Re-visiting fabulous Wild Camping beach locations is not quite what we expected
#wildcamping #motorhome #travelblog
The heat from an August afternoon was intense. Our motorhome tour in The South of France had already revealed some of the best beachside Wild Camping spots imaginable.
Feeling the need to cool off in the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, we once again found ourselves heading in the direction of water.
Approaching the fine white sands, we edged further, closer to the beach front. Before long, we’d found a fabulous parking place, parallel to the sea. Imagine just stepping outside the motorhome door directly on to the beach – bliss!
Here, we spent the night. Engrossed in the idyllic view, listening to the sound of waves breaking on the shore. This was paradise found, but little did we know it wasn’t to last.
The year was 2005 and the location – Marseillan Place, close to the resort of Séte. It was one of our first wild camping encounters and one we’ll never forget.
Back then “wild camping” had no real name. As we parked up wherever we liked, we were obliviously unaware of the “wild camping” trend that would eventually follow.
Most significantly the world of social media was a long way off, meaning pictures of idyllic parking places were a thing of the future.
Strangely enough as we happily ate lunch beside the sands of the Mediterranean sea, we were not alone! In fact, we were amongst hundred’s of motorhomes that were parked up as far as the eye could see.
Some of you may remember the long stretch of beach of Marseillan Plage. Reaching for miles along the narrow road running parallel to the beach, this was the heart of wild-camping territory.
To be honest, we’d never seen anything like it before. Motorhomes parked the whole way, taking up both sides of the sand-strewn road. Beside this spectacle was the still water of the Mediterranean Sea and the glory of France in summertime.
We blissfully spent a couple of days embracing this new found freedom of free parking with nature.
During the evening as the sun set, we’d relax outside with our feet gliding through the grains of sand, sipping wine and watching the world go by.
On the first evening, we couldn’t believe our eyes as a fin appeared in the flat calm shallow water in front of us. Watching as it swam along the shoreline, some locals confirmed it to be a shark, checking out the shallows right there for all to see.
When we felt like moving on, we just drove a little further along the coast or on to the next resort. Having a place to park beside a beach, marina, pretty harbour or nature reserve was just such a privilege. Little did we realise it would all be gone before too long.
Why is it that you can’t see these things coming at the time?
Looking back, we were just so fortunate to experience the beautiful places to park with so many other’s for company. Sharing the most incredible scenery out there on the French coast seemed unstoppable.
Fast forward a few years and a tour along the French coast brought us to another level of “wild camping”.
Driving onto the sands of Salins de Giraud in the heart of The Camargue, we couldn’t comprehend the scale of campervans, motorhomes and touring caravans that had descended on this Summer hot spot.
The beach stretched on for miles, adorned with every type of touring van imaginable! Many were parked up for the Summer. Pitched in the sand dunes, awnings out along with every accessory to make for a comfortable stay.
It was a sight we’ll never forget and most significantly, never see again. Unbeknown to us, parking up on those flat, vast sands that day was probably the last time we’d experience such freedom to roam in a motorhome.
There we were, in the hey day of “wild camping”. Yet, we were blissfully unaware that we were in the last great days of being allowed to park in such incredible locations.
Unsurprisingly, we later found out that this was “The Biggest Wild camping spot in Europe”!
Even more strangely back then motorhomes were really still a bit uncool in Britain! On the other hand we were amongst the French, who were showing off their passion in big style.
It would be another decade before motorhomes and vans of all descriptions became the “must have” accessory back home.
We wondered why everyone didn’t just love motorhome travel, but the French already did in bucket loads!
We still remember on another trip, this time to the West coast of France, trying to find a parking spot at Biarritz. We’d already been to a couple of Aires which were full to bursting, so instead we did as you always did back then – follow another motorhome to check out if they knew of a place to park.
Before we knew it, we’d followed a group of three Italian motorhomes, which lead us into an empty parking area next to a pool complex.
No sooner had we parked up alongside them, than low and behold, motorhome after motorhome rolled in after us. Within no time at all, the parking area was full of motorhomes stopping the night!
It’s hard to believe in our mobile data world of technology that it hasn’t always been like this! Do you remember browsing on a laptop at an internet cafe or queuing in the tourist office for a computer?
In other words, we were experiencing a raw world of motorhome travel. The freedom to roam before the explosion into the mass world of technology was pretty magical!
Imagine that world before instant sharing, apps or even internet for all, let alone, the invention of smart phones!
Of course, with those came the camera, bringing both advantages and disadvantages.
Why? Well, because for every van, campervan or motorhome wild camping, there will usually be a hacked off local with camera phone in hand to photograph the evidence!
Then, before you know it, you’ve unexpectedly and often unknowingly made the local newspaper with your overnight parking spot!
Of course, like all trends, they have to start somewhere. Looking back now, I can’t help thinking it began way back then in those glory days of the early to mid 00’s.
Like most trends, at the time we had no clue of the change happening. Not only was wild camping to become cool but also a photographic and social media obsession too.
The result – an explosion in campervan and motorhome purchase and vanlife travel in general.
So, what’s changed and when did it happen?
Fast forward ten to fifteen years from our days parked beside the clear waters of the Mediterranean. The craze of parking up overnight is known as “Wild camping” and it’s the trend of the moment.
Originally used to describe hiking up a mountain with a tent for the night, wild camping has metamorphosed.
Even in its heyday, visits to the French coast had already begun to see big changes. Idyllic beachside parking locations that we knew and loved, were quickly being lost.
The reasons were not always obvious, but mass infrastructure played its apart.This included new road layouts, the construction of cycle paths, as well as other new developments such as housing, retail parks and leisure facilities.
As the coastal layouts changed, the wild camping spots were disappearing fast.
So, last Autumn we returned to some of those once magical parking spots for a little trip down memory lane. Not surprisingly, we found a whole different set of rules and restrictions across the French coast.
Starting at Menton on the Italian border, we enthusiastically drove the coastal route to the border with Spain.
Unfortunately, parking overnight in wild camping spots is pretty much a thing of the past, let alone idyllic ones!
I have to say, it’s sad to see those old hot spots gone forever. Especially as they’re replaced by signs displaying rules!
“No Overnight sleeping in vehicles”, “No Motorhomes”, height restriction signs and more. The list goes on. Anything to keep out the motorhome and Campervan folk who once lined up side by side along these shores.
That’s not all – height barriers in fenced-off car parks ensure high vehicles are kept away. Whilst fabulous beach locations, once filled with motorhomes are now strictly off limits.
Most significantly, dirt roads and lay-by’s are now excellent cycle paths and neat tarmac car parks. The routes to the beaches immersed into new infrastructure, seemed almost unrecognisable.
Hidden little wild camping gem’s have disappeared into the improvements. In addition, nature reserve’s and national park’s are protected, keeping overnight camping and vehicles out.
There’s no flouting the rules as police regularly patrol, issuing fines or warnings. We watched them move locals on, despite them trying to argue their case for staying!
Of course, a few still try their luck at parking on a road or in a car park. Ironically, we now stay on Aires instead of trying skip the rules, after all, if they provide them, then we should use them!
Having said that, we still see small vans that fit below a height barrier taking their chances, despite signs to state otherwise. Sound familiar? The pop-up roof often makes an appearance to give the game away!
Some van owners will, of course, be posting the illusion of idyllic parking beside the Mediterranean. Whilst many unsuspecting social media followers are unaware of the reality.
Then there’s the locals. Some are all too willing to take pictures, before reporting back to authorities on the those ignoring the rules.
Finally, there’s the problem of Apps. A useful tool, maybe, but they’ve made finding overnight parking too convenient. Not only often portraying the belief that parking is allowed anywhere, but also because anyone knows instantly where a van may be parked for the night.
Of course, this means not only genuine motorhome or vanlife travellers, but more worryingly, anyone else out there! Leaving us more vulnerable to unscrupulous types in the process.
The smart phone, app and social media era brought with it a movie-type illusion to modern day overnight parking places.
This comes as a double-edged sword, because it also brings the once hidden places to the masses. Including those that will do anything to put a stop to both the wild camping phenomenon and Aires.
We know how quickly things can change. Having seen those amazing wild camping spots disappear, we fear that Aires could be next.
Now, we are so grateful for those incredible early days of wild camping that we enjoyed so freely.
Wild camping in the South of France and other parts of Europe was just crazy! We’re so grateful to have been a part of it, although looking back, it was probably out of control and had to change.
Thankfully, those amazing locations are still in our memory, a time of incredible freedom, let alone unrivalled experiences.
Unbeknown to us, parking with the masses on those wild camping beaches in the South of France, probably lead to the ban we now live with.
Finally, we know we were part of a motorhome generation that were able to park wherever the golden opportunity arose. All without a rule book in sight, other than the general motorhome owner phrase of “just head to the water, river, lake or sea, that’s where they’ll be”!
If only things were so simple nowadays!
Re-visiting fabulous Wild Camping beach locations is not quite what we expected
#wildcamping #motorhome #travelblog
The most breathtaking walking route which feels like you’re walking on water
Part 4 of our Summer tour reaches mountain highs at Les Chapieux and Rosuel
The breathtaking Lac de Vaches walk starts from the Genepi chair lift, above the picturesque village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise.
Located in the Savoie region of the French Alps, this incredibly beautiful Alpine setting is the starting point for one of the most beautiful day-hikes we’ve ever walked.
First of all though I must confess! This all came about by chance – after eagle-eyed Nigel noticed a picture of it on Instagram!
Luckily he’d wisely added it to his “must do” list – because this fabulous image boasted the biggest stepping stones he’d ever seen!
Not only that, but despite this coming from Instagram, where let’s be honest, not everything is quite as idyllic in real life. I have to admit, that this image just looked absolutely incredible!
So, without further ado, there was only one thing left to do!
Yes – we just had to go and take a look at this mountain paradise for ourselves!
Let’s begin with our route from Pralognan-la-Vanoise. This short drive up the mountain took us towards Les Fontanettes and our overnight parking spot at the Genepi ski lift parking area.
