There is nowhere quite so beautiful, alluring and totally chic as the fabulous Côte d’Azur. This French Mediterranean coast is just stunning, so here’s our Top 9 resorts of the French Riviera.
Where wild camping spots were once found, there are now miles of cycle paths, new promenades and car parks with height barriers.
These are fab improvements to leisure facilities, but a sad change for us campervan enthusiasts, having experienced those amazing wild camping spots of the past.
Can you imagine parking on those golden sands, with the clear blue sea for company? I guess all good things must come to an end!
Hold on though, it’s not all doom and gloom. If we hadn’t adapted to the changes as they occurred, we’d have had to give up on our van travels years ago!
So, let’s embrace the changes and enjoy this impressive part of France and all it has to offer. We still have the choice of some lovely campsites and Aires so let’s get started on our Top 9 resorts of the French Riviera.
It’s not all about the jet set lifestyle of the St.Tropez super yachts! St.Tropez itself is a lovely harbour town, with cycle paths stretching around the coast to explore by bike and some really nice walking routes over coastal paths and through vineyards.
Slightly inland, you’ll find sleepy hilltop villages, such as Ramatuelle, Cogolin and Grimaud.
We like to stay at the large Aire at Pampelonne beach, just a few minutes from the long white sands, where coastal walks lead along the craggy coastal path, passing beautiful bays towards a lighthouse and fine views across the vineyards.
There’s also a good beach campsite near Port Grimaud, conveniently situated adjacent to a cycle path to the centre of St.Tropez, it also has fine views across the bay.
This area is just beautiful being relatively low-key, with great coastal paths, stunning beaches, sleepy coves and pretty harbours.
It’s the place to be for relaxation, there’s not much else going on here, except for the local markets, beach life and leisurely stalls, possibly just perfect!
We like Camping Olbia at La Madrague, this fairly basic campsite is convenient for walks and the beaches on offer. A newly re-furbished toilet block and nightly rates of around 20 Euro mid-season, make it a really reasonable option.
A lovely area of cycle paths, coastal walks, quaint harbours and beautiful beaches.
Out of peak season, from October, there’s a really good Aire at Port de La Coudouliere. For 12.60 Euro a night, we were able to park and use the hot showers and toilets, there’s also electric.
The narrow shopping streets leading to the lovely harbour at Cassis are a great place for a stroll before relaxing in one of the harbour-side restaurants.
There’s a free Aire here in Cassis, located above the town next to the park and ride, at Gorguettes. There’s no need to get into a pickle on those tiny roads to the centre!
It’s all about the walking here though, with access into the fabulous gorges of Calanques National Park, it’s a walkers paradise of trails.
Another pretty harbour town with lovely beaches and a good Aire next to the port.
It’s all about sunshine, balmy beach days and sensational sunsets.
A walled town with deep cultural roots in this traditional Camargue region.
Fabulous cycle paths, link towns along the coast, whilst the interior of the walls boasts an intriguing network of shops and restaurants, bustling with life.
Just outside the walls, the salt plains, wildlife ponds and wild ponies roam. A large motorhome Aire makes parking easy, although it is a little pricey.
If you’re visiting out of season, this probably isn’t the most spectacular location. However, in the heat of the Summer, this area is superb. Not only is it true Camargue country, full of culture and strong traditions, but it also has real charm and some great stretches of beach.
The town itself is full of pavement restaurants and small shops leading to a long prom and the Flamingo ponds of the surrounding lands. Incredibly, there are 3 motorhome Aires here, so you shouldn’t be short of a place to stop and explore.
This is one of those really deceptive French towns, initially appearing as to be just a bit of an ordinary looking Marina village, it’s actually an intriguing area.
The old town is just super, narrow streets and an old castle tower sits on a hill above the lazy vibe below.
The Etangs or ponds of this fascinating coastal region, provide ample cycling and walking routes.
The motorhome Aire is pretty good too. Located at the port and overlooking the coastal strip beyond, it’s all rather pleasant. There’s also a convenient facility of a couple of hot showers and toilets.
There’s a good Aire here for taking to the cycle paths around the wildlife ponds of Camargue. Stretching as far as Montpellier, the cycle routes really are excellent and take in some lovely scenery, passing Flamingoes and some lovely countryside.
If cycling isn’t your thing, there’s the beaches and seaside town of Pavalos-Les-Flots, a pretty, traditional French resort.
The Aire at the marina benefits from the facilities of heated shower block and toilets. It’s a handy stop to plug into the electric and re-charge the batteries, quite literally!
Not sure what Aires are or how to use them? Read our blog:
Here’s our story of the race to retirement worklife to vanlife! As we’re snuggled up inside a sleeping bag made for two, in a campervan of similar size to that of an under stairs cupboard.
Above us, is not much more in the way of headroom than an extended arm’s length! A very clever, wooden pull-out bed base provides a useful 3rd sleeping space for our son who has joined us for a weekend. We’re in the beautiful Wairarapa wine region, in the South of New Zealand’s North Island.
Feeling blessed with the fact that our adult children still don’t mind tagging along with their middle aged parents. Sharing such a small but well organised space together could be challenging.
This really then got us thinking as to why we actually need more room than this in everyday life? When everything we really need, just fit’s so snuggly into an area of just a few sq meters?
The answer is that we don’t. That’s the joys of vanlife, a realisation that materialism and the ‘big is best notion’ is neither necessary or essential. A stress-free lifestyle, happier mind and much gentler approach to life is just a better option for us.
It could also be the reason, why those who have little in the way of material possessions, are generally more content with life. Often, it’s the thrill of the purchase itself, that is the attraction, rather than the enjoyment of the item afterwards.
It’s now one of the reasons why so many people across the globe are joining the vanlife phenomenon. Swapping four walls and a roof in suburbia for a small metal box on wheels. It’s all part of the race for retirement.
Vanlife has become the modern day trend or movement amongst people of all ages. From young adults in their 20’s and 30’s to the mid-life crisis 40 and 50 something’s. Many suddenly find themselves seeing their life flash before their eyes, realising, they don’t want to be looking back in years to come, wishing they’d done more while they could.
Those outgoing or rebellious out there have chosen to live a life so different from their parents and grandparents generations. Where a routine mandatory cycle took them through a system based on leaving school and starting work followed by marriage, children and the eventual retirement at a designated age.
Often, old age brought the inevitable issues of unexpected ill health or increasing lack of confidence in new adventures. The thought of trying to do something completely different, outside of the comfort zone, bringing dread and fear and too many excuses!
All this, despite the luxury of greater financial stability later in life was enough to hold them back from reaching out to experience the wonderful world around them. Often at a time which should have been their golden years.
Nowadays, the modern world is so convenient yet so inconvenient. The increasingly impossible realities of living in a demanding 24/7 career. We live in an age, when house prices are out of reach for so many young people too. Unlike the previous generations who were on the property ladder before the coming of age at 21.
The chaotic buzz of the 9-5 commute no longer appeals either, the work day starts and ends, on busy public transport or roads, where vehicles queue bumper to bumper. Slowly etching their way to the workplace, the super stressed workforce are banging their fists on the steering wheel in frustration. That’s even before they’ve entered the office!
Furthermore, it’s all repeated for the return journey, arriving at the front door of a tiny rented living space, that’s costing almost as much per month as the pay cheque.
It doesn’t end there, as the front door keys are hung up, the smart phone is by now ringing out in anger. With a list of instant messages, e-mails and voicemails that are demanding attention like a new technological virus.
It’s those instant needs, whose perpetrators are not afraid of contacting who they want, when they want! Despite the fact, that the office closed 2 hours ago. Have a they not got a life outside work or their own desire for the race to retirement?
Therefore, it’s no wonder that there’s a revolt out there. People like you and us, turning their backs on the normal and the expected. Those tedious demands that society places upon us, it’s liberating to just turn our backs on conformity.
For those quieter soles, this is just simply and gently gliding smoothly away from the spotlight into a different kind of world. Where the vanlife dream seemingly fills the gap and meets the ideology of those new found rebels amongst us.
Maybe we’re following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before us but we’re not quite the same. In fact, there’s nothing from the past to compare those who’ve taken social media by storm in today’s modern world.
The picture perfect bodies advertise various products, through beautiful photo shoot poses in artistically manicured vans. Situated in the most enviable of locations, therefore, attracting thousands of followers who are also sharing their dream.
We don’t have the youthful skin of our younger selves to promote to the world in glossy images. However, what we do have is our health and a keen willingness, in fact, a mission to keep active. Keeping fit and healthy and eating wisely, will hopefully keep all those faculties alive and kicking!
We bring life skills and experience that come with 30 years of togetherness. Along with travels in vans large and small, that began when our children were just babies. It’s strange how life goes by so quickly, almost in a flash, now we are back to being just the two of us.
Those brief interludes of loveliness, when one child is free to join us for a short spell away are now precious. Moments to cherish and a chance to reflect on how lucky we are to have our family.
It’s a joy to be on the road either part-time or permanently. Life changes as the unexpected happens. With the unplanned freedom comes new or revised decisions about when or where we’ll be from day to day.
On this journey to New Zealand, the trip was unplanned, a chance opportunity that brought us back to a country last visited 15 and 16 years earlier. Both trips back then traveling by van, of course!
We’re now approaching the big 50. Having given up the daily grind after decades of business and work. A relentless workload of never ending people pleasing and red tape.
We understand why there’s the rise in people who want that different life. People like us, who are not traditional retirement age but who’ve worked hard for what seems like forever.
When our children grew up and became independent our outlook on life changed. For us, our goal was to experience more of the world around us. Wanting to do so, before we reached the age of ailments that could prevent us from doing so.
We’re also, now at a time when we are financially secure after 30+ years of working hard.
We’re just loving it, the freedom is liberating and exciting. The realisation of an existence outside of work and embracing the youth that we still have left in us.
We want to enjoy our freedom now, be able to climb those high mountains, swim in turquoise lakes, cool off in a clear river swimming holes and feel the salt water on our skin, in a tempting warm blue ocean.
We love to scale those trails of discovery, along paths of solitude, where hikes bring welcome picnic spots and new wildlife greets us. Binoculars are the new essential item, always being at the ready for that new monumental view!
We’re stubborn and determined to continue to see the world in all its glory. Ready to seek out and find new favourites to add to a list of memories that has grown way beyond our expectations.
We’re on that road, the race to retirement is on!
It’s a strange thing when we’re on the road, home is always where the heart is. Crucially, that’s not always a home of bricks and mortar anymore but often the small metal box on wheels.
Our home just moves with us, there is no material item that we miss and everything we need we have with us. It all fits into that little box, it’s hard to imagine to outsiders but for us it’s true.
With simplicity comes the fact that no matter where we are in the world, it’s people that we need not possessions. It’s those that we love and hold dear to us that really matters.
