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France in our motorhome

How to stay cool in a motorhome during a heatwave



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It’s the busiest holiday weekend of the summer in France and most people are heading south or to the Atlantic coast. Not us! We are driving from Bordeaux in the west of France to Lake Geneva in the west. The plan is to take several days over it. The forecasted heatwave has arrived and it’s still 36C at 8pm which poses the question of how to stay cool in a motorhome.

This is the warmest weather we have experienced since buying our motorhome. The plan was always to try and go to destinations where the weather averaged the mid 20’s Centigrade and so far that plan has worked, until now!

Trying to keep cool in a motorhome

If you read the motorhome forums on Facebook the question of how to stay cool in a motorhome is often asked. Our first rule is to never go to places where you are guaranteed to get very hot weather. At the moment Europe is in the middle of a heatwave and temperatures in Spain are 45C+. Spain is great for us in the winter but not in summer because it’s too hot.

We have just driven from the French Atlantic coast where temperatures were 29C during the day and 18C at night with a cooling sea breeze. Sleeping in 18C is not a problem but sleeping in 26C is another matter, which is what was forecast for that area at night.

We don’t have an air conditioning system so we have to rely on natural ventilation to reduce the temperature. All our skylights are open and usually there is a breeze and the temperatures at night are lower but they can still be uncomfortable if the outside temperature is high.

Our motorhome with insulation on the windscreen

An external silver screen for the motorhome windscreen is a must. We have used ours in the winter when we were in Spain and during a heatwave in France. Try to park in the shade and, of course, open all the motorhome skylights. Put a damp flannel in the fridge and use it in the night to cool down. Get a 12v fan to circulate the air. Our rule is to go where it’s cooler in the summer and that’s why we are heading for the mountains.

I can’t offer magical solutions to keeping cool in a motorhome but if anybody reading this has any great ideas please leave a comment below.

Our alarm went off in the night!

Every night we set our motorhome security alarm. The alarm is set so that we can move around inside but if any of the doors or garage doors are opened the alarm sounds. I have often wondered what I would do if the alarm goes off whilst we were sleeping. I was about to find out! It was 12.30am and we were staying the night in an Aire in the small sleepy village of Lezoux. There were 2 other motorhomes and suddenly we were woken with the sound of a vehicle alarm. My first thought was is that our alarm or someone elses but within seconds I realised it was ours. I reached for the alarm fob and switched it off. We both listened and heard nobody running away. Was this a false alarm or had someone attempted to break in? We have had no false alarms in the past so it could be real. A quick look through the roof turret (skylight) revealed it was pitch black and there was no sign of anybody outside. If I wanted to be sure there was no break in I had to go outside so I found a torch and hesitantly ventured outside to check the garage doors. It was a false alarm. There was no sign of a break in and nobody around. All I could see was the amazing clear night sky and millions of stars!

All the way across France

We had started near Bordeaux and used the A89 motorway to drive past Lyon towards Geneva as we wanted to spend some time in The French Alps. The A89 is a very scenic drive across some amazing scenery. The road reaches a height of 1,000 metres as it crosses the Massif Central and you see mountains, gorges and a stunning plateau. Incredible bridges and tunnels make the A89 a spectacular drive.

Perigeaux cathedral

Perigeaux is an attractive medieval town in The Dordogne. It has charming narrow streets, a historical cathedral and a large number of restaurants, shops and cafes. The Aire in Perigeaux costs €6.55 and it is an easy 10 minute walk along the river to the town centre. We were very impressed with Perigeaux and would go back.

The mother of all thunderstorms

Having hardly seen any rain in the last 12 months it was a shock to the system when a huge thunderstorm struck the area on the evening of 5 August. Parked on a very good free Aire in the village of Chanay in the Rhone Valley a massive thunderstorm lasting several hours cleared the air. Gale force winds, torrential rain and hailstones was acually a facinating sight although I was slightly worried at one stage that there might be damage to our motorhome such was the ferocity of the hailstones. Before the giant thunderstorm the temperature was a hot 35C but after the storm the temperature had dropped to a pleasant 22C. Perhaps that’s a way to stay cool in a motorhome – head for the thunderstorms!

