The reluctant campervan traveller

03 Jan

Five days in a Motorhome in Burgundy

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that we, Phill and Hannah, the owners of France Motorhome Hire, are passionate about the advantages of taking a break in a motorhome.  Those that have not tried it often don’t share our enthusiasm and it leads to heated debates with friends about the merits of hiring a motorhome over staying in hotels.  Here is the tale of one such friend, a reluctant campervan traveller if ever there was one…..

May I start by saying that prior to this adventure I had never been in a motorhome nor wished to be and viewed the whole thing with a suspicion bordering on the hostile! Visions of all day driving, pitching up in some godforsaken campsite overrun with noisy children and their equally noisy parents.

Living on beans and toast and finding out 20 ways to hang a washing line are not my idea of a holiday indeed it couldn’t be further from my normal short break which would usually involve comfortable hotel beds, first class service, a little bit of local “culture” followed by an excellent meal  with even more excellent wine!

In my defence  lest you think I’m not open to all experiences I did stay on a campsite once, however I left after one night and found myself a Gite to stay in! I think it was the 3am trek to the toilet block that finished me off!

So how did I, along with my even more reluctant wife, find ourselves in a Motorhome in Burgundy for five days?  Well the kind folk at FMH had spent many a day and glass of wine trying to convince us of the merits of Motorhoming, to no avail I have to say.  Eventually they produced their trump card, how can you comment on it if you haven’t tried it? Blast said we as we reluctantly agreed!

The adventure begins (sort of)

So off we set from France Motorhome Hire’s countryside depot in early August 2012 heading not quite sure where with the only agenda being Burgundy and its most famous produce …..Wine!

We had a slightly inauspicious start. As we headed off in the late afternoon, I began to ruminate on dinner and realised that if we drove too far we may not have time to park and find a restaurant for the night. Hence we found ourselves exactly 20 minutes from the depot! (I know, I know it’s pathetic) checking in to a lovely little campsite in the town of Charny where I just happened to know that an excellent restaurant was to be found. Charny is pretty little town with an excellent campsite and two very good restaurants so why go any further?

We duly parked our vehicle and plugged in for the night all with little or no fuss. Having had a fine meal we made our way back to the site to find we had made a classic first timers mistake! The campsite was locked and we had forgotten to take the key code with us! (I know, again pathetic).  However a friendly fellow camper buzzed us in and there was an emergency number just for idiots like us who never read the campsites instructions.

The following day having had a blissfully peaceful sleep we popped to the local bakery for a couple of Pain au Chocolats and had our petit dejeuner sitting out in the August sunshine. We began to speculate that there might be something in this motorhome malarkey after all.

The adventure really begins!

With no real agenda we began to make our way further south into Burgundy and as we rolled through the stunning countryside my wife had the fantastic idea of visiting the little wine villages that supplied the wine for the upmarket charter boat she was working on. The wines themselves were excellent and it would be fun to actually see the places they were produced and maybe do a little sampling along the way.

Burgundy Vineyards

Burgundy Vineyards

Genius, I thought and headed for the village of Coulanges-les-Vineuse which turned out to be your quintessential sleepy French village full of wine producers and little else surrounded by a network of hills all dedicated to the vine. The wine produced here is excellent and not to be seen in your local supermarkets tending to end up instead on the white linen of expensive restaurants and Hotels. I should like to point out that they are all happy to greet people passing through and seem to have no problem with people buying just a bottle or two and they are very generous with their tastings!

Our next port of call was to the more famous village of Nuits St Georges or more importantly a little village in the hills above Nuits St Georges. This is where touring in a Motorhome began to show its possibilities. On board we had a “France Passion” guide and had picked out a vineyard that invited motorhome travellers to stay for free overnight. This really is a superb idea and all you are obliged to do is say “hello” when you arrive and “goodbye” when you’re leaving! So simple even I could manage it!

We duly arrived at the practically deserted vineyard (August is holiday time for most of France). Not sure what to do next we spotted this little old man of about 200 years of age hobbling down the road smiling and pointing to the vines! With a combination of waving arms and gestures and our pigeon French we gathered his son ran the place but was away on holiday and we were welcome to park just across the road in the designated areas.

Burgandy Wine Tasting Courtyard

Burgandy Wine Tasting Courtyard

We thanked him and pulled over to find that the designated area was among the vines in the precious vineyard on the side of a hill overlooking the valley which was littered with vines from top to bottom, it was stunning! We parked and jumped out with beaming faces, it really was impossible not to feel invigorated surrounded by the succulent grapes in gorgeous sunshine and with such a wonderful vista.

We popped back into Nuits St George for dinner but really could not wait to get back to our little portion of paradise for the night. A lovely burgundy red from that morning’s tasting and some locally bought cheese rounded off an amazing day.

The road to Damascus conversion!

Well there was no blinding light or divine conversation but when we stepped out of our Motorhome to another morning of blue skies, the sun slowly warming the landscape and nothing to be seen for miles except the lush vines we suddenly got it! No other mode of travel offers this freedom to experience the country coupled with the luxury of a decent bed an ensuite bathroom! We brewed up some coffee and a little breakfast and wallowed in our good fortune.

I had always had this idea that you had to constantly maintain these vehicles with water etc. however to be able to just stop as we did and not have to worry as we had everything we needed on board was fantastic.

The following couple of days were spent touring the vineyards of Cote de Beaune and its little villages with way too many highlights to include here and not a motorway or traffic jam in sight. Beaune itself is a lovely town easily accessible with a pedestrianised centre, full of restaurants and shops .We also stopped at Vezelay, a gorgeous walled hilltop town with a majestic Basilica, very busy with tourists in August but well worth the trip.

A final highlight was a beautifull journey along The Nivernais Canal, through winding pretty villages. We spotted a quaint little riverside restaurant, parked a little further on overlooking the river and went no further!  Dinner was sublime and even better was the fact that we had just a 20 yard walk to our new home from home!!

There really were too many delights to comment on and we found the convenience of having your own home coupled with the ability to get into every nook and cranny of real France a combination that is incredibly hard to beat!

Roll on our next campervan trip! (Never thought I’d hear myself say that!)

Thanks again to all at France Motorhome Hire for a wonderful trip!

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