Category Archives: France

French Camping Trip Part II

French Camping Trip Part II

After our time in Annecy in the Rhone Alps we moved on to Châtillon-sur-Seine which is in the Burgundy region. The reason we chose this town it was central to the towns we wanted to visit, those being Auxerre, Troyes and Dijon. We stayed on a municipal site called Campsite Louis Rigoly on the outskirts of this quite and quaint little town. Municipal camping sites can be found in most French towns, they are really resonably priced and very well maintained and very clean “well this one was” We were told about municipal sites by some people we met on the camp site in Annecy, word of warning though, the more popular destinations can get very busy, especially in the peak seasons, so better to book ahead. Campsite Louis Rigoly was off the tourist trail and as it was mid September we decided to take a chance, although the site got quite busy in the evenings with motorhomes, most stayed just one night as they were just passing through. I have to say we were not disappointed. The facilities were spotless, individually marked out pitches with plenty of space between campers and very reasonably priced 15.60 euros per night with electric, which was half the price of our previous site, it also included free entrance to the indoor municipal swimming pool next door, although we did not use it. A great base for the places we wanted to see.

The first town we visited was Dijon famed for is mustard, although strangly its not produced locally anymore Dijon has some stunning french architecture as you would expect. Its historic buildings were not heavily damaged by bombing in World War Two and are largely intact. The historic centre is mainly closed to traffic so you can stroll around and view the magnificent architecture stress free. There are countless restaurants, most of which have outside seating, great for people watching and soaking up the atmosphere of this glorious town.

Must sees whilst here are the Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon “click link for some good images of the inside”. Constructed between 1280 and 1325, and is now listed as an historical monument. The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy a beautiful structure right in the centre,near to the place de la Liberation The earliest part being built in the 14th and 15th century. The Church of Notre-Dame of Dijon situated in the heart of the preserved old city centre. Place de la liberation (click for 360 degree view) a great place to grab a coffee and admire the surroundings. There is so much to see and do in Dijon we only scratched the surface as we were only there for a day. Need to stay longer next time.

The next town we visited was the delightful town of Troyes. you will need a good day to explore this amazing town, so get there early.

Troyes (pronounced Twaa) is the ancient capital of the Champagne-Ardennes region, famous for its vineyards and finest champagne. It lies approximately 93 miles from Paris . The city centre is aptly shaped like the cork of a champagne bottle with a rectangular outline defined by avenues of trees and a rounded top circled by the River Seine. Spend some time wandering its narrow, cobbled streets and soak up the amazingly preserved medieval half-timbered buildings. For lovers of architecture its a must visit, and a unique opportunity to enjoy the history of this remarkable city amongst some of the most beautiful countryside along the Seine. Also walk through the Ruelle de Chats where legend has it, as the building’s are so close together the cats used to jump from one rooftop to the next.

Also around the region there are some other great places to visit, Fontenay Abbey which is the oldest preserved Cistercian abbey in the world, and has been declared a world heritage site. Entrance fees are 10€ for self guided or 12.50€ for guided and my opinion well worth it.

Also another great way to spend the day is to visit the quaint little town of Noyers and to visit the Château Ancy-le-Franc both can be done comfortably in a day, and will not disappoint

Our last stop on this leg of our french trip was to visit the city of Auxerre , another amazing french city Auxerre lies on the banks of the river Yonne and is the fourth largest city in the Burgundy region and is associated with the production of the world famous Chablis. We decided to stay here for one night away from our lovely tent, as we wanted to visit Le Château de Tanlay on route to Auxerre, also to have some home comforts for the night. The city as you would expect some more fabulous architecture the Abbey of Saint-German d’ Auxerre Auxerre Cathedral both of which sit high on the hill overlooking the city and the Yonne river. The 15th century astronomical clock tower situated in the heart of the old quarter of the city. With lots of great sights, good restaurants and great sights it’s worth spending the night.

Well it’s time to sign off now it’s been a while since my last post but I have more to catch up on. Our Bulgarian road trip, also our trip to Madrid so please stay following.

