Picardy and Normandy May 2014

Discussion in 'France' started by Beefy, May 26, 2014.

  1. The wife and I have just returned from our first ever road-trip / camping adventure in our new van and so thought we’d briefly share some of our experiences in Freya (AKA Bob) the Super Viking and on the sites we stayed on. Foolishly or bravely we decided our first trip would be abroad (having not driven abroad either) and so took the van across the channel to Northern France and made our way down to Bayeux.

    In pouring rain we headed for the Eurotunnel via Just Kampers to pick up a few essentials for the trip. Little did we know that I would be back there in a few hours. After leaving Odiham, we headed up the M3 en route to Folkstone and stopped at Fleet Services. It was here we noticed some oil trickling from the parking space we were in. Was it ours? It had just stopped pouring down; maybe it was someone else’s, being washed away by the rain (I thought, optimistically). The only way to find out was to move spaces and park up elsewhere. Yep, it was ours. As someone with zero mechanical knowledge, a call to the AA was made, who I have to say, arrived pretty promptly. No obvious leak as such found, but the capped funnel through which oil is poured had / was worn away and the metal clip surrounding it was unable to keep it in place. This was thought to be the most likely source of our loss. Once we’d managed to convince the services that I’d ‘broken down’ and that was why I’d be outstaying my 2hr parking limit, I was off, back to Just Kampers in an AA van to pick up a new oil filter neck, relieved on one hand that we had identified a problem at a service station and that were so close to somewhere that could help us out, but developing an increased sense of trepidation that our trip may have a few more moments like this…thankfully, throughout the whole trip we had no further mechanical problems and she ran wonderfully and trouble free.

    Fleet services.JPG

    We stayed in Folkestone for one night, our first sleeping in the van and the first of many different combinations of cushions used to make up the bed (is there a proper way that these are meant to go in a super Viking??) We also figured out the zig unit and hook up, so now we had electricity and a fridge. Marvellous!

    Next stop, Eurotunnel. We passed through security, having our gas container checked, that we’d already disconnected and queued to board. We were just waved forward to head off on to the train, but no sooner were we 5 yards past the barrier, than we were asked to pull over and hold off boarding. Others went on whilst we sat there until given permission. No idea why we were stopped after passing through security etc. and then we were given the all clear to board. I’d never been on the Eurotunnel before, but it was quick and smooth. I was slightly worried, though, after already having to call the AA, that the van wouldn’t start when reaching France and I’d have lots of irate drivers behind me unable to get off the train, but no problems! A quick stop at the services on the other side to make sure the bike rack was secure and to put the headlight converters on and we were away!

    In total we spent 2 weeks driving and camping around Picardy and Normandy and had a great time. There's so much to see and do there and we only scratched the surface. We booked all but one of the campsites before we went, basically using the Michelin guide, but as we were going in low season it was pretty obvious as our trip got underway, that we could have probably just turned up and chanced our arm to get a pitch. The motorways were wonderfully smooth, roadwork free and empty compared with the UK, however the tolls do add up (think we spent approx. 40 euros in total and it’s handy to have coins and card to hand) with regular service stations and rest areas. We loved our first ever trip in a campervan, and we quickly learnt a lot about what to take, what is essential and what is unnecessary etc. and how to manage in a small living space in wind, rain and sun!

    A quick run-down of the sites we stayed at.

    Site 1. Kawan Village, Le Val d’Authie.

    Very well-kept, practical, clean and friendly. Had a nice quiet pitch at the back of the site and the ability to order fresh pastry for each morning was a bonus! It also has an outdoor and heated undercover pool. We had a lovely pizza in the site restaurant and bar. The main town, Rue, is approx 6k away with high street, supermarket, petrol etc. We tried to cycle there one day but were thwarted by the weather and forced to turn back. If the weather was better we may have ventured further afield and explored the surrounding areas by bike or van but it was pretty dismal whilst we were there with strong winds and / or rain. We managed to get the roof up once, which gives so much more space, but the next morning, after rain all night, we noticed a small drip coming from the metal frame that runs the length of the van above the overhanging bed…not sure if this was the sign of a leak (no obvious holes for the water to come through from) or condensation.