Lucikly we arrived late in the early evening, just as people were returning to their vehicles after a long day in the mountains. Otherwise, I think finding a parking space would have proved a bit difficult. This is August and peak season in France is like everywhere else – packed!
As you’d expect, a few other motorhomes, campervans and “vannie” vans had already parked up for the night. So, we took a space beside them in a quieter section of the large, dusty but free parking area. Now, there’s no service area here, so maybe come prepared, although there were toilet’s close by.
Surprisingly for us, we were hitting the well-marked trails direct from our parking spot before 9am.
By now, the parking area that had emptied out the night before was almost full. It turned out to be a wise move, making our way up the mountain the previous evening. At least we’d avoided the trail of visitors now driving these narrow roads.
Ahead of us, ski slopes of flourishing meadow grass flowed down the mountain, either side of a wide tree line.
Just opposite our campervan, the chair lift now sprung into operation. Soon, queues formed. A mass of eager hikers, walking poles in hand and backpacks at the ready, paying their way before riding off into the distance.
Of course, we knew this was going to be a steep uphill path all the way! However, the legs were ready and the mindset in place – now a few hours of hard exercise was in store.
OK, I know what you’re thinking – why didn’t we just take the chairlift? Well, for those wanting to miss out the first very hilly section, this would be a great option, however, we had other more energetic ideas.
That was without the already intense heat. In actual fact, most days have touched 30C or above and today would be no exception. Thankfully, this meant we could carry and wear less, although in contrast, we also had to allow for extra water!
Luckily, the path climbed lead us alongside the steep ski slope through the shade of the trees. All the while, the whirl of the adjacent chairlift gliding overhead as it made its way towards the top of the slope.
As the tree line came to an end, out we emerged, puffing and panting from the steep path but rewarded with fine views all around us.
Our exit onto a gravel track brought us out at the top of Genepi chairlift. Here, those less energetic hikers along with mountain bike enthusiasts arrived in style and fresh-faced.
Ahead we could see the first refuge on the trail, deckchairs neatly laid out in the morning sun, where coffee was served to those who needed a caffeine boost.
Fresh mountain spring water oozed out from a log fountain, a typical Alpine refreshment of the most resourceful kind. Never ones to miss an opportunity to re-fill the bottles, so out they came, whilst we sipped from the coolest, freshest natural resource known to man.
Onwards we stride. More uphill sections follow but the track is wide and surrounded by fabulous mountain scenery. Then, we cross a bridge over a gentle stream, where the track changes.
We are now fringed either side by attractive stone walls. A street-like path is formed between the two, this old salt track still beautiful in appearance, blending in to the environment and guiding the way for us ever upwards.
Soon, we emerge out of the walls onto a rocky landscape. The mountain is changing, it’s more dramatic scenery, where jagged high peaks reach out towards the blue sky above. Those grassy meadows of winter ski slopes are no more.
We rise upwards, steadily on a zig-zag path towards this real mountain terrain.
After about 90 minutes walking, the most beautiful location imaginable came into view – the Lac de Vaches.
Stepping stones lay flat on the shallow water crossing through the centre of the lake. Then behind the cinematic image lies the white icy glacier, wedged between the rocky crevices.
Around us, the needle point peaks of the mountains, now in touching distance, rise towards the sky. We can just make out the tiny figures of athletic, daring mountaineers, roped up all along a craggy, dramatic ridge.
We pause momentarily on the stone slabs of this mesmerising Lac de Vaches walk, taking in the breathtaking scenery whilst enjoying the relative emptiness of the surroundings.
With each step, our feet connect with the perfectly placed stepping stones, laid through this lake in the neatest fashion. For a moment, we feel as if we are walking on water.
Now we had a choice – either continue on towards the Refuge of the Col de la Vanoise or turn back to the start.
The glacial views and the temptation of refreshments at the refuge proved the best option. Following the well marked-signs, we continue on for another hour.
Leaving the blue waters of the lake, we climb another zig-zag type path of small stones. All the while, the glacier views ahead of us come closer. The scenery from every other direction makes us feel happy to be witness to such incredible landscapes.
As the path finally reaches a grassy plateau, another lake appears. Here we pause to take in the crackling ice of the glacier, whilst the cry of playful Marmots echoes through the air.
Now the refuge came into sight. Set upon the Col de la Vanoise, where panoramic views surrounded us. At 2515 meters high, the snow left on the higher mountains beyond, gave way to a picturesque, idyllic setting.
The highest peak here – Pointe de la Grande Casse, stands at 3855m high. How small we feel in its shadow.
Before taking a well earned break for charuterie and fries at the refuge, we take a walk a little further on along the path. From here, the views open out again towards yet another lake – what a place this is.
The great thing about the French mountains is the brilliant refuges that are built in some of the harshest terrain. This one is no exception. Commanding a prominent position on a flat plateau, this large stone and timber building looks more like a hotel!
The dining and sleeping options are just as splendid as the location. We choose a picnic bench on the outdoor dining area and rest our limbs over lunch.
Our return walk back down the mountain followed an alternative route towards the dry Lac de Assiette.
Here, the circular formation of the lake gave a strange image to the land. Walking through this dry lake bed seemed even stranger.
Now the path took a different turn underfoot. Smooth, sloping rocks mixed with narrow, gravel and dirt sections made the route more difficult. Today was hot and dry, making the rocks slippy on the shiny rock surface.
Some sections required a little assistance from my backside, easing me down like a slide!
Just as the path down the mountain became a little more normal underfoot, we came to a crossroads!
Now what do we do! One path veered up a grassy mountain side, the other carried straight on down the mountain. With only one sign and neither of the two locations saying “Genepi chair lift”, we thought we’d ask a passer by!
First though, we double checked the walking map instructions that we’d snapped a photo of on our phone. This said to take the right hand path, unfortunately for us, we found out it should have said “take the second right hand path and ignore the first one”!
In the meantime we asked a few confused looking French walkers, none of whom knew for sure, but all carried on up the steep path on the right.
So, with that, we took that option too – the wrong option! At the top of the steep path came a steep down hill path leading onto the salt track that we’d walked up earlier.
We later found out, if we’d have continued straight on there would have been another right turn which would have lead us back to our parking area. Oh well – we’ll know for next time!
Eventually, our route back down to the van took the same path that we’d started out on alongside the ski slope. Feeling a little disappointed that we’d not done the full circular option, meant only one thing – an extra glass of wine to drown our sorrows!
Despite the bit of a mishap at the end, we absolutely loved this walking route. For those wanting an idea of time, we took around 7 hours to complete the walk.
We can safely say, the Lac de Vaches walk is probably one of the best day-hikes we’ve done! So what are you waiting for? Here’s one to add to that “must do list” and we hope you enjoy it every bit as much as we did.
Part 4 of our Summer trip through the glorious mountain splendours of the French Alps.
Leaving the meadows of the Cormet de Roseland mountain pass behind, soon our overnight stop was upon us. This time at the tiny hamlet of Les Chapieux.
Approaching from the high mountain roads, gives the first glimpse of this glacial valley.
An empty river bed glides alongside the flat, grassy swathes of openness. In the distance motorhomes and tents are scattered along the fields in an orderly fashion.
We decide to join them. Incredibly, parking here is free and a sign indicates a 48-hour limit for those that choose to stay.
Les Chapieux is a beautiful location, surrounded by high mountains and dramatic scenery. Most importantly, it’s a hub for those serious hikers undertaking the long-distance Mont Blanc Tour.
We first came here about 15 years ago. Then, the sight of so many motorhomes in the middle of the mountains was something new to us.
Now of course, we know this is France! A country that thrives on the motorhome community.
So much so, that since our last visit in 2019, a brand new motorhome service point has been installed.
A storm was brewing and soon put paid to any outdoor dining. So we settled in at the busy field for the night, just in time for a thunder and lightening show. People quickly retreated to whatever shelter they could find, dripping wet from the rains.
The arrival of a new day didn’t stop the continuing storm. Finally though the sky cleared so the hikers were off on their way. Fully laden with huge backpacks for their continued long hike across the mountains.
For us, a shorter route would suffice. Swiftly choosing a 4-hour return option from one of the clearly marked walking maps displayed on information boards.
Today, we would walk the La Ville des Glaciers route. Starting from the parking area, leading us through the dramatic valley to the wonderful refuge at Les Mottets.
In Summertime, there’s an information office open, along with a couple of restaurants and hostel-type accommodation.
The road leading towards the end of the valley is closed to general traffic during daytime hours. Instead, a shuttle bus takes hikers for a small fee, allowing them to be dropped off at locations along the way.
Of course, there’s also the option of a bus back if needed!
The whole route from our starting point at Les Chapieux is just beautiful. A gradual uphill path leads out between the mountains, rising above the stony scree of a river bed. It’s not long before the full glory of the glacier comes into view.
Shared with mountain bikes and several other hikers, this outdoor paradise doesn’t disappoint.
Even better, a refuge awaits at Les Mottets. Here, we are greeted by the smartest looking donkey we’ve ever seen.
Used as carry packs for those on the long treks across the mountains, like us humans, this donkey is here for food and rest.
We are sat outside, surrounded by mountains, the glacier towering behind us at the end of the valley. Idyllic is a good description.
Lemon cake and yoghurt with berries is our reward from the walk, providing a well earned energy boost. After our hunger pangs are fulfilled, we continue towards a bridge behind the refuge. Greedy, but cute pigs happily devour a bucket load of leftovers, too busy eating to notice us.
All the joys of the farm mingle around us as we continue on our way. From herds of mountain goats being rounded up by their mountain shepherd to curious cattle. Those bells ringing across the vastness of the valley.
The full circle of nature is before us, beginning with wildflowers in bloom which the mountain cattle graze on. Chickens roam freely, pecking on these raw meadows of the finest, greenest lands.
On these wild mountain slopes farmers produce cheese, direct from their mountain herds, for sale in rustic sheds, we can smell the goats and the cheese before we see them.
