Driving in France & Spain

1,600+ Miles Later…

In England, we used to drive on the left side of the road. These days in England, we drive on what is left of the road. It’s only once you leave our “great” rock that you realise how appalling the UK roads actually are, and how we pay through the nose to drive on them.

France is a delight. The roads were superb and the traffic was minimal. Anywhere you could possibly want motorhome facilities, you are sure to find them. Most services (aires) had waste emptying points, water taps, and some of them even had electric hookup for those who need it. The French drivers are incredibly patient and when we did make stops, the local people were delightful.

Our first venture was to a local supermarket to stock up a bit.

Super U

As usual, we were clueless as to what we were going to buy before we went in, but we soon found the basics – bread, croissants, meat, veg, etc. I didn’t take a photo but… THEY SELL SNAILS IN HERE!!!

I didn’t buy any.

I would happily try them if they were cooked on my plate, but fresh and raw in the supermarket just didn’t appeal. Being British in a new country, we of course bought ingredients to make up a roast chicken dinner.

Going through the checkout was interesting. In England you bag your veg and the checkout operator weighs and prices it, but in France you have to do your own weighing and labelling at the time of bagging. We didn’t know this until we were half way through the checkout. Nobody actually spoke any English in here, but they did sort out our mistake with a smile of “oh bless, a newbie from England” – I apologised in French (I think) but nobody seemed to mind our error, including the person in the queue behind us.

The French are lovely.

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Equipped with food, we fuelled up (at around 73 pence per litre!) and headed on our way.

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We’ll be in the Algarve in 1,172 miles – or 22 hours of driving.

We stopped off en route to buy a reflective board for the cycle carrier to make us legal for Spain. In the caravan accessories shop, we did well between our bit of French and the pretty good English spoken by the gentleman who served us.

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It’s a good job I like driving.

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We found ourselves a lovely Aires for our second night in France. When we arrived in the evening, it was pretty full but most people had moved on very early. This Aires didn’t cost anything to stay at overnight.

Aires

Free to use, a motorhome emptying point and a tap, what more could you ask for? Perhaps electric hookup if you needed it – they had that there too!

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That awkward moment when you think you know better than the Sat Nav. Fail.

With just under half of tank of fuel left, no idea where these long straight back roads lead to, what could possibly go wrong?!

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This could take a while.

As I explained to a “slightly” apprehensive Kirsty, you can’t be lost if you don’t know where you’re going. It was probably the lack of fuel that was bothering her the most. We did spot a couple of fuel stations, but they were on the other side of a fence.

Eventually, we came to a roundabout which put us back on the motorway having completely bypassed the toll road and in fact driven parallel to it most of the way. We soon filled our diesel tanks up and continued on our travels. I wasn’t concerned during our detour at all. Honest.

We seemed to be averaging 260-300 miles a day. That’s a long day in an LDV.

Aires in France

We found a lovely Aires on the way out of France, it was basically a woodland.

French Aires

A woodland with electric hook-up facilities. Amazing.

This Aires cost around £5 for the night. We arrived late and the miles were taking their toll, so a fiver for a good night sleep in a convenient spot was money well spent.

France

The scenery in France was delightful.

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We’ll be coming back to France! For now though, we’re ready to continue into…

 

Spain

 

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Definitely in Spain.

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This was our night spot for our first night in Spain. Quite a sharp frost in the night!

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The roads through Spain were long. I was getting used to the Sat Nav saying “Continue along for 55 miles” but now I’m used to that being more like 155 miles per stretch!

Beyond in Spain

The sun was blazing down on us, the solar panels were loving it! So we stopped off and made great use of our free electricity source…

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Wedges and sausages? Why ever not. Pretty standard food in Spain…. for us.

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We passed some lovely scenery in Spain.

Richard Kimberley

I must admit, it has been a LOT of driving. The lovely roads do make it a much more pleasant experience though. We cruised mainly at 45-50MPH with the occasional 60-70MPH bursts on the Spanish motorways where the stretches were long and the winds were nil.

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Beyond is doing well. Having clocked up over 1,600 miles since leaving home. The starter motor is on it’s way out though. The first start of the day is now mostly just a crunch, after that all is fine. Thankfully I had the sense to buy a spare starter motor before we left home so if it does pack up completely, hopefully I can fit the new one. Fingers crossed it holds up for a while yet though.

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Evening was descending upon us and we picked a fuel station with parking bays as our pitch for the night. I was shattered from the driving and went to bed at 8pm!

Satellite Broadband Technical Problem

We use satellite broadband for our internet and landline phone (free calls to home!). I was under the impression that satellite worked anywhere. Well, it seems it does, and it doesn’t.