Guide to living in a motorhome fulltime

Thanks to all my readers! Wow, my last blog about how to live in a motorhome fulltime, which you can read here, has been viewed over 3,000 times in only a few days. That’s incredible. The post generated masses of positive comments on Facebook with many people saying they are going to do the same in the future. It’s clearly a lifestyle that interests many people.

Alleyway in Perigeaux, France

Morning after the storm. Parked on the Aire at Chanay. Only room for 4 motorhomes.

Driving through a tunnel near Lyon.

Here is a short video of the massive thunderstorm we had. I’m listening to the Leeds vs Stoke game on headphones, which is why I’m looking so uninterested!

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D-Day Experience Museum

Exploring the Normandy D-Day landing beaches by motorhome



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Exploring the Normandy D-Day landing beaches by motorhome is something I have wanted to do for several years and when we eventually bought our motorhome I was excited about using it in this very historical area. This blog article is a little delayed because I have become so fascinated with D-Day that I have started reading the fantastic book by Anthony Beevor about the subject which I can highly recommend. ( Affiliate link below)

It was surprisingly busy at the Bayeaux campsite when we arrived on a late Sunday afternoon in September, without booking. All they could offer was a pitch without electricity, but that was fine. We had driven for about 4 hours from our previous overnight stop at Bourges.

Bayeux and the tapestry ( a brief history lesson!)

Bayeux was the first city to be liberated by the allies. The city was relatively undamaged by bombing because the Germans had fled before the assault started. Of course, Bayeux is also famous for its tapestry which tells the story of another famous battle that took place 1,000 years earlier near Hastings, England. William the Conqueror was the Duke of Normandy and the tapestry tells the story of how King Harold of England took the crown of England for himself, against the wishes of King Edward the Confessor. Edward wanted William to be the next king of England so William invaded England and, of course, Harold got an arrow in the eye! Visiting the Bayeux tapestry was fascinating and well worth a visit.

Where to stay in Bayeux

We stayed at the municipal campsite in Bayeux, which is located on the north side of the town on the D613. It took us about 25 minutes to walk in to the centre of Bayeux. This campsite has a new toilet and shower block, although quite a few pitches don’t have access to an electrical hookup so check this if you book.

The amazing Bayeux Cathedral

The Battle of Normandy Museum

€12 gets you entrance to 2 museums in Bayeux, which I think is great value. The museum is a chronological presentation of the main events from 6th June 1944, enriched with equipment and objects from the period. There is a lot of information to take in and you would need to spend several hours there to read and look at everything.

One of the exhibits at the Battle of Normandy museum

Visiting Arromanches and Mulberry Harbour

There is a good motorhome parking area at the Cinema 360, which is a short distance from the town. After watching the 360° film about D-Day we walked down the steep hill and on the way stopped to admire an old US tank. It was here that Anne tripped on the uneven payment and fell heavily on her knee. This needed a hospital visit 2 days later as she was in considerable pain! Nothing broken thank goodness.

A section of Mulberry harbour

There are several sections of artificial Mulberry harbour scattered around Arromanches and, of course, you can easily see sections of it in the sea, even after 74 years. More information about the artificial Mulberry harbours here.

Visiting the Longues-sur-Mer battery

You can find this incredible line of 4, relatively intact, guns on the cliff top if you follow the D514 west from Arromanches. There is plenty of space to park a motorhome next to the tourism office and you can also park overnight in the car park or close to the cliff tops 200 metres away.

The Longues sur Mer battery

On the night before D-Day the gun battery had 1,500 tonnes of bombs dropped on it but the guns still managed to fire 170 shells at ships off-shore but the guns were eventually silenced. The guns today are still in good condition and the concrete bunkers are still intact.

Omaha Beach and sad reminders of that fateful historic day

On Tuesday, 6th June 1944 US troops stormed the heavily defended area of Omaha Beach and over 2,400 men lost their lives. It was the bloodiest of the D-Day landing beaches.

