Get ready for a journey filled with breathtaking scenery, refreshing wild-swims, and unforgettable adventures, exploring the beautiful landscapes of France from Roscoff to Lake Annecy, in the French Alps, onwards to the Cote d’Azur, returning via beautiful Britanny. And the best part? We have our beautiful Mabel by our side, throughout. So, buckle up - let's hit the road!
Our intended route comprised a 2000-mile circumnavigation of France, using different outbound and return ferrys to create a circular, peripheral route of France:
In practice, last-minute hitches regarding Mabel’s pet passport meant a delay and last-minute change in our outbound journey, causing travel to begin and end in Roscoff.
No matter. An epic adventure still awaited…
Day 1: Meeting our new home !
Our adventure began collecting our van from Tedburn St. Mary. As complete van novices, Julian went to great lengths to explain and demonstrate everything for us. With no experience, and no site reservations along our 2000-mile route, it was essential we understood how everything worked. We must have listened – everything went perfectly, with Mabel soon feeling perfectly at home in the van!
Days 1-to-2: Practicing….
We started our adventure with an overnight stay very close to home, with a night at our local beach, Exmouth. The perfect chance to test ourselves, and the van, and prove everything worked as expected. Also an early insight into the main challenge of our trip…. Mabel. Sea. And sand….
Passing home, we re-stocked with a rechargeable hoover (!) and set-off for our adventure. 1st stop – the ferry port at Plymouth, with time for a brief stop-off at the nearby beauty spot of Wembury.
Next, the excitement of Brittany Ferry’s flagship – the Pont Aven. A seamless journey, with Mabel sleeping peacefully throughout the 8-hour crossing:
Day 3: Under the Bridge of Bourges
Our French adventure began with a mid-country stop under a beautiful viaduct, near Bourges. Waking to the gentle sound of flowing water and a leisurely swim in the beautiful River Cher. A perfect taste of the treats to come….
Days 4-5: Lake Annecy in the French Alps
Next, we headed towards the majestic French Alps, with a day and night on Lake Annecy. A stunning location and perfect crystal-clear waters for another relaxing swim with Mabel.
After waking to the breathtaking vistas of the French Alps, we drove south-west- fully immersed in the natural beauty surrounding us, majestic mountain peaks and charming Alpine villages. Our route took us across the Italian border into some vast Alpine tunnels, often exceeding 2km in length.
Leaving the mountains behind, it was time to soak up the glamorous beaches of the Côte d'Azur. Starting with the world-renowned city-state of Monaco, where luxury and opulence abound. Mabel was able to explore the luxurious streets with us and take in the breathtaking views from the iconic Monte Carlo Casino, Harbour and Prince’s Palace.
In addition to the charming old town, we also found time for a swim along beautiful shoreline.
What’s more, with our compact van, we were able to camp ! For free…. Right outside the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel:
Day 5: Beaches of the Côte d'Azur
After the long drive South, finally time to embrace the sun and sand! Our next destination was the glamorous beaches of the Côte d'Azur, starting with the beautiful peninsulas of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Mont Boron on Villefranche-sur-Mer:
Next, the vibrant city of Nice. The famous Promenade des Anglais, alongside the charming Old Town, and the magnificent new beachfront tramway.
Mabel loved the dog-friendly beaches of Nice ! A slight word of caution…. Some of the roads around Nice, and other beachside towns are very tight – designed for cars, only. Keep a watchful eye on width restrictions at entry junctions…. Programming the in-built van Satnav helped – bypassing most no-go zones. Also keep an eye on camper-van restriction signs – plentiful in this area. French Police are very alert to camper vans straying onto day-visitor/car beaches, only. We were given our final (pre-fine) warning. More than once…. We were advised van-violation fines are of the order of €100. Dogs on a dog-free beach ~€60. Dog restrictions are (unofficially) more relaxed on some beaches before 11am and late evenings.
From Nice, we moved onwards to the enchanting coastal towns of Antibes and Cannes, followed by a wonderful, meander around Foret Domaniale de l’Esterel to Saint-Raphael and Frejus.
Finally ending the day with an impromptu stop outside an amazing site – Camping des Mures, just outside Cavillon. A stunning site, with lodges and caravans right on the beachfront. Many happy repeat customers around the site. Definitely a site we plan to revisit another day:
Days 6-7: St. Tropez, Cassis, Marseille and Martigues
An early start to Day#6 allowed a brief excursion into St. Tropez; an intoxicating mixture of stunning super-yachts, pristine beaches, and designer boutiques:
Time constraints meant we had to omit Toulon and Marseille from our itinerary. Leaving the Côte d'Azur behind, we instead made a brief pit-stop in the picturesque town of Cassis, known for its stunning calanques (narrow inlets), scenic trails and breathtaking coastline.