More importantly we don’t miss the unnecessary baggage, bits and bobs that hold no real value to us.
We understand the growing trend for getting out there and seeing the world, before it’s too late for people everywhere. Each person has their own reasons whatever age bracket they fall into and whichever country they come from.
Professional or working class, there are no boundaries, rich or poor, anything goes. New or old van, small or large, size doesn’t count. Every person has their own journey, it’s a vision that’s catching and growing.
Vanlifers everywhere, we salute you!
Let’s start with our Top thermal sights of Tuscany. We love a bit of thermal activity! This part of Italy is starting to get really interesting with the hot stuff bubbling up from the ground!
Bagni Vignoni is a really pretty little village, where we parked easily enough on a free motorhome Sosta area.
A short walk took us to the old Roman village. The highlight in this picturesque location, are the natural thermal waters which flow through the centre.
On a rocky outcrop overlooking the countryside, surrounding the village. These thermal waters run through channels in the rock before tumbling over the hillside. Here they form a natural blue pool beneath.
We sat with our feet immersed in the hot running water as it tumbled along the rocky channels. Rather lovely and our feet felt so smooth afterwards!
A dusty walking path down the hillside lead us to the cascades of hot water and the blue pool. Some people were taking a dip. Although, it did seem rather cool here compared to at the source, on the top of the hill.
This was a fascinating start to some really good thermal areas here in Southern Tuscany. The next few days will see lots of bathing opportunities in some really amazing natural pools. We can’t wait to share it with you.
Well these were worth a visit!
Always partial for a soak in a natural mineral Therme. We got rather excited when we cast our eyes upon this fascinating thermal cascade.
Parking up for the night in the free on-road parking for motorhome’s. The only downside was the smell of the sulphur that lingered in the van all through the night. So we knew this was going to be a very good bathing spot!
The following morning, we strolled through the village to a marked clearing in the woods and the fabulous hot pools. A path lead us through the trees, where the hot stream flowed into a series of naturally formed pools, which have resulted in a continuous cascade effect down the hillside.
The milky blue water is due to the silica deposits, which are full of minerals to ease those aches and pains! Whilst, gleaming white rocks are actually silica deposits, which have built up over time, hot waterfalls flowing over them.
Here, they have placed a small pipe to the sources of the hot water coming up from the ground. This then flows into the pools so the public can directly get the benefit of the hot water.
As usual, we are keeping our post real! Although, we could have spent most of our time posing for the perfect “I’m here all alone” picture. We kept it how it was!! Yes, after choosing our preferred pool, we happily shared its very hot waterfall and the warm water with a few other folk! Shock, horror, yes this place is no secret!
After a couple of hours our skin was coated with a film of clay like substance!!
You’ve been warned!! It’s like having a deep cleanse without paying a penny for the privilege!
Just when we thought we’d seen the best natural thermal pools ever. Along comes this Instagram favorite and our chance to take a good soak!
These are the free and totally natural Cascade del Mulino, located below the village of Saturnia, where there is also a dedicated posh Terme. Of course, this you have to pay for!
Now, here’s the crunch!! This place is by no means a secret!
If you’ve seen the Instagram pics of a lonely person posing for the picture, then ask yourselves, either were they there at 4am? Or, have they digitally eradicated the crowds from the pic?! Maybe, as in the case of some posing people on our visit, did they spend all day perfecting a perfect solo shot?!
When we arrived, the car parks were full and the local police were assisting in the traffic issues on the road. There is strictly no parking for campers, either day time or overnight. Other than the dedicated Motorhome Sosta, which is about a 15 minute walk away.
Strolling down to the cascades after a stormy night, we were a little worried that the rain would prevent a dip. However, we did get to soak in the pools, although, the heavens had opened after the all night storm. This seemed to have kept the mass crowds away, so it was actually much quieter, compared to the previous day!
Despite a lot of other people soaking in the mineral waters, the car parks were relatively empty. Presumably, on a fair weather day, these pools and the car parks would be very busy again.
Not to be all doom and gloom, these thermal pools are a delight. A hot stream runs parallel with the main road, encased in bamboo, where many people were also bathing before the rain set in.
The stream flows under a bridge crossing the road, through a field and then tumbles as a waterfall, behind the stone building and into the silica cascades that have naturally formed.
We took a dip in the main cascades, where the water was cooler before ending our soaking in the hot stream above. This was away from the busier pools of the cascade areas, so was much more pleasant.
There’s no pictures of just us with a pool to ourselves, but I am there amongst the bathing public, in one photo. Once again, we’re trying to keep the reality alive!
We’re well and truly cleansed following a visit to the top thermal sights of Tuscany! With skin and wrinkles all smoothed out, we’re now ready to take in the next big part of our journey. Let the adventures through Italy continue!
Well they say that “All Roads Lead To Rome”. Certainly, we found that our route to the historic Italian capital was a rather easy one for a change! Here’s how to visit Rome in a campervan like the Campervan Castaways!
Finding a motorhome Sosta on the cobbled Roman Road of Appia Antica proved just perfect. Who’d have thought there’d be a safe and convenient place to park within a 30 minute walk of the Colosseum itself?!
The grassy parking is just that. There’s a dump and fresh water, which does state that it’s not drinking water. Although, fine for filling up the tanks, for washing ourselves and all that stuff!
Strangely enough, I’m not actually sure what the Sosta was called! However, here’s a picture of the sign at the entrance and another clue, it did car repairs! A barrier entrance and gates which were locked at night added to security. At just 20 Euro a night it was a perfect low cost option for our visit.
A small side gate remained unlocked for those returning late at night on foot! Ideal for us, when we strolled in at 12.30am!
Not to waste any time, we set out on foot although we could have taken a bus from outside the Sosta gates. It was hard to think that this very same route was the funeral procession of Emperor Augustus in 78 BC.
From our motorhome Sosta parking, we were able to navigate across the city on foot. However, this may be too much for some, so the alternative bus route would possibly be more ideal.
It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Terme complex of Caracalla and probably about 40 minutes to the Colosseum. It’s hard to judge exactly, as there is a lot en-route that took our attention.
The most amazing historical artefacts and ruins soon came into view. Firstly the vast Caracalla Terme and we couldn’t resist paying the 12 Euro each entry fee to see what it was all about.
During the construction, 9000 workers were on site each day! This colossal bathing complex was beautiful in it’s heyday. Statues, mosaics, pools of varying temperatures along with a gym and library dominated the interior.
A fascinating underground road system of tunnels serviced the whole gigantic complex. We’ve never seen anything quite like it. A small section is open to the public. This now houses some artefacts from the ruins, where steps lead us into the darkness. Remarkably, everything seems so well preserved here.
It’s hard to imagine the busy goings on in the dark tunnels. From horse and carts passing through, as they took supplies across the complex. To the huge operation of keeping the pools hot throughout the day.
We were now getting into the Roman theme, so when in Rome…..of course, there’s one big attraction that we had to see, yes, The Colosseum.
This huge amphitheater, at its peak, could hold around 55,000 people. It’s massive and so were the queues to get in!! After about 45 minutes we eventually got our tickets.
Firstly, we had to find the start of the queue, signs were confusing! Despite trying previously to book online, all that kept cropping up was a “server error”. This we were told at the ticket office, happens when they sell out for the day! It would have saved us some time, if it had just said that. So be warned!
Rome is one of those cities, where we soon discovered that queueing was the norm! In the heat, it’s rather draining but being British, we love a good queue and despair when other’s try and push in! Which, of course, many do!
The Colosseum itself is not the nicest amphitheater we’ve been to. However, it’s certainly the largest and most famous and completely amazing in it’s sheer magnitude. Probably, no visit to Rome should be without walking in the footsteps of those Roman spectators, around the huge arena.
Typically, we set about seeing everything that Rome has to offer, on foot and it’s hard work! Although there is a bus and metro through the city, we preferred to walk as much as possible between districts.
Taking in the incredible sights by night of the big name monuments and ruins was actually rather lovely. Everything is well illuminated, giving a rather soft tone to the already magnificent ruins.
The atmosphere was rather romantic too. Proposals of marriage at the Trevi Fountain seemed to be every few minutes! The glistening marble of the Spanish Steps, shining under the moonlight looked like a Hollywood movie set. There’s two famous sights are relatively close to each other.
Street sellers are everywhere and we got bombarded with those trying to sell selfie sticks and roses!! Fortunately, there’s a really good police presence. So we felt really safe, with no sign of any trouble.
A few rules do stringently apply though. For example, there’s no sitting on the edge of the Trevi Fountain or on the Marble steps of the Spanish Steps! The police on guard, blow their whistles to inform the offender to stand up!
Opposite the Colosseum is the vast area of Roman ruins which include The Palatine and Roman Forum, basically the hub of Ancient Rome.
Entrance fees are included with the tickets for the Colosseum and it gives you up to the following day to use it. This area is massive and leads on to Trajan’s Forum’s and markets. The scale of it all is vast.
We spent a few hours strolling through this vast area of Ancient Rome. For those avid enthusiasts, you could be there for days! Within the grounds, a vast mix of ruins remain.
The only thing missing, in our opinion, was a few more information boards. For us novices in the historic elements of Roman Ruins, we weren’t always sure what we were looking at!
This is sightseeing paradise, as we were soon reminded. Crossing the river and walking past the old Castle of Sant Angelo, the first glimpses of the The Vatican came into view.
St.Peter’s basilica is just phenomenal and again, Michelangelo’s design is the big attraction. The dome that he didn’t get to see finished, is 448 ft high! Below the basilica is the area where all the Pope’s are buried, this closes earlier, fortunately, we were the last few people through at 4pm, so be aware.
The Vatican Musuems are further along and it’s a huge complex. On our visit, it was packed with tour groups, so much so that it was rather spoiling the experience.
The one big attraction within the Vatican Museums is The Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s masterpiece fresco, which took him 7 years to complete, was crammed full with people.
The guards move you on quickly, but we managed to find a standing spot in the centre. Shoulder to shoulder with others we took our time to admire the work of this genius.
Entry to the Basilica is free. The Vatican Museums are 17 Euro per person. We queued at both for about 40 minutes. On our visit there were no tickets available to climb up to the dome of the Basilica itself.
Back in the centre of Rome, The Pantheon is the most intact Roman building actually in Rome.
Experts believe it to have been built by Emperor Hadrian. The huge columns at the entrance are just incredible. The scale of construction and amazing skill involved is hard to comprehend.
It’s free to enter and the surrounding square and streets are full of life.
We didn’t go into the Capitoline Musuems, but we did admire the fabulous building from the outside. It’s just awesome!
This building is huge and the Michelangelo influences are there for all to see. It’s the epitome of elegance, opulence and grandeur, dominating the elevated position above the centre of capital.
