The Complete Guide to Motorhome Touring in France

motorhome travel in France

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Travelling in a Motorhome & Campervan in France

Motorhome touring in the beautiful and eclectic country of France is a pleasure, you will be welcomed with open arms. From the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts to the deserted and tranquil interiors and twisting crystal clear rivers, France is the perfect place to spend a holiday in your motorhome. Read this complete guide to motorhome travels in France and go prepared!

France is a beautiful and welcoming country with incredible gastronomy and some of the top attractions in Europe. Whatever sort of motorhome or campervan holiday in France you’re planning, you’ll find our helpful tips and information about how to travel around France invaluable.

Resources for Motorhome Travel in France

Motorhome Routes to France

There are a number of ways of taking your motorhome or camper to France, which one you choose will depend on budget, where you live in the UK and your onward journey plans once you arrive on the continent.

Use Mappy (the only mapping tool where you can fully customise vehicle size and weight) or Via Michelin to work out the cost of each route.

Cross the Channel to Calais

The Dover-Calais ferry takes around one hour 30 minutes to cross, loading can be time-consuming but you’ll have time on the boat for a meal and be able to rest from driving.

The Folkestone-Calais tunnel is the quickest driving route from UK to France, as well as being the most frequent. As with the the ferries, the queue can be horrendous in peak season and at peak times. This is a good crossing if you’re travelling with pets or are happy not to leave your van. 

Try a Less Travelled Route

Check out the slightly more obscure campervan travel routes which are a little longer but often cheaper and with more special offers to tempt you away from the more well know routes. Try departing from Newhaven for example, or arriving at Dieppe or Le Havre.

Head for North-West France

There are longer crossings from Portsmouth and Poole to Caen, and Cherbourg, ideal for the Vendee and Loire Valley, or south west France, with options of overnight and fast catamaran sailings. Taking an overnight crossing on this route is ideal if you’re planning a long drive once you reach France, but they ferries are considerably more expensive and the fast crossings book up quickly.

For those in Ireland or Northern Ireland, the best routes are from Rosslare or Cork, to Roscoff or Cherbourg.

Make for Northern Spain

Heading to Bilbao or Santander in northern Spain, from Portsmouth or Plymouth, works well for the south or south west of France. You may find that the added ferry costs are covered by the savings in fuel, tolls and less driving time on your motorhome trip, making this a cost effective option.

Fly & Hire a Motorhome or Campervan

Flying and hiring a campervan or motorhome is the best way to tour France if you don’t own one. Our recommended France campervan hire company is Indie Campers and they have depots in Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Paris and Toulouse. Check out their special offers here.

When to Visit France in a Motorhome

December to February – France has a temperate climate like the UK and the winter months can be very cold, even in the south of the country, and rain is quite common at this time of year.  But, the roads and cities will be quiet and less crowded, although not all attractions will be open. You’ll probably want some from of heating if you tour France in the winter.

March to May – Spring is a wonderful time to visit France, with temperatures warming up across the country. Markets increase in size, restaurants start preparing different dishes and the countryside is glorious. You’ll still find the roads and cities less crowded, and campsites will start to open in April.

June to August – June and July are busier months, with perfect temperatures for motorhoming and outdoor activities. June is probably the best month, as schools have yet to break up across Europe and the family rush to the coasts has not yet started. Expect it to be pretty hot and sticky in the south of the country during July and August.

August itself brings the French annual holiday, when many businesses close for the duration. If you’re planning on road tripping in tourist areas, then this won’t affect you too much, but campsites will need to be booked in advance.

September to November – Autumn is a fantastic time to visit France, especially the south of France. The coast will be quieter but if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy an Indian summer amongst the grape harvest and changing colours of the countryside.

Driving a Motorhome in France

French drivers are impatient and often rude, particularly when stuck behind a motorhome! They are dreadful tailgaters and really, really dislike being overtaken. On the other hand, French roads are generally in good condition and ideal for motorhomes, camper vans and RV’s, even in mountainous areas. And no, you don’t need a right hand drive motorhome to tour France! Follow our tips and advice for driving in France.

