two days we saw two further checkpoints but we weren't stopped again.
 
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19. Vehicle Documents
We all know that we are required to carry various vehicle items such as warning triangles, breathylisers (in France), bulb kits, reflective jackets etc. But I suspect lots are nort aware that it is a requirement in a number of European countries to carry proof of Insurance and vehicle registration documents.

This is contrary to our experience in the U.K. - particularly in respect of registration documents as we are encouraged not to keep them in the car as they can make it easier for a thief to pass the vehicle on.

I have rarely carried these in the past but did remember this time. I was glad I did when we were stopped at a roadside checkpoint in Italy. As it happens they didn't ask for the vehicle papers but they did want ID documents for all occupants. These were taken away and (I presume) checked. We were kept waiting fo about 10 mins. Interestingly Italians were stopped but were on their way immediately.

An Italian friend that we met there was surprised that we weren't asked for the vehicle papers as such checks are common. In the next two days we saw two further checkpoints but we weren't stopped again.
Six years ago I was stopped in Slovenia and asked for my registration documents. I didn't have them. Without hesitation I showed them my MOT certificate, and they looked at it frowned, then waved me on my way.

There is an excellent hiding place for flat documents under the upstairs bed base. A hell of a faff to retrieve on the hard shoulder of the autostrada but at least you will be compliant with local regulations.


Follow my blog at www.au-revoir.eu
 
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Hotel California

Hotel California

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I keep a copy in the glovebox , the original papers are hidden in the Cali .
IF there should be a break in at least they won't steal my original papers , if they take the Cali with them they might as well have the papers ....but they will only find them stripping the verhicle ....:D

One thing also , keep a copy of your (and every other family member) pasports , if you lose those in a other country you can always show them the copy's:thumb
 
T6 CFO

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Mike
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I keep a copy in the glovebox , the original papers are hidden in the Cali .
IF there should be a break in at least they won't steal my original papers , if they take the Cali with them they might as well have the papers ....but they will only find them stripping the verhicle ....:D

One thing also , keep a copy of your (and every other family member) pasports , if you lose those in a other country you can always show them the copy's:thumb
Snap with the documents. Copies are handy, originals hidden and as a backup and convenience it's so easy now to scan them either with an app or within Dropbox itself and upload copies there.

Mike
 
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DM

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We found cows at a glacial lake that we had spent 2 hours scrambling up to - how the hell did they get cows up there?
Haha - just found the picture of the cows.
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Looks a normal enough spot but they were up by a lake which was in the far distance in this picture. It took us two hours of scrambling to get up there.

20170703_135817472_iOS.jpg

And that was from the car park that was 14Km up a single track road.
 
DM

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20. Breakages
Accidents happen I guess. And on the whole we've done pretty well since we got the van. Our toll on this trip was:
- 1 x broken glass
- 1 x broken cup
- 1 x chair
- 1 x step mat

I expect the broken crockery will give Mrs DM the excuse to buy a whole new set. Strange, crockery at home is used several times a day and has lasted decades. But regular refresh in the van seems mandatory :confused:.


IMG_5062.JPG
The mat was frustrating. I put a hot coffee percolator down on the sliding door step mat. The fibres are obviously plastic rather than fabric as I now have a perfectly percolator shaped indentation on the mat. They are the ones from the club shop so no great expense - I probably won't bother to replace it - reminder to be more careful.

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The chair was the most upsetting. A rivet went on one of the OEM Cali chairs rendering it unusable. Replacements are pricey I understand :Nailbiting.

IMG_5059.JPG
I taped it up with gaffer tape which got us through the last few days - albeit sitting somewhat gingerly. However the repair was straight-forward - and an excuse for me to purchase a new riverter :D. The most difficult part of the repair was actually getting the gaffer tape off again!!

IMG_5061.JPG

So no major damage done - at least considerably less than seems to occur every time it goes to the dealer :mad::mad::mad:.
 
