As you all likely know by now, I love to travel. It is one of, is not my biggest, passion in life. I love finding a new destination and truly immersing myself into the culture. I have also always loved languages, so attempting to pick up on the language of the destination I’m in is also always a fun challenge.
This trip, we flew into Paris and spent our first few days right in the heart of this beautiful city. On our first day there, we walked to and explored the Sacre Coeur, found a quaint little restaurant for dinner, and then sipped rose on a bridge over the Seine River as the boats passed underway. The second day we walked down the Champ de Elysee and saw the Arc de Triomphe, then we indulged ourselves with our first ever Michelin Star meal at Agape. After our decadent lunch, we explored the eerily interesting catacombs. We finished our eventful day by sitting out and watching the Notre-Dame Cathedral all lit up at night.
Our final day we spent in-front of the Eiffel Tower. We packed ourselves a lovely little picnic of beget, cheese, and cured meats – oh, and we can’t forget wine. While it wasn’t the warmest of days, we bundled up and braved the cold (wine and cheese in hand) and sat out to watch the sun go down, and the Eiffel Tower light up.
Paris was magical. It was one of my absolute favourite spots we went on our trip. I loved the history, art, the romance, the cuisine, and the people. In fact, people were so incredibly friendly that even when we looked as though we were lost, they would simply walk over to us, and guide us to our destination. I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere where people stopped in their tracks, put their plans on hold, and would walk me to my next destination to ensure I didn’t get even more lost than I was.
Our trip really started though after Paris because after Paris is when we were truly “on the road”. After Paris we made our way out of the city and over to Versailles, which is where we picked up our Anywhere Campers RV.
When we were originally researching different RV rental companies, we settled on Anywhere Campers as the one we wanted to go with for a few key reasons: 1) They specialize in one-way rentals, and are completely flexible on the pick-up and drop-off points, even when they are in two different countries. 2) Their pricing is all-inclusive. Many of the other companies that we looked at had surcharges for things like one-way fees, bedding, mileage, kitchen supplies, and insurance. Anywhere Campers includes everything in their pricing. Their campers even have a BBQ and two mountain bikes included in the rear storage compartment! 3) The campers that they supply are so nice and modern! Their average vehicle age is less than 1 year old, and they are a perfect size, being large enough to comfortably live in for a few weeks, but not so large that they are a significant challenge to drive.
Once inside and unpacked, our camper felt literally huge – it immediately felt like a comfortable place to call “home” for the next few weeks. With our own kitchen, bedroom, dining area, and washroom, it felt less like camping, and more like a home on wheels.
From Versailles we drove down to Normandy. We wanted to see the historical aftermath of WWII which has been left pretty unaltered by the French (which is pretty amazing). We explored the Juno and Omaha beaches, and spent a full morning walking through Pointe du Hoc. We were incredibly to lucky to be there when we were, as the beaches as well as Pointe du Hoc were completely clear of tourists. After our morning at Pointe du Hoc, I forced Jeremy to do a little backtracking and we went to the Normandy American Cemetery. It felt important to go and see this as we don’t know the next time we’ll get the chance to be in Normandy. I have to say, the sight of all of the crosses was incredibly overwhelming, moving, and saddening.
After our two days in Normandy, we made our way to Mont St. Michel. I’ll be honest, the weather was absolutely MISERABLE when we first arrived in Mont St. Michel, and I protested going into the center that night. Instead, I wanted to go in the morning when it would be more likely to be a bit warmer. The fact is I am from Vancouver – I can handle the rain, but I hate the cold. So, we hunkered down for a relaxed night in the camper.
The next morning the weather wasn’t much better, but we bundled up (I mean: 5 sweaters, 1 coat, two pairs of pants, and two socks sort of bundled!) and braved the cold to see this amazing place. The wind outside the castle walls was nearly unbearable and I did manage to get a touch of wind burn on my face, thankfully though once we were inside the castle walls we were sheltered from much of the cold and wind. Once we were inside the walls of the city, I was so thrilled that we had layered up and forged ahead to see this spectacular site. It was truly amazing. I loved exploring the Abbaye and found the entire city to be very charming.
After spending our morning in Mont St. Michel, we got into the camper and began to head south. Our next destination: Blaye. We had no idea how much we would love this location when we first pulled over to see the citadel, and initially we thought we’d quickly just go see the citadel and then carry on. But, quickly it became clear that we would be spending the night to really explore this quaint little town. Marquis de Varban is a popular winery here and they are incredibly welcoming to campers. They provide free camping on the vineyard for 48 hours as well as free electricity and access to their washrooms. You can also fill up your water and get rid of waste all for free here.
Blaye was one of my absolute favourite places we visited on our trip. This welcoming little town was filled with hidden gems, wine tastings, and incredibly kind people who tolerated our extremely poor French!
Following Blaye, we made our way further south and began our journey towards Italy. We stopped briefly in Cannes, St. Tropez, and Nice (which were all incredibly stunning!) before crossing the border and settling down for a few days in a quaint little town called Tellaro, Italy.
The BEST Way to Travel France
So Why is Camper Vanning the BEST Way to Travel?
Here’s a few reasons:
- You’re not locked into staying anywhere.
- If you find a spot you love, you can stay – or if you arrive in a spot you dislike, you simply can drive away
- You get to really SEE the countryside and experience things that the average tourist may not.You can make your own meals, rather than always eating out (like you would if you’re staying at a hostel or hotel)
- You can literally drive up to sights
The Freedom to Come and Go
If you’re wanting to hunker down in one spot, than this may not be an issue for you. But, if you’re like us and want to travel around the country and get the freedom of the “backpacker” experience (but in a much more comfortable way) than you’re going to LOVE camper vanning.
The one issue I had when I traveled Europe before was that I always felt like I had to rush to my next destination because I was booked into staying there. The truth was, there were places I could’ve left sooner – and places I didn’t want to leave at all, but I didn’t have the choice to come and go as I pleased. Since this wasn’t an issue this time around, we were able to really soak up the places we love – and dart out of the places we didn’t.
Getting Familiar with the Countryside
One of my favourite parts of this trip was that we didn’t just stick to major cities. We got to see the countryside, and all the quaint towns in between – and it was nothing short of magical. Beautiful places (such as Blaye) may have been missed had we not planned to have more freedom to travel on this trip. Camper vanning in our Anywhere RV meant we were able to drive through places and stop where we thought was beautiful.
Forget Dining Out, Let’s Dine In
One way to effectively save money while you’re travelling is by dining in for some meals rather than always eating out. While trying restaurants and local cuisine is part of the experience of travelling, it can get costly – and if you’re away for a few weeks than dining in for a few meals isn’t such a bad idea budget-wise.
You can Literally Drive up to Sights
When we were in Normandy (and also, Mont St. Michel) it was freezing. It was windy, cold, and while we stood on the beach I could feel my face and hands go numb. But, unlike if we had bused or trained to Normandy, we were able to drive right up to the beach, park, and explore without ever being too far from “home”.