French Speed Limits for Motorhomes

Always observe the speed limits when campervanning in Europe. There are speed cameras just as in the UK, and the French authorities are pretty vigorous in their pursuit of Brits caught speeding and the non-payment of fines. This has not changed since Brexit as the information sharing agreement with the DVLA continues.

Motorhomes < 3,500 kg

  • In urban areas: 50 km/h
  • Main roads: 80 km/h
  • Dual carriageways: 110 km/h
  • Motorways and autoroutes: 130 km/h

Motorhomes > 3,500 kg

  • In urban areas: 50 km/h
  • Main roads: 80 km/h
  • Dual carriageways: 100 km/h
  • Motorways and autoroutes: 110 km/h

Documents You Need to Travel & Drive in France

  • A passport with at least six months remaining.
  • Since Brexit, you will require a green card to prove you have motorhome insurance cover when travelling in France.
  • Your UK licence allows you to drive in all EU countries. If you only have a paper driving licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man then you will need an International Driving Permit.
  • Breakdown cover documentation (not compulsory).
  • Vehicle V5 logbook (which must show your correct address).
  • Trailer certification if you are towing.
  • Personal travel and medical insurance (we recommend True Traveller), EHIC or GHIC card (not compulsory).
  • Animal Health Certificate if you’re travelling with a pet.

Vehicle Safety Equipment in France

  • Warning triangle.
  • Reflective jacket (for the driver and all passengers).
  • Spare wheel and the tools to change a wheel, or a tyre repair kit.
  • As of January 2013 the French government announced that the introduction of an €11 fine for not carrying a breathalyser/alcohol test one had been postponed indefinitely. However, law still states that drivers must have an alcotest ready for use in their vehicle even though no penalty will be imposed if they cannot present one during a police road check.
  • First aid kit (not compulsory).
  • Spare bulbs and fuses (not compulsory).
  • Fire extinguisher (not compulsory).
  • Headlight beam converters (unless you can adjust your’s automatically).
  • A GB sticker on the the rear (even if you have an EU style number plate).
  • From 1st January 2021, all vehicles over 3,500kg are required to display infographic ‘angles morts’ or blind spot stickers. Stickers must be visible on both sides and at the back of the vehicle and must be placed between 0.90m and 1.50m above the ground. Stickers must be placed in such a way that they don’t cover the vehicle’s regulatory plates and inscriptions, any of the lights or signals, and don’t hinder the driver’s field of view.
  • You may have read that speed stickers with 80, 100 and 110 are required on the rear of campervans and motorhomes heavier than 3500 kg. Feedback from fellow motorhomers, and our own observations, suggests that few (including the French) are complying with the speed sticker requirement, and we are not aware of anyone being fined for non-compliance. If you want to attach stickers, they can be bought from most petrol stations in France.
  • Snow chains may also be needed in some areas during winter. These areas will be indicated by signs and are compulsory, so it is worth having them in your motorhome if you’re visiting during winter or planning on a spot of motorhome skiing!

Check here for more information about equipment required when driving in France.