I found it an emotional experience walking on the beach at Omaha. It was impossible to imagine the horror that took place over 70 years ago, but there were several small groups of Americans having guided tours with expert guides who were trying hard to bring that fateful day to life. I overheard several guides going into incredible detail about the battle and the tourists were listening intently.

The one thing that made me realise how terrible that day was for the brave men who stormed Omaha Beach was when I looked down at the pebbles on the beach and noticed many had bullet holes through them. I thought about taking one of these pebbles home with me but quickly decided against it. These thousands of pebbles with bullet holes need to stay on Omaha Beach as a reminder of the horror of war.

A large pebble on Omaha Beach with a bullet hole in it.

The war memorial on Omaha Beach

The D-Day Experience Museum and Dead Man’s Corner

The battle of Carentan, shortly after D-Day, was a fierce battle that lasted 6 days. The US forces were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert G. Cole, who was awarded the Medal of Honour for leading a bayonet charge during the ferocious battle. It’s near Carentan that you will find a fairly new museum called The D-Day Experience. The museum has a fantastic collection of D-Day memorabilia as well as a simulator ride on-board a genuine C-47 D-Day aircraft. In fact this very aircraft was bought by Steven Spielberg and used in the filming of Band of Brothers. Prior to boarding the C-47 we were given a briefing where it was explained that we were to be dropped by parachute over Normandy. During the flight the aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire and we had to crash land. It was all very realistic and an uncomfortable ride.

There are two museums as part of the D-Day Experience. The other museum is called Dead Man’s Corner and it’s housed in the actual house used by German paratroopers as their headquarters during the Carentan battle. It’s known as Dead Mans Corner because the Germans destroyed a US tank at the nearby road junction and killed the tank commander who could not be retrieved by US forces for 3 days. The museum contains authentic artifacts that were recovered from the area after the battle for Normandy.

Entrance to the D-Day Experience Museum

Dead Man’s Corner Museum

One of the exhibits inside Dead Man’s Corner Museum

The C-47 aircraft inside the D-Day Experience Museum

An exhibit in the Dean Man’s Corner Museum

I can highly recommend touring Normandy in a motorhome, especially if your are interested in World War 2 history. There are plenty of places to park a motorhome and stay overnight, either on a campsite or French Aire.

A 500lb bomb as used during the battle of Normandy.

Battle of Normandy exhibit

Field gun used during battle of Normandy

A US tank used during the battle of Normandy

The post Exploring the Normandy D-Day landing beaches by motorhome appeared first on Home on Wheels.

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Exploring beautiful villages in south-west France by motorhome



This post was originally published on this site

Our motorhome journey to Chamonix in the amazing French Alps, blog article here, was a highlight for us on our summer tour of France, but it was time to move to an area that we hadn’t visited before. The hilltop villages of the River Drome area was our next destination, although only a week before it was headline news about a campsite on the Drome that had been flooded after a storm and 1,600 campers evacuated. Perhaps it was a good idea then to stay away from the River Drome, which is one of the last remaining wild rivers in Europe, with no dams for a large part of the river.

The area has many national parks, deep gorges, high rock faces and winding roads as well as many small historical villages that are well worth visiting. There are hundreds of French villages that are great tourist destinations and known as ‘les plus beaux villages de france’ (The most beautiful villages of France). We have only visited a small handful of these villages on this 2 months visit to France and in this article I’m including the villages we visited and stopped at.

Saint Antoinne L’abbay

In the Rhone-Alps region and situated between Grenoble and Valence, Saint Antoinne L’abbay is considered to be one of the best medieval villages in France. There is a free motorhome Aire just 5 minutes walk from the village centre where the highlights are the half-timbered old houses, the medieval market hall and historic abbey founded in 1297.

The magnificent abbey at Saint Antoinne L’abbay

One of the medieval streets in Saint Antoinne L’abbay

Saint Antoinne L’abbay

Pont en Royan

Founded in the 16th century, Pont en Royan is famous for its suspended houses with colourful facades. The village was built on the side of a river gorge and has a picturesque bridge. It is popular with families in summer who have picnics by the river. There is a motorhome Aire a short walk along the riverside path.

