Travel

Our French Road Trip

10 days, 9 cities and a tent…

At the end of our summer in France, we knew we wanted to see more of the country. We’d had the idea of doing a road trip up the west coast and, even though it was at times insanely stressful, I am so, so glad we did. It was a really cool experience.

So I thought I’d share a few of the pics and how we did it!

Cruising down the Cote D’Azur

Day 1: Antibes to Marseille Frejus

We hired a car, loaded our lives into the boot and hit the road. Then we bought our first home together: a three-man pop-up tent. We bought this and all the other necessary camping bits at Decathlon, because we planned to camp wild as much as possible. It cost about €260 to get everything but it felt like more of an investment than spending the same amount on hotels and Air BnBs.

This included:

  • 3 man Quechua tent
  • 2 roll mats
  • 2 sleeping bags
  • Cooking utensils
  • Inflatable mattress (double) + pump
  • Light
  • Gas stove and gas
  • Head-torch
  • Camping chairs

That evening, we encountered some car troubles straight off the bat and had to stop before we reached Marseille. In fact, we only made it about 50km down the road…

The fortress at Carcassonne

Day 2: Frejus to Carcassonne

We swapped cars in Frejus and got back on the road, driving all day to make up time. Unfortunately we had to skip Marseille altogether. That night we pitched our tent in a secluded field and had fun cooking some good old tomato pasta over our little gas stove. I barely slept that night because I was terrified of a homicidal maniac stumbling across our tent and chainsawing us to death as we slept. They didn’t.

Unfortunate place name

Day 3: Carcassonne to Albi Castres

Tom went off on his first bike ride of the trip and I had a quick wander around Carcassonne. I couldn’t get that close to the castle but I had fun with my DSLR. The plan was to meet Tom 90km away in Albi. Instead, I decided to get confused by the sat nav and puncture a tyre. Absolute shitter. What followed was hands down the Most Stressful Day Of My Life. None of the garages nearby had the correct tyre for our Fiat 500, Europcar were unable to collect me or give us a new car, my boyfriend was stranded 45km away and it was all my fault. I eventually got towed to a garage and they ordered the tyres for the next day. I was just desperate for a real bed so I booked a last-minute Air BnB while Tom pedalled back to find me. There were many, many tears but then some really awesome sushi.

La Rochelle

Day 4: Castres to Somewhere near Bordeaux

We got our new tyres put on that afternoon and went on our way. Tom drove because my nerves were still frayed from the day before. Listening to the Drive soundtrack as we whizzed through stunning wine country cheered us up for a bit but it didn’t last long. We were both tired and on edge and that night we had a huge fight over where to camp – we’d left it too late and finding somewhere in the dark was just impossible. It escalated and we verbally tore a few strips off each other… We were fine by morning.

La Rochelle

Day 5: La Rochelle to Azay-le-Rideau

Sadly, we never saw much of Bordeaux because we were playing catch up after Puncture-Gate. We left our little camping spot at 6am and reached La Rochelle by lunchtime. It definitely settled our nerves to be back on schedule and the old city is really beautiful. Finally we were actually seeing some more of France instead of having car problems!

Dream home – Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

After some lunch and a wander, we drove on to the Loire valley and one of the many fairytale castles. Chateau Azay-le-Rideau is stunning. That night we wild-camped again, this time down a track on the edge of a huge forest. The weather was intense – heavy rain and crazy winds all night. Our little Quechua tent held firm though.

#doorporn

Day 6: Angers to Brittany

It was another cycling day. Tom got on his bike and I went ahead to Angers to meet him there. By this point my riviera uniform of shorts and sandals was a bit too optimistic so I bought a cheap pair of jeans. Then I went about exploring. The castle at Angers is huge and really impressive. Ironically, the city was having a British festival and there were Union Jacks flying everywhere. As well as a huge inflatable Octopus (I don’t know either).

Angers castle
Angers Castle

Once Tom had joined me and we’d chowed down on some crepes, we hopped back in the car towards Brittany. I spent a few years of my childhood there so I was really excited for this part of our trip. We booked a really cute Air BnB for the full Breton experience.

Breton Air BnB

Day 7: Trip down Memory Lane – Pontivy and Quimperlé

It was so nice to have a soft, comfy bed to sleep in. We had chocolate chip brioche for breakfast and headed over to Bieuzy where I used to live. The village was even quieter than I can remember, we didn’t see another soul the whole time we were there. It was quite surreal. Then we navigated down towards the river where there’s a really cool little church built into the rocks before heading to Pontivy for more castle hunting.

Chapel of St Gildas
Castle of Rohan, Pontivy

We spent the afternoon and evening with my oldest friend Léa and her boyfriend Seb. It was so good to see her and remember all the mad shenanigans we got up to as teenagers. They showed us around Quimperlé, which was all lit up with pretty lights.

Lea et moi
Tea and typing 🙂

Day 8: St Malo and the Milky Way

After a morning’s writing (me) and cycling (Tom), we left our Breton nest and headed north to St Malo. It was a lot like La Rochelle, but bigger and with a huge coastal wall hugging the city. The views were incredible, it was crisp and blustery and I had the best crepe of the trip at Timothy (Tom went for a giant slice of cake and get major food envy).

On the walls of Saint Malo

That night we found a really quiet and lovely field to set up camp. We had wine and simple food as we watched the sun set, then curled up in our trusty little tent. When I popped my head out later, I looked up at more stars than I have ever seen before. We were right under the milky way and miles away from the nearest town – the sky was a sparkling carpet, complete with shooting stars …and the international space station. It was one of those moments that Tom and I will never forget.

With our faithful tent

Day 9: Omaha Beach

Photo 12-09-2017, 08 54 08
Le Mont Saint Michel

There was a huge rainbow over the Mont St Michel as we left the next morning. I went ahead to Omaha Beach and set up camp in a little restaurant to write. Tom joined me a few hours later and we walked around the monument commemorating the allied forces landing in WWII. The beach is huge. Imagining the fear and sheer enormity of the troops’ task as they sailed up to shore was very humbling.

The monument at Omaha Beach

We splashed out on a simple campsite for our last night in France. It was hard to feel sad when it was so cold and there was a warm house just one day away, but even harder to believe our French adventure was at an end.

Day 10: Calais

The latest Banksy painting at Dover

Christ on a bike, finding the ferry terminal in Calais is not easy! But we made it and then before we knew it were driving back onto UK soil, towards my brother’s house in Folkestone, with its huge sofa, gigantic TV and hot running water. We did what anyone else would do: had a bath, ordered a takeaway and then settled down to catch up on Game of Thrones.

24 hours worth of driving over 10 days and the trip of a lifetime

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