Information About Driving a Motorhome in France

  • France drives on the right.
  • You may have heard of priorité à droite or ‘rule of the right’. This means that because the French drive on the right hand side of the road, at a junction or roundabout the vehicle that is approaching from the right has priority over the one approaching from the left, unless other signage is in place. In practice this means that priorité a droite mainly applies in rural areas as cities and major roads tend to have their own signage and road markings.
  • French law prohibits drivers from using devices capable of detecting speed cameras and warning drivers of their location. In France, you could have to pay a massive fine of €1,500 if caught.
  • Camper vans and cars with caravans are not allowed to exceed 12 metres in length, and 2.55 metres in width. There are no height restrictions.
  • The UK Department for Transport advises that A-frames are not legal for use by UK motorhomes abroad. In practice, this could mean towing your car while it’s fixed to a trailer.
  • France has very strict drink driving laws compare to UK. The UK maximum is 0.8 mg/ml and the French maximum is 0.5 mg/ml of alcohol per litre in your blood . If you are tested and found to be over the  limit, you may face up to €4,500 fine and have to appear in court.  
  • On motorways, French drivers will sit on your outside bumper, almost as if they are intending to nudge between you and the central reservation. Do not be intimidated by this, change lanes only when it’s safe to do so. Make sure you leave a large gap between yourself and the driver in front so that if you do have to stop quickly, you cannot be considered at fault.
  • If you have an accident you’ll need to complete the EU Accident Statement, which you can find here to download if your insurer hasn’t provided one. Stop safely and use your hazard lights and warning triangle to alert other drivers. Exchange details ( a translate app comes in handy here) and take lots of photos to add to your form when you submit it to the insurers. If the other party won’t give details or there has been an injury, you should call the police on 112.

Motorway Breakdowns in France

French motorways are privately managed and you’re not allowed to request your own assistance company to attend to you if you break down.

If you do break down, you should use the orange emergency telephones that are situated every 2km along French motorways to call the police or the official breakdown service operating in that area. Alternatively, if no orange telephone is available, you should call the emergency services by dialling 112.

You will be towed to a safe designated area where you can make onward arrangements for your own breakdown insurer to assist you, if you have it. Otherwise the towing company will be able to provide support or signpost you.

Charges for assistance on a motorway are fixed by the government and are reviewed and revised each year. Many of the government-appointed towing services allow large insurers to pay them directly, but this is at their discretion and will depend on who your breakdown cover is with. If this is not the case, you should pay directly and then seek recompense from your insurer.

Toll Roads in France

Touring France can be hideously expensive if you only use toll roads, but they do allow you to travel through the country to your destination quickly. Try using this European route planner with tolls to get an idea of toll costs for your route.

The technical measurement that French toll roads use to determine whether your motorhome is Category 2 or 3 is height, anything over 3m is a Cat 3.  Often the system will class your motorhome or RV as Cat 3. If you press the telecoms button at the booth and simply say “je suis un camping-car” (I am a camping-car), the operator will change your category to 2, which will be significantly cheaper. 

You may want to consider carrying an electronic toll tag, like EMovis (which also covers you in Spain and Portugal) that deducts the fees from a credit card automatically, meaning you don’t have to stop at a booth or barrier.

Why not try setting your motorhome sat nav to avoid motorways and get off the beaten track across France? We’ve found some of our favourite places doing just that but be cautious when visiting small villages, most are not designed for large motorhomes, even though your sat nav might find a route.

Crit’Air Vignettes

France has introduced ‘clean air’ windscreen stickers as a legal requirement in some of its cities, to identify a vehicle’s emissions levels and to restrict access in order to improve air quality.  This six-category sticker system is designed to identify what emissions vehicles produce, and are categorised based on your vehicles Euro emissions standard. These are known as Crit’Air Vignettes and you may need one for your motorhome, depending on where you are visiting. Find out more here.

Motorhome Parking in France

In France, the parking rules for campervans and motorhomes are the same as for cars, except when police have set restrictions. According to French traffic law, you may park your campervan or motorhome at the side of a road. 

Wherever you park, you are always allowed to eat in your motorhome. Picnicking at the side of a public road, even in a car park, is not permitted though – this could even get you into trouble with the police! 

Motorhome Services in France

Motorhoming in France is so easy as the French have really embraced motorhome culture and provide great motorhome services in all cities and larger towns and most small towns and villages. There are literally thousands of service points across the country, some are stand-alone, others within an aire, and more still at supermarkets and garages. Look for the motorhome dump station signage and use an app like Park4Night to find motorhome service points.

Often the services are free, but where you find Flot Blue style services (where fresh water, black waste, and sometimes electricity are contained in a large plastic box), you will have to pay a charge or use a jeton (token) which you can buy at the site, some shops, local sports halls and the town hall (it will tell you where at the services). Its usually worth getting a few extra jeton so you have a supply, but different services take different ones, just to make life more complicated!  Many more now take a credit card and Euro coins, making life an awful lot easier.  