Unfortunately, we were exhausted after so much sightseeing so decided to give the museum itself a miss!
One suprise find was located just along the road from where we were based. On the old Roman road of Appia Anitca.
Here, the Catacombs are located and they are unbelievable! This underground burial system covers miles of underground cemeteries dating from the 1st Century.
You can only do a guided tour here. At a very reasonable, 8 Euro each, it lasts around 40 minutes. It takes you on a very small, but fascinating route underground. Along, the dark passageways which are lined floor to ceiling with tombs and graves.
It all sounds rather morbid, but it’s actually fascinating and very well preserved as a factual, historical monument.
There’s some really good bars and restaurants off the large square of Piazza Navona. Here, we relaxed with wine and nibbles. It’s the hub of the city and the streets leading off here are where we found an array various lively eateries and small individual shops.
We chose to walk back to the van from here one evening, taking us about an hour!
We’d say it’s a little rough around the edges but from experiences of Italy, this seems to be the case everywhere!
Considering it’s such an international icon, we expected it to have less of the litter, better tourist signs and neater areas in general.
The city is sprawling, there are ruins at every corner and it’s hard to imagine the power that this empire once had.
We had 3 days in the Italian Capital. Expect queues for most of the big sights. We couldn’t book online due to the systems not having availability for advance bookings. We, therefore, had to stick it out in the queues, which can be lengthy and often without shade.
The ruins of Ancient Rome are just amazing but we love history, so it was just up our street!
Using the bus service and metro was reasonable at 7 Euro each for a 24 hour unlimited ticket. We bought this at a bike hire shop a few doors down from our Motorhome parking.
We used it to get the bus to the metro station and from there a train to The Vatican. We’d walked to there the previous day, but being far across the city from us, we felt it too much to walk again.
It all went a bit wrong though when we decided to take the last bus back. Not realising, that it didn’t do the full loop of the route for the last run of the night!!
When the driver stopped on the opposite side of the city. Outside a deserted Rome football stadium at midnight, we could have cried! He put the bus lights out and parked up, saying he didn’t speak English!!
This left us with no choice to walk back to some lively hub of the city, which took us about 30 minutes and get a taxi back to base from there, for 20 euro!
Luckily, Rome is actually a city that we felt safe in, there’s a really good police presence, we really thought it would be the opposite.
For us, our feet could take no more, so we were off to our next destination, and some relaxation!
We had 3 days exploring the capital in September, enough for our aching legs to cope with!
Feel welcome to read our other blogs on other parts of Italy too! Remember, this is all our own personnel findings and your own preferences and experiences may differ to ours!!
How to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome? Just thinking of the crisp, white, freshly powdered snow certainly has me wanting to venture off again to those fantastic ski resorts of Europe.
Wow!! There is nothing better than waking up to those huge snowflakes falling on the campervan. Suddenly realising that the motorhome has disappeared beneath the freshly falling snow. How exciting!
Our first trip to the French Alps in a motorhome was back in 2005. Skiing was new to us at the time and so was our Swift Bessacarr, our first motorhome.
It also, turned out to be a swift learning curve, bringing a few obstacles and many surprises, although we absolutely loved it. Despite the temperatures dropping to a very cool -17C, it didn’t put us off returning year on year!
Making a motorhome or campervan Ski trip a success is due to the preparation. So here’s our tips to a stress-free trip on how to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome.
If you’re unsure where to stay, here’s our blog on campsites to stay at for those ski trips!
How to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome.
We use both snow socks and snow chains. Some countries only allow the use of chains.
2. Fresh Water tanks
To clear snow off the van roof and windows.
Helps to dig out the van and build the obligatory snow man!!
Finally, if you’re like us, you’ll love the whole snow and ski experience! Have an amazing ski season and hopefully, we’ll hear, that you too will be returning year on year!
Venice has to be one of the most iconic cites in the World. We’d had it on our list of “to go to” places for some time and couldn’t wait to get to see this canal-ridden metropolis for ourselves. But, would we get the sinking feeling from driving to this famous destination in a van? Or would visiting Venice in a Campervan be a perfect way to see this incredible city?
Usually, we avoid staying on campsites. Instead, we prefer to make use of the very convenient Italian Sosta system. This being the same principal to French Motorhome Aires.
This trip was however a little different. As part of a larger tour of Northern Italy, we’d arranged to meet our Son at Marco Polo airport in Venice. He’d then join us for a 5 night stay, making use of our 2-man tent that we carry on board!
This meant a campsite was needed. Also, we wanted to stay within easy reach of all the main sights. So felt it more secure to have a campsite stay, regardless of our Son joining us.
After checking out the options, we booked in to Camping Fusina, at Fusina. Located just across the lagoons from the center of Venice, it turned out to be a perfect choice for visiting Venice in a campervan.
Camping Fusina was a perfect location
This trip was part of a 7 week tour of Northern Italy. Our approach to Camping Fusina took us along the Brenta Canal, a route renowned for it’s large Venetian villa’s. Luckily, it was market day, as we drove through the bustling town of Mira. Here we stopped to stock up on some local cheeses, before arriving at Camping Fusina, a little further along.
Finding the campsite was easy enough and access was very good. After checking in, we found a shady spot to pitch up under the trees.
Later in the evening, it was time to drive off to Marco Polo Airport. Unfortunately, despite the campsite offering a mini-bus service to and from the airport, it had finished for the evening.
Finding the airport and parking was also rather straight forward and within easy distance of the camp site.
After collecting our Son, we headed back and prepared ourselves for an early start the next morning.
We were able to buy a one day return ticket for the ferry at the campsite reception for 13 Euro each. Although, for 28 Euro, we could buy a 72 hour ticket, but only from the ferry terminal.
The 9am ferry from Fusina was a delight, taking just 20 minutes, the leisurely journey glided across the water towards the main sights of the city. We found it a perfect way to approach.
With maps in hand, after stepping off the ferry, we found ourselves immersed in the incredible architecture that is Venice. Taking a walking route from our map, we were soon absorbed in the intricate alleyways and famous canal network.
This city is full of life, water taxis, gondolas, highly polished wooden boats mix with the essentials of city life. Cargo boats of every description ferry goods around the waterways.
Walking miles, our feet needed a rest! Grabbing a coffee and quick lunch proved reasonable enough. Once we were off the main vista’s prices seemed acceptable and no different to any other city.
We soon had our first glimpse of the main attractions as St Mark’s Square came into view. The architecture is superb, with the fabulous Piazza San Marco, forming the springboard for the array of magnificent buildings. However, large queues formed at the big name historic sights here, so these we decided to leave until the day-trippers had departed.
Fortunately, by late afternoon, crowds were dwindling. Therefore, we took our chance at the Bell Tower or Campanile. Entering the designated lift, we were whizzed up to the top, where fabulous views opened out across Venice from high above the Piazza below.
It’s hard to imagine Galileo demonstrating his telescope from here, back in 1609! Even more unreal, was the fact that the original tower collapsed in 1902, completely without warning! Fortunately, the tower we see today replaced the original, opening in 1912 with stronger foundations!
That was enough sightseeing for one day, so we headed back to the ferry for an early night!
After catching the 10am ferry, we decided to do the one thing you just have to do in Venice! Of course, that’s a Gondola ride!
These are everywhere and it took us a while to decide on where exactly to take our ride from. Eventually, after walking the narrow streets, we settled on the Rialto Bridge.
Wanting a rather opulent looking Gondola, we had to wait for something rather elegant to come our way. At 80 Euro for a 30 minute ride, we wanted the best looking gondola we could find!
To avoid tourists paying over the odds, all the gondola rides have a strict set price for the time limit. This is reassuring, so at least you know you couldn’t find it cheaper elsewhere. Our ride was so relaxing, gliding through the narrow canals, passing the historic buildings was just a joy. In fact, I think we could have stayed there all day!
As lunch time approached, we decided to take the ferry back to Fusina and lunch back at the van.
After a bit of a break, we returned to the splendors of Venice for the early evening. Proving an ideal time to return, once the crowds of day-trippers had left, leaving a more calm Venice for us to explore.
We couldn’t believe our eyes, as we strolled through St.Mark’s Square, we noticed no queue at all for the big tourist pull of the Doges’ Palace. Walking straight in to the ticket desk, we were amazed to be able to enjoy this incredible building almost alone.
The artwork here is phenomenal, with the most beautiful frescoes, sculptures and architecture. The best part for us, came as we crossed the famous Bridge Of Sighs. A covered stone passageway leads from inside the palace to the prison where inmates would sigh as they were walking to serve their sentence.
A little fun was had as we waved to tourists on their gondola rides in the canal below, tiny slits in the stone walls on the bridge allowed just enough room for our hands to catch their attention.
We were to spend a good couple of hours here at the palace. Finishing off the evening, we decided on a relaxing canal side restaurant for food and wine, before taking our 10.30 ferry boat back to base.
As our 3rd day came about, we felt some sort of musical interlude would be welcome.
Wondering leisurely around, we soon found temporary museums being held at several different churches. One in particular was just delightful, full of information on artists, composers and interesting pieces on Vivaldi, including a selection of his musical instruments.
We really wanted to visit the La Fenice theatre, a masterpiece of ornate architecture and opulence. On realising there was a performance of an orchestra later in the day, we splashed out on tickets and returned at 5pm for the start.
Our 35 Euro top tier seats were really poor! After just about managing to sit through the first half with no view from up in the gods, we decided to complain. Luckily, the staff promptly re-located us to the stalls, where we enjoyed the second half in relative luxury!
The theatre is just a sheer display of golden opulence, completely beautiful in design and so ornate with boxed enclosures surrounding the centre. The symphony or music itself was not to our style, but none the less it was a lovely treat in beautiful surroundings. The theatre tour alone was 10 Euro, so it was good value to take in a performance for a small amount extra.
Venice is really poor for seating, they certainly don’t want tourist’s sitting around! For us, church steps had to do as a quick rest stop. It’s a bit of a nuisance, as it’s so exhausting walking round all day and we didn’t always want a drink stop or coffee.
For a fast track to the incredible building of Basilica di San Marco, we headed to the tourist office in St.Marks Square to buy our 3 Euro ticket.
This was worth every penny to beat the long queue out in the heat of the July sun. Thankfully, the lady who served us, reminded us that shoulders must be covered with a shawl. So, popping into Zara, I managed to buy a suitable one before entering the amazing Basilica itself.
Covered in gold mosaics, the interior is breathtaking in its beauty. It was a good job I’d bought a shawl, as otherwise, they sold paper ones at the entrance for 2 Euro each! It’s also worth knowing that no clothing is allowed if it’s above the knee.
For incredible views across Venice and to see St.Marks Square from above, we paid for entry to the Terrace and museum. The other big benefit of doing this was to see the gold mosaics up close, as we climbed the stone staircase to the top of the building.
