France: Campervan Adventures With Baby (Pt. 1)

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There are a few things you ought to know about me when it comes to holidays…

  1. I love exploring new places. I’m not one to be found lying on a beach for hours on end. I get bored, I get hot, I don’t sunbathe…
  2. I love campervan trips . My husband and I first did this about 7 years ago and absolutely loved it! It suits our spontaneous (indecisive/less organised) characters, as you have the flexibility to book at campsites last minute (or just turn up if not in high season), change direction of travel and the duration of your stay.
  3. I absolutely adore France! Everything… It’s food, wine, language, culture and history.

So, when the time came for us to go on our first holiday as a three, it just simply had to be a camper adventure in France. Yes it would be a little different with a baby in tow, but no less beautiful or exciting. We had given ourselves 2 weeks to complete a loop. Entering through the French port town Cherbourg and leaving via the Northern Spanish town of Bilbao…

Here is what we did…

WEEK 1

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Our movements in the first week. Map drawn with http://www.myrouteonline.com

 

POOLE → CHERBOURG

 

Poole Harbour is Europe’s largest natural harbour and is stunning at sunset. It is also very convenient as it is in Dorset where I live… We took a drive to the harbour and caught the overnight ferry to Cherbourg. This left at about 9pm and docked in Cherbourg for 7am, perfect to start a rather long drive. Despite numerous scare stories, the sea was calm and the crossing was great. Baby I slept well in this pop up cot that I had purchased from Amazon.

 

CHERBOURG → POITIERS

Our ferry got in at around 7am. It was beautifully sunny and warm. We headed south as our only real plan was to spend a significant amount of this holiday around the Dordogne area. As you can see from the map above, it’s a fairly long drive to do in one trip with a baby in tow, so we knew we would need to stop somewhere to get supplies and to spend the night. We got as far as Poitiers where we managed to find a lovely little campsite and pitched here for the night.

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This picture pretty much sums up our set up. More on this in another blog post

POITIERS → TO BERGERAC

After a night we were off again. A slightly shorter journey this time… We took our time getting to our destination opting to avoid the toll roads and instead cruising through the smaller roads and rural towns. I would certainly recommend this approach if time allows. We stopped off for lunch in a lovely little Aires along the way.

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Aires are free, designated areas for drivers to stop and rest, have picnics, go to the loo (some will have toilets, but not all) etc… Some even allow you to stay over! They are well signposted along the roads and are a thing I love about France. We did notice that the smaller (often non-toll) roads on our journey to Bergerac so far had significantly fewer Aires so be aware! If you want to find out where you can find them, check out these books.

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We soon arrived in the beautiful town Bergerac. How quaint! How unapologetically French! Loved it. We stayed in this campsite, a fairly basic and typical French municipal site, but absolutely perfect in terms of location as it was right on the Dordogne river with a very short 10 minute walk across the bridge into Bergerac.

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Beautiful sunset over the Dordogne, Bergerac

OUR SLEEP SET UP…

I spent so many weeks trying to find out what other people with VW campers do and what we should do ourselves. We bought this Deryan pop up crib and thought we could out this up in the roof, secured by some strapping and transfer the little one up there once he was asleep.

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We trialled it on the first night, but let’s just say we weren’t too successful in this endeavour… Although he was absolutely fine in this crib on both ferry journeys, I think he was far too excited to be sleeping in the van and only really settled when he was with us. In the end we did a bit of co-sleeping and this worked fine! I felt satisfied that Baby I was safe with us, and there was room enough for the three of us in the van’s double bed.

If you think you might do this, please click here for The Lullaby Trust’s advice on how to co-sleep safely.

BERGERAC → VITRAC

After two days and a night in Bergerac we wanted to experience a smaller, quieter part of the Dordogne and so headed east. The drive was absolutely stunning! I can recall how often I would comment on how ‘lush’ this part of France was as we drove through beautiful old towns and villages. We ended up in Vitrac and I can’t quite remember how we found this campsite. It was probably after looking at a map on Google earlier that morning… Oh my! It was an absolute gem!

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This part of the Dordogne area is so unbelievably beautiful, verdant, peaceful, charming, soporific, exquisite, alluring and every other superlative that comes to mind…

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It was quite ‘luxury’ when it comes to campsites, and was absolutely stunning! There were large generous pitches, a pool, shop, water and electricity at every pitch. An amazing place to camp. It’s in a very rural part of France, so don’t expect much more than beautiful walks along the Dordogne river and spending time on the little beach at the front of the campsite.

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Unfortunately, the weather refused to play ball and one night we were caught in the middle of the most dramatic thunderstorm. Baby I coped really well with this and he found the loud bangs rather entertaining (once he was in the safety of our arms that is)!

We felt as though we had almost got to relax whilst at this campsite and spent four glorious nights here. We were tempted to do more, but in the true spirit of #vanlife, we needed to move onward to the next destination (and possibly chase some sun too!). We loved this campsite and will definitely come here again.

 

DINNER TIME…

Although our camper does have a gas stove, we opted to have barbeques most mealtimes. We took this beauty along with us for the holiday and it was fab!

This worked well in the majority of cases, however it is worth noting that some campsites do not allow barbeques (or only allow them in designated areas). Also barbeques are not very practical when it is raining.

 

Eventually we packed up and continued with our journey. Stopping to soak in some of the views along the way…

We decided to head further south in the hope of catching some sunshine… Where would we be heading to next?

More on this in the next post. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our French Campervan Adventures.

Big love! Xx

 

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