In the distance, Marmots call to one another, we glance across the rocky slopes, looking in earnest for any sign of the furry mammals.
Such screeching sounds of play direct us to a family busy teasing each other. Running swiftly between the huge boulders that time has left in place from long ago.
There’s no better example of fresh produce than here, using all that’s good from nature and the land, centuries old traditions work in such harsh environments.
Vegetable plots filled with seasonal produce is all part and parcel of mountain life. This time of year, those pristine crops are ripening in time for Autumn harvest. What a feast of vitamins they must reveal.
We can feel the true wealth of nutrients off these mountain slopes. Bursting out of every slice of Beaufort cheese, diced up over our spinach for lunch.
The mountains are alive and they make us feel alive. Seeing the way the shepherds scramble the mountain slopes, calling their herds of cattle and goats, just makes us appreciate the rawness of basic living.
The skills of those who work the land here and the wealth of natural produce they offer, is such a stark contrast to the land of commercialised shopping.
If we never saw another supermarket again, I think we could quite happily live off the fine, yet simple produce here in the mountains.
Before the afternoon turned into evening, we left the wild mountain life behind.
Next we drive down from the dizzy heights of Les Chapieux, back into the modern world and the busy, large town of Bourg St. Maurice.
Our parking place for the night beside the monorail in Bourg St Maurice is somewhere we’d stayed before. It’s basically a large mixed parking area where motorhomes are allowed to park for free in Summer.
Chores beckoned though, meaning time to do the laundry at the excellent Laverie next to the Super U, as well as a shop at Lidl.
There’s nothing much to report other than it’s a handy place to park. Although a wealth of cycle routes and every other kind of activity are right on the doorstep.
Low and behold, we hadn’t long put on the handbrake though, when a group of six British vans pulled up opposite.
No sooner had they turned the engines off, after parking in a square like formation, than out came the awnings, tables, chairs, bikes and just about everything else that isn’t supposed to be out on display in a car park!
As the group disappeared off into town, leaving the “van camp” in situe, we hibernated over a glass of vin blanc.
We hadn’t quite known where we wanted to go from here. So in true unplanned style, a sign for a scenic village in the direction of Montchavin appeared just at the right time.
This attractive mountain village with a tourist office which had no queue – a rare sight – made way for a stop! After grabbing some well-written maps on the area, we had a stroll through the ancient centre.
Eventually, we came to a really pretty little church, historic in nature and one of those that seemed so welcoming and homely.
By the time we’d got back to the camper, it was really that part of the day when we needed a place to park up for the night.
Luckily, at the end of the road from Montchavin lies the glorious and restful village of Rosuel.
Not only is there a large parking area here, but also every outdoor activity imaginable. All under the gaze of high mountain peaks, a glacier and to top it all, a tall waterfall cascading down the rock face.
The flat plateau provides a playground in the open air. Our entertainment came from watching the adventure seekers cling to the high cliff faces of the via ferrata.
In the meantime, football pitches, BBQ areas, poney rides and of course walking routes galore were a few of the pastimes available.
After a run through the valley to check out the scenery, the cool air soon came in, bringing an end to our first evening in restful Rosuel.
Unusually, our neighbours at Rosuel parking area were John and Ingrid, who just happened to be British! Not only that but they were also Carthago owners, having an almost identical motorhome to our last van.
So, with that, we struck up a conversation over our outdoor cornflakes, before we knew it the morning had turned to lunch!
How nice it is though to speak in our native tongue for a change. After all, British are still a fairly rare breed on our travels, so sometimes it’s really good to speak to some like-minded travellers originating from the same shores.
Quickly packing up our rucksack with a few supplies, our walking shoes were laced up and water supplies at the ready. Now time for an afternoon in the mountains.
We we’re heading on the 5-hour return hike up to Lac la Plagne. What a beautiful valley this is, starting at the refuge just beyond our parking space, the path soon took us up a steep section for the first half of the walk up.
Pausing on a wooden platform for views of the waterfall gave a rest from the upward path.
Further on, a stream of clear mountain water provided fishing opportunities for those fit enough to carry up their gear.
Wild flowers and the cries of playful Marmots brought the rocky valley alive. In the far distance, we could see the end of the valley, joining high mountain slopes, yet disguising the actual lake in its belly through mounds of craggy rock.
After a further gradual uphill walk our feet took us over the last hump of the undulating landscapes. Then the lake appeared, the blue glacier lake of Lac La Plagne in perfect formation, where paths meandered around it’s perimeter.
A perfect picnic spot beside the water provided us with food and rest whilst enjoying our spectacular surroundings. Just beyond was a refuge providing warming food, drink and a bed for the night. Today, walkers were enjoying the sunshine, relaxing outdoors with a glass of something cold.
Our return path, all down hill, took us via the same sections of path, giving a chance to enjoy the scenery in the opposite direction.
Back at the van, once again the cool air of the mountains set in, time to retreat for a restful night in this peaceful setting.
Our search for a motorhome service area leads us to the classy resort of Courcheval, where we end up spotting a rather exciting new launch vehicle – right next to our parking spot!
After spotting a sign for a barrage on our map, those instincts to investigate got the better of us. Before we knew it, we were heading out of Beaufort village in the direction of the quaint ski village of Aréches. Now we were ready to explore the beautiful lakes around Beaufort itself.
Carrying on towards the Barrage de St.Guérin, a narrow, winding pass lead us higher up into the mountains.
Suddenly, we turn a corner to be confronted by the huge concrete wall of the barrage. Then, a few more bends on this winding mountain road brought us to the most turquoise blue lake. A place where mountains and water meet, providing the most idyllic setting of the tranquil Barrage de St.Guérin.
The only downside is that this place was packed with cars, overland type vehicles and motorhomes. Not only that but we weren’t quite sure where to go first. So, our instincts followed a narrow road leadIng to a dead end and the beginning of several walking routes.
Here, chaos awaited! No more so because of cars parking either side, reminding us this is August and it’s only to be expected! Not to be deterred, Nigel carried on, aiming for the one lonely parking space on a grass verge.
With a few inches to spare, the Sprinter or should I say – the driver, got us through the narrow lane. Then, just in time for our arrival, another car left, thankfully making room for us after all.
Now all that was left was for a lazy outdoor lunch, followed by an easy circular walk around the lake. A leisurely stroll amongst stunning scenery rewarded by gorgeous mountain views across the water.
Best of all though, our favourite walk accessory lay ahead – a swing bridge! This one spanned a narrowing section of the lake, almost resembling a narrow gorge inlet.
Our feet lead the way across the metal treads of the bridge. Next, just in time for a photo opportunity came a passing paddle boarder gliding below, followed by a couple of canoeists. All ideal for my camera to make an appearance.
Finally, as we neared the end of the path the barrage wall appeared. Here, this last section of track began crossing the mega structure, taking us across the water, before arriving back at the start.
With temperatures hitting the 30’s once again, out came the folding chairs ready for a spot of relaxation and people watching in any shade we could find.
Just as the sun went down, the clouds rolled in and with it a few hours of stormy weather. As the rain fell, the road resembled a river. Then, hail lashed against the windscreen and lightening lit up the dark skies.
The following morning we awoke to the sound of machines. These were busy clearing landslides off the mountain from last nights rainfall.
Ahead of us, lorries worked to take away the debris, whilst we manoeuvred by. Now navigating our way around muddy rock falls on the mountain pass, as we left the great barrage wall behind.
Feeling a little more adventurous after our spell of off-road driving along a ski slope last week. Now Nigel felt the need to put the Sprinter to its paces on another mountain side.
First though, it was back to the very quaint village of Aréches to empty the loo and have a quick look around. Actually, it’s a charming little place, brimming with character whilst having the advantage of a few shops, so keeping things convenient.
There’s also a good Aire here and a dump area, close to the Télécabine. Making easy access to hiking, biking and of course, winter ski trails.
Finally, with the dirty stuff taken care of, we set off on a “Camping Car Interdit”, or “no motorhomes” route. Taking a steep, narrow road of the Col de Pré mountain pass.
Before long, we’d left Aréches behind, resembling a dot in the distance from our dizzy heights.
One advantage of the Sprinter is the narrow width, along with the sub-6m length. In addition, the high suspension and clearance of the 4×4, generally gives extra confidence to go to otherwise tricky routes.
To be honest, not much action was to be had, but the views were amazing and the narrow bends an attention grabber. Although plenty of cars had the same idea as us, only a few small vans crossed our path.
By the time we got to the top of the pass, the small parking area, unsurprisingly was full. Everywhere is so busy here, who’d have thought a virus was about?
We did feel a little disappointed that we’d not come across anything more hair-raising or even an off-road challenge. Nonetheless, we felt pleased to have accomplished a new mountain road!
Even better were the views on the final approach off the Col de Pré towards the incredible Barrage de Roseland. As the pass winds back down the mountain, the first glimpse of the blue waters of Lac de Roseland come into view.
This lake is stunningly beautiful and one we’ve been to a few times before but from different directions. Still, nothing can prepare you for it’s mesmerising appeal even though you know what’s coming!
The mighty Barrage de Roseland holds back the turquoise blue water of the Lac de Roseland and it’s just stunningly beautiful.
Just beyond the barrage is a grassy picnic area where overnight parking is tolerated. Tonight there must be 15 campervans parked with us, enjoying the incredible mountain and lake setting.
Earlier in the day, once lunch had settled, we’d tried to walk along the lakeside. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a path at all on this side of the dam.
After walking along the road for about an hour, despite finding other walking routes, we failed to find any other signs or even a map for that matter.
Never mind, the views were fabulous, even if it meant walking on the road. A little chapel and a few restaurants offering outdoor dining, gave welcome breaks to those passing by, all within this gorgeous lakeside setting, resembling a picture postcard.
Waking up to a glorious morning alongside the still waters of Lac de Roseland brought a new sense of vigour.
“Let’s walk right round the lake” Nigel suggested. Looking a bit like “Are you sure” edged across my face hadn’t put him off.
