Motorhome and Away

  France and Italy 2005


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Photo features:  Italy   Venice   Piano Grande  France Vosges & Alsace  Franche Comté  Lac Vert
This year we undertook our first extended trip to France and Italy for eight weeks (May and June 2005) This was a very enjoyable venture mostly in good weather.

The route we took is shown on the map. Outbound via Norfolk Lines Dover/Dunkerque, the areas visited in France took us through the Borgnone, Auvergne, Cevennes and Cote d'Azur. Once in Italy we headed along the Ligurian coast to La Spezia and inland to northern Tuscany then south east to Umbria and The Marches. Turning north up the Adriatic coast we reached Venice. We then crossed to Lake Garda, and Lake Maggiore before passing through Switzerland over the Simplon Pass and straight through to Chamonix in the French Alps. We headed north through the Jura and Vosges, Luxembourg and Belgium We covered 5400 miles including the return journey to Dover from North Derbyshire.

We had no major problems with the motorhome and found the Autosleeper Symbol layout to be ok for extended living at least in the summertime. We installed a Fiamma 180 rear box which gave us useful additional storage and fitted it to the bike rack on the LH fixed rear door with the bike rails removed. We also took a dome tent to use as a storage area/awning which was quickly erected when staying on site for two or three nights. This made us slow down and "stay put" for a few days when we found a pleasant site. Gas turned out to be expensive as we only had room for two Camping Gaz 907 cylinders with a Calor 3.9Kg propane as backup. 

We avoided toll autoroutes as much as possible  except along the French and Italian Riviera where it was extremely built up and slow. We passed though at least 130 tunnels on the Italian autostrada between Menton and La Spezia, leaving the motorway at Imperia to Savona to look at the coastal towns (very busy) and to stay near the Cinque Terra (which we didn't actually reach due to the crowds at the weekend). We found the main roads in Italy to be generally busy and slow with lots of lorries (except on Sundays). Around Rimini, Ravenna and Venice the traffic jams were horrendous (a public holiday weekend). We considered that the whole of Northern Italy was not pleasant for driving due to traffic and large built up areas around towns which weren't obvious from the Italian Touring Club road maps. The Simplon Pass was easy but with major roadworks on the Italian side and we passed through Switzerland on empty non motorway roads (on a Sunday) to avoid buying an annual vignette for one day. The van struggled up the long gradient from Martigny to the Col de Forclaz. Once back in France the driving was much more relaxed (except through Geneva). We missed Luxembourg city but liked Vianden and the low fuel prices (€0.86/L). Belgium was interesting in parts and we found Ghent to be a pleasant lively city worth a visit but Bruges had too many tourists.
We stayed at a mixture of campsites, aires and wild camps in a total of 48 locations with fees ranging from free to €25 a night. We had 18 free nights and 16 nights at campsites using the ACSI low season discount camping card which saved us over £40 in site fees.
Campsites list  Aires list

Although we took an 35mm camera as backup our main camera was a recently purchased Samsung Digimax A6  6 megapixel compact camera which proved to be extremely versatile producing excellent photos (more than 700 in total!) and a few video clips. For storage we had two 128Mb SD cards (but will invest in 512Mb cards now the prices have fallen). About 80 images could be fitted on each card and these were backed up to a trusty old IBM laptop and also transferred onto CDR discs at various photography shops en route at a typical cost of €7 to €8 for a disc

Ferry £88 return on Norfolkline
Fuel  £635 : 198 gallons 5400 miles (about 29mpg)
Campsites £330 min £2.70 max £13.30 per night
Gas: Camping Gaz 907 £65 - varied from €12.50 to €18.50 for each exchange cylinder


Photo features . . .
Venice, Piano Grande, Franche Comté,
Lac Vert, Vosges and Alsace

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