Motorhome Stopovers in France

Motorhome Aires in France

Motorhome camping-car aires in France are official or designated places for motorhomes or camping-cars (what motorhomes are called in France) to park overnight, sometimes for free but usually for a small fee. The aire is usually a car park or large space where a number of motorhome can park, often hard-standing or gravel and sometimes a grassy field. 

Every French aire we have ever stayed at has also provided water and waste services as well. Arrangements in each aire differ; some have proper services of the Flot Blue type, others are more rural and basic. It’s good practice, when sharing these types of facilities, to use an anti-bacterial wipe to clean the end of the fresh water hoses and handles, as they can inadvertently be contaminated with waste then all the services are used in close proximity.

Some aires also have electricity, but often there are not enough sockets for each van, so a splitter like the one on our essentials list is a good idea if you don’t have a solar panel, or your leisure batteries are not fully charged.

You cannot book motorhome camping aires in France. It is advisable in the holidays and in popular places to try and get there early in the morning or just after lunch-time. If you arrive at 6pm expecting a place, then you will probably be disappointed. Always have a second choice in reserve and use All the Aires FrancePark4Night and other free motorhome apps to help you find alternative places to stay in your motorhome.

Aires in French towns and villages are super safe, often with several other motorhomes and camper vans around. Avoid motorway aires for anything more than a quick stop to make a cuppa or use the loo. They are notorious for theft, particularly from motorhomes and you don’t want to be broken into when you’re sleeping. Gassing is a myth, about which you can read more here, however theft and break-ins are not.

We always try to have a beer or do some shopping in the smaller towns and villages where municipal aires provided, to thank the locals for having us! 

There are a growing number of commercial aires which have barriers and are more strictly controlled but are generally very well run and sometimes have additional facilities such as showers restaurants. The largest provider is called Camping-Car Park and they run over 250 commercial aires in France. 

The first time you stay in one of their aires, you’ll need to buy and load a Pass’Etapes Card (like a credit card) which you purchase from the machine at the entry barrier, (or you can order one online in advance here), which costs €5. You need to load the card, which you can do at each place you stay, online or via their app, if you know you’ll be using their facilities. The average cost of a night’s stay is €10-12.

Wild Camping

Wild camping in France for motorhomes is very possible, we use the Park4Night app to find wild camping spots across the country.  It’s a good idea to have a reserve option in case you arrive and don’t like the look of your choice. 

Motorhome wild camping is permitted in France with the permission of the landowner or tenant and subject to certain limitations. As long as you’re not on cultivated land or an area that is clearly private property, then you won’t be breaking any rules.

The main restrictions are that motorhome free camping is not permitted on the coast, in protected natural sites, and on the perimeter of classified historic monuments and these rules are generally pretty rigorously enforced in the summer. 

You might find that if you are discreet and ‘park’ instead of camp, that out of season you will be left to get on with it. Make sure you follow the rules in our general post about wild camping in Europe.

The French highway code states that motorhomes may park beside roads and in designated parking places in the same way as other vehicles. Outside of cities and built-up areas, it is legal to park up a motorhome at the side of a quiet road, such as in an unofficial lay-by that offers a quiet place to stop for the night.

We would highly recommend additional or enhanced security for your van if you’re planning on wild camping in France. You can find out more here.

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France Passion

A great alternative to wild camping, France Passion is a popular scheme where you can stay on farms, orchards, vineyards etc in your motorhome, campervan or RV with no charge.

There are often no services and sometimes people feel obliged to buy produce, although this is not something we have experienced.

We usually do get a few bottle of wine as it is more cost effective than buying in supermarkets and we enjoy the tastings and gaining knowledge from the growers. 

On a motorhome road trip in France, France Passion provides the perfect balance of free overnight stops along with interest in some great off the beaten path French destinations.