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DM

DM

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21. Fires
Saddened to read about the terrible fires affecting Corsica (and Provence).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-40714225/corsica-fires-threaten-homes-in-biguglia

We visited a 12th century Pisan church and Roman remains very near to Biguglia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucciana_Cathedral
20170704_083129140_iOS.jpg

They are currently building a brand new futuristic museum about and around the Roman settlement. Hope that's all escaped.

Fires are clearly very common in Corsica. We saw the evidence of past fires (both recent and longer ago) in many places. Some very big areas were effected. It explains the existence of relatively large fire stations in tiny villages. They do plenty of training - we passed fire engines out on training exercises all over the island.

Its also the reason (well one of them) why wild camping and fires of any sort are banned throughout the Island. Open fires were also barred in several campsites - so my fire pit didn't see any use this trip. Having witnessed the scars left behind by such fires you have to respect the rules. I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for anything like that.

Hope they manage to get it all under control without any injuries and with the least damage possible.
 
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hirsty

hirsty

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Yes, terrible scenes on the news, very sad.

I've looked into Corsica previously (I really do want that sticker ...) and one of the first things that always comes up is 'no fires' anywhere. I've got a wood burning stove at home & have collected a rocket stove (& a smaller BioLite) which I like to fire up, but it's a lot different over there to the perma-damp where we mostly stay over.
 
DM

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22. Orleans
It's about time I responded to the request for site reviews. I'll post them all in here as a record of the trip but will also post links in the applicable site review forums.

So - we basically had 48 hours to get from Calais to Nice, arriving in Calais at about 5pm on Thursday. We picked Orleans for our first night stopover because - well, who hasn't heard of Joan of Arc. Must be something interesting there. Well you'll have read about our Paris exploits above so it was a little later than intended by the time we got to Orleans - getting towards 10pm. Having invested in the Camperstop Europe book we were determined to get our money's worth. We initially looked for the most central stopover which was at Parc des Expositions. Well, not sure whether we found it or not. All we found was roadside parking outside the exhibition centre - absolutely deserted and not really a place we fancied spending the night. So, option 2 was the Aire Camping-Cars at La Chappelle Saint Mesmin. This was a fantastic choice and definitely to be recommended.

https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/marker.php?id=4039

It is about a 10 minute drive to the west of the city centre in a suburb but by the River Loire. We had our doubts as we navigated the residential streets leading to it but it is a gem. A dedicated Aire in a woodland setting. It was very busy when we arrived - I think we may have got the last of about 20 pitches. One aspect I did really like was the fact that the pitches are separated by low wooden rails. That stops the big boys from spreading out too much and occupying several pitches. The site itself is secure. Entry is by a barrier code which is issued on a slip of paper when you pay by credit card at the entrance. Only €5 per night which was a bargain. Max stay 72 hours. The pitches are gravel but the woodland setting means it doesn't feel like a car park. There are no toilets but fresh water and grey water / toilet disposal are free. It was late when we arrived but there was a buzz about the place. We pitched next to a very friendly Frenchman who was keen to show us how he was getting in with his self-conversion of a transporter.

In summary - this is a great stopover about 5 hours down the road from Calais. But there is a risk of not getting in I guess.

We spent a few hours in Orleans the next morning. Great Cathedral and the obligatory statue of Joan. :thumb.
 
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DM

DM

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23. Keeping Cool
Like many of our fellow Brits Mrs DM and I like it hot but not too hot. Well - luke warm really. And not at night. We're much comfier snuggling up in a 13 tog duvet than casting it off and trying to stay cool.

One of the reasons we chose Corsica was because it isn't too hot. Average July temperatures should only be in the mid 20s - especially on the coast. How wrong we were. Low 30s most days. I think the hottest we saw was 36. I know that Central Europe was experiencing temperatures in the 40s but 32 was plenty for us.

We employed the usual tactics with an air safe, side windows slightly open and roof vents very open. All fine until you get a sudden thunderstorm in ten middle of the night -oops.