Walking the narrow canal side streets across Venice, lead us to the Murano ferry stop. Here we found a really quirky book store with its own gondola and an external staircase made from books!
The boat to Murano took about 10 minutes. On arrival we took an opportunity to take a look at some glass blowing. Murano is famous for the old glass blowing technique and there are a few free factory visits to choose from.
Murano is actually a series of islands connected by bridges, these are famous for glass blowing but it all becomes a bit repetitive. However there are some lovely colourful buildings and it does make a welcome change of scenery.
For our last day, we headed to the Correr Museum in St.Marks Square. This was included with our ticket for the Doges’ Palace and it was well worth a visit.
It’s a labyrinth of ancient sculptures, paintings and artefacts, with so much there to see. We felt a bit rushed in the end, as we had run out of time in this incredible city.
Unfortunately for us, our time was up! Having to take our son back to the airport we left Venice and Camping Fusina behind.
I have to say, this Venice visit had been incredible! No funny smells, plenty of sights to keep us occupied and an array of historic architecture and relics, which we found fascinating.
Camping Fusina had been ideal for us. Apart from the menacing mosquitoes here and throughout Venice, it couldn’t have been better.
5 nights had certainly been enough! We’d walked our feet off and couldn’t have spent much longer in the centre. Everything in Venice is fairly intricate. Narrow streets and canals everywhere mean that getting lost is fairly standard practice!
It’s a big city with lots of places to keep you entertained. However, if you’re not a history buff or lover of fine historic buildings, then maybe this isn’t the place for you!
We visited in July, before the school holidays. Temperatures were high but not unbearable. We learnt to avoid times when the Cruise Ships were in dock, the tourist office had information on this.
We loved it! It’s one of those “must see” places ticked off the list and worth every penny. If it’s true what they say and if it does disappear beneath the sea, then we’ll certainly be glad to have been privileged enough to see it in all its glory.
Our Campervan tour of Italy continues, as we leave the fabulous city of Florence behind. Heading a few miles to the South, we start our tour of Central Tuscany Chianti and Val D’Orcia.
Regions of lush vineyards, rich food produce, olive groves in abundance and those all too familar Tuscan cypress trees. Not forgetting, those hilltop towns and villages which dominate the landscapes.
We started the route at Greve in Chianti, where a really good Motorhome Sosta in the town provided us with a couple of free nights parking.
A lovely walking route took us through the town of Greve and up a winding country road. Vineyards and olive groves lined the route, leading us to the pretty village of Montefioralle. It’s here in the hilltop cemetery that Amerigo Vespucci was laid to rest. An explorer who’s name was used to name America!
After a couple of days exploring the lovely foodie town of Greve, we were ready to move on and continue this tour of Tuscany Chianti and Val D’Orcia.
Firstly, stopping for a look at Radda in Chianti, another historic, hilltop wine town and a great place to have a stroll. There is a Motorhome Sosta here but once we’d seen the town itself, we chose to drive to the next village on our list!
A drive through vineyards lead us to the hilltop village of Panzano and a free motorhome Sosta next to the vines. After a stroll around the village itself, taking in the views of the countryside, we decided to head on to another historic little village for the night.
Arriving just as darkness set in, the only sign of life in the village was from a fairy lit restaurant terrace.
The free motorhome Sosta parking was shared with cars from the restaurant and was set adjacent to the olive groves.
After a peaceful nights sleep, except for the inevitable wild boar roaming through the bushes, it was time to take a peak at the village.
Volpaia, is of course, another hilltop village! This one is beautiful and truly worth a visit. Although it’s small, with only vineyards and a few top quality eateries, the setting and the quaintness of the place is a delight.
Another hilltop town beckoned, there isn’t a town around that doesn’t sit on the top of a large mound! This time it was San Gimignano. We aimed for the motorhome Sosta but this was far from the centre and we only wanted to visit for a couple of hours.
Instead, we found free parking near a school and walked into the centre. This town was quite touristy, coach trips and souvenir shops lined the streets. We had now hit the mass Tuscan tourist trail!
With 14 towers rising up into the skyline, we could see why they call it the medieval Manhattan. As with many towns along our route, this one is part of the pilgrim walk that links Canterbury with Rome, the Via Francigena. We’ve come across it regularly on our tour, as we’ve driven a similar route.
A walk up to the old castle area took us away from the tourist hub. Lovely views across the countryside and more olive groves was a welcome break from the people below.
Before parking up for the night, we decided to drive over to another hilltop town, Volterra. Although there’s a motorhome Sosta parking here, we were able to park on the road.
More steps and walking up the usual paved pathways lead us to the start of the town. It’s medieval ramparts are just part of the attraction here. The main incentive for us, was the rather splendid ruins of the Roman Theatre.
This we could look down on from a pathway above, giving a perfect perspective of how this would have dominated the town with its 2000 spectators in situe.
Again, Volterra is a rather touristy town. The crowds were drawn to a vintage Ferrari tour, that had parked up for lunch in the main Piazza. Italy seems to bring in the vintage car fanatics, this being one of several we’ve seen on this trip.
Our parking spot for the night from Volterra came at the little hamlet of Abbadia a Isola.
Would you believe it, but this wasn’t actually a hilltop village! Being on the Via Francigena pilgrim route, the next morning we chose to walk the 8km return section to Monteriggioni.
It was so lovely to walk a part of the route, starting from the Abbey Isola, where many pilgrims stop for their overnight rest. It’s also a lovely building, no wonder so many pilgrims have passed thorough this spot over the centuries.
This is a rather low key hilltop town in comparison to many of the others here in Tuscany.
It’s a walled town, like many here, with paved walkways within and the inevitable Piazza or square. Not to forget, the church bells, another symbol of Tuscan life!
We rather liked Monteriggioni, after stopping for a coffee, we walked back to the van at Abbadia a Isola before heading off to the rather bustling city of Siena.
To be truthful, after several weeks of historic cites and Italian medieval towns, we were getting a little bit “citied out”.
However, Siena was one of those that we felt we had to see whilst we were more or less passing.
We found a free motorhome Sosta area on the edge of the city, where we parked up along with several other vans.
A 20 minute cycle ride along a very busy main road, took us into the centre. Approaching under a large archway through the city wall, brought us into the busy narrow streets.
We’d been told not to ride our bikes in the main square, the Piazza del Campo. Apparently, hefty fines are issued of 100 euro for those caught peddling the cobbles.
Eager to park up the bikes to avoid any unwelcome fines, we found a bike stand and locked up the bikes. We felt quite happy to just stroll the streets here in Siena. After so many museums, cathedrals and palaces on this tour, we felt we’d seen enough for a while!
Siena is a popular tourist destination, so the crowds were in full flow. The Piazza del Campo, the main large square was built on an old Roman market place. From here, narrow streets veer off towards the Duomo and museums and the shopping areas.
It’s a fairly large city but we felt it lacked the outstanding architecture of its other rivals here in Italy. Probably, it’s a more low key affair, certainly after a few hours, we felt ready to move on.
We started this route at Montalcino. We’d read that it’s one of the most beautiful of driving routes through Tuscany, covering peaceful rolling hills of cypress trees and vines.
Of course, this is another hill top town! After parking up at a motorhome Sosta for the night, we walked the 10 minutes downhill to the centre.
Plenty of steps and narrow cobbled streets flowed through the hillside buildings of the old town. All these villages cling to the hillsides where views stretch out across the countryside of vineyards and olive groves.
Our next stop proved a little more interesting! A walkway from our motorhome Sosta brought us to a gorgeous little village of natural stone buildings.
Thermal waters dominate this Roman village, where the water is the main focus of the village. A plush looking Terme and hotel complex offers luxury bathing and treatments, however, we were just here to look at the more interesting natural features.
Tumbling from channels in the village is a constant flow of thermal water. We stopped to bathe our feet in the hot stream, before taking a walk down the hillside.
From the top of the village, the hot water cascades down the silica lined hill. Forming a milky blue pool in the base of the hill, where some tourists took a dip, in the now cooled mineral waters.
Leaving the thermal water behind us for now, our next stop brought us to the hilltop town of Pienza.
The route to reach here was rather lovely, typically Tuscan in every way, although very parched.
As usual, parking was easy, at a free motorhome sosta. A walk to the centre along a terrace overlooking the beautiful open countryside was just gorgeous.
This was to be our favourite of the hill top villages, it’s no wonder that UNESCO have it as a listed town in its own right.
Finally, our last hill top town was the rather large and lengthy Montepulciano.
Perched on a rocky volcanic outcrop, this town is clustered into the ridge, with one very long shopping street through it’s centre.
Again, parking was easy, there’s a dedicated motorhome Sosta but we were able to park for free on the road.
Climbing more steps, our tired legs managed the tour through the hilly streets. Several view points enabled us to get a good look at the surrounding areas.
This popular tourist town, was very much similar to many of the others we’ve visited on this trip, although, we felt we still didn’t want to miss any if we could help it.
After a couple of hours we were ready to leave, thankfully, it was now all down hill as we walked back to the van!
The Chianti route is full of the lush vineyards that you’d expect, coupled with olive groves that seem to grow hand in hand with the vines.
At this time of year (September) the grapes are a gorgeous deep purple colour, along the backdrop of the stone buildings, it all looks rather picture postcard.
This region is found to the south of Florence and although beautiful, we have found it slightly monotonous!
Call us ungrateful, but right now we feel like we’ve seen enough hilltop towns and villages to last a lifetime!
It’s been a week of up’s and down’s….quite literally!! Both on foot and in the campervan, as we’ve followed the wine routes of Chianti and then the UNESCO valley of Val D’Orcia.
However, this is the Tuscany that people rave about. It’s where the tourists come for their week or fortnight getaway’s and despite it coming into late September, there’s still plenty of them doing the rounds here from across the globe.
For us, it’s been lovely to see it all, but it just hasn’t got the same return to feel as some of the French regions.
The local produce of cold meats, cheeses, truffles, suckling pig and of course, famous wines, is another level though. The food here is earthy, irresistible and has traditions that are still as active today as they were generations ago.
What’s not to love about that?!
Sonia has written articles on past tours and tips for Practical Motorhome Magazine.
Our Italian Tour Continues from Genoa towards the glorious inlets of the Portofino Peninsula. Beginning the tour of the Portofino Peninsula by campervan!
To the East of Genoa begins a glorious stretch of coastline.
This area, starting from Camogli is simply beautiful. However, it’s not for the nervous driver or probably not too suitable for anything much bigger than our 5.9m long van!
The roads are narrow, hilly and winding. Traffic is chaotic and you soon find yourself in the smallest of streets, reminiscent of a driveway back home!
However, we really wanted to visit Camolgi. Tempted by those pastel coloured buildings and quaint harbour of the picture postcards, we had high hopes!