We were ready to leave our scenic parking spot, moving further along the lake to the start of our walk, from a small parking area opposite the sign marked “Sous le Biolley’ on the yellow hiking sign.
Taking the path in the direction of Molledraz, one hour fifteen minutes away, lead us along a well marked path above the lake. Before long, the route took us through trees before crossing a few small waterfalls.
The storm from a couple of nights ago had left its mark on the now muddy path. Even a wooden plank bridge crossing one of the waterfalls had been dislodged, meaning we were to make use of what stepping stones we could.
By the time we reached Molledraz, the path began an upward track through grassy hillsides towards Treicol, about an hours walk away.
The lake had turned a corner, following the mountains into a narrow chasm, bringing a different dimension to its appearance.
On the hillside, Mammots played on the heather-filled slopes in front of us, whilst the aqua blue reflections of the lake filled the surrounding green hills with blissful tones of perfection.
Walking routes are in abundance here, the only difficulty is deciding which paths to take.
Where our path crossed a mountain stream at Triecol, clear water flowed out towards the lake, the path merging into a dirt track. Here we found ourselves walking up towards the Col de Pré, where we’d driven the previous day.
The route now became marked in the direction of L’Entrus, taking us between pine trees before emerging out onto the tarmac road of the Col du Pré itself.
This section lead us on, down the winding mountain pass, sharing our steps with passing cyclists and vehicles before arriving at the Barrage de Roseland.
This huge dam wall is rather something, crossing it on foot is quite spectacular. In fact, this whole walk, although not especially busy, which of course, is a good thing, is actually rather beautiful and possibly somewhat unheard of.
Add into the mix, a colourful display of wildflowers, butterflies fluttering between scented floral delights and busy bees making full use of the natural abundance in their midst. Overall, it’s just all rather perfect.
The only downside, is the one side of the lake, where we’d walked yesterday, is walking on the road. Never mind, we can’t have everything!
After four hours we’d finished! Glad to see the van parked alongside a fresh water fountain, where a refreshing bucket of ice cold spring water came in useful to soak our weary feet.
As one lonely hiker washed her clothes in the concrete trough, we left her to her laundry, continuing over the incredible mountain pass of the Cormet de Roseland.
Here, the sound of cattle bells echo through the green pastures, whilst hikers, climbers and just about every kind of road tripper mingle across the grassy Alpine pass.
In the distance, the snow capped Mont Blanc range glistens in the sunlight.
A reminder that this route follows the multi-day hiking trail of the Tour de Mont Blanc, which is where we’ll be mingling with those resting hikers on our next overnight stop, at the tiny hamlet and mountain walking adventure centre of Les Chapieux.
More to come in our next chapter where we walk towards glacial valley’s and take coffee alongside the most handsome looking donkey I’ve ever seen!
After meandering through the French Alps, our journey arrived in the Chamonix valley.
The sun is so strong and the heat intense. After taking an easy stroll around the small lake at Les Houches, we walked into the town itself to see what it had to offer.
It’s a strange kind of place, probably a bit of a poor relation to neighboring Chamonix at one stage. Now though, it seemed to be quite an exclusive kind of town.
It’s also the start of the multi-day hiking route of The Tour de Mont Blanc, attracting plenty of weary hikers in the process.
Leaving a full parking area behind at Les Houches, Chamonix now called out.
We decided to bite the bullet and just pay for parking at the large mixed parking of Le Grépon, located just behind the famous Aigulle du Midi cable car or rather directly below it!
Walking into the centre brought a pleasant surprise. Chamonix has really come up in the world since we were here last, about 12 years ago.
Not only has it grown, but it’s also been developed into quite an appealing, tidy and even upmarket kind of resort. At least that’s the impression we got in the height of Summer.
At one time, it had a bit of a reputation as being nothing more than a type of 18-30 club paradise. Now it was more pavement cafe’s and coffee culture than cheap beer and hangovers.
New shopping areas and a wealth of outdoor shops, as well as traditional buildings actually come together to combine a rather luxury feel.
Even the incredible cable car of the Aigulle du Midi terminal had received a major facelift. This is one of the huge tourist pulls of Chamonix. It’s concourse is now fully modernised, to compete with the title it holds as one of the highest cable car rides in the world.
If you’re wanting to venture up into the snowy peaks of the Aigulle du Midi, the cable car ride is absolutely incredible. We did it all those years ago, when the ticket booth was just a wooden chalet.
However, the ride was still the same – breathtaking in height, the sheer scale of the mountains around you and best of all – the summit views across the snowy plains and the magnificent Mont Blanc. I remember it cost a lot to do but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
This time, the cable car was booked up for the day. Computerized signs notified the public of the availability, whilst booking stalls took reservations for available time slots on other days.
On this crystal clear day, there’s nothing between the ridges of the mountain peaks and the sky. Towering high above Chamonix at 4810m, Mont Blanc is a giant in this valley, yet seems so gentle in the Summer heat.
Of course these mountains look serene from below but their icy, glacial crevices are for the more expert mountaineers. For us, we just marvel at their endeavours and enjoy the glory of these high ranges from the safety of the valley floor.
In the shimmering sunlight, the glacier was breathtaking. A tram ride from Chamonix takes you up towards another glacier. Because we’d done this on that visit all those years ago, we didn’t want to do a repeat on this trip, but again for those that haven’t been, it’s well worth the effort.
On returning to the campervan and paying the 3.90 Euro parking fee, we took the decision to move on along the valley. Argentière called, slightly further on from Chamonix where it’s own glacier clings to the mountains.
A free aire at the Les Grandes Montets cable car in Argentière is our base for the night. Here the sunsets on another day and darkness falls in the shadow of Mont Blanc before us. An almighty sight.
With so many walking routes direct form the Aire at Argentière, we couldn’t help but go off on foot again.
Following a path marked Balcon du Nord, located behind the ski Télécabine. Soon, we started an uphill route through the trees. Nothing in this part of the world is easy when it comes to walking!
It wasn’t long before we’d steadily hiked up another hillside where the town of Argentière below now looked tiny.
We were supposed to be walking a one-way, hour long route to Le Tour. However, when we reached the gorgeous hamlet of Le Planet, a detour sign warned of floods on our chosen path.
Not wanting to take a chance, despite the week-long scorching weather, instead we ventured into the picturesque meadows of Le Planet itself.
Here, the incredible Mont Blanc shone brightly in the strong sunlight. Casting the most breathtaking views ahead of us as we walked downhill at last, towards the rustic farm buildings.
Another downhill sign for Argentière brought us out in the old village, which was just beautiful and full of charm, before arriving safely back at the campervan.
Above us in the distance, the Argentière glacier, now a shadow of its former self has gradually retreated up the valley.
Nigel had found a 4×4 track above the mountains from Les Contamines Montjoie. By early evening, we’d arrived back in the gorgeous valley to find the start of the off road route up the mountain.
After a few attempts at finding the right road, we finally got there. Lodged on a narrow lane behind a ski station, the gentle hill of tarmac soon brought us to the gravel track.
In actual fact, it was a combined ski slope, hiking, biking and 4×4 track. Leading high up over the mountains to the Col du Joly.
Feeling a little apprehensive as our tyres met the stone, yet excited for some opportunities to venture off road and away from the crowds below.
Up we went, winding, bending, grinding up the mountain. At this time of day, there were only a few stragglers still out walking, meaning we had the track virtually to ourselves.
Thankfully, we only came across a couple of other off-road pick-ups along the way, before taking a break on top of the first télécabine at La Gorge at 1480m.
What a lovely spot this is, a hive of activity based around a small lake used for bathing in Summer months.
Our ski trail continued up, up and again to the next télécabine at La Signal. By now we could see our destination above us. All thanks to the sparkling reflection of cars in the parking area at the top of the Col du Joly.
This final leg was the simplest. Relatively straight, no steep sections, just a gradual incline to the top. Finally, passing lush alpine meadows either side of us where the familiar sound of cattle bells echoed around the slopes.
Mobile milking stations parked up in preparation for the farmer. Who would round up the cows before guiding them back to their alpine pastures.
As we reached the top, the views surrounding us became the main affair. Wow! What a place, what a view, what a relief to have got up here!
We weren’t the only ones to be spending the night in front of the mighty Mont Blanc. Several other small campervans had made the journey up on the tarmac pass from the Beaufort side. From our grassy patch overlooking Europe’s finest mountains we felt we could reach out and touch them.
Without a cloud in the sky, as our neighbours huddled around a campfire, Nigel and I watched the sun go down over a glass of Rosé. Some days are just perfect and this was one of them.
Last night we had the brilliant idea of setting the alarm clock to see the sunrise. After all, where better than an early morning wake up call to witness the dawn of a new day.
At 6am off went the beeps. Out of bed we jumped and we waited and waited and yes, you’ve guessed it…we waited!
I’m not quite sure what had gone wrong but by the time the sun appeared above Mont Blanc, we’d had two cups of tea! We’d also caught up on all the news back home and were ready for another walk.
However, all was not lost. As the sun was worth the wait, beaming up over Mont Blanc like the star of Bethlehem.
As soon as it made an appearance, the heat was on, by now it was like an oven. By 9 o’clock we were following a walking trail up yet more ski slopes towards Mont Joly.
Everything here in the Alps looks deceptively close. It’s almost like a stone’s throw away, yet don’t be fooled because it’s actually quite the opposite. As we were about to be reminded!
We followed the ski slopes, meandering up the gravel roads and through Alpine paths towards a ridge. The only thing was, we hadn’t quite realised that it was going to be so narrow along the tiny tops of this very high mountain.
Not to be deterred after reaching the dizzy heights, we weren’t going to turn back now. So on we went. With the most incredible views in every direction. From the Mont Blanc range to tiny villages, towns, reservoirs and miles of ski slopes below us and yes, we trundled on.
Stopping for a few pictures along the ridge, without looking down too often. We managed to safely cross without too much trouble. The only problem being was that we emerged on top of the Tete du Veteray and not Mont Joly!