But ventilation is only as good as the air flow. So we purchased a couple of 12V fans from amazon before we went. One was a traditional type fan with two small fan blades - supposedly extra quiet. The other was a paddle wheel style dispatched directly from China.

IMG_4245.JPG

The picture's not great. You can see it better here.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00L40ZQGS/?tag=eliteelect-21

It worked really well - much better than the more traditional style. We generally had it on the lower setting all night in the roof. Even on the lower setting it produced a noticeable breeze. And it was much quieter than the other one too.

One of our better purchases that justified its space on the van (unlike a few other things - I'll do a what was a waste of space post soon).
 
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DM

DM

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24. Does France have the best campsites?
Of course generalising is always dangerous but I reckon France has the best campsites in Europe - and possibly anywhere. I'm struggling to think of a bad one that we visited. They all had level ground, or were terraced; were in natural woods or were landscaped and often had screening between pitches. As soon as we got to Italy it was back to just being a field.

I've camped all over Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, In most places, including most of the UK, we are expected to be grateful for a field. Struggling to think of anywhere where sites are consistently as nice as in France.

PS. I'm referring to the general environment here - not toilets / showers / facilities etc.
 
Bramco

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I'm referring to the general environment here - not toilets / showers / facilities etc.
Good job you added the PS!!

On our trip this year through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia and back through Italy I'd say 90% of the facilities were spotless which to some extent matters more than a well laid out site. Those were probably only 50% of the sites and didn't necessarily coincide with great facilities, e.g. Ljubljana. Nicely laid out pitches, pretty close to each other but it is a busy city site. The showers and toilets though were dire.
 
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Hotel California

Hotel California

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The whole of Europe got good campsites , it's France got the most and therefore statistic more chance in getting a tip-top one....
Holland ,Germany , Austria even Norway and the UK all those has five star campsites that i have used , but France got the most , thats what you should have gone for....
Had some very bad sites in France also:Depressed
 
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E

Esandar#1

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23. Keeping Cool
Like many of our fellow Brits Mrs DM and I like it hot but not too hot. Well - luke warm really. And not at night. We're much comfier snuggling up in a 13 tog duvet than casting it off and trying to stay cool.

One of the reasons we chose Corsica was because it isn't too hot. Average July temperatures should only be in the mid 20s - especially on the coast. How wrong we were. Low 30s most days. I think the hottest we saw was 36. I know that Central Europe was experiencing temperatures in the 40s but 32 was plenty for us.

We employed the usual tactics with an air safe, side windows slightly open and roof vents very open. All fine until you get a sudden thunderstorm in ten middle of the night -oops.

But ventilation is only as good as the air flow. So we purchased a couple of 12V fans from amazon before we went. One was a traditional type fan with two small fan blades - supposedly extra quiet. The other was a paddle wheel style dispatched directly from China.

View attachment 24011

The picture's not great. You can see it better here.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00L40ZQGS/?tag=eliteelect-21

It worked really well - much better than the more traditional style. We generally had it on the lower setting all night in the roof. Even on the lower setting it produced a noticeable breeze. And it was much quieter than the other one too.

One of our better purchases that justified its space on the van (unlike a few other things - I'll do a what was a waste of space post soon).

Hi DM,
Really useful blog of your experiences, so many thanks for all this.
Question on the fan: did it take quite a while for the fan to arrive as the site is suggesting delivery long after our proposed trip departure date...:(
 
DM

DM

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Hi DM,
Really useful blog of your experiences, so many thanks for all this.
Question on the fan: did it take quite a while for the fan to arrive as the site is suggesting delivery long after our proposed trip departure date...:(
The fan is shipped directly from China so delivery time is quite long. Our estimated delivery date was also after our departure. But it actually arrived about a week before the quoted date. I think it took about 2 weeks or so.
 
