travels with our van


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Our first continental trip after converting the van, we did do a shakedown trip to Ross on Wye just in case there were any problems, but all we found was a loose wire to the reversing cameras. Left Birmingham 14:00 Thursday 23rd April travel to Dover to catch ferry to Calais. Return cost on Sea France £206 for 7 metre van and trailer plus top box, with amendable ticket. Can get cheaper, but with no flexible travel times.


discovered stowaway as about to depart

We normally like to catch a late ferry from Dover as it is cheaper and avoids the rush hour hassles of the M25, and also gives us a full days travel in France the next morning. We normally park on  Carrefour Cite Europe  motorhome car park for the first night, but this time parked at the channel tunnel dog check in car park, because as we drove past it on the way to Carrefour we noticed other travellers parked up for the night in relative security, so we pulled in and parked up. You could say we spent the night in the doghouse, this seems a secure place to stay, plenty of light, other travellers stopping for the night and port security nearby, and of course its free.   I also expect any passing thieves would suspect that because you were parked here it would be more than likely that you would have a dog or two on board.









Next morning bright and early we set off for Epernay in the Champagne region. I find travel in northern France above Paris is a bit monotonous with wide open fairly flat agricultural regions. Possibly better off on the motorways up here, but we do not use motorways if we can help it, mainly main and secondary roads, sometimes even back roads. Also in a large van motorway toll fees can be exorbitant, and are only worth paying if you are pushed for time. There's a lot more to see travelling off the motorway system and you can keep the speed down rather than being swept along in the hurly burly. There are plenty of picnic areas and lay bys and nothing like the amount of traffic there is in in England.


Spreading the word about sbmcc, for those reading who don’t know. The Self Build Motor Caravanners Club

For our first stop in France after Calais we went to the municipal campsite at Epernay its an excellent site and very popular, its situated inside the sports complex,and on the banks of the river. It is  in the heart of the champagne region, a very nice site with above average amenities and English speaking staff.

20,000 hectares of vineyards stretch all around you, whilst under your feet lie 200 million bottles of champagne ageing in 120 kilometres of cellars carved out of the chalk soil over hundreds of years.The most famous champagne producers amongst the many grand houses and mansions lining the Avenue de Champagne allow Epernay justly to lay claim to the coveted title of the Capital of Champagne.


















We left mid-morning heading south towards Challon de Champagne we  decided to stop at Arnay le duc , and found the camp site, camping de l’Etang de Fouche which was a large municipal site with new amenities. There is a lake on site with numerous activities. A very nice site, but rained all night so we did not linger too long.
We are using Alan Rogers campsite guide loaded into Garmin Nuvi satnav to find sites and it works very well this guide is highly recommended and will load into most sat navs as POI’s. ( points of interest )

Located in the heart of Burgundy, halfway between Paris and Lyon on the R.N. 6 (highway Nr 6) near the A6 freeway (Pouilly-en-Auxois exit), ARNAY-LE-DUC is a charming little city with a rich historical and cultural heritage.


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We had no plan or itinerary but would like to be south of Lyon before stopping for the night. I always find there seems to be less traffic the further south you go, but It definitely gets warmer and drier. We decided to head for camping Castlelet at Tain le Hermitage just south of Lyon. A site we have stopped at before, this is a nice clean site with good flat firm pitches, it does have above average  site fees though. We spent a pleasant afternoon and night here before pushing on South.  as I have said when travelling we are in no hurry and travel between 100 and 200 miles a day.


Weather still unsettled so decided to keep moving South. Felt clutch slip a couple of times. Disaster on the horizon. Stopped at Camping Municipal Lupin highly favoured by the Dutch and only 11 euros a night. Weather now a lot better .

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Set off next morning direction Beziers South West France when bang clutch decided it had enough. Phoned Direct line which turned out to be Green Flag which we had already rejected for being too expensive. ( So if your looking for continental breakdown cover Direct Line good choice at right price ) They were extremely helpful and arranged for a tow truck. French patrol team stopped and coned us off   swiftly joined by another truck with lane closed lights, etc then a supervisor in a small van turned up, so 2 trucks 1 van and 5 French patrol people looking after us and we weren’t even on a motorway.








