Monday, November 1st, 2021
South of France by Campervan
Driving a Campervan to the South of France
For the last 20 years or so while working as a yachting journalists we have attended and written about the Monaco Yacht Show. In more recent times, as its importance grew in the industry, we began doing the same at the Cannes Yachting Festival. For us the problem has always been one of timing. We would fly down to the south of France, attend the Cannes show, fly home and, after a week, fly back down to Nice to report on Monaco. Two years ago, at the suggestion of Tesla, we drove their Model X all electric car on a 10 day road trip to Monaco. The die was cast on that trip! We knew then that we wanted to do it again. This time instead of a Tesla we drove the south of France route in Voyager our campervan.
The route we traditionally use to drive south through France is; from Calais towards Reims then down towards Troyes, Langres and Dijon. The nasty part of this journey is generally encountered passing through Lyon but after that, we head towards Valence, Orange and Avignon. As we pass Aix en Provence, we consider the end is in sight. By then, of course, the weather is always a lot better that we left behind. The roads on this route are always fast and are seldom crowded but they are not cheap to use. On this occasion, we paid over £150 each way in tolls and the same sort of amount on diesel. Driving the 750 + mile (1200 kms) southbound journey involves 12 hours behind the wheel, and we prefer to break that up into chunks. On our most recent South of France trip we chose to use our France Passion book to selected nightly stopovers at three points roughly 400 kms apart. The first in Champagne country, the second in the home of Beaujolais and the third in the Rhone Valley.
Our first stop was in the region surrounding Reims. Just off the motorway and between Tinqueux and Pargny lies the village of Les Mesneux. There, offering views across Villedommange and the hills of Reims, is Champagne Trousset Guillemart, an almost perfect overnight spot for just one van. Karine and Jean-Philippe Trousset offer the most wonderful set up to the visitor; custom built hard standing park complete with electricity and water. What more could you want? Champagne? Oh yes there was plenty of that too and very good it was to taste. Of course, we bought some and now just weeks later we wished we had bought more. The next morning we went in search of a boulangerie and bought bread for lunch before setting off again our journey southwards towards the sun
Located in Fleurie, in the very heart of the Beaujolais crus, Domaine Matray in the village of Juliénas was our next overnight stop. The estate has been in the family for the last five generations and in 2018 the family began to convert it to organic farming. They are wonderfully accommodating hosts whose daughter speaks perfect English and she gave us the most valuable tutored tasting of the family made wines. Delighted with what was on offer, we bought several bottles. The site they freely offer for up to three campervans is clean and tidy with a good shower and toilet with the offer of fresh water if needed. A community run Aire nearby, made the dumping of our waste easy and the village of Juliénas has a great boulangerie. Fortified, educated and topped up with goodies, we hit the road again and prepared to do battle with the traffic jams of Lyon.
While it is wonderful to have so many winery’s to choose from in France Passion book, every so often it is good to find an alternative. Perhaps it was as we slowly crept through Lyon that we decided on such a change or maybe that is just a thought now in hindsight. But whatever it was, it saw us entering the village of Valréas into our Satellite Navigation System. Here we found a slower pace of life and a great food stuff. Les Escargots de l’Enclave is a snail farm and up to five campervans can stop there overnight without charge. Wonderfully farmed, preserved and sold at a little, shop on site, the snails are delicious. From our point of view, it was a great overnight location with full campervan services available. Our hostess told us all about snails and how they are farmed and of the many ways in which they are cooked and sold. And having bought some we can confirm they were delicious.
At this point in our journey, we were less than 300 kms from our destination of Cannes and, using the A7 and A8 motorways, we were able to cover that distance in less than 4 hours. It had been an easy and most enjoyable way of driving through France and we arrived at Le Ranch campsite in Cannet (just above Cannes) fully refreshed and ready to enjoy the Cote d’Azur. Business would occupy the next four days or so and it was for this reason that we chose the fully serviced campsite on which to leave our van each day. It was a great place to return home to each evening and the town of Cannes offers great shopping wonderful restaurants and a vibrant air in which to enjoy the surroundings. Once our business was done we set off into the hinterland and enjoyed rural Provence before it was time to set off northwards back to blighty. But that is another story!