Getting used to our New Motorhome
This story happened on: 15/09/2019
After tenting for 30 years plus and caravanning for 14 years, in March of this year we switched to a Motor Home. One of the main reasons for this was that we wanted to be able to move around more rapidly and easily and be able to utilise the Aires network in Europe. Our first forays were more like our caravanning days, mainly as the sites had been booked thinking we would still have one and commitments made it necessary to take a car. However, come September we set sail for Cherbourg with the full intention of utilising its capabilities to the full.
Our ferry out wasn't until the evening, so I phoned the National Trust at Hinton Ampner and asked if it would be OK to call in for lunch. No problem they said, if you don't think it will fit through the main arched gate (I didn't) park it in front of the house (I did) and couldn't resist a photo.
The crossing was smooth and we were off at 7:00am and heading south. Almost immediately there was another difference to the caravan. I was happy to divert off the main road, into a French village with narrow streets, to find a bread shop to buy breakfast. As the weather wasn't that warm we had decided to head south fast and our first night halt, after filling the fridge and fuel tank at a convienient supermarket, was an Aire just north of Poitiers. This was our first ever stop on an Aire and we were presently surprised. We had opted for one run by camping-car park, where you purchase and charge a smart card which gains you entry and pays for your stay. This one even had 6 amp electric for the majority of spaces and Wi Fi.
The next day we continued south to the Atlantic Coast 50km north of Biarritz where we spent another couple of nights on Aires close to the coast. One sans electric, our first time off grid as well. Everything worked as it should and the solar panels rapidly topped up the battery as soon as the sun came up. I don't think I would enjoy these Aires if they were full, as they would be in August. However, in early September at only a third to a half capacity they provided easy access to the beach and its Atlantic waves.
Following our flirtation with Aires we moved onto a proper site at Lourdes. This was our second visit here the first with our young sons some 30 years before. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, both revisiting the sanctuary and a first time visit ascending the funicular, which provide amazing veiws of both Lourdes and the Pyrenees.
Next stop the old city of Carcassonne, where we stoped within walking distance on a campsite and had a lovely sunny afternoon wandering through the walled city. Although we rather wished we had opted for the adjacent hardstanding Aire, when the hard packed mud of the campsite pitches rapidly deteriorated overnight in some long overdue rain. Chickening out due to state of the pitch, we moved on to an Aire in a car park outside the walls of Aigues Mortes. This was great, as you literally fell out of bed and were where you wanted to visit, although the fact it was also used by cars made it difficult getting out, as they tended to park rather close.
Having extricated ourselves we went onto another Aire at the very end of the Rhone. This one had a capacity of 100 and there were four of us overnighting. Ironically we still ended up queueing to dump our waste water. Then inland for a few days in the Verdon and some pleasant walking in the tree covered hills. Before moving on to Pont du Gard, Avignon and Beaumes de Venise. Where the weather became unseasonably warm, one day reaching 35C and shade was essential. Fortunately the campsites in this area have this in abundance, unfortunately at the end of the season the trees were rather overgrown and hanging branches difficult to spot. Only one minor scratch though.
My sister and brother in law live in Orange, so whilst we were in this area besides visiting the local sights and walking the hills amongst the vines, we had several days out with them and a particularly nice meal sitting beside the water and functioning water wheel at Fontaine de Vaucluse. The trout with almonds was superb.
Our journey back was a mixture of Aires and campsites. More Aires than anticipated, as in early October many of the sites, particularly in the Ardeche and Massif Central had closed. Even some shown as open in the guide. On our journey back we stopped at Le Puy where they were still spectacularly lighting the buildings (Lumieres). Bourges where we visited the very impressive cathedral. Chateau Villandry near Tours and with its impressive gardens and finally Bayeux.
The crossing back was a little more bumpy and we left northern France and arrived back to some very wet weather. Although we did manage a few short walks while at Cirencester Park and really enjoyed our pizzas on our first night back.
In total we stopped on 18 sites in France, nine of which were Aires, three of which had no electric. I think we gave our new acquisition a fair test and thoroughly enjoyed this new, to us, style of touring. We look forward to repeating the experience in years to come. Whilst it will be difficult to replicate here we will look to spending 3 / 4 nights at a location, replenishing supplies on route and perhaps calling in at a National Trust, or other property. I know some like to use their vans like cars, however, once on site we much prefer to leave it put and utilise feet or public transport. Plus in the future bikes.