Truck turned up and took us to Iveco main dealers at Narbonne unfortunately closed for lunch 12 till 2 the normal French hours, staff turned up at 2 and started work on clutch immediately and we were back on the, road at 4 o'clock  only 2 hours later, but with wallet seriously assaulted ( made enquiries at Iveco main dealers in England , and price was reasonable, but doubt if an English garage would have done the job in 2 days let alone 2 hours ) you could not complain about the service. Green Flag kept calling to make sure everything was OK, did we need interpreters somewhere to stay etc excellent service.

We had been running a freezer off the inverter during the trip and it is working perfect with minimal drain on batteries even when run for 24 hours with no engine charging the batteries, also virtually silent you cannot hear it running, which is one thing I was worried about as the fridge freezer at home is quite noisy,  we left the inverter on which was running the fridge and the freezer off the batteries for most spa07 (117)of the day well the van was not running without any problems.

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Travelled another 2 hours and stopped in the languedoc region at Camping le Fun, not Fun at all very poor site, run down and has seen much better days. I Got bit by a dog in the morning nothing serious but drew blood. Keep well clear of Camping Le Fun. Tanks emptied batteries charged and ourselves refuelled time to push on its only a short run from here to the Spanish CIMG0399border. So crossed the  border at Le Perthus a french town sitting on the Spanish border, a town missed by most travellers who whiz past on the motorway oblivious of its existence. We crossed the border, parked up and strolled back into France we walked around the shops, very popular with the Spanish and the French, as various articles are cheaper than elsewhere in there respective countries. Visited chemist for antiseptics etc for dog bite. Walked back into Spain which was fortuitous as the Spanish police had closed border to vehicular traffic and were examining all vehicles, this does not happen very often , but can be quite a holdup when it does. Had lunch and carried on into Spain, Van now pulling like a steam engine with the new clutch installed .


Arrived at camping Solmar Blanes Costa Brava mid afternoon 15 euros per night large swimming pool 2 bars 2  restaurants tennis courts basketball football excellent toilet blocks large supermarket we have stopped here several times in the past. See website below for full description.



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                                                                                                                all settled in for an extended stay

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nice pool English TV on the satellite, cheap Spanish booze and sunshine




     Write and post your blog in the sunshine



Blanes is where it all begins. The Costa Brava starts at Sa Palomera, a rocky promentory halfway long the beach and continues north all the way the France. Once used for shelter by the town’s fishing fleet, the promontory has the remains of an old fire-tower – a primitive lighthouse – at its summit and is still lit up by fire each year during the Costa Brava’s international fireworks contest in July.Climb on to Sa Palomera, passing the fishing boats which are washed up on the shingle beach, for some of the best views of Blanes.South of here the beach stretches on, as far as the eye can see, passing hotels, campsites and the mouth of the river Tordera at the start of the Costa Marema.To the north, a wide promenade with gardens, play areas and restaurant tables on the street leads around to the town’s attractive, and still busy, fishing harbour.Blanes is still a working fishing port, where the arrival of the fleet each evening is followed by an animated auction in the fish market – you can witch it all happening from the upstairs bar. Fishermen mend their nets, old men sit on the sea walls and the sailors’ chapel of Nostra Senyora de L’Esperança is adorned with nautical themes. Blanes may be one of the Costa Brava’s largest resorts, but with a population of more than 20,000 it has managed to absorb the tourists without losing its soul.The Old town, just behind the seafront, has survived almost unscathed, with Gothic chuches, medieval houses, fountains, shrines and a lively daily produce market.Out of season this is a real Catalan town, best experiences during the sunset promenade when everyone from grandmothers to tiny children put on their best clothes and stroll to the sea.


Rosie and Jim’s big  European adventure



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