At the top of France, we had satellite which meant calls home and a blog post were all as planned. Once we were further down France, I could align the dish but the modem wouldn’t connect to the ISP (Internet Service Provider).

By the time we had got to the bottom end of Spain, I though a phone call to Europasat was a good plan to find out why we were being denied internet access!

The satellite does work anywhere in Europe, pretty much. However, the modem does not! The modem will be looking for the UK beams coming down from above. The Cherbourg area was just in reach of UK beams.

Tooway Beams

 

Europasat explained that once your modem is activated, you can travel anywhere within the beam it was activated under. In our case, the West Midlands, it’s beam number 23. This does overlap France, slightly.

The news that has made my week though is that with a quick phone call, Europasat can deactivate the modem, so it can be re-activated in a different beam area. This costs £29.99 to change your area. I was happy with that and now we’re activated under beam 2 which is the southern half of Portugal. Once we leave beam area 2, a two minute phone call and another £29.99 will have us up and running again in a new area.

Do I mind the fact it costs £30 each time? For the convenience of having decent and reliable broadband and landline telephone for cheap/free calls, it’s worth every penny. We just now know to plan our routes to keep us in the currently registered beam area for as long as possible.

I have promised to do a blog post dedicated to the satellite system, and I will. Now I know how it works abroad, I can do a comprehensive post with all the information anyone might need if they’re considering satellite. This will come soon.

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This was our location for our last night in Spain. The satellite all setup and working, we spent most of the day here too!

Our Route

Our GPS route logger is doing us proud. This map shows our exact route. If you’d like to view our route in more detail, just click on this map.

Our next stop… The Algarve.

Te veo allí pronto!

Rich & Kirsty.
#BeyondTheVan

Big THANK YOU to everyone takes the time to comment on the blog posts and to the people who email us. Please do keep them coming, it inspires me to keep up the blog!

We really appreciate your feedback, ideas, suggestions and help with things. I will always reply to your email, it may just take me a bit longer whilst we’re travelling around.

Richard.

 

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9 comments on “Driving in France & Spain
  1. Terry says:

    Nice to hear you have the communications sorted out even at £30 a go..
    Hope Kirsty isn’t saying “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes, like she did when she was younger. Good to hear from you both. KEEP ON TRUCKING. lol.

  2. J. David Cox says:

    Nice to hear of your travels. We have done much the same but, of course, in N. America. So your European experience is being shared vicariously. Great to hear of free (or $10.00) parking. Double that at least over here. Quintuple that in some parts of California. Are you doing any village walkabouts? Finding some charming out-of-the-way spots? Like you, I tend to drive til I drop. My wife NOW makes me stop. And I am always glad we do. So, stop already. All roads lead to Rome so they look the same.

  3. Hello Kirsty and Richard! I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and looking at the photos! It brings back great memories of France!
    We too feel that driving in France is a joy compared to English roads. I realise that you need to get to your destination quickly but we like to meander down and stop of if we see something of interest.
    The aires in France are so good although I don’t know about Spain so look forward to seeing how you get on!
    Stay safe and keep posting.

  4. Steve swain says:

    Love reading your adventure articles, keep them coming please. Unfortunately I still have a mortgage otherwise I’d be doing what you’re doing. Really envious ?
    Regards
    Steve

  5. Linda says:

    The different views of the countryside and other views are quite awesome. The aires are an excellent facility, UK take note. Glad all is going smoothly on tbe whole. Thank you for my lovely Mother’s Day call too. It certainly made my day special as, with satellite problems, I wasn’t expecting one. Take care my lovelies.

  6. Sue George says:

    Great to read about your travels from chilly Wales! Hopefully we’ll be travelling in your tyre tracks later this year, keep up the blogs and let us know what you think of life in Portugal.

  7. Alf and Marianne says:

    A great travel blog and superb photos,best regards Alfand Marianne.

  8. Sounds like you’re having great fun! I must check out what you’ve done to your van to keep it virtually EMF free as I live in France and trips on the autoroutes are not fun with towers every few kilometers and at almost every service station. I seem to have a problem with the ELF inside our Renault Master too and end up with a migraine after a long trip.

    Looking forward to the info on the satellite system! Especially as to how much it emits, etc compared to other forms of EMF/RF.

    Happy travels! And if you feel like a stop off on your way back to blighty we’re in Allier 🙂

    • BeyondTheVan says:

      Hey Louise! We had a great time! Please do drop me an email if you need to know anything more about EMR shielding of the van. Have you measured the EMF inside your van in places like the footwells, etc.? Satellite info coming very soon. Will aim to pop in and see you on the next trip! Best wishes, Richard.

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