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Summer hols road trip

bigmac77

bigmac77

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We have been back from our family road trip for a few days now and I think it is about time I wrote a report, this post will be long.

This year we decided against flying to the med and thought we'd make the most of the Cali and head over to France for a family holiday. We booked a couple of campsites one in La' Trinite-sur-Mer and another in Il de Re but we still had a lot of days without any real plan and just thought we'd explore. I have only been to France to ski so had very little experience of the country outside of a snow covered Alp the same went for my wife so we were a little nervous but very excited.

My wife and two boys (8 & 5) loaded up our van, strapped on our bikes and headed south, we left Anglesey on the 19th of July on a roasting hot day and headed for Folkestone. It was the hottest day of our trip, as we went round the south west section of the M25 the vehicle thermometer was displaying 37 degrees C! Luckily when we got to the C&C site in Folkestone it was a bit cooler and there was a nice breeze coming of the channel. The site was happy for us to stay just the one night and it was nice and close to the Euro shuttle terminal, pitches were nice and spacious and the wardens were helpful but the showers were so hot I thought I was going to be scalded.
Next morning we got the shuttle across to Calais this was all very straight forward and ran like clockwork and off we went, first day we just drove to a campsite near Dieppe called Camping La Source here we found out that not all French campsites provide handwash soap in toilet blocks and some also don't provide toilet paper Camping La Source provided neither luckily we had what we needed packed somewhere. The sun was shining the kids had a swim in the pool and fed some geese on the river and after a night we moved on. Day 2 we headed along the coast stopping in a couple of seaside towns until we got to Etretat where we stayed on the municipal site it was €23 and it had toilet paper and hand wash. Etretat was a nice little town with a lovely shingle beach at one end there is an arch eroded in the cliffs at the other a church high up on the cliffs with great views. Day 3 we drove over the Pont de Normandie which was spectacular, called in at the Pegasus Bridge museum which was interesting and emotional the kids liked it a lot. We then looked at the map and decided we needed to pick up our pace of travel a little so we drove to another municipal site in a small picturesque village called Ducey not far from Mont Saint Michel. Here we didn't pay as there was never anybody in the office to collect the money and nowhere to leave any so the next morning we left as fugitives and headed to Mont Saint Michel to repent our sins.
Day 4, after a couple of hours walking around a very busy Mont Saint Michel we headed for St Malo, here we found that St Malo does not like Cali's! All the car parks near the old town had a height limit of 1.9m. Eventually we gave up looking for somewhere to park, the place was packed, so we drove round and had a look at St Malo though the van windows then we headed to a site called Domaine de la Ville Huchet for the night. This was a nice site with modern toilet blocks and a good swimming pool the kids really liked the water slide. It also has our first aid kit after we left it under a sun bed after a minor poolside injury by our youngest.

Day 5 we discovered something else we didn't know about France, if you want to buy stuff on a Sunday make sure you do it before mid day. We drove south to a beautiful village called Josselin here we found a truly stunning french chateau at the side of a canal. We had a walk round, went for a bike ride along the tow path, my youngest was transfixed by a combine harvester working in a wheat field and stayed at Camping Domaine de Kerelly which was nice and also only €20. After a very hot night with no wind and lots of mosquitos we drove on to our first booked camp site Camping de la Plage in La' Trinite-sur-Mer, we spent 5 days here the site was very nice & really peaceful, it was 30 seconds walk from our pitch to the beach and the kids loved the pool with water slides plus they made friends with a really nice group of children. The weather however could have been better, we had three cloudy drizzly days it was still 22 degrees and didn't stop us getting out and about but I see enough grey skies at home if we hadn't pre booked we would probably have left and headed south earlier. Anyway we explored the area, visited Vannes which was lovely we particularly liked the local flag which appeared to have a winged ferret on it, scoured rock pools on the beach and generally chilled out, It was nice not to be on the move, all that packing and un packing the van on a daily basis is hard work.

Eventually our time in Brittany was up and we headed first to La Rochelle for some fresh provisions then on to Il de Re. We were booked into La Grainetiere for 5 days but when we arrived and the sun was shining and the campsite looked good we snapped up an additional 3 nights they had available. La Grainetiere was initially a bit of a shock all the previous campsites had had fairly high hedges between the pitches giving really great privacy here there was none of that and it looked crammed with tents and motorhomes plus rental caravans but after setting up on a pretty big pitch we realised we had as much space as anywhere else we'd stayed and all our neighbours were very nice people with children of a similar age. We thought the camp site was really good, friendly helpful staff, excellent location on the out skirts of la Flotte, close to St Martin and 20 mins bike ride from the beach on the west side of the island and with a very nice heated pool which was great to take a dip in after cycling back from the beach. The only downside was the road noise, we had been warned about this when we booked and took earplugs but it was busy until late and just as I'd be nodding of a motorbike with a very loud exhaust would zoom past. The main thing was we loved Il de Re, the van didn't move once we rode our bikes everywhere, my youngest struggled a little with this so he ended up in a trailer (his carriage as he called it). The beaches are great, the towns and villages are lovely, the seafood is good and the markets are pretty interesting too though not usually my thing. When our time at La Grainetiere was up we wanted to stay on the island a bit longer, we rang every campsite on the island but there were no vacancies so unfortunately we had to leave but we will be back.