    Site 2. Camping du Brevedent

    Camping in the grounds of a chateau, next to a lake in the grounds. Again, very clean, friendly with a bit more character given it’s in the grounds of the chateau. There’s a bar in one of the rooms in the chateau which was very pleasant and friendly. It also has a small shop on site. Given the amount of rain before we arrived the ground was pretty soft and we witnessed a couple of larger motorhomes being towed off pitches by the site tractor. This is why I parked pretty close to the roadway! Pitches are slightly smaller and I can imagine this gets very busy in the summer, and you’ll get to know your neighbours pretty well! Cycled to the local town, Blangy about 3k away on two separate days but pretty much everything was closed on both days! Still, on one of the days we managed to get a drink in the local bar / café and to purchase some goodies for after our bbq as the weather was gradually improving by now.

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    Site 3. Camping Martragny

    Again, a campsite in the grounds of a chateau and probably my favourite out of the ones we stayed in (helped by the glorious weather we had during our 5 days here meaning we could have the roof and awning up full time!) Very peaceful, clean and spacious. A lovely little shop on site, although it’s stock was a bit hit and miss! It also had a fish pond and swimming pool (outdoors.)

    We used this as our base to visit Omaha beach, the American cemetery and Bayeux and its famous tapestry. Not specifically being a fan of embroidery, I thought this was amazing, but have to say it looked very good for something over 1000 years old. Almost too good! Now, I do like a conspiracy theory, and I did honestly wonder a) is it really as old as stated or b) are we paying to see an alternative whilst the real one (if it does indeed exist) is hidden away?? The audio guide skips over a few interesting bits of info we picked up from the books in the gift shop. ..

    upload_2014-5-26_21-45-53.png upload_2014-5-26_21-46-8.png upload_2014-5-26_21-46-17.png

    Site 4. Camping des 2 Rivieres

    Working our way back up to Calais, we stayed here for 2 nights. This is a municipal site that was sited around a lake and 2 rivers, just outside of Dieppe. Again, clean and friendly with various sized pitches many by the side of the lake. There was also a small shop also on site. This site had the advantage of being next to a 45km long cycle path the ‘avenue verte’ that runs from Arques-la-Bataille outside of Dieppe, all the way to Forges-Les-Eaux and follows an old railway. Apparently, one day it will offer a cycle route between London and Paris.

    upload_2014-5-26_21-46-38.png upload_2014-5-26_21-46-55.png

    Site 5. Caravanning du Chateau D’Hardelot, Condette

    Our final site, where we stayed just one night, prior heading off to the Eurotunnel the next morning. Yet again, clean with pitches well demarcated by large hedges. We only stayed one night so difficult to offer a real opinion. We headed into the small town on Condette for our evening meal and tried to find the supposedly close-by chateau highlighted on the map given to us by the site owner. Amazingly, this proved impossible and we were unable to find it! By this time in our trip the rain had returned and again our exploring was curtailed. This also stopped our usage of the cycle paths that also apparently exist.
  2. Sounds like a great trip. I did similar last year and stayed at the 2 Rivers campsite for a couple of nights. It was a relaxing break from all the touring the beaches etc, all the better as I went fishing and caught a 21 lb carp. I would defo go back to this site.
  3. Moving to Matragny tomorrow for our final 3 nights, glad you liked it!

  4. Hope you have a good time there.

    It's a lovely location and great for getting to Bayeux. We were tucked away at the back of the chateau...very peaceful!
  5. Ooh that sounds lovely. I want to drive around France and stop at lots of lovely vineyards and cider farms.

    I have a super viking by the way and no, I have no idea what the layout of the cushions is meant to be either!

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