Motorhome Campsites in France

Motorhome and campervan sites in France are ten a penny and out of season you will be able to use your ACSI card to get really good rates.

Be aware though, some larger sites have a certain number of designated ACSi pitches, which are often on the small side and don’t usually have on-pitch facilities. Once these are full, you’ll have to pay full price for a pitch.

In season, sites can be quite expensive, often €50 plus per night. 

During the French summer holidays, even the best French holidays parks and best caravan sites in France will be noisy and the swimming pool will be packed with kids enjoying time out of school.

But, there is a certain something about French campsites in summer that we love! You can find some of the best motorhome campsites France here.

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Motorhome Route Map of France

This motorhome itinerary of France is an idea of what you can cover and some of the best spots to visit in a motorhome in France. We spent ten weeks travelling from Calais to Spain, but you could do lots of this route of this in a month or so by missing the Pyrenees and heading back to the UK from Santander or Bilbao.

If you don’t have that long, check out our other guides to travelling in France, you’ll be sure to find lots of ideas and inspiration.

If you just want to get south, then the best motorhome and campervan routes in France are as follows;

Best for the South-East of France – The A26, A6 and A7 from Calais down the east of France for the Alps, Provence, Cote d’Azur. This is also a good route for much of the rest of Europe.

Best for the West and South-West France – The A28 and A10 from Calais, Cherbourg and Caen for the Loire Valley, the Cote d’Argent and the Pyrenees.

Best for the South of France – The A1, A71 and A75 around Paris and over the Massif Central to the heart of Occitanie.

Of course, the northern regions of also have much to offer and make for fantastic France campervan holidays, with a lot less driving and no ruinous toll fees.

Motorhome touring in Brittany and Normandy will reward you with historic towns, pretty fishing villages, rolling countryside and gastronomic culture.


Motorhome Map of France

Top French Destinations

Dijon

From Calais head south to the first major stop at Dijon, a small and beautifully formed, architecturally diverse city, famous for mustard (most of which is now made in Canada!). 

Follow the Owl’s Trails (details from the Office de Tourisme) which will take you past all the major landmarks and stop for a glass or red along one of the cobbled lanes, lined with medieval buildings.

Dijon is in Burgundy, one of the famous wine growing regions in France and there are a number of notable vineyards close by, some growing vines that are thousands of years old. Do a few tours and tastings if you can.

Jura (and more wine!)

Continue south into the beautiful scenery of the high Jura region and stop at one of the fantastic France Passion vineyards. We stayed on the banks of the Rhône with Famille Bernard and his family, who have been making Vins Aoc de Savoie et de Seyssel here for generations – apparently you can see Mont Blanc from here on a clear day.

Monsieur Bernard opened the cave and we had a fabulous tasting before dinner, ending with his insistence that we take the opened bottle of our favourite at no cost – that’s amazing customer service! We bought a case of wine here for around €20, an absolute bargain.

From here, setting your sat nav to avoid rolls takes you on the most amazing route south, although if you’re new to motorhome driving, or in a precious new motorhome, then proceed with caution and check the route thoroughly before you set off.

Corbonod, Rhone-Alpes
France Passion at Domaine Bernard Aime, Corbonod

Provence

Pick up the Route Napoleon from Grenoble into southern France, passing through the fortified town of Sisteron on the way. The Route Napoleon was taken by the man himself in 1815 on his return from Elba and meanders from Cannes to Grenoble, much better and more picturesque than the autoroutes, and free too!

At Digne, we stopped in an aire and swam in the fabulous and free Plan d’Eau Des Ferréols, it was cold but the air temperature was around 42° so we didn’t mind!

We were heading for Aups, a small Provencal village, where we had a lovely campsite, L’Oasis du Verdon. You’ll pass through the  colourful and fragrant lavender and sunflower filled fields of the Valensole plateau to the pretty village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, before reaching the stunning Gorge du Verdon.

We spent a couple of nights in a France Passion, La Maison du Lavandin. This gorgeous and secure spot is on a lavender farm overlooking Le Lac de Sainte Croix and was a haven of peace and tranquility.

