Motorhome Touring in France

Motorhome Tour of France 2018

We spent an incredible four months touring France in our motorhome.  If you enjoy mountains, unspoilt coasts and wide open spaces, then this motorhome route across France is perfect for you.  Choose bits of it, or do the whole thing; we will provide all the information you need to know  to tour France in a motorhome.

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Introduction to France

France is a gorgeous, civilised and welcoming country with an amazing array of good food and wine.  Everywhere we went in our motorhome was clean and well kept.  It is by far the most expensive country we have visited in Europe in our motorhome, which has to be factored into your plans.

France and the French have really embraced the motorhome culture and everywhere we visited we found accessible and often free aires; I am not going to list them all here but you can see the resources we use to find overnight stops here

You will also find valuable road trip tips and information for touring France in a motorhome.  The map is indicative, there are a hundred and one ways to get from one place to another, so you will need to devise your own route.  

For us, we prefer le Midi, the southern regions of France which border the Mediterranean to the east and Atlantic to the west, in what was once know as Occitania.  

Stay off the beaten track and the abundance of olive trees and lavender fields, smell of pine trees in the mid-day sun and song of the cicadas will reward you.

Our Motorhome Route in France

how to tour France in a motorhome

Getting to France in a Motorhome

There are a number of ways of crossing the channel;  quickly via the Dover-Calais ferry or Folkstone-Calais tunnel.  The tunnel is probably the quickest and most regular but as with the ferries, the queue can be horrendous in peak season and at peak times.   

There are longer (and more expensive) crossings from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth to France and Spain, which should also be considered.  You may find that the added ferry costs are covered by the savings in fuel, tolls and less driving time.

how to Tour France in a motorhome

What to See & Do in France

Dijon

From Calais we headed south to our first major stop at Dijon, a small and beautifully formed, architecturally diverse city, famous for mustard.   Make sure to visit a mustard shop and sample some of the different types.  

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 en route.   

Dijon is in Burgundy, one of the famous wine growing regions in France and there are a number of notable vineyards close by, do a tour and tasting if you can.

Jura and Wine!

We continue South into the beautiful scenery of the high Jura region and stopped at a fantastic France Passion vineyard on the banks of the Rhône, Famille Bernard. Aimé Bernard and his family have been making Vins Aoc de Savoie et de Seyssel here for generations; he opened his 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.  We bought a case of wine here for around €20, an absolute bargain.    

Top tip – setting your sat nav to avoid rolls or heading to out of the way places takes you on the most amazing routes.  If you’re unsure of drive time, use Google Maps to check for any mountain ranges or other ‘obstacles’ which will mean your journey will take longer.   

Provence

From here, we headed along the Route Napoléon towards Digne, passing through the fortifies town of Sisteron on the way.  The Route Napoléon 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 at the fantastic, free Plan d’Eau Des Ferréols, it was cold but the air temperature was around 42° so we didn’t mind!  

how to Tour France in a motorhome
Gorge du Verdon

Our aim was to get to Aups, where we had a lovely campsite, L’Oasis du Verdon, booked for a few weeks. We passed through the iconic, colourful and fragrant  lavender and sunflower filled fields of Provence to reach the stunning must see 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…absolute bliss. 

Top tip – lavender blooms from June to August, 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!

Cote d'Azur and Kayaking

Onward from Aups, our journey continued south to Frejus and the Cote d’Azur; the sea was calling and it was hot.   We quickly realised that this overly busy, completely developed and expensive part of France, which I recall as being beautiful from my childhood holidays, was not for us.  We headed inland again, towards Aix-en-Provence, a vibrant city with great night life.

Eager to get our kayak out onto a river, 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.    Excited by our first river outing, we went off to Millau where we stayed for a week and kayaked the Dourbie a few times.

Cevennes

As we tracked west towards Millau, we had located an aire in the town of St Jean-du-Gard; there are not many aires in the Cevennes, a gloriously unpopulated and beautiful part of France with a rich agricultural history. 

We read that there was a steam train from St Jean-du-Gard to Anduze which stopped at a bamboo garden.  It all sounded a bit unlikely, so we checked it out and not only was it true, it was pretty special too!  There is indeed a steam train 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 or trains, then do it!  Read about our amazing trip on the steam train and to La Bambouseraie here.

From here onward to Millau and then south to Hérault and the Haut Languedoc national park before Carcassonne, another must see on our list.

How to Tour France in a motorhome
La Bambouseraie d'Anduze, Cevennes

Hérault

We loved Hérault for its’ small villages, wild swimming and great hiking.   Visit Pezanas, where there is a wine festival every Friday evening in July and August; walk down the main street and stop for free samples of wine and cheese.   

Bezier is also worth a day stop, for Les Neuf Écluses, the famous staircase of nine locks on the Canal du Midi. 

We headed 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, SUP and throwing yourself of large rocks into the water…yes, we did!   

Onwards east on your motorhome tour of France,  to the Gorge ‘d’Heric for some hiking (see our hike along the Sentier des Gardes here) and more wild swimming in the gorge itself.  

Top tip – we parked in the car park of the Gorge for three nights for €6; trust me, this is not your usual car park, we felt like we were wild camping, even in August.

Pont du Diable, Hérault

Carcassonne

So many people had told me we would either love Carcassonne, or hate it; for us it was a bit of both.  La Cite is large and brutal, towering above the Aude and ‘new’ Carcassonne; it must have terrified those coming to make war. Inside the citadel is ultra ‘touristic’ and a beer will cost you your pension, we much preferred the exterior!  

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

Visit with an open mind;  for me it is a must see because of the atmosphere of battles fought and wrongs done in this historically divisive part of France.  

Top tip – you are in the land of cassoulet, a rich, slow-cooked casserole containing duck, sausage and white beans; it is sublime and must be tried.  In fact, there is probably a law which says you must!

La Cite, Carcassonne

Aude & More Kayaking!

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!  

We took a slow drive east along some hairy roads with lots of hairpins and no barriers, to Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, home to the chateaux 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 chateaux 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 chateaux if you prefer), the aire in the village is free with water (and church bells!) provided; this spot is well worth a visit.   

Peyrepertuse, Duilhac, Aude

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.  Not so, 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 to visit the superb and mesmerising Marqueyssac Gardens,  who knew Box could be so beautiful?

Marqueyssac Gardens, Dordogne

Atlantic Coast

From Bordeaux, we tracked south along the coast, following the mighty Atlantic, an area of France we know well from family holidays. 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 and St-Girons-Plage called, where we soaking up the last of the proper summer sun, lay on the beach and breathed in the smell of hot pine trees; this coastline is wild and unspoilt, with huge waves, miles and miles of pine forests 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 motorhome tour of France 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, one of our most memorable spots 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.  Even if you don’t like hiking, you should go to the Pyrenees for their sheer beauty alone.  

To see information about our Pyrenees hikes, click here.

View to the Gaube lake
Vallee de Gaube, Hautes-Pyrenees

How to Tour France in a Motorhome - The Details

Miles                                  1500

Driving Hours                  Approx 50, but felt like more!

Days Travelling               91

Overnight Stops             53

Campsites                        6

Tolls                                   0

Fuel Costs                        €500 (mountains affected our MPG)                                                                                      

Overnight Costs             €1000 approx, incl campsites & aires   

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