Tour de France -1-

Roadtripping France : A test drive with our RV – PART 1

During the summer of 2017 we took our RV Brutus for a spin. We decided on France and really could have gone anywhere from there but choose to go everywhere instead!
Let me clear that up for you: As fresh mobile home owners with a strong travel itch we couldn’t possibly decide on what national parks to explore and which to leave for ‘some other time’. So, we ended up with a wish list of 10 locations we really wanted to visit, scattered around the country. Here’s the story of how we parked our RV in five of those and discovered some other unexpected gems on the way. Three weeks of summer sunshine, stunning views, road trips and adventure!

The rocky forest of Fontainebleau 20170825_175058
Freshly refurbished and packed with camping gear for a three-week trip, Brutus is all set for his first big journey! We hit the road with the cats in their favorite spots; Puma and Chloe huddled up against each other underneath the table, Phoebs tucked away under the blankets pretending she’s still safe at home.
Our first stop is just below Paris in the rocky forests of Fontainebleau. We park Brutus, gratefully stretch our legs after a good 7 hours of driving and watch climbers conquer the famous boulders as the sunlight changes to the most beautiful hues during golden hour. We would love to climb these sandstone boulders ourselves one day but today is all about enjoying the view and getting a good night’s rest. Which we find at a parking spot in front of a nearby castle where we fall asleep to the sounds wild kittens and the call of an owl. A lethal combination if you ask us, but hey, nature’s rough! (Oh, and we followed a couple of stray kittens to reunite them with their mom so I’m quite sure they all made it through the night ok!)

Family visit in la douce France: the Dordogne
After another day of cruising through farmland and picturesque villages we arrive at the Stegeman residency a.k.a. Bas’ parents’ house, who are lucky enough to spend their days chilling on the porch overlooking green meadows with an occasional deer passing by. Ok, I assume they have other things to do as well but still – pretty amazing, right?! We spend our days finetuning some stuff in the RV, getting groceries for the rest of the trip and drinking beers in the pool. I take on the project of wrapping our ladder in rope to create a scratch post for the cats (which hasn’t been used up to date despite my many efforts of giving the good example by scratching it like some overenthusiastic weird cat-person).  Temperatures are rising and the summer vibe is growing evenly so!

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A plunge with a view in the Cevennes
Eager to start our real adventure – or at least the part of it that takes us to places we’ve never been before, we head east to the hills and gorges of the Cevennes. We have two days to spend here and it will be our only time staying at an actual camping ground for the entire trip.  Coming down a very steep descent we enjoy the views of a sparkling river hugged by mountain walls (and hope really hard that we don’t have to navigate Brutus this way up again the next day).
The heat is blazing and we are glad to have our alternative canopy consisting of our tarp and some bamboo sticks, plus the option of cooling down in the river Tarn right beneath us. We have a stroll following the gorge, taking a plunge in the sparkling clear water around every bend or so. This is freedom. And we love it!

Climbing above the clouds on our way to the Ardesh
Everything is still going according to plan but that surely can’t last much longer… Obstacles and unforeseen situations are never far away from where adventurers go! And we’re in for a real adventure today.  As we leave our comfy camping spot behind we drive right past a traffic sign that would have told us not to pass if any longer than six meters IF we would have seen it. Ignorance is bliss – until we take our second hairpin bend up the mountain and… get stuck.

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Bas tries to maneuver our 3500kg vehicle back and forth to make the turn as I am developing a class one panic attack. The front tires won’t grip, we slide a little backwards and the smell of burning rubber adds to my experience of “oh my god we are going to die, which cat should I save as I’m jumping out of this car crashing down the mountain?!”. Yes, unfortunately I’m the kind of girl that’s of no help in a panic situation and needs to be told to just shut up and stay calm. We have video of this and it ain’t pretty but I am sure Bas will use it in a vlog anyway. Lucky me! Seriously though, I’ve never been so happy to have my man by my side keeping his cool and saving the day. I could do with a little less stubbornness (taking twelve or so more of those bends continuing our journey all the way to the top). But oh man, are those views over the valley worth it!
Every drop of cold sweat is forgotten as we follow the Corniche, a scenic route over a mountain pass that connects all the highest points of the beautiful Cevennes. There are stunning views over the gorge, birds of prey floating on the wind and steep cliffs that remind us of our precarious situation just a few kilometers back. It really is a good day after all.

Stormy weather in the ancient town of Aigueze
I’m not sure if it 20170831_153959was the adrenalin rush of our ascent or the breathtaking views once we got to the top, but we somehow managed to completely drive past our scheduled stop at Pont Val d’Arc. Instead, we find ourselves at a roomy parking spot surrounded by vineyards and at walking distance of the beautiful town of Aigueze. Our reason for spending the night here is pretty much just because it’s ‘en route’ to our next destination, but we soon discover this place has so much more to offer! Aigueze is a medieval village perched upon a cliff overlooking the gorges of the Ardeche on one side, and the vineyards of the Cote du Rhone at the other. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful villages of France, and rightly so! We decide to spend our next day here, exploring the village and climbing the cliff as dark clouds pack together announcing a good rainstorm after all this summer heat. It’s so liberating to be able to change your travel plans at any time and to go with the flow of whatever comes your way!
Chloe tries to make a run for it, literally jumping over my head while I’m seated in the doorway of the RV, but is too impressed with her new surroundings to stray too far. We all enjoy the refreshing sound of the rain on Brutus’ roof while we plan our trip down to the Cote d’Azur and up again to the Alps.

The best part of our trip is yet to come! Stay put to read all about it in our upcoming blog or head to our Youtube channel to watch our vlog on this first part of our travels through France. If you’re a happy camper yourself, have you ever been to France and what are your favorite spots? We will definitely be returning here with a lot more time to spend and can’t wait to further explore its variety of beautiful sites and parks!

 

Watch our vlog on this first part of our ‘Tour de France’ here!


 

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