Top tip – lavender blooms from June to late July, if you want to take photos go at this time and get up early to avoid all the other people doing the same!

The Gorge du Verdon is not only picture-perfect, it is renowned for extreme sporting opportunities such as rafting, canyoning, kayaking and via ferrata. You don’t need to be an expert in any of these sports and some of them are not that extreme! Check out what’s available here and have the adventure of a lifetime!

relaxing by the motorhome in Provence, France
France Passion at La Maison du Lavandin

Cote d’Azur (and a spot of kayaking)

Onward from Aups, continue south to Frejus and the Cote d’Azur.  This is an incredibly busy part of France, especially during the summer months, aires are packed nose to tail with barely enough room to open your door, and come with premium prices. If you opt for a campsite, expect to pay upwards of €70 a night for a pitch with electric.

If you want to stay somewhere on the south coast of France, then Cassis and Frejus make good spots, with everything in between to be explored, including the vibrant and lively city of Aix-en-Provence and the flashy St Tropez.

We were eager to get our kayak out onto a river, so we made for the Cèze, which runs through Gourdargues in the Gard. A pretty little town, we spent an idyllic day kayaking the river from the Les Plus Beaux Village of La Roque-sur-Cèze, an historic and beautiful spot.

Cevennes

Tracking west towards Millau, you’ll pass through the Cevennes,a gloriously unpopulated and beautiful part of France with a rich agricultural history.

There is a fantastic steam train from St Jean-du-Gard to Anduze which runs several times a day from St-Jean-du-Gard to Anduse, stopping at the amazing La Bambouseraie d’Anduze. Click on the links for more information, and take our word for it; if you are in the area and have even the remotest interest in gardens,  trains or amazing views, then do it! Read about our amazing trip on the steam train and to La Bambouseraie here.

We had located an aire in the town of St Jean-du-Gard and spent a few quiet nights there. You’ll also find a really good museum in town about the history of the region and how it’s coming back to life again.

From here continue to Millau for the beautiful river Dorbie and lots of opportunities for hiking, wild swimming, kayaking and paragliding.

Herault

You’ll love Hérault for its’ small villages, wild swimming and great hiking in the Haut Longuedoc. Visit Pezenas, where there is a wine festival every Friday evening in July and August and a fantastic farmers market on Saturdays. 

Bezier is also worth a day stop, for Les Neuf Écluses, the famous staircase of nine locks on the Canal du Midi. If you have bikes, you can cycle from the great France Passion site here at Domaine Mi-Côte, literally over the road from the locks.

Head inland from here to the Pont du Diable, the point where the crystal clear Hérault river comes rushing out of its narrow gorge into a small lake, ideal for swimming, stand up paddle and throwing yourself off large rocks into the water… yes, we did!

The Gorge d’Heric is next up, for some hiking and more wild swimming in the clear turquoise waters of the gorge itself. Park in the car park of the Gorge d’Heric for three nights for €6. Trust me, this is not your usual car park, we felt like we were wild camping, even in August.

Carcassonne

You will either fall in love with Carcassonne, or hate it – or maybe, like us, it will be a bit of both! The renovated castle of La Cite is vast and pretty spectacular, towering above the Aude and ‘new’ Carcassonne. Inside, the citadel is ultra ‘touristic’ and a beer will cost you your pension, we much preferred the exterior and loved cycling around the whole citadel.

We loved the new city, the weekly Saturday farmers market in Place Carnot and the great running and walking routes along the Aude and through the local vineyards.

There is a great aire here, within a 20 minute walk to the citadel. It get’s full really quickly, but they owners also operate a campsite next door, although it costs double.

Carcassonne, Aude

Aude

From Carcassonne, we headed for the foothills of the Pyrenees, to kayak the Aude. We stayed at a fantastic free aire on the banks of the rushing river in Espéraza, a pretty town known for its hat making.