French Camping Trip Part I

French Camping Trip Part I

Yes you read the title correctly “Camping”. I know its far removed from my normal travel blogs from around the world but this trip was equally enjoyable. Now I haven’t been camping since I was a small child but as I am now the ripe old age of sixty two I decided to give it another go. Our destination on the first part of the trip was Annecy on the French and Swiss borders. We took the ferry from Dover “much cheaper than the tunnel” and headed for our first overnight stop at a town called Epernay, which is about 213 miles from Calais and about a four hour drive. There is a faster route if you go on the toll roads but French tolls can work out expensive so we avoided them as much as possible on the trip. Epernay is situated in the heart of the Champagne region of France. We stayed at the Hotel Premiere Class which is a very nice and clean budget hotel. It was easier to do this than setting up the tent for just one night. The next day we were off bright and early for the next leg of our journey to Annecy, which was 333 miles and around five and a half hours drive. This time we did take the toll roads, but you pay dearly for the shorter journey time 51 euros in fact. But avoiding them the journey would have took much longer.

We did not book our campsite, we just researched a few before we left the UK, Our first choice when we arrive was fully booked. Our second we did not like, so we were beginning to think that we probably should have booked one, as everywhere seemed very busy indeed, but fortunately our third choice although a little further from town called Le Solitaire du Lac had spaces, and although very busy it was very nice and on the edge of the lake. The facilities were very clean and plenty of them “no queueing for the showers in the morning, also plenty of hot water. Not like I remember from previous camping and caravanning experience.”

Annecy is a beautiful town with lots of amazing architecture. Its situated in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps region of France not far from the border with Switzerland. We were surprised how busy the place was, being the middle of September. The town of Annecy is situated on the edge of a lake with a circumference of 42km surrounded by mountains, so you can imagine very beautiful spot indeed. The town has plenty of really nice restaurants and as you would expect in France plenty of Boulangeries (Bakery’s) with their mouthwatering fresh baguettes, croissants etc. There is plenty to do in the town, like visiting historic churches eating, or just sitting outside the many cafe’s watching the world go by. Oh and of course as its on a lake, water sports. Also if cycling is your thing there is a cycle path around the periphery of the lake if your feeling energetic.

As we were based in Annecy for a week we took the opportunity to see some of the surrounding sights and towns in the area, our first place to venture to was the delightful town of Chambery which is about an hours drive away. It has a lovely cathedral, a château and the Fontaine des Éléphants (“Elephants Fountain”) its most famous landmark. It was built in 1838 to honour Benoît de Boigne‘s feats when he was in India. We also visited Chamonix a very beautiful town situated at the foot of Mont Blanc. Chamonix and is around one and a half hours drive from Annecy but well worth the trip. With its chocolate box chalets, shops and restaurants, with the magnificent backdrop of Mont Blanc and the surrounding snow capped mountains.

Must do’s in Chamonix

Take the Montenvers Mer de Glace or cog railway up the mountain to the glacier, its quite expensive but oh so worth it “at the time of writing the cost is 33.50 euros per person. The journey along the railway which rises steeply takes about 30 minutes with stunning views along the way. When you reach the glacier the views are breathtaking. After soaking up the views its time to visit the ice cave, which is inside the glacier itself ” all included in the ticket price”. To reach the cave you first must go part of the way down by cable car then you have to walk down 500 steps to the cave itself. One thing that amazed us on the way down was how the height of the glacier itself had receded over the years. There were markers displaying the level the glacier was at years gone by, on the steps as you go down, it was quite shocking how far it had receded, and we are talking about recent years. Another must do is take the cable car from the the town to the summit of Aiguille du Midi. “click the link for more info” There are two legs to the journey to the summit via two cable cars, unfortunately for us only the first stage was open because of maintenance work on the second leg, but it was still worth doing it to admire the view of Mont Blanc and the town below with a glass of cold beer in hand. You can walk up instead of taking the cable car, but trust me this is only for the very fit and seasoned hikers. We saw some from the cable car and believe the walk was very steep indeed. Also if you are the adventurous type you can para glide your way down. Read about the second leg of our trip in “French camping trip part II”