With the peak of Mont Joly still some way off along yet more narrow ridges, we called it a day.
Not fancying more head for heights stuff and ever mindful that we’d already been gone a couple of hours, we chose another marked route off the Tete du Veteray.
Back to the Col du Joly we trekked, on a ski slope track down the mountain side. This time the fairly steep downhill track took us passed grazing cattle and back to the Campervan with relative ease.
We’d been gone 4 hours, our feet were ready for rest and our mouths in need of a coffee.
Once we’d recovered, eaten and enjoyed the views we set off in the van. Down the tarmac mountain pass on the opposite side to where we’d come up from, this scenic narrow road took us back down the mountain.
Passing traditional hamlets of rustic wooden chalets and farms, we eventually arrived at the cheese making town of Beaufort.
Thankfully the large Aire at Beaufort provided our resting place for the night. At 34C, the temperatures were high and the stormy forecast on the horizon meant a quick stroll into town before any wet stuff arrived.
The following morning was chores day. Who’s idea was it to go to the supermarket on a Monday? Well goodness me, finding both an outdoor laundry and a supermarket just outside Beaufort was easy enough, but it was jam packed in a chaotic sort of way.
Nonetheless, after a morning dodging people, navigating the perils of an over subscribed car park and managing to get all the laundry done, by lunchtime we were done ourselves!
Next, a visit to the dump followed by a rather surprise special little find. All to be revealed in my next blog piece!
As our travels continued towards the French Alps in Summertime, one wrong turn and things went badly wrong in an instance!
Ok, well that may be a bit dramatic. After mistakingly taking the road after Nantua leading us into Switzerland instead of continuing on French soil, before we knew it we were navigating the busy city streets of Geneva!
Taking what seemed like an eternity criss-crossing tram lines, dodging mopeds and worst of all – hoping we wouldn’t have to quarantine re-entering France!
Finally, emerging unscathed onto the shores of Lac Leman or Lake Geneva to us Brits, the packed shore line gave no signs of any virus woes.
Thankfully, we gracefully crossed the border again into France in the blink of an eye. Phew! No need to panic but we won’t be able to be so careless after Brexit or will we?
Traffic jams followed. All the way along the shoreline route until the evening set in and our hunger pangs soared.
Eventually a large grassy area appeared at Yvoire, an historic village on the shores of Lac Leman. An evening stroll into the ancient village lead us past beautiful stone buildings where window boxes of flowers filled the walls.
Restaurants served customers in an almost non-virus filled appearance. I’m not sure we were ready for dining out just yet, however, many people seemed oblivious to the virus still being with us.
The social distancing of 1m here in France looked lacking. Groups talked loudly across each other, goodness knows what was being spread. Were we just a little paranoid after having emerged from lockdown in Wales?
We really wanted to see the ancient village of Yvoire in daylight. So before setting off along Lac Leman, we strolled in again for some photo’s. Really wanting to make sure it looked just as good in daylight.
This time, we had to wear face masks outside! The narrow streets must be too much of a hazard to risk open air breathing without a covering.
The village was just as beautiful and the sun so hot again. Boat trips leave from here across the lake, but we chose to avoid a confined space!
Our next stop a little further along the lake came at Thonon-Les-Bains. Luckily finding a free parking place along a road next to the lake itself.
A walk along the waterfront brought us to a funicular railway. It took those who wanted to save their legs up the hill into the centre of town.
We took the steps instead, leading up to a view point, giving a panoramic outlook over the water. A market had been on and was by now busy packing up. Here, face masks once again had to be worn outside. Anything to keep those germs away when people may get too close.
Cycle paths lead off in various directions from the waterfront. So back down on the prom we took to the bikes for a bit of exploring.
It wasn’t long before we came across a swish marina complex of houses and waterways. All a little worse for wear now but still oozing the sophistication of how they were in their hey day.
One thing noticeable now was the increase in British number plates. As our drive left the lake behind and headed into the Alps towards Morzine, it became obvious that it was full to bursting with tourists.
We’d planned to stay on the Aire at Morzine, however, when we arrived it looked more like a traveller camp! Full with day-type vans, awnings out into the neighbouring space and enough luggage scattered around to fill a salvage yard.
Oh heck…we really hope this isn’t the future! Not only was the appeal at zero but to add insult to injury many vans had GB number plates!
All was not lost at the Font Bleu though – that’s a French filling and dumping unit for motorhomes. It gave us a chance to empty and replenish the tanks before hot-footing it out of there. Leaving behind the busy resort for a quieter Alpine location.
Sure enough, we soon found that perfect place to park up for the night. There on the mountain pass to Samoens from Morzine was a beautiful spot beside a small lake.
Of course, this isn’t instagram, so we weren’t alone! Oh no – we were amongst several other motorhomes but that was just fine by us. Settling in under cooler skies from the mountain air with quacks of the ducks for company.
In the distance came the sound of cattle bells, drawing closer under the sunset sky. Then, all of a sudden they appeared! A heard of Alpine cattle complete with their shepherd.
Don’t forget, this is the Alps, where centuries old traditions still lie and no more so than the young girl who only looked about 7 years of age, commanding the cattle. These huge brown cows under her wing as if she’d been on the mountains for years.
Following behind, her family including a sheepdog came, to muster up any lingering cows from the back. They placed tape around the mountain road to avoid any cattle colliding with traffic. Then as if by magic, the cows glided elegantly down the pastures and out of sight.
Only their bells ringing in a fine chorus across the dimly lit night. It’s moments like this that you remember it’s the small things in life that bring the most pleasure.
Well this place is so good, we stayed another night. Waking up to crystal clear skies and the most incredible views to what had previously been a storm filled sky.
From our parking spot at the Lac du Plan Joux came the most mesmerising view of Mont Blanc. Glimmering in the distance, snow capped and opulent under the strong sun.
There are so many walking routes from here, we couldn’t decide which one to take. So we chose one up the mountain towards a viewing platform that we could see through the binoculars.
The day couldn’t have been better, despite the heat, the clarity in the sky was just superb. The viewing platform at the top of a ski run on the Les Gets pistes turned out to be a spot that we’d driven off-road to from Morzine the previous day.
The views were as good as to be expected. The high snowy mountains peaks of the Mont Blanc ranges behind us in all their glory.
The return walk to the lake took us down the blue run and back along a moutain pass. A couple of hours spent amongst the finest mountain views in the Alps.
After an afternoon under the shade of the awning, by evening we were ready for another walk. Is it just us or do you get itchy feet this often too?
This time, an hour long return along an easy path took us to a different viewing area overlooking the snow capped Mont Blanc. Surrounded by grassy meadows, filled with wild flowers, goats, sheep and a few lingering hikers was just beautiful to be a part of.
By the time we reached the end of the path, the most fabulous outlook opened out in front of us. Feeling as though we were on top of the world, high above the valley where Samoens town looked tiny below us. Across the Grand Massif ski area, over towards Six Fer A Cheval and finally the awesome peak of Mont Blanc.
Snow capped and standing in all its glory at 4810m high, Mont Blanc looked magical. Some young paragliders joined us, ready to lift themselves off the edge of the mountain and into the freshest air on Earth.
From these dizzy heights we watched as they floated off into the mountain air, without a care in the world they flew like an eagle before us.
The heat was more intense than ever as we approached the town of Samoens from the Col du Plan Joux mountain pass. We’d last been here on a family ski trip in our previous motorhome, probably 10 years ago.
It’s a pretty town, located in a valley where riverside walks and a small lake bring Summer activities to the valley floor. There’s motorhome parking at the ski lift, so we parked up to explore a bit on foot.
It was so hot, but we managed to re-discover a route passing the campsite where we’d stayed in the snow. Bringing back memories of the good old days and happy family motorhome trips.
Eventually, we chose to move on to the far end of the valley. Renowned for its walking and protected status at Sixt Fer du Cheval.
There’s an entry fee for parking which is 10 Euro per motorhome, but it’s only payable between certain hours. By the time we arrived, the kiosk was closed, so we could just park up for free. Just as we turned off the engine, a thunder storm set in for the night, bringing torrential rain our way.
Thankfully we woke to clearing skies and cooler temperatures. After packing our rucksacks with a waterproof and picnic we set off on one of the 5 walking trails on offer.
We decided on The Edge of The World trail, signposted with orange markers and starting just beyond the restaurant. Our walk took us along a flat, well marked path before crossing streams and taking us through forests.
Soon, a large mound of closely packed ice caught our eye. After taking a diversion to the icy mass, the height eclipsed us both but the chill was refreshing on our hot skin.
Further along the valley floor after crossing a small swing bridge, the dramatic peaks became closer. As they grew taller, the cul-de-sac setting felt nearer.
The Cirque du Fer A Cheval is one of the most famous Grand Sites of France. Protected since 1930, it’s no wonder why the landscapes resemble something from a Jurassic era.
Towards the half way mark of this 8km route, the path started to climb, giving fabulous views back down the valley. Overlooking the whole landscape, the views of the dramatic peaks, winding rivers and several waterfalls was spectacular.
For our return from the end of the valley, we followed a marker on a path on the opposite side of the river, still orange but merging towards a purple trail called the Giffrenant Loop. This followed a shady forest path back towards the parking area.
All in all we’d been out around 4 hours and returned to the van just in time before another storm brought torrential rain and lightening flashes.
Today was one of those days where rain dictated the events. We really wanted to see the Gorges de Tines, located between Sixt Fer A Cheval and Samoens, however, the rain just wouldn’t stop, so all we could do was wait it out.
By early afternoon there came a break in the wet stuff, so we took our chance.
Taking a walking route over a bridge to the Gorges but turning left instead for the longer route, rather than the short loop in the opposite direction.
The sight of a wire handrail initially filled me with dread, although the wet path winding up through the forest was a bit slippy with the mud, my nerves soon settled.
As the rain once again began to fall, we were at the point of no return, so upwards and onwards we went further into the forest. Then a metal staircase came to our aid, lowering us into a chasm of the gorge itself. This tall, narrow channeled out rock was quite amazing, even as the rain got heavier, it still looked amazing.