DM

DM

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25. Loading Kayaks doesn't have to be so hard!
After trying many systems I think I have at last found the optimum solution (for me at least) for loading and transporting kayaks. I wanted to find a system that makes it as easy as possible to load and unload a sea kayak on my own. Mrs DM is very wiling to help but being rather vertically challenged her assistance is a bit limited.

I've invested in a pair of Thule Slidebars (second hand here on the forum). They are a bit chunky, but the sliding feature makes that all worthwhile. For a kayak carrier I got the Thule 874. Its simple and fairly low cost. I tried the more expensive folding J-bars but they were awkward to load. The kayak adapter fits into the slot on the slidebar making for a neat solution. It also comes with fittings for a regular square bar. I have stuck with the full height feet to ensure clearance over the spoiler when the tailgate is opened.

IMG_5088.JPG IMG_5104.JPG

To load on my own, I start off with the kayak alongside the van in roughly the fore / aft position that it will be carried.

IMG_5081.JPG

Then I slide out the rear bar and lift the rear of the kayak onto it.

IMG_5082.JPG

Move it back so its in roughly the correct position.

IMG_5083.JPG

Then simply lift the front and slide the front bar out underneath it.

IMG_5084.JPG IMG_5086.JPG

Thread the straps under the bars and over the kayak and then the whole rack is then slid back into its travelling position by pushing on the side of the kayak

IMG_5087.JPG

before tightening up the straps. Unloading is simply the reverse of the above. The whole operation takes less than 5 mins.

I carry the kayak on the passenger side so I don't have to load it over the awning. But if you need to carry two then it works almost as well on the other side. You just have to be a bit careful not to scrape the kayak on the awning. I still have to refine the arrangements in terms of strap length and lock but its pretty much there and the inconvenience of having to take the kayak off to raise the roof is no longer greater than the benefit of taking it along. :D

The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted the red stool / step. I don't actually need it to load / unload the kayak but it makes tightening the straps / securing a cable lock and tying on the paddle much easier. I found it in the understairs cupboard at home. I can't remember where we got it from but it slides perfectly into one of the camping chairs in the tailgate so doesn't take up any space in the van. Sweet :thumb.

IMG_5079.JPG IMG_5080.JPG
 
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DM

DM

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26. Avignon Site Review
Back to site reviews. Our second stopover on the way down through France was Avignon. No real reason other than we spotted it on the map and it brought back memories of the song from our schooldays. I'd never been there. Mrs DM had a vague recollection of visiting it on an Inter-rail holiday - but it was in her student days so the memories were hazy. It was our longest leg - about 7 hours from Orleans but only about 2 1/2 hours from Nice so we'd be able to spend all morning there.

We decided to drive the last bit down the Rhone, which was very pleasant where the road was near to the river but took for ever. So - there's a theme developing here already (and its only Day 2) - we were arriving fairly late again. So it was back to CamperStops. There were a few options to the north (our way in) and a couple within the city. We didn't want to re-trace our steps if the central ones were no good or full so decided to drive in via the northern ones and stop at the first decent one.

First on the list was Bagnols sur Ceze. https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/marker.php?id=2615
Hmmm.......... It was sort of OK - but was basically a small car-park off a roundabout right in the centre of the town. It was also already populated by what looked like semi-resident travellers rather than over-nighters. Not for us.

So on into the late evening we drove. To Chusclan. https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/marker.php?id=2582
Hmmm.......... It was sort of OK - but was very isolated and there was no one else there. Not for us - on we went.