The suspended houses at Pont en Royan


Crest is located on the edge of the foothills of the Alps. The River Drôme runs through the ancient town and this is where you will be able to visit the highest medieval keep still standing in France. It’s a magnificent building and would not look out of place in a Lord of the Rings movie. It’s a steep climb up steps to reach the entrance to the Crest Tower, which dates back to the 12th century.

The Crest Tower was also used as a prison in the 17th century and you can still see graffiti on the walls scrawled on the walls by the bored prisoners.

We stayed at the motorhome Aire in Crest, which is only a 5 minute walk from the town centre. Payment is collected by a parking attendant in the early evening.

The view from the Crest Tower in Crest

The imposing church in Crest

Medieval street in Crest

Steep steps leading to the Crest Tower

Hand of Fatima door knocker!

Dieulefit & Le Poet-Laval

The municipal campsite at Le Poet-Laval is excellent value for money. €16.40 per night with electricity, spacious pitches and a good clean swimming pool. We loved it and it was made even better as we met Martin and Jane, fellow full time motorhomers. We had 3 nights drinking wine together and swapping motorhome stories about our travels. Martin is a retired journalist and he writes a great blog about their motorhome adventure that you can read here.

Le Poet-Laval is a renovated hilltop medieval village. Wandering the narrow cobbled alleyways and looking out over the rolling hills was a joy.

Le Poet Laval

Restored houses in Le Poet Laval

Le Poet Laval

The town of Dieulefit

Valreas – has an interesting church!

Situated in the Drôme region of France, Valrèas is surrounded by vineyards. The highlight for us was the imposing 12th century church ND de Nazareth. The motorhome Aire is 10 minutes walk from the town.

The 12th century church at Valreas


Vaison La Romaine – Roman town

Dating back to the 4th century BC, Vaison La Romaine is full of Roman and medieval remains and also has a lively restaurant and bar scene. The motorhome Aire is an easy 1 km walk to the town centre and the historical Roman bridge. To reach the medieval old town head across the old Roman bridge and head for the castle on the hill. You can’t miss it! The castle was built in the 12th century and you have magnificent views of Mont Ventoux.

The Roman bridge at Vaison La Romaine

Part of the old town of Vaison La Romaine

Nice flowers in Vaison La Romaine

The Roman theatre in Vaison La Romaine

Colourful ceramics shop in Vaison La Romaine

Bedoin in Provence

50km east of Avignon, Bedoin is a lovely agricultural town at the foot of the 1912 metres Mont Ventoux. You will find the town busy with cyclists as it is the start of the daunting cycle climb to the top of Mont Ventoux. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants as well as the huge and bustling Monday market, which is one of the best in the region. We stayed on the very good Aire in Bedoin, which is a pleasant 10 minute stroll from the town centre.

Colourful vegetables on sale at the Monday Bedoin market

An artist at Bedoin market

Pretty back street in Bedoin

Our motorhome parked on the Aire at Bedoin

Crillon le Brave

Dating back to Roman times this beautifully restored hilltop village is well worth a visit. The focal point is the famous Hotel Crillon and there are also several restaurants and a boulangerie. The 1912 metres high Mont Ventoux is clearly visible and the view over the plain and surrounding mountains is amazing. For the less energetic it’s possible to be taken by van to the summit of Mont Ventoux and be left to cycle down back to Crillon le Brave.

Crillon le Brave near Bedoin in Provence

Crillon le Brave

La Cavalerie

The fascinating village of La Cavalerie is 10 minutes south of the Millau Viaduct at junction 47 on the A75. There is a good motorhome Aire at La Cavalerie, only 10 minutes walk from the medieval village centre, that has been beautifully restored. La Cavalerie was founded by the Knights Templar in the 12th century and fortified by the Knights Hospitaller in the 15th century. You can walk along the restored ramparts (cost 2.5 euro per person), and walk around the walled part of the village. It’s definitely worth a couple of hours visit or a stopover on the drive north or south. The history of the Knights Templar is worth reading about. More information here.