As we approached along the narrow coast road, we had our first glimpse of the village. As expected parking was not even worth attempting! Instead, we chose the sensible option of a dedicated Sosta.
Before we knew it, we’d reached a little gem of a place, high above the sea and Camogli. This is where we begin our tour of the Portofino Peninsula by campervan.
It turned out to be a perfect little find to begin this stretch of coast. Brilliantly located for Portofino National Park, at the hilltop village of San Rocco.
It may sound bizarre to be deliberately attempting to park up in such a place. However, the motorhome Sosta parking was actually quite a large parking area. Plenty of room for manoeuvring and before long, we were joined by a delightful Italian couple in their coachbuilt motorhome along with their pet owl!
San Rocco is perfectly placed too, with direct access to Portofino National Park and numerous walking routes. It’s a gorgeous village, where access to some properties is by scooter only! Streets are the size of pavements and these lead to beautiful view points.
Finding a fabulous bar located in a cave, we settled in for a cocktail and nibbles. Feeling at home amongst the forest, where wild boar roam…we saw 3!!
From San Rocco, we took advantage of the many paths. Taking one route which involved walking 700 steps down to the beautiful fishing village of Camogli itself. Loosing count after a few hundred, we’ll presume the amount is correct!
Pastel coloured homes line the harbour, as ferry boats take passengers to various locations around the park, including Portofino.
Walking the 700 steps back was part of our fitness regime for the day, but there is a bus if you need it for just €3.
The Sosta parking is €15 per day, but it’s free between 8pm and 8am.
Thankfully, we had shade from the trees, as the heat here is intense. Temperatures are well in the 30’s but humidity also feels high.
The sea is superb, clear blue and so warm, there’s no need to brace yourself for any chill!
A favourite of the international jet set on their super yachts. The Walmart family were in town on our visit, with their beautiful floating masterpiece moored out just beyond the harbour.
Portofino is delightful, yet in our opinion, probably not outstanding. We think it was mainly due to feeling a little too touristy for our liking. Although, it’s beautiful all the same. Lots of English speaking voices were evident for the first time on our tour. This region, obviously, being more of a hot spot destination for the general tourist.
The best part of the experience for us, was the walk to reach Portofino itself. Cars are not permitted, so campervans are a definite “no go”!
Instead, we took the hiking trail to Portofino Mare, through Portofino National Park. Starting from the Sosta for motorhomes, in the hilltop village of San Rocco.
A steep stone staircase, which seemed to go on forever, lead us to the best part of the route. Following a tree-lined stone track with information boards displaying historic and natural facts proved delightful. Luckily, plenty of water fountains and picnic benches were en-route. After a little over 2 hours, we’d reached the upmarket resort itself.
There are numerous hiking trails through the National Park, many of them stating at San Rocco. Therefore, this is a perfect base to explore on foot, with the advantage of the motorhome Sosta parking right beside the access to the trails.
Back in Portofino, we found a selection of designer shops, added to the high end feel. However, we preferred to stroll the waterfront and find a shady spot to watch the world go by.
After a few hours, including the necessary swim to try and cool off from this intense heat. We took a ferry boat back towards our base to Camogli.
First though, we just had a stop at a very unusual little beach!
San Fruttuoso Abbey sits on a secluded bay in Portofino National Park. This perfectly white stone structure, reflected beautifully in the turquoise waters as we approached by boat from Portofino.
The only route to the Abbey is either by foot, through the picturesque hillside or by boat from one of several harbours around the peninsula.
Having already walked to Portofino from San Rocco, we chose a leisurely ferry boat, followed by a well deserved swim in the clear blue sea.
Although, a little too crowded for our liking. It still was a pleasure to visit and see this little gem of an 11th Century Abbey for ourselves.
The approach by boat is just beautiful and when the sun is hot, the sea is blue, there is just no better way to enjoy the view!
To be honest, it was so busy here, that we couldn’t wait to board the boat back to Camogli. Unfortunately, August brings the mass tourists, high temperatures and crowded beaches as a result.
Probably Spring is a better time to visit. For us though, it was time to catch a bus from the lovely town of Camogli back up the hillside to San Rocco.
With our legs and feet feeling the burn and the intense heat beating down upon us, despite it being early evening. We were ready to put our feet up and relax back at the van.
Finally if you enjoyed reading about the Portofino Peninsula by campervan, here’s another blog:
The motorhome Sosta parking at San Rocco village is ideal to explore this Portofino Peninsula. No facilities, nearest dump/fresh is at the village of Santa Margherita.
Parking is payable at the meter from 8am-8pm – 15 Euro
Boat between Portofino and San Fruttuoso – 9 Euro each
Boat between San Fruttuoso and Camogli – 9 Euro each
It’s the one thing you can’t avoid, it’s the most annoying Motorhome neighbours ever! When a campervan pulls in alongside that peaceful parking spot, out come the owners bearing a striking resemblance to Clark Griswold’s cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation! Yes, remember that scene with the RV and the contents of the toilet?
The shenanigans begin to unwind and all you can do in a very British fashion is sit back with gritted teeth, whilst you contemplate your next move!
It’s enough to have you grimacing over your tea and biscuits. You peer up from your book, hoping to avoid eye contact. Then dash indoors for any excuse to escape or hide behind the dark sunglasses, even though the sun has just disappeared behind a thick black cloud!
Well it’s great to have a bit of a chat every now and then. A few pleasantries, neighbourly greetings and quick small talk on the weather (ok we’re British!!). More often than not, it’s about the van or even the smell of the sausages grilling on the barbecue.
Sometimes though, we can’t wait to get away from the small talk! Even moving the van completely to find solace from the most annoying motorhome neighbours or their habits.
Yes, I think you get our drift. You’ve been there, you know all too well what we’re talking about. So without further ado, here’s our pick of the most annoying motorhome neighbours.
We don’t even have a TV!
Heck I know, it’s extreme, we must be odd, slightly weird. Maybe we just like to meditate all day, whilst humming to ourselves in an eccentric sort of head clearing way! We’ll leave that one to the imagination!
So, why do people think the sound of their TV should be heard loud and clear across the parking area? Through their doors, windows, vibrating over into our space.
That’s after they’ve spent hours fiddling with the satellite receiver, resembling something from NASA HQ. Off they whizz, in and out, round the van, moving the lead, getting the spanner out. There whirls the dish, spinning out of control on the roof.
Daytime, night, morning, there’s no escape. The most boring, dull TV shows, sport, soaps and films. It seems people will just watch any old garbage and they have no regards to sharing it with everyone around them!
Then there’s night fall. The blinds stay open and they resume position, sat rigid in front of the screen as the bright flickering lights shine straight at us. Time to shut our blinds, hide away and get the head phones out to dull the pain!
Here we go, how many times have you had this one happen? Yes, you’ve got a great little spot and a nice view. Just settling down to a good read or sip of your favourite wine, when along comes a “Space Invader”!
They may look like they’ve landed from another planet with the way they look around at the empty parking place. You’re hoping that they choose the further most spot away from your cosy corner.
Then, they drive as close to you as they can possibly get! Coming in at an angle more suited to a F1 track, as you’re left holding on to your sun chair for dear life waiting for an impact!
Is it some sort of game? Do they do this on purpose? Are they secretly having a bit of a laugh, seeing how many of us they can take out in one sweep of the steering wheel?
As the handbrake goes on, the clattering begins inside, as the cupboards open. The kettle goes on, and we’re left looking at the side wall of a van or if we’re really unlucky, right through the side window into their van world!
Oh goodness, there is nothing worse. The roaring, moaning, thumping, droning, seemingly endless noise of this dreaded machine!
You can hear them before you see them. Follow the sound, ears pierced to the point of no return. That sound is in your head and you can’t get rid of it, nothing quells the vibration, whirling through the air.
You think it’s the van next door, you’re just about to give the look of despair to your worried looking neighbour. Then you notice the chunky box rattling outside of a van a few doors down.
Yep, they could be a million miles away, but the echo reverberates round like a bad smell. It’s the faux-pas of motorhome travel. Exclusive to those who haven’t enough battery power to be off-grid, haven’t they heard of clean energy?
Shouldn’t they really be hooked into power at a campsite? Especially if they need so much power, to warrant carrying the National Grid in a box with them.
Whatever your thoughts on that one, you have to agree, they sound awful and look pretty bad outside the van.
You’re parked in a row, door left, door right, nose in, nose out, habitation door etiquette, is just so important, isn’t it?
You’ve seen it, everyone’s following the flow. Parking nice and sensibly so as to not park door to door with the neighbour. Then along comes the spoiler, who only goes and parks the wrong way! Sooooo annoying!!! Are we just too perfectionist, having to have the Feng Shui just so?
We think not, who wants to be that friendly with the stranger neighbour? Doors flung open, deckchairs out, BBQ sizzling, right next to each other! No thank you!!
We’ve had the Generator, now the next best worst camper faux pas! Yep, it’s the dreaded time the engine kicks in, rumbling on and on to charge the leisure battery!
Please get a solar panel, get two or find a campsite!! Anything to stop disturbing the sweet sound of birdsong, whilst we gasp for air as the exhaust fumes gush out tonnes of smokey black omissions into the side of our van!
Do they not know we are choking on their carbon monoxide riddled plumes? Are they too oblivious to realise where that exhaust pipe is located? Yes, ignorance is bliss it seems.
So if you haven’t experienced this yet, we’ll fill you in on a fine example, from a time several years ago on an Aire in Reims. It was a dark, wet Winter and the Aire in Reims isn’t the most scenic.
On went the rattling engine of our neighbours motorhome, whirling out the most grubby looking fumes into the atmosphere beside us. Unfortunately, these fumes were finding there way into our motorhome, leaving us breathing in, the dirty fuel remnants and a very nasty taste in our mouths!
To escape the unpleasantries, we hot-footed into the city. But it did make us think, what would have happened if we’d been asleep? Could we have succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning? Who know’s, but the offenders kept that engine rumbling on for over an hour.
So, we all like a bit of a natter, but some people just don’t stop!
Just the other morning, we we’re woken up by a group of noisy foreign language talk. Giggling and high voices at midnight, followed by a 5am encore by the same neighbours! No respect for other people and total disregard for waking up the whole row of campers.
There’s also those who just don’t stop to draw breath….talk talk talk all day. Into the night and early in the morning, hearing every bit of dialect, if only it were interesting!
Not forgetting, the ones that just love the sound of their own voice! Yes, they have to get those vocal tones shouting out above the rest. Coming over to start conversation, which is usually all about them!
We don’t think we fall into their category but perhaps some would disagree! We’ve all seen them as they pull up into a parking spot, reverse, drive forward, turn around, forward again, back, slightly over to the left then to the right….phew, this is hard work!
Then, just when you think it’s all over, low and behold, they change parking spot altogether and start the whole process again.
