A man and his child in a puddle overlooking a chateau on their journey through France

A Journey Through France: Our Simple Route In 6 Stops

This trip, we plan to get to Morocco as fast as possible without rushing. We then plan on staying in Morocco for 3 months until our “Schengen Time” resets. We’ll then spend 3 months travelling slowly back to Blighty.

We caught the 8.30 am Portsmouth to Caen ferry when leaving the UK in mid-February. The sailing was 6 hours, and only the first couple were rough and had us green around the gills. We ate snacks for the rest of the journey, napped and let Moo rampage around the little cabin.

A baby in a nappy standing in the window of a ferry on the sea
Portsmouth to Caen ferry

Our Journey Through France

We spent a week and a half on a journey through France on our way to Spain.

Here’s what we got up to.

Caen To Saint Rémy Sur Orne

We parked up, made dinner and put Moo to bed. We got up and left early the following day. I couldn’t tell you anything about Saint Rémy, other than there’s an Aire (a place where travellers can stay for free, usually for 72 hours).

Saint Rémy Sur Orne To Montsûrs 

The Aire where we stayed was next to mini golf and a public sports centre.

Aire in Montsûrs 

Moo had fun bombing around on her bike. She even pulled some tricks in the skate park.

We did some laundry in an old-fashioned laundrette.

Montsûrs To Montreuil Bellay

This was the first pretty French town we stayed in. The first time we saw the chateau, a rainbow was above it.

After a prerequisite stop at the boulangerie (bakery), we wandered the quiet, old streets, admiring the pretty French buildings.

On our way back to the van, we found an old corridor lined with pillars and two twisting yew trees. It was peaceful until Moo started running around and jumping out between the pillars.

Montreuil Bellay To Verteuil Sur Charante

Verteuil Sur Charante was super pretty. It was also the first warm spell we had. We managed to have a sunny picnic. Moo enjoyed biking around in the sunshine.

Aire in Verteuil Sur Charante

We visited the very dated boulangerie.

There was a beautiful chateau on the river.

We found an old cemetery with mega-old graves at the top of a hill.

There was a playpark next to the van, which was flooded. This didn’t stop Jolly and Moo, though.

Verteuil Sur Charante To Cestas

Our next stop was a glamorous service station where we could get a free shower and wash Moo’s nappies.

There was a play park where Moo learned to swing. She’s now swinging off everything she can, shouting, “Wiiiing!”

We met Jayne. She told us that break-ins and vandalism were regular occurrences at service station car parks. But we survived the night without being robbed.

We couldn’t find the laundry, but enjoyed a shower.

Cestas To Ahetze

We found a really nice place to do laundry. We also visited a pet shop to buy sawdust for our compost loo.

The police pulled us over. They were stern and asked a million questions, but they didn’t inspect the van and soon let us go. (I think Moo’s cuteness helped us out.)

The Aire was a flat car park where Moo could zoom around on her bike. Our neighbours were two stoner lads in a stinky weed van. We hope they never get pulled over by the police.

Aire in Ahetze

Van-Based Activities

Some days were for travelling, others for exploring; here’s what we’ve been up to in between.

Moo has been enjoying the rain and playing in puddles.

Jolly has been doing some work (sometimes assisted by Moo and her stickers).

Moo and I have had some afternoon naps.

Moo’s spent lots of time in her swing…

…developing her artistic skills…

…and practising yoga.

I’ve been trying to create a varied menu with only rice/pasta/cous cous, vegetables and beans/lentils on the ingredient list.

Where We Stayed

We stayed in Aires the whole time. Once we settle into the travelling groove again, we’ll camp in more wild spots.

  • Saint Rémy Sur Orne – Water fill station that you could pay for with credit/debit card. No other facilities.

Find on Park 4 Night

  • Montsûrs —There are no facilities other than “futuristic” bins. (That didn’t work—they need a QR code and payment via card. It took a payment but then wouldn’t open.)

Find on Park 4 Night

  • Montreuil Bellay—A clean public toilet is a short walk up the road. There is a water fill-up point, but you need to buy tokens (€1.40) from one of the shops in town.

Find on Park 4 Night

  • Verteuil Sur Charante – Flooded when we were there. Free water and disposal.

Find on Park 4 Night

  • Cestas—There are free showers (on an 18-minute timer), free water and a small playpark. Apparently, there’s a laundry near the lorry park, but we couldn’t find it.

Find on Park 4 Night

  • Ahetze – Flat and large, although there weren’t many spaces where you could fit a long van like Vandertramp.

Find on Park 4 Night

Thoughts On France

We travelled through France quickly and didn’t see much. We’d like to come back and explore more at some point,

Things we liked about France:

  • The boulangeries! Every town had one, and the bread was delicious. Moo is now a baguette fiend.
  • The quaint and pretty towns.
  • The Aires – lots of free stopovers without having to “hide” the fact you’re camping.

Things we didn’t like so much:

  • The cost of fuel. Diesel was like €1.80 a litre, and we had to refuel every time we drove for a couple of hours.
  • The cost of everything other than bread. Fresh bread is cheap. Nothing else is. A boring shop (with no snacks or nutin!) was over €100.
  • Although many Aires have water, you need to buy tokens in the towns. This is ok, but if you need water late or on a Sunday, then there’s nowhere to get tokens,

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