The new semester is underway at Stirling and, amid the frost and snow, this seemed like a good time to post an account of much sunnier climes in the shape of a road trip undertaken by two of our former students, Finn and Antonella, who graduated last summer. Plenty of blue skies and sandy beaches to dream about, and some handy tips for anyone thinking about an inexpensive way to travel around France! Thanks to Antonella and Finn for sending this.
La France avec trois fois rien.
Having offered blood, toil, tears and sweat, to get you through the essays and exams, don’t you think you deserve a break? Fancy a road trip around France but not sure you can afford it? Here are our top 5 “astuces” for a low cost – high satisfaction French camping adventure.
1. Have a clear idea about how long you want to spend in France. This will allow you to plan time for both travelling and sightseeing. Did you know that you can get from Dover to Calais in 90 minutes for less than £40? It’s well worth checking out ferry times and prices beforehand.
2. Decide what you want to see. Do you fancy a visit to the Dune du Pilat stretching along the picturesque Côte d’Argent or would you prefer the rugged landscape of les Calanques?
Maybe you are more of a wine connoisseur and would appreciate a bit of “dégustation” in Vouvray (near Tours).
In any case, it’s good to plan ahead. In doing so, we managed to take in a combination of cityscapes and coastlines. We enjoyed swimming in the Atlantic one day whilst meandering around the bustling streets of Bordeaux the next.
3. Don’t forget to take your accommodation with you. This is a camping trip after all!! There are over 9800 campsites to choose from. Don’t be put off by choice. Buy a decent guide. We used Le guide officiel camping caravaning by Martine Duparc.
4. Decide upon a daily budget for accommodation. Tariffs always include access to toilets and showers. You may be surprised to discover that wifi and electricity are available on most campsites. Bear in mind that the closer the campsite is to a city or seaside location, the more expensive it gets. We discovered a few lovely villages only a short bus or tram ride away from main cities, such as Tours, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon. Being far enough away from the hustle and bustle of city life, whilst close enough to an abundance of fine wines and boulangeries is the perfect recipe for a relaxing yet inspirational holiday.
5. Enter your route into http://www.viamichelin.com. This will give you a fairly accurate idea of travel costs before you go. If you choose to use French motorways, you will certainly become familiar with les péages.
Initially, these tollbooths can be quite daunting to negotiate. If in doubt, keep right! We’d also recommend paying by credit card for speed and convenience. Don’t be discouraged by the seemingly extortionate hit on your wallet (approx. 1.20€/10km). We found that the benefits far outweighed the financial costs. Not only will you save a lot of time and fuel but you will also have access to les aires de reste where toilet facilities are usually maintained to a high standard. Keep some spare change for the coffee machines! From a safety point of view, there are also emergency telephones at regular intervals on the hard shoulder, should you break down.
Bref, all you really need is a decent campsite guide, a vague idea of where you want to go, a credit card, a car and a tent. You’ll find everything else you need in Carrefour. Oh and remember…
…to download some decent French music onto your iPod (Christophe Maé, Stromae and Francis Cabrel should appeal to even the least eclectic of tastes). If you get tired of hitting that shuffle button, there’s always MFM Radio.
Antonella et Finn