La Cavalerie – The Knights Templar

La Cavalerie

The fortifications at La Cavalerie

La Cavalerie

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Aiguille du Midi

Taking a motorhome to one of the most stunning places in Europe



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There is a really good place for motorhomes to park with views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountains she said. I would love to go there but it’s up a fairly steep road she said! No problem said I. “we have just done the steepest roads in northern Europe on our motorhome tour of Norway, so if we can do those roads we can do anything”. We are, of course, now in southern Europe and more specifically in The French Alps where the mountains are much higher than Norway. Just for the record Mount Blanc is 4808 metres high and the highest mountain in Europe. The place where I was about to drive to was at Plaine Joux and at an altitude of 1,350 metres. We had driven up a very steep road to the Dalsnibba viewpoint in Norway at an altitude of 1,200 metres so this one at Plaine Joux would be the highest we had driven to. How hard could it be!

The dramatic ascent to Plaine Joux

We set off from Les Gets where we had spent the night in a large free motorhome parking area and headed for the A20 motorway towards Chamonix. After turning off the motorway we stopped to consult the map to try and determine the best way up the mountain to Plaine Joux, but it was not that easy to see the best way because there were several interconnecting roads. This meant that we had to rely on the sat nav and of course it took us on the shortest route which involved a single carriageway with several hairpin bends and it was very steep. Needless to say we met several cars coming in the opposite direction where it was virtually impossible for us to reverse. My rule in these situations is that smaller cars reverse, especially when it’s a bigger vehicle going uphill. There was much cursing from the me including “we are never driving a motorhome on another mountain road again” and “this is too steep for a motorhome”.  Eventually, the road improved a little and we reached the top and it was definitely worth the effort as we had reached probably the best motorhome parking place in Europe, with incredible views of Europe’s highest mountain range including Mont Blanc.

View from our motorhome at Plaine Joux

Our motorhome parked at Plaine Joux. 1,350 altitude.

Chamonix – the most stunning scenery in Europe

Paraglider with Mont Blanc in background

The road down from Plaine Joux was much easier and far less stressful because we managed to follow the main road rather than take short cuts and our next destination was Chamonix. We had last visited Chamonix 2 years ago and had stayed in an excellent hotel with our room having views of Mont Blanc. On this visit, however, we parked our motorhome in the car park for the Aiguille du Midi. Motorhomes are allowed to park overnight for 14 euros.

Brevent cable car from Chamonix

The scenery around Chamonix is simply stunning and awe inspiring. Last time we had visited Chamonix we had taken the Aiguille du Midi cable car. This is Europe’s highest accessible point by cable car at an astonishing 3,842 metres above sea level (12,604 feet). At the top the air is thin and you can really feel your lungs trying harder to obtain more oxygen. Altitude sickness is an issue at the top of Aiguille du Midi, but it’s a place I think everyone should try and experience because you are nearly at the highest place in Europe. If you love views you will love Chamonix!

On this visit to Chamonix we didn’t go up the Aiguille du Midi because there is another equally dramatic cable car ascent on the opposite side of the valley called Brevent. Reaching an altitude of 2525 metres with two cable car rides you get incredible views of Mont Blanc and the other mountains around it. The top of Brevent is also a more pleasing temperature whereas the top of Aiguille du Midi is normally around 0C in summer and often colder. It was interesting watching the paragliders take off and there are several cafes and restaurants. The cost for two people on the Brevent cable car is €52 return. We spent several hours at the top of Brevent and there are several walks along the ridges as well as paths down the mountain.

Chamonix is an incredible place if you love scenery. It’s steep wooded valley and mountain peaks are truly jaw dropping, especially in good weather when you can see the summit of Mont Blanc. Chamonix also has a lively restaurant and bar scene as well as a good range of shops and small supermarkets. Parking a motorhome in Chamonix is not a problem and whether you have a motorhome or not there are plenty of hotels and apartments to stay in. For me Chamonix is a ‘must see’ destination. Everybody needs to see Mont Blanc and the mountains because they are truly inspiring.

Paragliding at Les Gets in French Alps.

Descending the chairlift at Les Gets in the French Alps

Close up to the Brevent cable car

Cafe and restaurant at top of Brevent cable car.

The church in Chamonix

At 2,525 metres altitude. Brevent cable car.

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