We decided to do something totally new for us this year for our vacation: a tour through France by camping car. And it was a blast! Originally we only planned for northern France, but due to the weather we decided to take on the south, too. So this tour went through Belgium to the Normandie, further on through the Auverne into the Languedoc and Provence, from there into the Carmargue and back up to Burgund and Lorreine into the Rhineland in Germany. What a ride - 4100 km and every day new sights to see.
We started out in Münster, going to Aachen and then into Belgium. Our first stop was in Brügge. The camping car area is quite close to the city, so just a quick walk and you are in the old town with it's interesting buildings.
From Brügge we drove right into France to visit the Cote d'Alabaster, staying both in Dieppe and Etretat for a night. Etretat was a bit more touristy, but for me the landscape was even more impressive than Dieppe - and the camping car area was better located (in Dieppe we had to stay at a camping site about 4 km from the city center). After Etretat we went on to Mont Saint Michel, because it would have been strange to be that close and not visiting it. Very impressive, too, but definitely overrun with tourists. Still, it is worth to visit at least once. And the camping site at the little town Beauvoir was quite nice.
From Mont Saint Michel we went through the valley of the Loire to Vichy, to go south from there. Vichy was just a stop-over but it had some nice architecture. From Vichy we drove all the way down to Carcassonne, a city I only knew from the same-named board game before. It is a very interesting medieval city with lots of interesting sights.
After Carcassonne we went to Avignon, a city best known for the times when the Pope was living there. The popes castle and the whole medieval city wall and the remnants of the romans there are very interesting. But same as Mont Saint Michel and Carcassonne, it is very tourist oriented, which can be a bit of a distraction. Still worth to visit at least once - and the camping site was absolutely great, just being located across the river from the old town.
Next we really wanted to visit the Mediterranean Sea - so we went straight south. We did a break in Arles to visit the remnants of the romans there, the theater and the amphitheater are very impressive, much bigger than what I am used to around my home town. Our goal, though was Saintes Maries de la Mer, a small town located in the Carmargue directly at the coast. The town is a pilgrim location for gypsies and twice a year they have a big festival there. One was the upcoming weekend when we stayed there, so the city was packed with gypsy families. On our way to Saintes Maries de la Mer, Flamingos crossed our path - stunning! I only ever seen them at the zoo before! Definitely a place where I want to go again (not necessarily Saintes Maries de la Mer, but the Carmargue).
Now it was time to head slowly back north to get home in a few days. Since we wanted to skip the highways this time, we took it slowly and had our first stop at Le Puy, a fantastic medieval city that is known for it's two volcanic chimneys with a church on one and an iron statue on the other. The whole city is a labyrinth of little walk ways and very narrow streets, with lots of monasteries and cloisters and churches wedged in. We totally loved that place and will definitely visit again, it was a highlight for both of us.
From Le Puy we went on to Autun, because there were more remnants of romans there, one being the biggest known theater of the roman world. A nice thing was that Autun was totally non-touristy, so you could just walk around in the ruins without problems and without buying tickets.
From Autun we went direction Troyes, but we ended up at the Lac du Forest d'Orient due to Troyes not really giving us a great feel. On our way we did make a stop at the Abbey of Fontenay, though, and we are really happy we did, it is a very well preserved Abbey with lots of impressive architecture. And hey, they invented the hydraulic hammer there in the 12th century and had one of the first metallurgic manufacturing sites there.
Our last night was already in Germany, at the lovely Mosel river in the similarily lovely city of Bernkastel. We've been here before on our Trier weekend, so we knew what we would find, but it is a great place to chill after a long tour and have some relaxing walks in the wine hills or having some local wine, of course. From there it was just a short drive back home to Münster, unloading the car and that was our big adventure.