We made it through France (well a few kms to go)!
Wednesday 5th August 2020
I am writing this sat on a picnic mat outside our cute little Quechua tent in campsite number 2. We are in a little coastal town called Socoa near Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France. We are only a few miles from the France-Spain border. This was where we were aiming for today.
It is a beautiful little campsite called Camping Juantcho, a stones throw away from the craggy cliff top and the sea. There is a great little food van bar/restaurant at the top of the site playing cool music with a really chilled vibe. They serve tapas, moules & frites and are open till 11pm. We checked them out a little earlier for a quick drink and may try and go back later for some dinner. Highly recommend the site and the location.
The other thing we have noticed in the 2 campsites we have been to so far is that clearly, just like us, everyone has been to Decathlon for this years camping gear. There is Quechua everywhere!!
I remember years ago when mum and dad bought their first pop up Quechua tents and we thought we were really new to the game. Now they really are everywhere. It’s a great brand though, well priced and if like us you need a dark tent to sleep the ‘Fresh & Black’ black out range is ideal. Some people have a pretty much identical set up to us. That is the little 3 man black out tent, the trap shelter and even the same picnic mat. The other couple splashed out on the fancy compact camp chairs too. We voted against this luxury as we were trying to carry the bare minimum and we thought the picnic mat would do.
The tent at £42, tarp at £20, picnic mat at £7 and a 20L fridge bag at £24 was all we bought (well equipment wise) for the camping element of the trip. We also managed to borrow a few things from our parents, such as a small stove, a kettle and a camping light. We knew it would be hot so we packed an air bed some bedding and a 3.5 tog duvet too which is plenty warm enough. We slept really well on our first night last night, but after a 3.45AM start and a lot of travelling that wasn’t a surprise. I will write a little bit more about what equipment we brought with us and what we found useful on another post.
The place we had been aiming for last night was full when I rang ahead an hour before our ETA. I had already written a few alternatives down and the second on the list had room. France is so well equipped for camping, great campsites, good facilities and usually plenty of availability. I think with less people travelling abroad, with capacity being limited and a lot of people reserving pitches at campsites, this wouldn’t have been the easiest year to ‘wing it’. We drove after the ferry for approximately 5 hours and stopped at a great campsite called Le Martin-Pecheur (The Kingfisher) in Magné near Niort and managed to find a great little Galette (Savoury pancake) restaurant down the road serving late. Nathan even managed to have a burger IN a pancake, he was very happy.
We have done quite a lot in the last day so I have wrote a few reminders and things I thought worth mentioning….
Our journey through France yesterday and today has taught us a few things about the French road system. Firstly that French indicating can be a bit of a minefield and secondly, we miss our 3 lane motorways. We have opted to mainly travel via toll roads for speed so far which has been great and easy, however you can find the cost adding up quite quickly and they are pretty boring roads. Being able to use the ‘Aire de Service’ service stops has been a real positive of these roads. Decent toilets, a good place to stretch you legs, plenty of picnic benches to eat your snacks and often in quite a nice scenic spot. Saying that this isn’t always the case and a few are more like being sat in the middle of the motorway!
Fuel was pretty cheap in Sainsbury’s in the UK before we left and you don’t really see the benefit of cheap fuel in France like years ago. The exchange rate as of now (August 2020) is still around £1 : €1.10 which also makes things feel quite expensive a lot of the time.
As we will be driving on the continent of Europe now indefinitely we have changed the car settings to kilometres rather than miles and it has actually benefited our journey. It really does make you feel like you are making quicker progress as you rattle through the kms quicker. We have only had one little direction mishap on the roads so far which was easily corrected and no real arguments so WINNING!
Sorry lost my thread a bit as Nathan started fannying around with the tarp which almost led to it collapsing. Ok so admittedly we did forgot one relatively important thing (well that we know about so far). That is a mallet for hammering in these tent pegs, into what is, extremely hard and dry ground. So we have had to use a 6KG kettlebell instead. At least we are using the kettlebell for something I suppose…
We have had some fun with different payment methods so far too. Mastercard has been fine. We have set up Starling accounts individually and jointly, and have GBP and EURO accounts with Starling which has been a good way to start off with a Euro account for withdrawing cash. We transferred the money through TransferWise which gave us a decent rate (considering how bad it is in general). However if you do have a Starling card make sure you go on to the app and allow the ‘magnetic strip to be authorised’. This allows it to be used in places such as toll booths where you don’t put your pin in (as we awkwardly found out on a toll booth earlier). Amex (as always) is accepted sporadically but usually in major supermarkets etc.
I booked this campsite for tonight this morning ahead as really fancied this campsite and didn’t want to miss out. Like I said even though Covid is probably meaning a quieter summer season in general it feels busy, mainly French and Spanish, have seen hardly any British so far.
Packing the car has become a bit of a perfected art for Nathan and he has become slightly obsessed by it. I can’t help but think it is a bit unnecessary as we then unpack it again later in the day anyway, but all to your own.
I am going to head off and get showered now and get ready to head out for some dinner. We purposely didn’t bring much in the way of cooking facilities as it would be a total shame not to try local restaurants and cuisine, right?! Just a hob and kettle as we don’t like to miss our tea ritual. Peppermint in the morning and chamomile in the evening for anyone interested.
Nathan is currently on his third Online Personal Training Session of the day. Each one has been in a different but lovely spot. I hope his clients are enjoying travelling around with us. There aren’t many PT’s who operate quite like this I don’t imagine. Sometimes his clients even have recommendations of places we should stop off at (thanks Howard). I know Nathan was going to do a little blog piece about his job on the move at some point.
Anyway speak soon!
P.s: Nathan wanted to mention he loves chocolate cigars he has eaten 4 today.