They then decide to get out the levelling ramps….crikey, out pops the director, with imaginative hand signals. Up go the rev’s and Whoa…..straight over the front ramps onto the grass!
If that’s not enough, they try for a 2nd time. Half way up, the handbrake’s yanked up, the van comes to an almighty stop and the camper now resembles the leaning tower of Pisa.
There they go again, the most annoying Motorhome neighbours.
Rather than attempt a 3rd go at the blocks, they save face and stay poised in situe. Hoping the ramps hold, whilst they get the stepladder out to climb into the van, everyone else looking on in amusement!
Why do so many people in think levelling ramps are an essential part of the parking process? Do they not know that the clue is in the name? Yes, they are intended for use on uneven ground!
They don’t mind slouching it out for all to see, usually on the cab swivel seat, reclined as far back as possible or feet up on the front lounge couch. Either way, the mouth is open, tissues ready to catch the dribbles!
Then, it begins! That loud, grunting, almost earthquake like rhythm. It’s a constant tune, never sways off pitch and is enough to capture everyone’s attention. Oh how fabulous are the most annoying Motorhome neighbours?
They wake up looking rather worse for wear with a jaded lack of fresh air look to the complexion. Totally unaware of the annoyance caused from their grunting noise levels.
They want to use Aires or similar motorhome parking facility so widely used across Europe. But hold on, they think they can bring not only the motorhome but a trailer, car, boat or whatever other towable item can be hitched on the massive van.
Just when space is tight enough, for all those sticking to the one parking spot rules. They decide to take over 2 spaces to fit the oversized outfit. Just how inconsiderate can people be! Unhitching the trailer, rolling off the tow car and parking them alongside too!
Then there’s the friends and family. Insistent on getting parking spaces together, leaving a gap in between and setting out the party atmosphere on the middle parking space. It’s where tables, chairs and awnings are now taking centre stage.
Do they not know that a camp site is more suitable for the spread yourselves out culture?
It’s a hot day, the blistering sun is out, the Aire (or similar European Motorhome facility) is full to bursting. There you are trying to find a space and there they are, sitting happily under the fully extended awning. Almost laughing at you, as you circle the parking area in desperation.
Don’t you just love your neighbours! They can be so inconsiderate, not one inch of movement from them, no calling over to direct you to the free space dominated by their massive Awning. No they just sit it out, they’ve marked their territory and they are staying put!
11. The Ones With the Yapping Dogs
They think nothing of popping out for a few hours and leaving the little fluffy cuties sat in wait, in the motorhome window.
As soon as they’ve disappeared off to the shops or wherever it is they’ve gone to, it starts! The little cuties are no more, instead they turn into the Hounds of the Baskervilles on heat! Yap yap yap yap, it does not stop! From adorable puppy dog eyes to monster guard dogs within a couple of barks.
Gone is the yearning for a dog moment, that we’d had a few moments ago. Instead, in comes the “thank goodness they’re not ours” as everyone starts glaring at the van.
We all start willing the quick return of the owners. Obsessed with every passer by, hoping this is them returning with doggie treats and with it a return to peace and quiet.
When they do make an appearance, they have no clue that the 4-legged friends, who’ve suddenly become adorable again, have been such an attraction for all the wrong reasons!
It’s hot hot hot, and that means the sight of pale flesh browning, under the bright blue skies. Out it comes, all shapes and sizes, the fit ones, the tanned and toned, the ones that haven’t seen the gym for a while and those that have never tried to increase that heart rate!
They love to bare all to anyone who’ll take a peak. Happy to come for a chat over the cornflakes as it all hangs out, good and bad, casting a great shadow over the al-fresco breakfast table.
We’ve seen it all, shiny swimwear thongs, that’s men and women, underwear, dressing gowns flapping open in the breeze, skimpy shorts, where there’s more hanging out than they realise. Strapless, backless, topless….when the sun comes out, so does everything else!
You try and be polite as you catch their eyes, Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Hi, Guten Morgen, whatever the nationality, there’s always the grumpy ones. That look like they want to be anywhere, but away in their van.
So you smile a little, and pretend you just haven’t been snubbed. As the awkwardness sets in, they just blank you!
You can’t believe it, how rude, did that just happen? So to make sure you haven’t just dreamt it or mistaken the moment, you try again, only to get a bit of a half, under the breath reaction back. Which confirms that, hey, they just don’t wanna be friendly today!
It’s strangely apt that we’ve just experienced one of these arrogant types this very day! We’ve come across this sort before, watched from a far as they march forth, ensuring nothing gets in their way!
Whether that be the need for that parking spot you’re just leisurely eyeing up or jumping the queue at the dump area. Yes, we’ve seen them, and I’m sure you have too. But what’s their problem? Why is there so much urgency to get ahead in-front of us patient folks? Are we all just waiting in an orderly fashion for the fun of it?
We arrived at a Freedom Camping spot in New Zealand to a chaotic scene. motorhome’s reversing out, others coming in, nose to nose, no room to move.
As we approached the scene, wondering who was doing what and assessing the situation. One elderly Kiwi couple, rammed on the accelerator to pass us, shouting out as they went “don’t think you’re getting in there bitch”!!
Fast forward a couple of weeks and we are minding our own business, emptying our waste, filling the fresh, yes the chores! In New Zealand there are no drive over waste drains for the grey water, like our European friends. Instead there is a floppy plastic pipe, which you attach to the waste outlet and dangle it into the same drain as the loo, it’s not a good idea.
There is no way to quicken the process. You just have to wait for it to drain, rinse out the pipe, fold it all away and the next in line can then do the same.
Then, along came a motorhome hire van, out jumps a British guy who grabs his cassette toilet, darts over to us, almost elbowing us out the way, takes off his cassette cap ready to empty the contents all over our waste pipe!!
Thank goodness we were alert to his presence. Keeping a close eye on his movements, we had enough sharpness in our step, to quickly grab our waste pipe, haul it out the way and watch aghast.
He continues to arrogantly tip his slops out over the drain! Whilst us two mere mortals, stood trying not to catch a whiff of the slop, plop, spilling out in front of us!
Without a moment to catch breath, he’d disappeared back to his wife, who was by now hanging out the habitation door, hurrying him along!
After all, it’s the most annoying thing about Motorhome neighbours!
Thanks for reading The most annoying thing about Motorhome neighbours.
The Italian Riviera begins just beyond Menton, where the French Riviera and France ends. Our tour was part of a larger trip. This section covers, The Italian Riviera in a campervan from San Remo to Genoa.
To be honest, we weren’t too sure what to expect from this part of Italy. However, after a brief peak at the first couple of resorts around Ventimiglia, a few years ago. These left us slightly less than impressed.
This trip began by driving along the coastal road through Ventimiglia. The alternative route, is the rather boring A10 motorway that runs inland. Something we wanted to avoid.
As many of you will know. Driving in a Motorhome has been a big part of our lives for a number of years. Nigel is an excellent driver and loves a challenge, although, these Italian roads are another level!
The driving here is chaotic and crazy. Roads are narrow and traffic is manic, coming at you from all directions. Scooters are the Italians best friend and these are everywhere, cutting across to overtake or undertake constantly. There seems to be no adhering to high way code, certainly, it’s every person for themselves!
Thankfully, we survived the first few hour. Having broken out into a very deep sweat by the time we reached San Remo. We knew this was going to be an interesting trip, maybe for all the wrong reasons!
So, let’s begin on our tour of The Italian Riviera in a Campervan
San Remo is a reminder of how seaside resorts need to keep up with the competition, in order to stay in the game. Once, a the Monte Carlo of Italy and the jet set, it’s now the poorer relation.
It feels tired and is slightly rough around the edges, but it was worth a stop.
There’s a large, free motorhome Sosta situated on the approach from Ventimiglia. We took advantage and parked up with the numerous other motorhomes.
The first thing we noticed was the litter everywhere! Not a great first impression, although council worker’s did keep appearing to empty the bins. In addition to normal litter there was a lot of toilet paper and excrement of some kind. It was all rather horrible and it wasn’t confined to the motorhome area.
On the positive side, there’s an excellent cycle path, that follows the old railway line to Imperia, further along the coast. Exploring on bike seemed the best option for us. Off we peddled, soon reaching the centre of San Remo along with a pretty harbour front and promenade.
Having enjoyed the sea front views and bustling Summer atmosphere. We parked up the bikes on the sea front, and walked into the old town.
We were actually rather surprised at the old town. It was rather quite nice, with a really busy atmosphere and plenty of ornate architecture.
The Casino stands above the waterfront and is a reminder of the Monte Carlo connections. There’s a decorative 19th Century Russian Orthodox Church, built by rich Russian exiles, who also built some fine villas around the town.
For us it was time to journey onwards!
As we travelled along the coast, we realised the beaches here display a colourful array of sunloungers. Seemingly, taking up every inch of sand in the process!
Imperia is a fascinating looking town, divided into two by a River of the same name. Towering above the sea on a raised headland, we failed to park.
Instead, we joined the weekend and market day traffic jams which lead into the second half of Imperia town, named Oneglia.
It was chaos here, as we headed for a large, but jam packed harbour parking area. We held our ground and just about managed to find a space along a breakwater, overlooking the working harbour.
The litter problem was still evident, as was the madness of the driving!
Thankfully, the locals began retuning to their vehicles, allowing a little breathing space. A short lunch followed, before we took off on foot to explore.
With the sun blistering down upon us, the heat was intense. After a walk of a couple of miles we reached Imperia, however, the sea was all that we wanted by that stage!
Finding a tiny stretch of public beach, nestled between the hoards of private sections. We quickly took a dip in the water before finishing off in the historic old town.
It was worth the effort, as the views across the sea, were rather lovely from the town. We were ready to move on though. After a hairy turn across a railway line into a tiny street, following google maps to a Sosta, it all became rather stressful!
The coast really started to improve for us around Albenga. With no sign of the litter and excrement that had been evident beforehand, we began to enjoy the trip a bit more.
Albenga is an ancient walled town, with Roman origins. Originally, the town was next to the sea, but it’s now somewhat inland in comparison.
Parking was easy, at a free Sosta with a few other motorhomes. Fortunately, a small underpass lead to a beautiful promenade and the lovely beaches. We chose to have a beach afternoon, firstly though, it was time to buy some freshly baked Foccata at the local bakery. The food in Italy is amazing!
Another wonderful historic town is Finale Ligure. A really practical sea front Sosta provided ideal parking for us. Situated alongside a breakwater, we swam from the rocks in the fabulous clear blue sea.
The downside here, was the huge derelict building next to the Sosta. We just had to ignore this, as the location, was otherwise ideal.
Once the sun set, the air cooled enough for us to walk the 10 minutes into town. A tree-lined promenade stretches for a mile or so, whilst the old town beyond, remains a hub of activity.