Next stop was Vignerons de Laudun. https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/marker.php?id=2605
Hmmm........... Wait! This site was a little gem. Our search was complete. The pictures on Camperstops and SearchforSites do not do it justice. Yes - one side of the site is bounded by the vineyard warehouse but the rest of the site is set in a small orchard to the side of the warehouse. There's probably room for about 10 to 15 motorhomes / campers in amongst the trees. It was fairly busy when we arrived at around 10pm but we were the last arrival and there was probably still space for a couple more.
20170624_064259967_iOS.jpg 20170624_064315187_iOS.jpg
There was a water tap, grey water disposal and toilet disposal. The tap is drinking water but is close to the disposal point so you just need to keep the hose well clear. It was in a very small village so generally peaceful. There was an air conditioning unit running all night at the end of the warehouse nearest to the road. But we were quite far from it and it didn't bother us. Might have been a different story if we'd inadvertently pitched next to it and only noticed the constant hum after we'd turned in for the night. And the other bonus - it's free. There's a shop there and we would certainly have bought a few bottles - but we were away before it opened. Feel a bit guilty about that - we'll have to go back another time.
Oh - and did I say it's free ? FREE :cheers

It was only about a 30 minute drive into Avignon. so we had a good 4 - 5 hours there. Parking is not easy. there are a few car parks along the river but all with 2m height limits. You might just squeeze a bare Cali in - but no chance with our roof load. We headed out to the park and ride - that will be fine won't it. But no - 2m it was. However we spotted that the emergency gate at the far end was open - and clearly has been for months / years - and that has no barrier so we were in. The busses seemed to go regularly but we cycled in. We were soon in the tiny streets of the walled city. Cycling was a great way to explore.

Avignon is most famous for the bridge - 'sur le pont' - and all that. Interesting fact - did you know it should really be 'sous le pont' - apparently all the action took place under the bridge. But did you also know that Avignon was the seat of the popes for nearly 70 years in the 14th Century - I'd no idea. A tour of the Pope's Palace is a must.

20170624_085530003_iOS.jpg 20170624_103533907_iOS.jpg

And then of course the obligatory trip the bridge - or at least what is left of it.

20170624_122050606_iOS.jpg

There's only four arches left. Apparently there used to be 22.

http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/en/monuments/bridge-avignon

The Palace and the bridge are the main attractions, but it would be easy to spend more time than we did. I'm sure Avignon could keep you busy for a couple of days enjoying the rest of the city.

And then to Nice .......................................
 
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DM

DM

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27. Cap Corse Site Review - Tollare
No indecision or faffing about this time. This site was on our hit list from the start and has, I think, been reviewed on this forum by others as well. It is an informal stopover right on the northern tip of Corsica - you cannot drive any further north.

Cap Corse.jpg

We found it on Camperstops and navigated right to it using the app. It is also on searchforsites

https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/marker.php?id=1861

but (unless there are actually two sites up here) the position shown on the searchforsites map is in the wrong place. It shows the site as being just to the west of Barcaggio whereas it is actually a couple of miles further east at Tollare.

It was our first day in Corsica. We came off the overnight ferry in Bastia and spent the day driving up the Cap. We stopped off at Macinaggio and took a walk up the coast on the Sentiers des Douaniers, stopping off for a swim at Plage de Tamerone and then again at Chapelle Santa Maria. Once we got beyond Tamerone we hardly saw another soul.

Back at the van we set off for Tollare. The main road is fine but then you turn off at Boticella and it gets narrow - our first experience of what roads on Corsica can be like. The road splits again immediately but it is a loop so you can go either way. Its about 6Km - narrow Km - to the coast, and a long way downhill.

But well worth it - it's an idyllic spot - right on the beach.

20170625_155213922_iOS.jpg

There is a huge area or rough ground there which could probably accommodate about 30 vans. But the best place to be is parked parallel along the edge of the beach. There's room for about 10 vans along the beachfront. The road prevents any big motorhomes (not that there are that many on Corsica as a whole)from getting down there - so it was only vans and one small motorhome the night we were there.

P1030093.JPG 20170625_153533000_iOS.jpg

Facilities are basic. Just a fresh water tap. No disposal facilities. There's a small bar. We'd intended to go later but it closed around 9pm so we enjoyed the view from our own chairs by the van - drink in hand. Camperstops indicated that it was free except for during July and August. But we were charged €10 in June. No complaints though - it's a great location. Definitely to be recommended.
 

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