How often can you live to see a perfect holiday trip? This for sure was one of them.
The combination of travelling and relaxing, time for myself and common days with close friends, sightseeing highlights and new experiences – what else can you expect?
I learned a lot about regional particularities, about myself and about Hector’s breaks still working fine when 100% of their pads are used up. I learned surfing and how to cope with an Australian accent. I enjoyed wonderful days with Linda and delicious food. I got lazy taking pictures and routine for regular sports. And, last but not least, most of the time I got good weather!
While the most artful aquarelle of the route will follow, here comes the entire trip summarized with local highlights, prices and everything:
- Aeschi / Thuner See, Switzerland
Beautiful landscape, inhabited by Swiss people with all their willful attributes. Camping Stuhlegg, Krattingen, is totally ok, for 1 van + 1 person I paid 29,40 CHF = 28,13 € by end of May 2016. Included in the price is the free bus to the close villages plus further rebates for local sightseeing.
Highlights: “Feldschiessen” and lawn gnomes.
- Uzès, France / Languedoc-Roussillion
Romantic old town, surrounded by dulcet landscape. The entire region, especially in Uzès and in St. Quentin-la-Poterie has enough restaurants with delicious food to stay for weeks. Camping Mas de Rey is clean, relaxed and quiet, 2-3 km away from Uzès (parking close to the centre-ville Uzès is easy for any size of camper van with only a 5 minutes walk to the very heart of the town). I paid for 1 van + 1 person 15,60 € per night (still end of May).
Highlights: Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard and fantastic dinners at Bec à Vin and at the central place beneath the arcades.
- Carcassonne / Département Aude
Everybody tells you to go here, it is supposed to be fantastic. In fact, it is above all crowded and touristic. I left within 15 minutes and that was not only due to the heavy rain.
No highlights, no pictures.
- Isle du Tarn
Sort of a wallflower region, located North of Toulouse. Hilly landscape with a lot of wine and farms and some old cathedral nearby. I only did a stop-over for a night on a vineyard with my France Passion pass.
Highlights: Big calm, friendly people.
- Pau / Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pau is a nice town to drop by. Close enough to the pyrénées to give an idea of the cold, rough mountains, especially when you see snowy peaks from the Boulevard des Pyrénées. You can park any size of car for free on the Place de Verdun.
Highlights: Castle and mountain view.
- St. Jean de Luz
It looks like Pays Basque, it feels like it and it tastes like it: St. Jean de Luz is only 16 km away from Spain and shows the typical basque houses, regional food and relaxed atmosphere. The coastline is hilly and green with sandy bays scattered here and there. The typical basque churches may be plain white from the outside, but full of dark wood and galleries in the inside. Two campsites are available, one beside the other at the beach Erromardie: the better view offers camping le bord de mer, but as I missed its tiny entry, I spent two nights at Camping de la Ferme Erromardie. Both are less than 20 meters away from the beach (with no-swimming when the current is at full strength). In the first days of June, I paid for 1 van + 1 person 15,60 € per night, mini pool and okay sanitaries included.
Highlights: Church St. Jean Baptiste de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, aperitif at the beach bar + dinner at the Bistro du Mata (both beach Erromardie) and the beautiful coast line.
If you look for a town that is not too big and not too small, with culture and history but with beach life and nature as well, with restaurants and surfers and with further sightseeing destinations around – then you will probably end up in Biarritz. I passed it by for only a couple of hours but enjoyed it instantly. Better than going straight downtown is the choice of a suburbian parking (eg parking floquet) and to hop on the free shuttle bus “Navette”.
Highlights: Hotel du Palais, the Grande Plage and the walk to the Rocher de la Vierge
Vieux-Boucau is much calmer than Hossegor, but with everything you need: endless beaches, 5 surf schools (best: Alternative Surf School), 2 camp sites and a small town. Here you are at the straight coast line with all kinds of surfing waves, the beach is inviting and clean, the water is clear. The village offers a choice of restaurants and shops and the lake is okay for a short bike tour. The Camping Municipal Les Sablères is much calmer (and in a better overall condition) than the expensive Camping Le Vieux Port. At Vieux Port, I paid 25,- € per night + 5,- € instable WIFI, located on steep / uneven ground and with a non-swimming beach due to the strong current. After I relocated Hector, I had stable WIFI for free on even, grassy ground and paid 16,70 € per night at Les Sablères. Best restaurant was La Plage with a nice view and friendly waiters, serving me delicious dinner.