The coast here begins to get really pretty. The litter problems were long gone, as we’d progressed further East. We began to feel that we could stay a little longer in some of the resorts, a good sign of things to come.
This intimate coastal town is another historic walled gem. We just about managed to park on the road here, giving us time to take a look before the beach called!
Noli is a delight, with a lovely waterfront leading to the old town, through a series of covered arches. It’s smaller than some of the other towns, so has an intimate feel, although equally as beautiful.
However, with the Summer heat being so intense, we had to get to the water.
Our next stop was just outside of Spotorno. Thankfully, a private Sosta for 14 Euro per night provided a place for the night.
Direct access to the lovely beach was really beneficial. A small walkway below the road, lead to a public section where we stayed for the afternoon.
Unfortunately, the weather being so hot, meant that doing anything is rather difficult!
However, as darkness fell, we strolled along the well lit promenade towards the town. Another, lovely atmospheric resort, which provided a pleasant environment on this hot Summer evening. Some rather upmarket beach restaurants looked rather tempting.
Having failed miserably to park in Savona, unfortunately, we had to give it a miss.
Although, our driving around for almost an hour, provided a little bit of an insight into the town. The approach is a mass of industrial buildings, so it doesn’t have a glamours feel.
We had wanted to visit the covered food market. All we managed to see from driving was a castle area, which did look rather nice.
We’re not sure what to think of Genoa. We’d read several reports of robberies from vans overnight. So we opted for a quick daytime tour. Fortunately finding a parking space close to the waterfront, in a relatively safe looking location.
Walking straight into a maize of tiny streets, these alleyways meandered into a mass of medieval architecture.
Feeling as if we’d been transported back in time, it all felt rather seedy somehow and we were rather uneasy in its presence.
Prostitutes seemed to be waiting for business, in numerous doorways. Had we unwittingly entered the wrong side of town?
As we scurried through the lengthy alleys of souvenir shops, coupled with foods stores and merchants from across the globe.
We finally emerged in a square full of tourists, who’d been transported off a cruise ship, which was docked in the Port.
The more classy side of the city was now upon us. Leading to a UNESCO street of ancient palaces. The city had shone a new light in our eyes and we began to relax a little.
Taking in the immense frescoes, elaborate architecture and ornate displays of the facades, it was all rather pleasant.
We felt it worthy of a visit but after a couple of hours, we’d had enough!
Relieved to be back at the van and ready to escape to a more low-key environment, it had been an interesting and eye-opening city to explore!
These are nearly all private, cover miles of beach. Restaurants provide individual areas, covered in sun loungers and parasols of co-ordinating colours. Small beach huts are provided for changing, life guards are often on duty too. Some beach bars provide permanent style sea inflatables as well as volleyball courts.
We haven’t used any, but believe they can be fairly expensive, at around 20-30 Euro per day.
There are hardly any toilets! Basically, without our own toilet in the van, we’d be very stuck!
If there is a public toilet, there’s often a charge, but may have toilet paper!
Toilets are rare, free toilets even more rare! When we have seen one, there is never toilet paper!
These are crammed between the masses of private beach bars and restaurants.
They can be tiny, often just a narrow strip of sand, which is all rather uncomfortable.
We’ve found them to be a necessity rather than a luxury, due to the heat here in August. Expect to have someone’s head at your feet and vice-versa!
A Sosta is the same principal as a French Aire or German Stellplatz. It’s an Italian term for parking and is where a motorhome can park overnight.
It is NOT small campervans or similar vehicles. To use any form of Aire system in Europe, the motorhome or campervan should ALWAYS be fully self-contained.
Basically, if the vehicle is more car than motorhome or has an elevated roof with none of the above fixed sections, then a campsite should be used.
Sosta parking is found by means of a sign showing a motorhome symbol. The rules will be stated in the parking section. Some are free, others are payable. There are a number of both public and privately operated Sosta parking throughout Italy.
As with Aires etc, there may be a dump/fresh filling area or there may not! Each is different.
For further reading, here’s our blog piece that tells you everything about Aires and Sosta’s.
It’s the 1st August and our Eurotunnel train has taken us on the 35 minute trip from Folkestone to Calais. This is the start of our trip from Calais to Italy in a campervan!
Yes, we’re off!! It’s been a hectic week, but we’re here! En-route through France to somewhere, but still no definite idea of where!
As is usually the case with us two, we are a rather indecisive pair. Having a quick discussion on where we fancied heading to, we left the Aire at Gravelines, about 30 minutes East of Calais and hit the road.
However, this resulted in us planning on re-visiting the Alsace region. Thinking, well hey ho, it’s a few year’s since the last visit, so why not?!
Calais to Italy in a campervan! Let’s begin the journey.
Lo and behold. We’d only gone a few kilometers down the road, when we had a change of heat! “How about doing the Burgandy wine route again”, one of us said, although, I’m not sure who made the suggestion.
The next thing we know, we’ve got Dijon in the Sat Nav, where the wine routes begin. Just to the South of Dijon itself.
We’re all ready for a bit of the Red stuff and some sleepy village Aires (that’s French camper parking if you don’t know already). When suddenly, a lack of concentration and heck!! We miss a turning on the Toll Road, resulting in us heading to Paris…..argghhhhhh!!!
If you’ve driven round the Paris circular roads, you’ll know to avoid them at all cost, unless you really have to. The only good thing about this, and yes, there has to be a good out of each situation! Is that, as we we’re about to slip under the runway at Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport, that is normal, by the way! There happened to be a very large aircraft passing in front of us, which made for a great photo opportunity, to pass to our pilot training Son.
Ok, that’s about the only advantage! Until that is, we see Fontainebleau on the road atlas. We admit it, right now, hands up, we still use an Atlas as a back up to the technology.
For some reason, we’ve never been to Fontainebleau. Goodness know’s how we’ve missed it, but now was our chance.
With amazing weather and no idea where we were now heading. Fontainbleau quickly became the ideal place to visit.
As we approached Fontainbleau town, we had the WOW factor come over us! The incredible Chateau of the same name and it’s famous grounds, came into view, this place looked awesome!
Following the Camper Contact App for the motorhome parking. Google Maps soon lead us to a cobbled, tree-lined Avenue. Thankfully, this was also the overnight parking for campervans and motorhomes.
It gave the most impressive view, through the tall, iron railings and gates, into the grounds and towards the Chateau.
Here we parked up, alongside the palatial gates. Feeling like Cossette from Les Miserables, this place had a magical feel that oozed character.
Thankfully, the grounds, including the beautiful boating lake and floral gardens, are open until 7pm in Summer. Incredibly, entry and parking is Free! How can something this beautiful, UNESCO World Heritage and so famous to the world be Free?!!
We spent our first couple of days here exploring the magnificent grounds, which also, lead to the town. The Chateau state rooms are open to the public, but there is a charge.
The Chateau itself, is the only one in France that has been residence to all French monarchs. Dating from the 12th Century, it certainly has enough historic interest to keep the most ardent history buffs occupied.
For the more romantic, rowing boats can be hired for a few euro’s. Taking you across the pretty lake, which is also home to the biggest Koi Carp, we’ve ever seen!
There’s also a horse-drawn carriage to ride around in (not by yourself!) and a petit-train. However, we chose good old leg work, despite Nige, still nursing a broken foot bone, ouch!
So, as you can guess, it was a pretty good start to the trip. Blessed with fabulous weather, we’re reminded, that, in our opinion, you can’t beat France in Summertime!
There’s no where as special as France, when the heat is on. Yes, those sunflower fields are blooming and the vines are ripening. Which can mean only one thing, hmmm, gosh, whatever can that be?
Ok, the suspense is over, Chablis and the wine routes surrounding the famous town, looked rather tempting. So it would be rude not to stop, wouldn’t it?
Now, don’t faint, but, we’ve never been to Chablis! Ask why and we just have no idea, as it’s a completely idyllic little French town. As expected, it has a rather upmarket feel and more importantly, is surrounded by vineyards, of course!
We arrived just as the Sunday market was coming to an end. However, the saucisson stall was just about open for business, so we quickly bought a selection of our favourite flavours. Ready for a picnic lunch, we found a shady area alongside the river.
Chablis has a really typical French feel about it, boasting beautiful floral displays. Pretty streams flow thorough, where restaurants serve the most delicious looking food and wine, under the shade of leafy trees.
There’s a really good walking wine tour to do from the tourist office, taking you on a route through the vines. Where, you can stop and sample the produce at various wine cellars.
Unfortunately for us, it was just too hot! Those that know us, will realise that for us two, to turn down a walk, it must be hot!
Instead, we drove on to Tonnerre, to see the Fosse Dionne. This is a rather weird amount of water that oozes up from the ground. The strange thing about it, is, that it’s never been explored. Apparently, it’s too deep and dangerous, therefore, there’s no real record of how far down these clear blue waters reach.
It’s no surprise, that the Fosse, used to be the local wash house, it’s a rather odd little place, somewhat a forgotten town.
One place not to forget, was our stop for the night, at the Abbaye de Fontenay.
With free parking for motorhome’s outside on the approach. We conveniently parked up in a peaceful setting, along with several other vans.
The abbey is one beautiful building and it’s huge. Dating from the 12th century, it’s the oldest surviving Cistercian building in France.
It’s surrounded by forests, cycle paths and walking trails, so we chose a 2 hour walking route through the forest. Mainly, so we could keep in the shade.
This area, Bourgogne, has a network of canals too, so it’s a really pretty drive and not so much of a tourist trail.
We actually made a decision to head to our old stomping ground of Annecy from here. A firm favorite and one of our old time motorhome haunts. First though, it’s a stop to the Cascades du Herisson, in the Jura region.
How have we not heard about this waterfall trail until now?
Dodging thunder storms, we followed the scenic path, through the forest. The well marked, popular trail, takes you past the most beautiful display of cascading falls. Each waterfall is individually named, to make the experience a little more intimate.
Starting from a visitor centre, the route climbs a series of stairs, over a 7.5km trail. The walk took us 2.5 hours to complete, on a scenic return route.
The first of the 7 stunning waterfalls is just beautiful, as it falls gently along a tall, flat rock face to the stream below. It was actually quite a “wow” moment.
The easy, but elevated path climbs past lovely streams, lush vegetation, rock formations and, of course, the various waterfalls. Passing each, as they cascade through the hillside at different stages. Culminating in a rather large display of awesomeness at the highest point.
We arrived late in the afternoon and it was busy. Luckily, the crowds had dispersed for our return back to the visitor centre, otherwise, it could have been a bit annoying on the slippy sections of path.
This is a site of special interest, so there’s no overnight camper parking allowed. There’s a €6 charge for day parking and plenty of seating and places for a picnic on the route!