French Road Trip Overview


Oh well we are home now and the trip is just a memory, a very good memory I might add. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some of our experiences we learnt along the way, the first one I will talk about is timing where by if you want to eat lunch the restaurants open at 12 noon and close at 2pm, dinner is from 7:30 to about 9pm this seems to be a very strict time regime with no leeway also if you want the Plat Du Jour menu (dish of the day) you need to be seated as near to noon or 7:30 as possible. Also all restaurants have to offer a fixed price menu, these can range from €8  for two courses to €57 (the most expensive I saw) per person, also its worth bearing in mind to check out the drinks prices before you order and don’t get caught out like we were on our first night where three beers cost €31 about £28. France is pretty expensive compared to the UK we even found what would be the equivalent to our £1 shop but there it was the €2 shop, so bear the prices in mind when budgeting for the trip. Petrol is more expensive than the UK except if you drive a diesel. Now before we went on the trip I updated my Sat-Nav to a Garmin which I might add is very good, but one feature that was very useful and saved us a good deal of money was the nearest fuel feature which enabled us to buy our fuel at supermarkets ie Carrafour & Intermarche most of which were just off the a junction of the autoroute, but without the Sat-Nav we would not have known, for example fuel on the autoroute costs €1:67 a litre for unleaded and in the supermarket it was €1:54 so you can see that after travelling some 2500 miles in France quite a saving was had. Whilst I am on the subject of supermarkets its worth bearing in mind that they are not like ours where they are open 24-7 the smaller ones close for lunch and this is not half an hour it’s from 12 to 2:30, and they all close on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. Now like I said there are what seems to be strict times for lunch the same goes for the shops where they are closed from 12 to 2:30 and are also not open on a Monday and this is just not in the small towns its in the large cities also, but I must add we did not find this a problem in fact it was quite refreshing to have the slower pace of life you have to get used to it that’s all.

Driving in France is a breeze, sometimes you can be on a autoroute on you own with no other traffic for miles, not really much more to say on the driving front except the standard of driving seems a lot better than ours, people just seem to take their time and are not trying to break any land speed records.

Finally I would like to add that this trip has certainly wetted my appetite to explore more of France and contrary to urban myths the French are really nice and friendly people and if like me you try to learn a little French before you go it goes a long way. Below is a list of web links that you might find useful

Holiday Lets

All About France

French Autoroutes

Also I will be uploading some of the 400 photo’s I took on my Flickr photo page for anyone who is interested

Finally I would like to thank my travelling companions my wife and my very dear friend Jackie for making the trip a barrel of laughs and to all of you who took the time to read my ramblings. Until the next time, Au revoir



Like the journey down to the Mid Pyrenees when we started our trip where we had an overnight stop, we decided to do the same on the return journey and chose the town of Orleans a couple of hours drive from Wisteria house where we were staying. We left early and headed straight for the centre of town. Now like I said in previous posts France is expensive compared to the UK but one thing which is not and there are an abundance of  is car parks and normally right in the centre of the tourist areas, so we parked up and explored the city and what a treat we were in for as unbeknown to us the Festival de Loire was on the very weekend we were there so it could not have been better so after a good few hours exploring the city, the cathedral and the many sights we headed off to our hotel. When we got back into the car I set the Sat-Nav for the hotel and was pleasantly surprised it was a very short distance from where we parked. Now we found the Hotel des Cedres via the website it is always a gamble when booking hotels, all you can do is read the reviews and hope for, but we was very pleased with our choice, the hotel was very nice indeed, friendly staff  great  room, a great find, so it was a couple of cold beers in the lovely garden, a freshen up and a walk back to the centre of town for the evening.  A very nice meal was had by all, we were overlooking the town square and the statue of Joan of Arc then back down to the riverside where all the festivities were going on then closing the evening with a spectacular firework display a great end to a fantastic holiday