Highlights: The market (low season: Tuesday + Saturday), the beach and Surfing!!!
- Saint Émillion
The most adorable town of the entire trip 2016. It is fine by me that so many tourists prefer Carcassonne or other touristic hot spots, leading to less crowded streets at St. Émilion. The town bears the risk to get lost in wine shops, but that is okay. If only for wine + food, I would suggest to split 4 weeks up into 50% Uzès and 50% St. Émilion + vineyards around.
Highlights: The town itself, the monolith church, macarons and wine. And the warm welcome at the vineyard Domaine de Grand Homme (for free due to France Passion).
- Lacanau-Océan (+ Hourtin)
“Chez Marie” at Hourtin turned out to be the best place for lunch – despite the quirky way of the waitress. Forget about Hourtin Plage and rather go to Lacanau-Océan: not the most exciting spot worldwide, but okay due to the surrounding with lakes, cycle paths and the Camping Les Grands Pins with the most modern and definitely most proper sanitary rooms ever. Plus restaurant, bar, 2 pool areas, wellness + massage, rental surf boards, skate park, rental bikes and whatever else you could ask for. We paid 21,20 € per night for 1 Hector + 2 girls with daily 2x 30 minutes WiFi included.
Highlights: Dancing on stage with Linda, lunch chez Marie and massage appointments during heavy rain.
- Montignac, Lascaux, Château de Losse
Nice town with the Vezère flowing through and the camp site Le Moulin du Bleufond only a 5 minutes walk away from the centre. Lucky me the most inviting art gallery was closed when I admired some fine paintings, otherwise the holidays would have cost some more. For 1 van + 2 persons we paid 21,80 €. The camp site’s restaurant and the pool are inviting, the rest is okay for a night. When eating out, the regional specialties based on duck or goose were best. The Château de Losse was okay, with more stable weather the café surely is enchanting. The caves of Lascaux are worth every penny of the ticket prices of 10,50 € (assuming that all guides are as good as ours).
Highlights: The paintings of Lascaux and seeing some more of the region Dordogne.
- Bergerac + Monbazillac
Take some time and focus on the small roads through the Dordogne – it is a lovely part of France and offers you food, wine and old towns. Bergerac has restaurants spreading out all across the historical centre and may be worth a stay for 1 or 2 days. However, we passed it by for just one evening, meeting nice and helpful locals and the central camp site La Pelouse. We paid 19,66 € for a night with modern showers, local ducks and a place directly at the bank of the Dordogne. The château de Monbazillac was a pretty sidestep on our way.
Highlights: Picnic on the road, Bergerac, Monbazillac, relaxed travelling.
- Dune du Pilat / Pyla
We checked out 3 camp sites around the famous Dune du Pilat but only one has this fantastic panorama and direct access to the Dune: yelloh! Panorama du Pyla. The staff is not interested in their guests or in their comfort, but the location is unbeatable. We paid about 25,- € per night in June which was okay (sincere recommendation: never go there in high season!)
Highlights: Girls in a sandbox and the gorgeous view.
- Carcans Plage
A relaxed place with a clear focus: Surfing. Cycle paths, lakes and forests exist, but most of the people come for the pretty beach and the waves – leading to the best surfer camp atmosphere of the whole travel. There is only one (real) camp site, but it is pretty okay: Camping de l’Océan is large, but not crowded (in June). I paid something close to 20,- € per night with stable WIFI for free (available close to the reception only).
Highlights: The surfing atmosphere among other travellers and Pete from Australia with his guitar and his poker face when being confronted with probably the worst coffee of his life.
- Lörrach / Bad Bellingen
My step-brother’s home, or: the marble palace. One of the best dinners I had for weeks, a warm welcome and my new nephew from Kabul. All of this is a highlight, however, a very personal one. Concluding the holidays with a personal highlight is probably the best way to come back to normal life.