Our European motorhome adventure begins – France Day 1

After spending a night at the Caravan and Motorhome site in Folkstone, only 15 minute’s drive from The Channel Tunnel, we paid a visit to Sainbury’s at Folkstone to fill our motorhome with diesel and buy some groceries to keep us going a couple of days. Our European motorhome adventure was about to begin!

We had booked a crossing at 11.50am costing £80.64 one way and arrived at the terminal early. Having never used the Channel Tunnel before I wasn’t sure of the procedure but it was all very straight forward. Pulling up to the terminal barrier the system recognised our registration number and asked us if we wanted to travel on the earlier 10.50 train, at no extra charge, rather than the one an hour later that we had booked.

The machine printed a boarding card that we hung around our rear view mirror and we then went to the passport control barrier where our passports were checked. Once through passport control we were pulled over by security so that they could check that our gas was turned off.

There are two big car park holding areas at The Channel Tunnel and we parked up in the car park that was for vehicles over 1.85 metres high. In the car park there is a flicker board that tells you when your train is boarding. We were on train D and we only had about 15 minutes to wait before the flicker board said that boarding was commencing. This is when you drive from the parking holding area and just follow the signs that say FRANCE. You then have to queue again until it’s your turn to board the train. It’s a strange feeling because you have to drive along what is effectively the station platform before driving onto the train. You then have to drive through the train until the vehicles in front of you stop but you have to be careful that you don’t straddle the doors dividing each carriage.

Emerging into France after only about 20 minutes we were soon driving off the train and starting our motorhome adventure in France. This is when things started to get stressful because in my infinite wisdom I had changed the satnav settings to avoid toll roads. This turned out to be a bad decision because the satnav then took us off the main roads, down country lanes and back towards the Channel Tunnel. After a lot of swearing and cursing we decided to turn off the “avoid tolls” setting on the satnav and we seemed to be getting back to the correct road and direction but our satnav still tried to make us turn left when the signposts were saying we should turn right. I took Anne’s advice and followed the road signs and ignored the satnav.

The good thing about using French toll roads, apart from being quiet and fast, is that using them gave us chance to test out our Sanef Liber-t Tag that I had bought a few months ago. It’s an electronic tag that sticks near your rearview mirror so that you don’t have to pay cash at toll booths. I can highly recommend this tag to anybody who uses French motorways. Despite an initial cost to set the Liber-t Tag up you save loads of hassle because as you approach the toll barrier the toll system reads your tag and the barrier lifts. You don’t need money.You then get a bill at the end of each month for all the toll roads you have used. I think this is brilliant and I highly recommend the Liber-t Tag system.

Our first day of our motorhome adventure in France was going well and we had decided to spend a couple of nights in the French seaside resort of Le Touquet Paris Plage and we had set the satnav for a campsite we wanted to stay on. Nearing the town of Le Touquet the satnav cocked up again by telling us to take the 2nd exit on a roundabout instead of the 3rd exit and we ended up facing a security gate for the huge French company Valeo and had to make a 3 point turn on a narrow road to make a U-turn. A fairly simple manoeuvre was complicated by the fact that it must have been the start of a new shift because there were dozens of cars piling past us and there were no gaps for us to turn around.

Le Touquet, France

We eventually reached the lovely town of Le Toquet and found a nice flat pitch to park our motorhome at Camping Stoneham. There is a Camping Car Aire at Le Touquet but it’s one of the more expensive ones at 15 Euros a night so we decided we would pay a little extra to have a proper campsite. Two nights at Camping Stoneham cost us 52.80 Euros, which is more expensive than what I would have preferred but at least we get an electrical hookup and toilet and shower facilities.

When we were on our motorhome trip around Scotland we didn’t get chance to use our bikes so we decided to get the bikes off the bike rack and cycle to the beachfront and town. Le Touquet has very good cycle lanes, and it’s flat, so we cycled along the beachfront to the sand dunes at the far end of town and then came back through the town centre, which is full of very nice shops and cafes.

Beach at Le Touquet

Our first day in France in our motorhome has been a good one, despite a few minor problems with navigation. This trip is intended to be an adventure and there are bound to be problems and things that go wrong. That’s half the fun. Life is full of challenges whatever we all do and the measure of a man is how quickly he gets back up after a fall….. so the saying goes!

Sand yachts at Le Touquet

A life changing day – we bought our first motorhome!

Today was a life changing day. In fact it’s been a life changing week! We bought our first motorhome at the Yorkshire Motorhome Show in Harrogate. This is my blog article about why we have decided to buy a motorhome.

It’s been a life changing week because we have also decided to sell our house that we have lived in for 32 years so next week it is going on the market and hopefully it will sell quickly.  For some people this might sound like a drastic decision so let me explain why we are doing this. The main reason is that we want an adventure before we get too old. Next month I will be 62 years old. I’m fit and healthy with a young outlook on life. I’m a travel and tourism teacher at an FE college and my wife is a midwife at a large teaching hospital. Both are stressful jobs and we both feel that the time is right to follow our passion for travel.

Prior to becoming a qualified teacher only 6 years ago I had my own travel agency that I ran with my brother for 19 years. Travel is in my blood and I want to do more of it. My wife Anne and I have explored Europe by rail on several occasions in the last few years and we love the scenery, history, architecture, the food and the people so we have decided to tour Europe the slow way in a motorhome and then if we get bored of that we intend to live in France or Spain for a while. We are fed up of the British weather and want more sun and warmth.

We wanted to move house at some point soon to try living abroad for a while so all we are doing is having an adventure first. If we find somewhere to live in France or Spain whilst we are exploring by motorhome we might take the plunge and rent or buy there. Alternatively, we might come back to the UK and live in a different part of the UK other than Leeds, where we live now. We shall see how things work out.

This whole plan might sound crazy to some people especially when I tell you that we have never actually driven or stayed in a motorhome before, but we have thought long and hard about this over several months and we are very confident that this is the right thing to do.

Our plan is to spend a few weeks in the UK testing the vehicle and getting to know how things work. We are then going to get on a ferry and drive through France to Spain and Portugal before heading north again in May 2018 to Norway and Sweden before heading south again through Germany to Italy and Croatia. We might be on the road for 12 months if things work out well.

We have visited several motorhome dealers over the last few months and done a massive amount of research. We soon decided that we wanted fixed beds in the rear and a big garage to store food and motorhome essentials in. We ended up buying a Hobby Optima DeLuxe T65GE from ES Hartley at The Yorkshire Motorhome Show. The motorhome has a good specification and I also negotiated a few more extras in the price too such as a Cat 1 alarm, solar panel with extra battery so that we can wild camp and be self sufficient, a bike rack and a TV. It’s made in Germany and is just over 7 metres long, 2.8 metres high and 2.33 metres wide. This is a high quality vehicle – a bad boy motorhome!

I’ll be adding blogs, photos and video on a regular basis when we hit the road to bring you all the highs and maybe lows of our adventure.

Here is the photo I took of our motorhome at The Yorkshire Motorhome Show before it’s stored for us for a few weeks.

Our first motorhome