Heading further west, we arrived at Martigues - the "Venice of Provence." A charming town, surrounded by water on both sides, with waterside restaurants offering delicious Moules-Frites:
Days 8-10: Cap d'Agde
Continuing our journey along the beautiful French coast, we travelled along the wetlands south of Nimes – our van encountering many insects along the way…. The van mosquito-blinds now really earning their keep !
Time constraints precluded a planned stop in Montpellier. Instead, we were delighted to find a beautiful stop in nearby Sete. The beautiful harbour providing a pleasant surprise after the heavy industry on the outskirts.
Next, on to Cap d'Agde, a vibrant seaside resort known for its stunning beaches. The perfect antidote to our long journey with 3 days of sunbathing, beachfront restaurants and ample swimming opportunities in clear blue waters.
Whilst resting in Cap d’Agde, we took the opportunity to complete Mabel’s tapeworm vaccine for return to the UK. A simple phone call and same-day visit to a helpful local vet resolved everything:
By now, Mabel was loving van-life, finding her way onto the van’s top-bunk every night:
Journeys were made simple, with the compact van making off-site accommodation possible every night. Aire de’s provided ample opportunities to recharge water and offload waste. Our high mileage meant electrical hook-ups were not required at any point - both batteries self-charging en route.
Days 10-11: Royan to Britanny
Reluctantly leaving Agde, we headed north, making our way to Royan, a charming town on the Bay of Biscay. Spacious sandy beaches allowed Mabel to enjoy the relaxed coastal atmosphere.
Day 11: Brittany's Belon and Coastal Delights:
With memories of beautiful landscapes, refreshing swims, and endless adventures, we reluctantly had to bid farewell to the breathtaking scenery, weather and warm hospitality of France…..
Time to head back towards Roscoff, but not without exploring the enchanting region of Brittany along the way. Our adventure concluded in the picturesque town of Belon, known for its oyster beds and untamed natural beauty. The perfect conclusion to our holiday.
Day 11: Ferry Home:
Our ferry sailed for Plymouth at 1330. Just time to stock up on local wines near the ferry port and exercise Mabel before stepping aboard.
Vehicle space on board was generous, with Mabel now happily staying inside the van she’d grown so accustomed to. As a daytime journey, permission was granted for one 10-minute exercise visit to check on Mabel. Note – pet visits were NOT allowed on the nighttime, outbound route. Not a problem for Mabel, but other dogs may benefit from a pet cabin, or kennels.
Our 11-day journey through France from Brittany to the French Alps, and Côte d'Azur was nothing short of extraordinary ! From serene mountains to the glamorous beaches, we experienced the best of both worlds. And the best part? Our loyal furry Mabel was with us all the way, making memories that will last a lifetime.
The F-62 van was perfect for our journey. The short, 2-seater arrangement allowed easy parking (and overnight stays) in the most unlikely of places (Monaco !!). The electric bed still ensuring plenty of living space down below. Definitely the van of choice for couples. And pets !
Au revoir, France! Until we meet again!
Distance travelled:2,200 miles
Site Reservations: Zero
Average mpg:~29 mpg
Typical Fuel cost:~€1.80/litre
Lake Annecy, French AlpsStunning location. Wild swimming. Restaurants.
NOTE - busy traffic. Difficult parking.
Camping des Mules, St. TropezBeachside accommodation and views. Free parking outside.
Cap d’AgdeStunning selection of glorious sandy beaches.
Royan, AquitaineBeautiful sandy beach resort. Ferry access to Gascogne.
Belon, BrittanyBeautiful, relaxed, estuary.
Benodet, BrittanyStunning beach resort. Easy access to Roscoff.
Peage !Avoidable on some routes, but essential for high-speed/long routes.
Tolls exceeded €150 on this trip.
Fuel….. Fuel costs also very high - ~€650.
But what do you expect from a once-in-a-lifetime road-trip….
Water bottles !Very few hosepipe hookups off-site.
Bottle-filling van time-consuming, but essential.
Pet PassportGet it early !
21-day Government advice neglects practical paperwork delays. Allow 23 days !
Contact a French vet early to arrange return paperwork. French vet costs ~€35.
Cordless hooverInvaluable accessory for sandy destinations/dogs !
Search Fuel/SupermarketsPhone maps give distances/additional journey times
on Smartphoneto non-roadside fuel stations. Use them!
Off-road stations can save €0.20/litre of fuel!
A24 stations are for HGV fuel-cards, only.
PL = HGV en FrancaisSaved us a lot of head-scratching when we worked this out..
Watch width restrictions at junctionsProgramming vehicle width into Satnav can help,
bypassing most no-go zones.
Watch camper-van restriction signs Plentiful in this area….
French Police very alert to vans on day-visitor/car beaches.
Van-violation fines ~€100.
Dog beach violation ~€60.
Dog restrictions (unofficially) more relaxed on some beaches before 11am and late evenings.