More metal railings and another set of steps helped us from clambering in the mud and rocks. By the time we arrived back at the campervan our bottom halves were soaked though and stretched down our bodies as if wound through a mangle.
All worth the effort though, before driving on through Cluses and to the resort of Saint Gervais.
From the Aire behind the ice rink at Saint Gervais, the blue skies of the following morning brought a welcome sight.
We thought we’d have a wonder around the town itself which proved so much nicer than we remembered from our last visit in the motorhome almost 12 years ago.
Surrounded by mountains the town itself was bustling with Alpine goodness. Plenty of local produce and outdoor gear shops seemed to be attracting lots of people in the process.
Deciding to venture away from the shopping streets, we found a route above the cable car station to take us up the mountain. Reaching higher and higher above the town, an ancient village soon crossed our paths.
Here tiny lanes mingled between rustic barns and traditional chalets, complete with free-range chickens, scraggy looking felines and plenty of old machinery stacked up under sagging roofs.
After a couple of hours, another path beckoned back down the mountain, this time following a shared mountain bike trail back to the campervan. What a lovely location and how much the area has grown since our last visit.
Instead of driving straight on to Chamonix, our curiosity sent us towards Les Contamines-Montjoie, a cul-de-sac location at the end of the valley from Saint Gervais.
This mountain resort was packed on our arrival. At the Parc de Loisirs there was ample parking for the van, where overnight parking wasn’t an issue and views brought an added appeal.
What a place this is! At the end of the town beyond our parking spot next to the Telecabine is the gorgeous nature reserve of Notre Dame de La Gorge. Not only does the Parc de Loisirs have every type of activity imaginable, from tree swings to a lake, incredible rock climbing and a beach, but it’s also home to a wealth of walking and mountain bike trails.
A river winds through the middle and beyond the park into the Notre Dame de La Gorge. Picnic areas and chapels lie side by side on this important hiking route, part of the Tour du Mont Blanc circuit.
When walking country is this good, we just had to set off and explore some trails.
Setting out from the Notre Dame de la Gorge, we chose the Tré La Tete route, marked 2 hours 30 minutes one way and leading us uphill along an old Roman road.
A gradual incline lead us steadily up the well formed paths. After about an hour we reached a natural stone bridge, a well as an old Roman bridge spanning the narrow waters of the Cascades de Combe Noire.
From here we soon emerged into picturesque Alpine meadows, filled with natural surroundings of wild flowers and stunning mountain scenery.
Now it was time to climb the mountain path, winding up to the refuge Tré a Tete along a steep but well marked path mostly through forest.
Stopping for a rest for some energy boosting nuts and a sip of water helped us on our way, eventually emerging from the trees into a clearing. Thank goodness! There ahead of us was the roof of the refuge, what a welcome sight that was.
Thankfully the airy panoramic mountain vista was well laid out with wooden tables and parasols to keep off the strong sun, even at this height the heat is on!
We’d never been more grateful for a place to rest. Not only that but with the most incredible views into the valley below and mountains surrounding us it was worth every ounce of effort.
After a couple of cafe au lait, a bowl of soup and a sandwich, we were re-vamped and ready to take an extra walk up to the Glacier de Tré de la Tete. Taking us about 20 minutes higher up the mountain, brought more brilliant views, this time towards the glacier itself.
Although the route was marked difficult with ice picks required, our detour in Summer was easy enough. Others were venturing higher and further beyond our own point of return, looking like ants crawling up the mountain side in the distance.
At 1970m high, a route from the refuge showed an alternative path back down to our start point. Gradually the winding route took us back down the relatively easy path, passing through forest and over streams until we eventually came out at the climb area in the Parc de Loisirs.
What a day, what a route, what a view! The legs had made it and heck it was worth it!
Leaving the Gorge behind we drove on back to Saint Gervais and over towards Chamonix, finding a mixed car park beside a small leisure lake in Les Houches to spend the night.
Watching the sun go down, glistening on Europes highest peaks, what a glorious end to the day it was. Overlooking the needle point peak of the Aigulle du Midi and Mont Blanc was spectacular.
Now all that was left was to wait for the dawn of a new day before heading into the eye of Mont Blanc – Chamonix. For now though, that would have to wait until tomorrow, time to say goodbye to another day amongst the snow top mountains of the French Alps in Summertime.
Luckily, as we approached the automated check in at the Eurotunnel terminal, an earlier train option flashed up on the screen. Even better, it would cost us no extra! An hour later, we’d be driving off the train at Calais, ready for some French travels through Burgundy!
In these times of hand sanitising and face masks, the ease of the tunnel came into its own. The reassurance of having to stay in the campervan proved more than welcome on our first post-Covid trip abroad.
It had never felt so good to be back traveling, doing normal things again and the freedom of being on the road. The Eurotunnel was so well organised, making the whole process so much more relaxed. On top of that, it actually seemed quiet, although our departure time of 8pm may have played a part in that.
For our first night stop in France, we chose our firm favorite – the Aire at Gravelines, situated about 20 minutes away from Calais. Here, spending our first night in the company of a few other motorhomes seemed like old times.
Our journey South towards the Burgundy region took around five hours. Unusually, the toll roads were really busy or did they just seem this way after months hidden behind closed doors?
With the help of a really good book “Back Roads France”, we picked out a route, leaving the toll roads behind at Auxerre to begin our French travels through Burgundy.
Several years ago on a previous trip, we’d come across a gorgeous wine route running from Dijon to Beaune. So on this trip, we decided to just concentrate on the bits in the book that we hadn’t done before.
Any good intentions to stop the night at Auxerre suddenly didn’t seemed so appealing. As our French travels through Burgundy began, the need for somewhere quieter set in.
Firstly, it was super hot and our need for shade became to great to manage in the open sun. Then, Auxerre itself just seemed too busy and a bit big for our liking. After eventually finding the Aire taken over by a fun fair, the choice to move on was an easy one to make.
Heading off in a Southerly direction, we soon came across a charming little Aire at a tiny marina. Located in the sleepy town of Cravant, it was the perfect place to stop.
A parking spot right alongside the canal beckoned. Finally, all we had to do was sip on wine whilst watching the pleasure boats pass us by. A perfect start to our French travels through Burgundy.
This small ancient town of Cravant is surrounded by a canal network. Where the water flows, so do miles of cycle paths and walking routes, running alongside. All are really well signposted bringing the perfect opportunity to explore safely in the open air.
After deciding to stay an extra night at our canal-side setting, it was time for us to actually explore the town. The sleepy, gated old centre with no fewer than three Lavoir’s or ancient outdoor laundry’s is just lovely.
Soon, we stumbled upon a field of blooming sunflowers perched above the town, isn’t that just one of the things about France in Summertime? Everything just seems alive with nature, colour and above all life!
It didn’t take long before Nigel stripped down to his birthday suit amongst the sunflowers for a photo opportunity. Hiding his modesty behind a very large yellow head. It’s a good job these French villages are deserted in mid-afternoon!
Another evening stroll took us to an abandoned locomotive, where we had a go at taking a timed photo. Surely that can’t be too difficult, can it?
Well after several attempts at the self-timer, eventually we got it together to capture us dangling from the front like a couple of pro’s. There’s no stopping us now!
We liked Cravant so much that we stayed another night. With that it was time to get out the bikes and set off along the miles of cycle paths alongside the canal.
The beautiful route followed the waterways, which at this time of year are filled with tourist boats enjoying the leisurely pace on the canals.
Passing fields of sunflowers and pretty stone built villages, cycling the quiet countryside was a delight. Amongst the birds and the butterflies, our tyres rode. Soon arriving at the small town of Mailly-Le-Chateau.
Here, canoes moored up under the shady trees on a crystal clear, reed-filled river. Above us on the hilltop sat the main town along with it’s chateau overlooking the water.
We didn’t have any energy to peddle up the steep road, instead, choosing to return to the campervan for a late lunch. This scenic route had taken us a few hours, covering a distance of around 20 miles.
A lazy afternoon under the shade of an old tree was all that we wanted to do in the scorching heat. Just us, a hammock and a peaceful spot watching the world go by on the water.
Some days are just made for catching up on the world of chores. Today was one of them, leaving Cravant behind for the next town along at Vermenton.
Whilst Nigel filled the campervan up with fuel, I braved the supermarket, our first one in France. Masks are compulsory indoors here, but to be honest, there isn’t much else that resembles a pandemic approach.
The obligatory one metre distancing seems to be forgotten about, at the same time the supermarket didn’t have any where near the same safety measures as our British ones do.
There were no floor markings or arrows to show the spacing and direction of flow, neither bucket loads of disinfectant spray for the trolley. The only indication other than face masks, were a tub of hand sanitser and a plastic screen at the check out.
Thankfully, an outdoor laundry made the laundrette job a little easier. At least being in the open air meant less germs to breathe in!
Next up, our lunch under another shady tree. It’s been so hot, 30C most days, so the shade is so welcome.
Our picturesque parking spot alongside the Canal du Niverais also brought an opportunity for some fresh produce. It’s been a while since we did any scrumping, but Nigel found a fully laden tree where the apples looked too good to leave to nature.
As I went off exploring on foot, Nige collected a bucket of perfect apples to add to our daily fruit intake.
Later, our driving route reached the hilltop town of Vézelay. Standing high above the Burgundy countryside, it’s famous for it’s impressive church and historic architecture.
After parking on an Aire below the main centre, we managed to walk round before darkness fell. At least at this time in the evening the coolness makes it a little easier. Apparently the chutch holds relics of Mary Magdeline, although we didn’t venture inside ourselves.
It was good but strange to see people eating out in restaurants, bringing an air of normality to this virus-driven world.
Next we began meandering our way through the Morvan countryside. First though, a morning stroll through the little village of Bazoches.
The main attraction here is the Chateau de Bazoches, open to the public and usually home to Summer concerts.
