Dover to the Alps

Arriving in Dover, just half an hour from our base, always feels like its the start of your holiday - rather than facing endless delays at the airport and being told to remove our clothing, belts, jackets and forgoing any dangerous looking liquids.

After a brief check in and few minutes on the quayside counting the ranks of fellow campers we boarded Moliere, a recent addition to the Seafrance fleet.  This was to be the first of many ferries on our adventure as we slipped out of Dover harbour into the calm English Channel and watched the sun set over the white cliffs.  Hungry for our first taste of foreign food we headed off the the excellent La Brasserie for Steak Frites and a relaxing 90 minute crossing to Calais.

With the campervan fully equipped for driving abroad, unlike many other passengers we didn't have to stock up on spare bulbs, maps, GB stickers or yellow jackets.  For just £12.50 a day for European travel all of this is included, together with comprehensive insurance and AA roadside recovery should the worst happen.

Arriving in Calais past bedtime, we headed south on the E15 for a couple of hours and decided to make use of one of the comfy beds!   There are Aires are all along the French motorway but it's best to stay in ones which have a petrol station and services as they tend to have better lighting, more people and offer a greater level of security compared with the smaller unstaffed Aires. With the blackout blinds down we settled in for a good night's sleep before heading to the Alps next day. 

We usually find many other campers staying overnight and best of all - it's free! 

Offshore Campervan in France parked at an Aire for a short stop and a shower               Aire near Rheims with an Offshore camper van

After some fresh croissants and strong French coffee we felt that UK motorway services could pick up a few ideas as to how motorists, and in particular campervans, should be treated. Our first French sunrise with the ever present windfarms in the distance as we head down the E17 to Dijon towards Geneva.  

 Beautiful sunrise over French countryside          Road sign for Chamonix and Turin

By routing just to the south of Switzerland we avoided paying to use the motorways although the French tolls do add up.  UK credit cards are accepted and this is usually the easiest way to pay - just be sure that the passenger is on the ball as the slot for the ticket is on the opposite side.  Although if you take the VW California its much easier being left hand drive.  With only light traffic, and only one speed camera, an uneventful drive ses us arrive in Chamonix in the early evening with Mont Blanc, Europe's highest mountain at 4,810 metres, hidden by the high clouds.

Mont Blanc              Mont bland tunnel approach with Chamonix Offshore Campers

Driving along this route was like reading a ski or board brochure with signposts for Flaine, Megeve, Avoriaz, Argentiere, and a hundred other resorts not marketed in the UK.  As the 6 berth Offshore camper is fully winterised, a ski trip would be a great holiday, being able to visit different resorts on different days in the comfort of a centrally heated camper - even the garage is heated for warm skis and boots in the morning!

Mont Blanc from the Autoroute with             Chamonix camping with

After a short drive around Chamonix we came across a beautiful spot to park up the camper for the night with fantastic views all around.  There does seem to be a really relaxed attitude to campervans in France and staying a night or two free of charge is possible in most areas we've visited. In the campervan we were well equipped for this 'wild camping' with our 140 litre onboard water supply, shower and loo we would be self sufficient and best of all....its free again!

After a freshen up and a shower it was out with the bikes for a ride along the mile of so into Chamonix.  Having never visited a ski resort in the summer we didn't know what to expect but the town was buzzing with restaurants and bars full of people enjoying the spring sunshine.

Wild camping in France with              Chamonix in summer with

Chamonix was the venue for the first Winter Olympics in 1924 and is a popular summer resort attracting walkers, mountain bikers and paragliders in large numbers.  We will be back to spend more time here for sure.

Next leg of the journey

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