Every time we come to France, we’re hit by the same thing, how beautiful is this country!
We like to look at the map and tried to plan how long it might take to get somewhere, where we could stop on way, you know us plan,plan,plan !
On the map, it all looks so easy…
The reality is always very different. When we put our route into the satnav it always always tells us it will take much longer than we think and by now we know that whatever time It says, we can add at least another hour as dear old Paloma can’t travel at anywhere near the speed limits !
I’ve got to say that given long enough, I would happily spend 12 months just pottering around, from village to village enjoying local vins from small farm producers.
Now we’re in France again, our main goal is to get to Spain but we’ve also decided that we (read I) want to visit Oradour-Sur-Glane (read about our visit), it’s probably not your normal tourist attraction, but for me it has always been a must visit, eventually we are planning to cross the border at Perpignan and head down the costas in the vain hope of some Spanish sunshine.
So at 8.15 am we chugged out of Portsmouth bound for France.
Arriving off the ferry to Caen, was an easy experience, with a very quite port and an easy route out.
But being nearly 4pm once we had disembarked we took the short route of about 50km to the absolutely amazing Falaise.
A peaceful night tucked under the wall of the Chateau but with temperatures plummeting to around minus 2, yes minus 2 !
It was cold!
We had planned on a second night after exploring the village but it wasn’t going to happen. The heating had already been on for 24 hours and we headed ‘south’ so a short drive took us another 90km south to an amazing little aire in someone’s garden
For €7.50 he was offering a place to park, WiFi and electricity
And our company for the night
We hadn’t planned having our winter holiday in the cold so opted to head south and in a part experimental, part I don’t care we hit the A20 Toll.
Now I’ve read all the horror stories of people spend €500 and €600 on tolls whilst crossing France, but our via Mitchell app was estimating a lot a lot less !
We joined the toll road just above Le Mans and followed it south for 400km past Tours until we turned off onto the D roads to head across to Oradour-sur-Glane
Toll costs for the day € 34.20
Add that we did our first fuel stop and we are returning around 29 mpg it’s all going well
A stunning aire, perched above the local football stadium provided our base for the next two nights
Back on to the toll system for a nip south and around Toulouse
Another few hundred Km’s under our belt and a stop off on the canal du midi, probably one of the most genuine French towns I’ve ever visited and you know it’s special when all the vans on the Aire are French!
Toll cost for today € 26.10, running total € 60.30
Sadly this was where our road south very abruptly ground to a halt, after a lovey early evening in the town and a walk out to the ‘grand Basin’ we had planned to finish our nip through France, but Paloma had other ideas!
After packing away we pottered over to the service and emptied down, only to notice the battery light was on. A quick check with the meter confirmed the worst – no charge from the alternator !
Thankfully we have full European assistance provided with the AA thanks to our insurance, so a call to the service and a recovery truck was was with us within the hour.
Two days!, yes two days to fit an alternator, I know the French only work to their time, but come on !
For us we have a couple of nights in a canal side hotel, with that thing that every van dweller craves a ‘Bath’.
Finally Paloma was fixed and we took the final piece of toll road down past Narabone and across the boarder into sunny Spain.
It’s an amazing feeling crossing an almost imaginary boarder and seeing the almost instant change in the weather, the sky was bluer and finally it was warm enough to travel with the windows open !
So there we have it, a total Toll cost of € 86.90 and a constant 29 mpg, an easy drive and we’re now officially on our hollibobs in sunny Spain !