As we drove through the lush countryside and remote villages, suddenly we turned the corner to be greeted by a gorgeous wooded glen beside a gentle stream.
This is the hamlet of Chalaux, soon we noticed the main attraction being the river beyond the stream. Rafting is the name of the game, bringing several inflatable boats downstream thanks to the water released further upstream from a dam.
The virus certainly hadn’t deterred the adventure seekers, who were shuttled in on mini-buses to take to the water. We were just happy enough to watch from the comfort of our deck chairs.
Before the afternoon was over, a walk beckoned. Following the usual yellow markings which are so familiar across France. The easily read directions on trees, lamp posts or the ground, directed us on a 11km route.
Soon we were passing isolated hamlets, where life seemed to stop still. Next, came Lac de Crescent, where fisherman and swimmers enjoyed the waterside setting next to a scented forest.
We decided to stop the night in our pretty little spot. After a supper of traditional French cheese, saussison and vin rouge, our itchy feet sprang into action once again.
This time, we took a riverside walk through the woods where the wildlife of the night came out to play. Firstly, thick orange slugs, followed by bats and a tooting owl. All in all making it a perfect end to a beautiful Summer day.
Well, the rain had to come soon enough and today it arrived! Not to be deterred, when a break came between showers we ventured into the little town of Saulieu.
It turned out to be a bit of a damp squid. The same going for the dull personality of the lady in the tourist office. Going in fully prepared in mask, hands sanitised and wearing a smile underneath didn’t seem to impress her much. Instead, a couple of grunts later, out I came with a map of the region ready to explore the lakes of The Morvan.
Unfortunately, in the rain everything en-route looked a little less uninviting. Add the fact that we needed the dump and typically failed to find one working!
Lac de Settons is the main attraction, which is home to water sports and a few scattered lakeside cafes along with a small village. After that it’s the smaller Lac de Saint-Angen followed by Lac de Pannciere.
After driving around all three, we gave up finding a dump or a break in the rain again. Moving swiftly on towards Autun, before finally finding a working dump at Chateau Chinon, a hilltop town in the middle of The Morvan.
Finally, the sky cleared, the loo was emptied and a full tank of fresh water on board again. This time our route took us to Roussillon-en-Morvan, where we came across some lovely gorges to save the day.
Arriving as most people were leaving, we found a forest parking spot right next to the start of the gorge walks. As soon as the walking shoes were laced, we were off exploring on foot.
Before we knew it, we’d been out two hours, walking over the rocky path through the gorges before emerging into the thick forest. Spending the night in the trees, the day turned out good in the end!
Some days, we don’t get very far at all and today was one such day. The sort where we come across a place, park up for a coffee and then decide just to stay.
Well, this is what happened at Autun, a Roman town complete with the remains of an amphitheater. First of all we parked at the Aire located beside a small lake. We really just intended to take a walk through the historic old town, however, then we came across a walking route sign for some cascades.
Feeling like we needed to see these for ourselves, no sooner had we finished walking through the ancient old town, than we found ourselves taking the marked 45 minute trail up into the hills.
First though came an ancient Pyramid of stone. Standing tall, high above the town, it’s still all a bit of a mystery as to why it was built.
What they do know is that the surrounding area was some sort of burial ground, either way it was a bit different and certainly caught our imagination.
A little further on, through a wooded glen were the rather dry cascades. I guess there should have been a torrent of water gushing over the rocky stream but all we found though was a trickle.
However, it was a lovely walk and the shade made it even better. The temperature being 32C and even worse inside the campervan at a crazy 39C.
Finally, another small town called Nolay was last but not least on our French travels through Burgandy.
This turned out to be one of those typical ancient French villages, consisting of half-timbered houses, warped into a variety of odd shapes due to the passage of time.
In the centre stood a large wooden market square and a few restaurants offering pavement dining. After a cloudy start, the sun soon made an appearance, searing down through our straw hats.
Our French travels through Burgundy were complete. After having left Nolay and reaching the colourful roofed town of Beaune where our previous travels have taken us.
So now the Alps called. Unfortunately, the roads through the remaining towns of Burgundy towards Bourg-en-Bresse took forever. Traffic jams constantly held us back, where lorries on narrows sections stood still and never-ending traffic lights made the queues more annoying.
Where had everyone come from? Has France changed overnight? Usually we’re lucky to see a few cars on the road, but now, it seems the only way to go is by toll road.
With that, we glided onto the motorway and in no time at all stopped for the night at a free aire at Izernore, a few miles from Nantua.
Next, our Summer travels see us arrive at Lac Leman en-route to the Alps, where we take an unexpected wrong turn into Switzerland!
Approaching the mountain lined skies above Lake Iseo brought an exciting air of curiosity. Our tour of Italy had perviously taken a diversion into the city of Bergamo. Then, after a day of exploration, we were back on track, ready for some new discoveries around the sleepy Lake Iseo in the Italian Lakes.
I don’t think we’re alone in admitting to having never heard of Lake Iseo! This lesser known of the Italian lakes is actually situated between Lake Como and Lake Garda, but it’s not somewhere that you generally hear people visiting.
Located in the North of Italy, the Italian lakes are naturally both beautiful and classical in appearance. Above all, they’re surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery in Europe. Last but not least, we couldn’t wait to see what this smaller Lake Iseo had in store for us!
Our first stop on the lake came at the historic lakeside town of Sarnico. It wasn’t long before we managed to park the campervan. Why is it always so much easier in Europe than the UK? Ok, I won’t get started on that one today, but I think you’ll know the feeling all too well!
So, this lovely old town has intricate streets and an immaculate promenade. Best of all, it was a perfect place to stretch the legs, despite the heat of the Summer sun. Soon, our restless legs were exploring the town itself, which unfortunately was just about closing for siesta time!
In this instance, when shops are shut, it’s back to doing something that doesn’t cost much money! For us, the lakeside path called, so we set off along the lake, admiring the fabulous scenery in the process.
As with so many places in Italy, a good cycle path meandered from the town along the lake. Therefore, giving excellent options for cyclists as well as those who prefer their own two feet!
After a picnic lunch under a shady tree, we were ready to step back in the campervan and continue the adventure around the lake.
Before long, a winding mountain road beckoned. This lead us away from the lakeside road and up to the dizzy heights of a place named Zone. Yes, this cute mountain village, located high above the lakeside town of Marone is home to some rather interesting and natural attractions.
First though, it was time to find somewhere to park up for the night. We soon noticed a familiar campervan Sosta parking sign, so followed the arrows to a lovely parking area on the outskirts of the village.
For a small fee of 10 Euro per night, the Sosta provided us with an ideal and peaceful place to rest our weary selves. We walked over to the local restaurant as per instructions on a notice board at the entrance and paid the fees. We wondered, how many others would actually pay, or would they sneak off early in the morning to avoid detection?
I remember the old way of doing things on French Aires. When the local Gendarmarie would call to collect the very small fee, often just a few Euro’s. However, that didn’t stop the fee-dodgers fleeing the scene at 7am, before the inevitable knock on the door came.
Anyway, back to happier thoughts! Now it was time to explore the incredible rock formations themselves. Actually situated in the hamlet of Cisiano, just a few minutes walk away from where we’d parked the campervan.
Our evening stroll along a route to see these amazing spire-like rocks, took about one and a half hours. Furthermore, these huge natural pillars, formed out of rocks eroded by time, are quite extraordinary. Each tall spire reaches into the sky, complete with an almost perfectly formed ball of rock on the top!
Known as “The fairies in the forest” the rock formations are something of a big attraction in the region. Although for us, the well formed path was actually very quiet, giving us a chance to take our time admiring the huge natural wonderland.
The following morning, we walked up to the incredibly picturesque village of Zone. This hillside mountain village consisted of the most laid back appeal. Probably due to its surroundings consisting of nothing more than meadows of grazing cattle and amazing views across the countryside.
By chance, we then came across a medieval cobbled walking trail, of course, we just had to follow it! The heat was once again searing. So, when we came across a natural fountain supplying a range of spring water, we were most grateful for the opportunity of filling our bottles. Yes, not only did they have still water, but also, sparkling! How about that for a treat?
Once we’d finished our waking trail through lovely Zone, we drove back down the mountain to re-join the lakeside road.
Continuing our route around Lake Iseo almost didn’t go quite to plan. All thanks to one stretch of very narrow road approaching a long tunnel. The signs warned of restrictions on vehicle width of 2 meters, whilst the height shouldn’t more than 3 meters.
Quickly pulling into a lay-by next to the signs, we double checked our measurements and waited to see what vehicles were coming through from the opposite direction. Soon enough, a van of similar size to ours passed us, giving the go ahead for our turn to continue into the darkness of the tunnel.
What a relief, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss this fabulous route! With gorgeous scenery along the lakeside, the rewards were well worth the effort.
Before long, the road passed through pretty villages, before arriving back at Sarnico. So, there we have it, we’d come full circle around Lake Iseo.
So this may not be the biggest or most well known of the Italian lakes, but it’s certainly well worth a visit. The good thing is that due to it’s size, it’s far easier to see everything in a relatively short amount of time.
However, don’t forget to check those vehicle dimensions if you do want to travel right round the lake! The roads are narrow, the tunnels low and narrow with it, but for us it made the route even more fascinating.
For now, it was time to explore further afield and continue our tour of Northern Italy. By the way, don’t you just love the way they ride their horses in this neck of the woods?!
Our travels through Northern Italy from the fashion capital of Milan soon led us towards the mountain landscapes of the Italian Lakes. At last we were about to tour Lake Como by Campervan, one of those all time “must do” locations of our motorhome travel list! Now we’d arrived at the town of the same name of this famous lake – Como.
Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y. Well, that’s if you look at it in a Northerly direction! So, if you imagine Como being located at the start of the left hand prong, you’ll get an idea of where it is on the lake. Of course, that’s only if my explanations aren’t too upside down!