We kayaked downstream from Quillan, a challenging and adrenalin fuelled trip, marred by the number of dams along the river, which are having a catastrophic effect on the ecological continuity of the Aude, indeed on all dammed rivers in France. Not to mention the effect it had on me portaging the kayak around them! If you visit in spring or early summer, you’ll find lots of white water companies offering rafting or hot dogging from Quillan.

From here, take a slow drive east along some hairy roads with lots of hairpins and no barriers, to Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, home to the chateau of the same name and a hop and spit from an amazing wild swimming spot, Gorge du Verdouble.

This was a stand-out place for us, just what we wanted when we set of on our motorhome tour of France. We stayed in a great wild camping spot just outside the village and soaked up the French atmosphere and sunshine!

The chateau is a triumph of man over nature, people always seem to build these things in the places which present the most challenge, but obviously provide the best defence. The walk up the Route of the Cathars from the village is stunning (you can drive right to the chateau if you prefer), the aire in the village is free with water (and church bells!) provided; this spot is well worth a visit.

The Dordogne

We had to be in Bordeaux by a specific date so decided it would be romantic to follow the Dordogne from Sarlat, all the way to Bordeaux. On route to Bordeaux we stopped at the beautiful city of Toulouse, where we only spent a night, but could have spent a week.

Sadly the drive east along the mighty Dordogne was not romantic. After the valley of the five chateaux, which are all clustered together around the Castelnaud area, it becomes quite industrial and flat. We paused and stayed at the aire just west of La Roque Gageac, swam in the river and visited the superb and mesmerising Marqueyssac Gardens, who knew Box could be so beautiful?

motorhome camping by the Dordogne
Motorhome camping at the Camping-Car Park aire in La Roque-Gageac

The Atlantic Coast

From Bordeaux, we tracked south along the coast, following the mighty Atlantic, an area of France we know well from family campervan holidays in France. We stopped at the seaside town of Archachon with its beautifully preserved 19th century villa  and Dune du Pilat just down the road.

Further south, Biscarrosse Plage and St-Girons-Plage called, where we soaked up the summer sun, lay on the beach and breathed in the smell of hot pine trees. This is a wild and unspoiled coastline, with huge waves, miles and miles of pine forests, cycle tracks and lots of cool surfer dude hang-outs.

At the bottom of this 200 miles stretch of beach is the elegant and laid-back Biarritz, we stayed just along the coast in Bidart at Camping Le Pavillon Royal for a week before heading into the Pyrenees proper.

Hautes-Pyrenees

We spent the final three weeks of our French road trip hiking in the simply breathtaking Hautes-Pyrenees. The weather in September was glorious, blue skies and wall to wall sunshine, perfect for long hikes. We enjoyed some amazing wild camping spots, one of our most memorable was at a cross-roads (I say road, but a track really) at the foot of Mont Ne; we spent the night alone with zero light pollution and were woken by cow-bells in the morning.

If you’re heading south, cross into Spain in your motorhome via Bagneres-de-Luchon, a charming spa town very close to the France-Spain border.

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In the height of summer, when its 30° plus, all you want to do is find some cold water to immerse yourself in. If the cold water is also crystal clear and bubbling along through rock pools and waterfalls, then that’s even better. Top it off with a spectacular location and you’ve hit the wild swimming jackpot! We think these are the best wild swimming spots in France…enjoy!
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A Seven Day Pyrenees Hiking Tour

A Seven Day Pyrenees Hiking Tour

If you love taking your holidays in mountains and walking, then head to the Pyrenees for some amazing hiking routes! The combination of clean air, spectacular views and well maintained trails make hiking the Pyrenees an absolute pleasure. We think these are amongst the best hikes in the Pyrenees.
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Cevennes France

The Steam Train of the Cevennes & La Bambouseraie

Deep in the beautiful and wild Cevennes area of France is the small town of Saint-Jean-du-Gard. Several times a day, the steam train of the Cevenne chugs it’s way across the spectacular valleys of the Gardon, over viaducts and through tunnels, to and from the town of Anduze, only stopping at La Bambouseraie on the way.
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French Life

Culture

Life in France is always lived to its’ fullest. French people generally live simply but enjoy good quality and high standards; they will always choose better foods but have less of them, for example. This principle is applied to much of French life. Understanding the French culture is one of the most important things to know about France.