On our visit there was lots of shallow water and beach areas, where people were taking a dip. It’s so nice to just relax by the water for a few minutes and take in the scenery.
A walk to definitely add to our favourite list and despite stormy skies, it still looked amazing!
On a sunny day, it would be even more beautiful!
Oh, if you like campgrounds, there is one right at the start, perfect for an early morning walk!
Well the power of social media had led us to these Gorges. It’s somewhere Nigel had spotted on Instagram a while back, so we had it on our “to go to” list!
10KM from Annecy, the gorges are a result of the Fier River, which runs from Mont Carvin, 2019m above sea level, high up in the French Alps. The river has created these incredible narrow gorges, carving out the rock into a display of intricate formations.
We arrived late in the afternoon, and it was packed! This is August travels for you, busy, hot and queues for everything.
We hadn’t quite realised that the Gorges here, were quite so touristy! We thought it was more of a hike, combining elevated walkways. Needless to say, these are built into the rockface above the river, providing an interesting sight.
A little disappointed, that we weren’t going on a long trek, in some remote part of the countryside. We gritted our teeth and carried on amongst the hordes of visitors!
This walkway is high and it’s also narrow, so it was no wonder that some weary spectators turned back! We loved it though, except for so many people!! Our pics were taken quickly, before too many people got in the shots!
Despite us preferring to be in a less busy location, the gorges are spectacular and well worth the effort. The rock formations and the way the river flows beneath your feet, from the high wooden pathway, is quite something.
The parking on our arrival was full to bursting, in a small van it wasn’t a problem, as we could park in a car space. Although, in a larger van, it would be best to arrive very early or very late!
Oh, it’s possible to stay overnight in the car park too, yes don’t we all just love France for their camper friendly approach.
The first time I visited Annecy, I was just 17 (that’s a long time ago!). I always said I’d have to go back, even as a teenager, I thought it was just beautiful!
So, fast forward to 2005, when we bought our first motorhome. Finally I got to return, with Nigel and the boys, to this magical lakeside town, which borders the French Alps.
We decided, it was one of our favourite places in Europe. So much so, that we returned several times, but usually in the thick of Winter!
Now, with it being just the two of us and with having not visited for quite a few years. It was time to re-live the magic and have a couple of days exploring.
So, if you’re not sure where or what Annecy is, here’s the small talk!
Located approx 25 miles from Geneva, it sits in the most beautiful of settings. With the cleanest Lake in Europe as it’s main attraction. Annecy, not only has the beauty of it’s ancient old town, with intricate canals and narrow streets, but it’s natural surroundings are just dreamy.
The Alps dominate the skyline, as the mountains appear to drop towards the water’s edge. The clear blue water of the lake is a haven for water sports, swimming, boating or just lazing around on one of it’s grassy banks or sheltered beaches.
The tourists do flock here, therefore, an abundance of campsites are available and on our visit the whole area was packed!
We of course, stayed for free on the Aire. Situated just a couple of minutes walk from the lake and about 10 minute walk to the centre of the old town, it’s ideal.
On our arrival, the Aire was complete chaos! It’s small, with no turning area and it was crazy with vans coming and going. We were really lucky to get a parking place, just as a motorhome was leaving. So we grabbed the spot and stayed put for a couple of days!
The heat was certainly on during our visit. Temperatures were well into the 30’s, so much so, that even Nigel went in the Lake (he hates water!).
It’s a great place to be in Summer, the atmosphere is alive. Restaurants are bustling at all times of the day and night in the old town. It’s such a lovely place to meander, through the old narrow streets and canal side alleyways.
We took to our bikes, and rather unexpectedly ended up cycling the whole “Tour du Lac”! This cycle path route, which is predominantly off road, takes you round the 50km circuit of the lake and it’s just superb!
Even our Brompton Bicycle ‘s coped with the hilly sections, that took us inland towards the base of the mountains. Before a steep downhill took us back to the lakeside at the Southern end of the lake.
We’d stopped several times for food, water, more water, swims, shade, so spent the whole day on the route. It’s simply breathtaking.
After walking the lakeside promenades and soaking up more of the atmosphere, we said goodbye to Annecy once again.
I’m sure it won’t take us long to be back, this place is still one of our most favorite destinations in Europe!!
From goodbye Annecy, it was hello French Alps!. Well, what’s not to love about the Alps?
We’ve spent many a memorable trip, meandering through these stunning villages and incredible mountain ranges, that dominate the landscape.
This year it’s been memory lane time.
It’s a few years, since our last visit, so we were more than ready to explore again.
Such happy memories of family trips, many skiing, staying in our earlier motorhomes. Lots of learning curves were had too in the early days. Travels in a Motorhome in the Alps In Winter, is very different to Summer and we soon found out!
So, first up this weekend was Thones, the gateway to the Alps and the Massif Aravis ranges. It’s a great little village to park up for a couple of nights.
Enough walking trails to keep us entertained too, and the Aire, located next to the river is perfect for town and free .
If you’re into the Via Ferrata, there’s a very challenging looking route right in the town.
That’s not for us, but we quite enjoyed watching those that did brave it. Clinging to the metal ladders and ropes, seemingly with ease!
One last note, we’d had some pretty strong thunder storms, enough to not need the van washing for a while. It’s rather nice to be have been back in better temperatures though, which means, yes more walking!
The storm clouds have passed and the sun shines once again.
Temperatures were back to a more bearable level, from the previous week’s upper 30C. So, it meant a pleasant couple of days for us, meandering through the Alpine villages of the Aravis ranges, in the Haute Savoie.
This area is just a delight! Le Grand Bornand is a firm favourite of ours, it’s a low key, classy little ski resort.
We’ve spent many a happy time in Winter, skiing the slopes from Le Grand Bornand and have loved re-visiting. There’s a really good campsite here, where we’ve stayed in the past, for Winter ski trips.
As usual, nearly all of these mountain villages have an Aires de Camping Car, so overnight parking is just easy and free.
Our drive over the mountain passes took us through the resorts of La Clusaz, Les Saisies, Flumet and Beaufort.
All within stunning Alpine scenery, with incredible views across the Alps as you traverse the mountain passes, along numerous hairpin bends.
Of course, this region is not just famous for the outdoor activities!
It’s also renowned for the amazing cheeses, honey, cured meats and local delicacies. These are all produced in the Alpine meadows in one way or another.
Luckily for us, it was market day in Beaufort, which could mean only one thing, plenty of tasty treats to see us through the week!
This has to be another wow-moment for us. We’re so happy to share with you the information on the incredible scenery in this part of France.
Crossing the Alps is always spectacular. The mountain passes are just incredibly beautiful, but somehow, this route over the Barrage de Roselend just seemed more special than ever.
Maybe it’s the time of year, or possibly the sun reflecting the light in all the right places.
Whatever the reason, our drive took a few hours!! With too many glorious view points, clear skies and all those mountains surrounding us. We took our time and made the most of the spectacular route.
Crossing the Dam wall is just breathtaking, with the bright blue waters on one side and the drop into the mountainous valley below on the other, but it’s best for a small van as turning round on the other side could be tricky.
This was simply a special route. One that made us appreciate our surroundings that little bit more than ever.
From mountain passes where the only traffic jam is the herd of mountain goats! To the adventure hub of alpine activities, down in the valley at Bourg-St-Maurice.
This area of the French Alps is a complete outdoor lover’s paradise. Extreme sports are the norm, there is everything for the outdoor enthusiastic. It comes in bucket loads and when the sun is shining and the heat is on, this region just looks incredible!
To be honest, we could have spent week’s here in the Alps, it’s just beautiful and the facilities provided for tourism is superb. Completely equal to New Zealand in many aspects, but without the ultra extremes!!
Ok, so New Zealand is just is the no.1 adventure country in the world, isn’t it?
Back to Europe! The only reason, we were hesitant to stay longer in this region, is purely that we’ve done it before. For us, the whole emphasis of the tour was to explore somewhere that we didn’t know quite so well. That meant Italy was waiting!
In the meantime, we were quite happy to watch the mountain cattle and listen to those soothing sounds of cattle bells, as they wondered the pastures at altitude.
We love a bit of daily exercise and a brilliant cycle path took us through the valley, on a steady 20km route. This was more than enough in the heat, to keep us occupied.
There are brilliant mountain biking trails here, in case it’s your thing? It’s not for us, but we’re told that it’s fabulous biking down through the mountains.
From goats to cows, biking to hiking and all the glorious local food produce, there’s nothing to not like about the French Alps.
The walk up to Le moral was a truly magical hiking day, in the prettiest of places and all rather unexpected.
Noticing a sign for a walk to an ancient mountain village, we packed up the rucksack and headed off to explore.
An uphill walk followed, through the most beautiful pine forests, with the aroma of the pines accompanying us, as we meandered through the trees.
With glaciers gleaming on the mountains opposite us, the views were just outstandingly beautiful.
Emerging into the heat of the sun, on the mountain plateau, we followed a gravel track to “Le Monal”.
The ancient historic village is a preserved monument and it’s completely beautiful in every way.
Surrounded by the mountain peaks, green meadows, clear blue mountain streams and the sound of bells, ringing out from the herds of mountain goats.
What a find!! A truly surreal day up in the mountains and one we’ll remember for a long time to come.
The best thing about a mountain pass, is of course the view and the drive. In Summer, when these Alpine roads are open to the masses, there is no better feeling of the vast space around you and the sheer beauty of the dramatic peaks of the Alps.
However, this is no ordinary mountain pass! The Col de L’iIseran is the highest mountain pass in the Alps at 2770m and it’s stunning!
We started the route from the well known ski hub of Val’d’Isere, a fabulous outdoor adventure town in its own right. Where anything and everything seems available to those wanting that next big adventure thrill.
As the climb begins, the first amazing views come into sight. The glistening blue water of Lac du Chevril, sparkle in the distance, beyond the now tiny looking resort of Val d’Isere.
It seems that anything and everything on wheels is on this mountain road. It’s the glory of cyclists and they are out in the masses on this fabulous Summer afternoon.
The road bends are steady but obvious, ski runs surround us, even as we approach the summit.
This place is vast and the tourism sector of this region has embraced it for what it can offer. Some of the best mountain biking in Summer and thrill seeking ski runs in Winter, it’s just awesome.
Parking up at the Summit view point and “must do” sign, we brave the biting winds that seem to have come from nowhere.
A very quick photo opportunity and we head back to the van, ready for the glorious descent into the valley on the other side.
This is just stunning, a drive taking us, down the mountain into the green pastures of the Alpine meadows.
Farmers are busy collecting the freshly mown pasture grasses, in preparation for a harsh Winter. Wild flowers are in abundance, as we pass pretty mountain streams.
We stop to watch some playful furry mountain Marmots on the hillside, before continuing to the valley for a well deserved cuppa (anyone would think we’d cycled it!).