Finding a Sosta campervan parking on the perimeter of Como town proved simple enough. At just 50 cents an hour, it didn’t break the bank either. To be honest, there was no sign of the lake yet although we couldn’t wait to get our first glimpse of the water.
After a short ten minute stroll, through quiet streets, we soon we found ourselves amongst the busy main areas of the old town. Here, a mix of small squares, quaint alleyways and beautiful architectural facades lead us towards to waterfront.
This was a Sunday and Como was full of the joys of Italian life. Whilst families enjoyed a lazy lunch, their glamorous appearance certainly looked like they were dressed in their Sunday best.
We suddenly felt a little underdressed, but thankfully help was at hand in the form of some incredibly reasonable clothes stores. I have to admit, I’m not one for clothes shopping, but for some reason, today, I felt in the mood for something floaty!
Before I knew it, I’d tried on an arm full of Como’s latest fashion pieces. Soon my Campervan wardrobe would have an added hint of chic, all for the grand sum of 46 Euro!
Yes, I emerged back out onto the Como cobbles with my newly acquired Italian clothing. Much to Nigel’s dismay – I know….not more clothes!
That was enough shopping for one trip! Now, time to find the fabulous lake itself. It wasn’t long before the water came into view and with it the stunningly charismatic mountain scenery surrounding the lake.
A lakeside stroll followed, sharing the popular path with weekend visitors. Boat trips ferried tourists across the water, what a wonderful way to see this truly beautiful town.
By the time we got back to the Campervan, we realised we’d have to move on. Always cautious about where we stop, we didn’t feel comfortable when we saw a man peering into each Motorhome, gradually making his way from one to another.
The funny thing was, there was actually someone inside one campervan! Well, that was enough to make him quickly disappear into the bushes!
Driving swiftly on along the lake, the route took us through Cernobio, the next town along. We thought it might be an option for parking overnight, but despite good camper parking, the area looked a bit dodgy. After our previous experience, it wasn’t worth taking any chances, so onwards we drove.
Instead, we found ourselves on the old lower lakeside road all the way to the town of Menaggio, further along the lake.
Before long, the scenic route, led us through the winding villages of the lake. Then the road became full with oncoming traffic, all returning after their Sunday day-trips by motorbike, coach or flashy sports car. In the end, a never ending line of traffic was coming at us, ultimately creating a long bottleneck along the route.
It was just so narrow in places, on top of all that, more obstacles of low arches and bridges crossed above us, resulting in a halt to traffic in the extremely tight streets.
Like all things in life, it was all meant to be in the end. Because, if we’d taken the wider, main road above the lake, then we’d have missed a certain Mr Clooney’s place!
Well, you can only imagine the excitement as our Campervan suddenly passed the most pristine gated entrance on Lake Como. There was no mistaking, whatever lay behind the magnificently trimmed hedge must be spectacular.
As I stretched my neck to get a glimpse of the name of this palatial Villa at Laglio, Nigel failed to see what all the fuss was about. For a moment, I could only dream of gorgeous George, tending to his privet hedge as I admire his gardening tools from my open window…..Time to wake up Sonia!
Eventually, the narrow roads opened out slightly as we emerged into our first stop for the night at Menaggio.
We’d found a Campervan Sosta with a space left for us to spend the night. Located just outside the town, the parking a area was shared with cars but nonetheless it was fine for the night.
Best of all, it was free and only a few minutes walk into the centre of this lovely lakeside town. After a bite to eat, we took a stroll along the waterfront, passing an elegant lido area before reaching a pretty town square.
The Italian ambience was too good to miss, so that meant only one thing – settling down for a local liquor at a local bar. I’ve no idea what we chose, but it tasted strong and went straight to the head!
No wonder the Italians are always so joyous!
Well, after one very noisy night in our car park setting, we weren’t ready to stay for another. However, before leaving, we needed some information on local walks, so off we went to the tourist office to pick up some leaflets. Luckily, most areas in Italy have an English version available – thank goodness as our Italian isn’t up to much!
Leaving the Campervan in situe, before long we chose a walking route along an old Roman road above the lake. What a delightful little route, passing through intricate villages, commanding fine lakeside views.
The weather was superb. By the time we reached a beautiful little chapel at Nobiallo, high above the lake, we were glad for a rest overlooking the water.
What a lovely route and there was still more to come after returning to the Campervan. Walking in the opposite direction, it was time to take a stroll through the Loveno area of Menaggio.
This gorgeous old village above the main town is full of narrow cobbled streets, winding around ancient stone houses. Just lovely!
Back at the van, the time had come to move slightly inland. We’d heard about an old railway line route leading from the village of Grandola ed Uniti, about a 10 minute drive from Menaggio.
We found a place to park in the village, ready for an early start the next morning.
What a delightful change, as we took to the bikes along the cycle path. Heading out along the old railway line, this scenic, easy route took us passed mountain villages and the small lake of Piano.
Unfortunately, it started to rain, after taking shelter under a tree, we had no option but to continue on and get a little wet in the process.
Soon, we arrived at the lake side promenade in Porlezza, where we parked up the bikes. Here, coffee and lemon biscuits called, a rare sweet treat to give an energy boast to our depleting supplies.
Porlezza was so quiet, maybe the rain had kept everyone away, although it didn’t stop us taking a look around. The village is pretty but not as elaborate in historic architecture as other towns we’ve seen.
The lake was lovely and surrounded by scenic mountains, making the 14km, two and a half hour return cycle ride well worth the effort.
From Menaggio, our route continued North along the edge of Lake Como. Stopping for a couple of nights at Camping La Riva. This very neat lakeside campsite in a quiet area of Lake Como was actually quite lovely.
It’s not often we stop on a campsite, but there was no Sosta parking available and we needed to empty the waste and fill the fresh. Also we didn’t want to miss this area of the lake, so it seemed the best option to set out and explore by bike.
The site had large grassy pitches, and a brilliant swimming pool to practice my love of swimming, just in time before the heavens opened and a storm set in.
Some of the lakeside villages en-route looked a little worse for wear, so we hadn’t felt the need to stop until now.
As we woke the next morning to sunshine and blue skies, the bikes came out again. We then cycled along the lakeside cycle path to the town of Domaso. Campsites lined the waterfront, whilst pebble beaches and large grassy areas provided plenty of rest space.
After stocking up on some supplies in the small supermarket, our return to the Campervan made way for another swim in the pool before catching up on some laundry chores.
A pre-breakfast run followed by yet more swimming to get the most out of of the fab pool had me ready for the day ahead. Back on the road North, we were soon leaving Lake Como behind for a moment as we reached the gorgeous Lake Mezzola.
Well, what a find this was. Not only is Mezzola a super scenic location amongst the mountain scenery but it’s also home to possible one of the best free Camper Sosta’s we’ve ever found.
Right overlooking the lake, this grassy area has the most amazing views, not to mention the brilliant cycling routes on offer.
Luckily, just as we drove in, one Motorhome was leaving, providing us with a perfect place to park overlooking the lake. Time for some relaxation and a spot of lunch before setting out to explore.
Another hot day beckoned, so we took to the bikes yet again for a tour in each direction along the excellent cycle paths. Stunning scenery made the ride just perfect, surrounded by the dramatic mountains as they eclipsed the water of the lake below.
There’s so much walking to do here, let alone mountain bike trails, it’s an outdoor lovers paradise.
Unfortunately, it was the weekend and as usual in Italy, as darkness fell, the music began and the party started at the lakeside bar. That meant little sleep for us, the music was so loud, that Nige downloaded an app for decibel readings!
As the locals descended for their weekend getaways, it was time for us to move back along Lake Como. At Colico, a supermarket shop and chance to empty the waste and fill up for a few euro’s at a Sosta, proved the only chance of stopping at this popular resort.
Everywhere was full, Motorhomes filled the Sosta parking areas, whilst narrow roads and limited parking prevented any chance of getting a place to just pull over and stop.
The road was extremely narrow in places, probably not ideal for those with any larger Campervan’s. In the heat of the day, it was quite hair-raising.
Eventually we arrived at the town of Mandello, where we found a camper sosta with room to stop for lunch. It should have been 10 Euro per day, but some people in a Campervan were just leaving, so kindly handed us their ticket.
In the end, we didn’t fancy staying there all day, so drove on further along the upside down Y!
We really wanted to see Bellagio, located on the centre point of Lake Como. It seemed a long way along the narrow, winding lakeside road. First though, we took a detour, up to a Mountain viewpoint above the lake.
Fabulous views across the lake were well worth the drive. The pretty little church of Madonna del Ghisallo also took our attention before driving on to Bellagio, further back down the mountain.
Arriving in the early evening was a perfect time to visit, although parking was really a bit difficult. Motorhome’s weren’t allowed, probably because it’s so narrow here.
Our Campervan is just under 6m long so we can fit into a normal car parking space. Luckily we found a spot and slotted in at a charge of 50 cents an hour and free after 8pm.
Bellagio is a really pretty lakeside town, although it is fairly touristy. Boats take you across Lake Como to various towns on the other side of the water.
A lovely atmosphere within the tiny stone streets, proved too good to miss. So we went Italian and opted for a pizza in the town square before continuing our evening stroll under twinkling flicker of fairy lights.
It’s here that tourists and locals come for some Summer evening solitude. A classy historic town, filled with intricate stone steps, floral displays and ornate architecture. A fine end to our tour of Lake Como.
Now, we felt it easier to park the night a little inland. Instead driving onwards for about 20 minutes to the town of Annone D’Brianza to a free Camper Sosta area for some quiet downtime.
We’d come full circle, having driven right round the lake and what a route it had been.
Lake Como is everything you’d expect it to be. Not only is it surrounded by mountains and fabulous villas, but it’s also beautiful and elegant in a low-key kind of way.
The roads may be narrow and the Campervan parking not as plentiful as some areas, but that’s just fine. Lake Como by Campervan is still the most incredible way to get around this stunning part of Italy.
In typical Italian style, this classy Italian lake has romanced us and captivated our soles, leaving a lasting place in our hearts that will one day see us return for more.