After Il de Re we drove north to Les Sables d'Olonne however we didn't like it here it was a bit like a mini French version of Benidorm so after one night we drove to Calais stayed a night at camping La Bien Assise which had lots of trees full of roosting pigeons, they poo'd all over the van and the top the awning which was a right pain to clean off. Next day we got the shuttle back to the UK and drove home to Anglesey. Total time away 21 days. We had a great time and learnt a lot and will do it again next year.

Top things we learnt as novice Cali travellers to France; take loo roll, French roads are a doddle to drive on plus at 130 km\h you can really travel long distances in a day, don't fill up on the toll roads find a supermarket where fuel was a low as €1.05 where as on the motorways €1.30. If you use a campinggaz camp bistro buy a stock of gas from home bargains (4x£4) before you leave home, in France the best price we found was at Decathlon 5x€10 and they were even more on Il de Re €3.20 each. Talking of Decathlon if you need any camping stuff whilst in France it is the place to go. We found the E.Leclerc supermarket chain to be our favourite for getting our shopping. Whilst there are loads of campsites if you want to stay in the popular places make sure you have booked in advance. We navigated with the Tom Tom app on my iPhone it was brilliant and only £40. Take a couple of USB fans they really help in hot weather. Speedo's are not compulsory in all French campsites, some places have so many Brits staying at them the rules are ignored on mass. Finally eating pain au chocolat every day can make you put on weight.
 
sapto

sapto

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Thank you @bigmac77 for sharing your trip, taking me/us with you. Was a pleasure to read. I haven't been to France with my Cali yet however it sounds like a great country for travelling
 
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Hotel California

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Great stuff Chris , glad you and the family had a great time .
France is great to visit and mostly very camper friendly , althouhg there is much diffrence in the quality of the campsites . The soap and toilet paper thing is common, you are in a good position to evaluate campsites with your background:D , they are not all top notch like yours!

When i get back from France my weight is usally up also , the "french pain " and "baggets " holds a lot of butter , not to speak on " croissants" and offcoarse " pain chocolat".
Hope you took some wine in also?
Cheers , Wim&Kathy and Mieke;)
 
bigmac77

bigmac77

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The loo roll thing was partially tongue in cheek (if you'll pardon the pun) if it is the norm then so be it but all of these campsites were charging peak season prices some were in excess of €30 and to charge that and not provide what I would consider basic facilities is a rip off. I realise that it is my choice where to stay but when you have kids in tow it sometimes easier to just say okay we stay here the night instead of going searching for somewhere else.
 
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Hotel California

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Agree fully on the fact it should be standard stuff , something to wipe the @ss do is a essential stuff . And soap to wash hands afterwards is the next...
Sure if they charge high prices the standards must level the sevices....
 
bigmac77

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Have remembered some stuff about our power consumption, we had the Cali plugged in on hook up for a couple of days before we left home the fridge was switched onto 5 two days before we left we were then driving quite a bit every day for the next 6 days so we didn't bother with a hook up at any campsites. Once we arrived in Trinite sur Mer as a bit of an experiment we decided to see how long we could go on just the batteries. We were pitched for five days using fridge, lights in the evening, occasional use of water pump and charging phones plus iPad, daytime temps were about 22 degrees and fridge side of the vehicle always facing north. We used the vehicle once on the third day to do a 40 mile round trip, on the last morning I checked the battery status and it was showing 60%. Pretty impressed with that.

I always tried to park and pitch on sites with the fridge side of vehicle facing the north, this was not possible on one site so I found the removable screen section of our Comfortz Leisure thermal windscreen cover could be pegged to the pop up roof supports so it would hang down the side of the vehicle, it kept the fridge area nice and cool and come evening I just velcro'd it back onto the windscreen. It made a very handy emergency reflector.

One other unrelated thing was that we found ramps were essential, we used them every night. I like to sleep on the level and none of the pitches were.
 
kave

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Nice write up. We are doing a french road trip next year as well. Havent got ramps yet, have only seen huge ones taking up too much storage.
 
bigmac77

bigmac77

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We have the levelling ramps from Comfortz Leisure. Yes they are quite big but they fit nicely under the seat in the Cali SE and we needed the full height the provide.
 
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@kave ,
Check out here where i put my ramps ,
https://vwcaliforniaclub.com/threads/inside-the-hotel-california-for-your-eyes-only.9776/

When we go on longer trips , like more than a week i keep them in the rear on top of a box that holds shoes. When longer away i use that bag and space beside the drawer to store tins of food , bricks milk,ect...

Ramps are not always needed but can come handy sometime.
On many (bigger) campsites you can chose between hardstanding(leveld) or graspitches (less leveld).
I not carried levelling ramps on my first few trips but eventually bought them .

As @bigmac77 says , sleeping with your head below feet is not that comfortable.

As for the size ,don't go to small as they just get pushed in the ground by the weigth of the Cali. The lagerones spread up the pressure. You need a shovle to dig them out in the morning:D
 

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