  • French people do not say “scare bleu”, “zut alors” or “mon dieu”; although real words they are very outdated expressions used exclusively by the Daily Mail whenever they want to highlight a juicy French story.
  • French people are incredibly proud of their country and way of life; any criticism of France, or unfavourable comparison to other countries, is considered rude.  We can perceive this pride as arrogance but it is really just part of who they are and their culture.
  • France is an incredibly cultured environment, with public spaces and building seeming very grand and sometimes regal. As you Tour France in your motorhome, you will see the motto “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” on public buildings. Egalite (equality) is considered more important than the latter two and this influences the French way of  life.
  • French people embody romance and passion; extra-marital affairs are normal and it is the only country in the world where a crime of passion is a defence!
  • Everyone in France takes the time to say bonjour (hello) and au revoir (goodbye). To not make time to do so is considered incredibly discourteous. 
  • In villages and small towns, it is likely that shops will close from 12 noon until 2pm for lunch.  Shops will not be open on Sundays unless you are in a large town or at an out-of-town hypermarket.
  • Museums, even in Paris, are often closed on Tuesdays …who knew?
  • Beware of le pont (the bridge); this is a custom where when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday (they are taken whichever day of the week they fall on, unlike the UK where it’s always a Monday), then businesses and shops stay closed for the Monday or Friday. For a list of public holidays in France, click here.
  • As tempting as it may be, farmer’s markets are a very expensive way to buy fruit and veg. Buying locally will help sustain the local farmers, but you will get a much better price at a roadside stall (or even Lidl, which buys locally and provides motorhome parking bays) of which there are many.
motorhome wild camping in France mountains with orange sunset
Wild camping at Mont Ne in the Pyrenees

Food & Eating Out in France

Food and drink is a HUGE part of French life, I could write a separate post about it! Eating together in France, as family or friends is sacrosanct; eating is seen as intensely pleasurable …why spoil that by rushing or eating on the go?

  • Meal times in France are lengthly occasions, with chatter debate and laughter. Often there are three courses involved and the table will be fully set; this slows down the meal, allows diners to relax and digest their food more comfortably.
  • The word for breakfast is le petit déjeuner (the little lunch). In France, you dunk your croissant into a milky drink of coffee or hot chocolate – the croissant is not buttered as it is made from butter!  
  • Breakfast or early morning is the only time to drink milky coffee. Coffee is served black and in small cups during the rest of the day, unless you ask otherwise.
  • Le dejeuner (lunch) is generally served from noon to 1.30pm. You will struggle to find restaurants open much after that unless you are in a city or tourist area. Lunch is a more important meal than dinner.
  • Le diner (dinner) service does not usually start in restaurants until 8pm.
  • You will eat a lot of bread in France; all towns and villages have a boulangerie (bakery), often baking up to three times a day. A baguette may only have four ingredients by law; wheat flour, water, yeast, and common salt.  As there are no preservatives, the bread goes stale very quickly, hence the frequent baking. There is nothing quite like the taste of a warm baguette slathered in beurre doux (unsalted butter) and local jam, fresh from the boulangerie and eaten in your motorhome, with the door open to enjoy the view of wherever you are.
  • Bread will be offered at meal-times, it is not usual to butter it but to use it to mop up sauce and juices. The only time to butter bread is at breakfast.
  • Some restaurants will include a service charge in the bill. If not, you may want to leave a tip although it is not necessary. Locals generally tip only the change from a euro, if there is any!
  • Although you may find it upsetting, la viande de cheval (horse meat) is common on French menus.
  • If you want to try les escargots (snails) they taste much better with a garlic and parsley sauce. Les cuisses de grenouille (frogs legs) are usually imported and no longer authentic.

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motorhome travel in France
France by campervan

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