Meet full-time vanlifers, Cazzy and Bradley from Dream Big, Travel Far, as they share their experiences campervanning in France in their converted Peugeot Boxer.
Hi Cazzy and Bradley! Could you briefly introduce yourselves and your van?
Hey! We’re Cazzy and Bradley and we met at university in 2014 and have been travelling together since we graduated in 2016. We travel full time and have been to over 50 countries together. When Covid hit and the world started to lockdown, we saw a halt in our travels, so we used our newfound time to convert a campervan, who is now named Helen. She’s a Peugeot Boxer and she’s truly beautiful, fully equipped with a bathroom, fixed double bed, seating area, oven, and espresso machine!
What inspired you to join the vanlife movement?
We’ve always loved road trips and think that having a vehicle really allows you the freedom to truly see what a destination has to offer. In 2019 we did a couple of cool campervan trips, in Ireland and a three-month trip in Scandinavia. And those trips really pushed us into wanting to get our very own campervan that we could drive around the world.
Tell us about your first post-lockdown trip in the van, to France
France was the first country on our big adventure, and the first place we had visited in over a year due to Covid, so we were super excited.
We headed over to France via the Dover to Calais ferry and decided to visit the Champagne region first. This area of France has been high on our bucket list and it was truly a dream driving through this area, and being able to stop, and camp at actual vineyards. We also made a stop in Paris, because we couldn’t possibly not!
We then headed east to Strasbourg and visited a lot of the cute French villages said to have inspired Beauty and the Beast, such as Colmar, Riquewihr, and Ribeauvillé. We then headed towards the south of France and saw some really cool castles, including the epic Château de Val, and we loved the unique town of Rocamadour. And of course, as the weather got warmer, we visited the famous French Rivera, which was truly one of the most beautiful drives we have ever done. We stopped by the lavender fields as they were in bloom, and that ticked off another bucket list spot in France.
What was your overall favourite place in France to visit on your trip?
It is super difficult to answer this question because we loved so much of France. It’s the sort of country that has something to suit absolutely everyone. But I would say my favourite places were probably the Alsace region and the Verdon Gorge, which was beyond beautiful, and Bradley would probably say the South of France.
Was it easy to find places to stay?
Absolutely, France is the best country in Europe for campervans (in our opinion). It is set up super well and lots of the small villages have Aires, and parking spots for campers, and some even come with water, electricity, and waste disposal. Most times they don’t even charge, but of course, we would always have breakfast in the village (there’s nothing better than a French breakfast!). Even if there was a charge, it’s always very reasonable. We used an app called Park4Night for most of our spots, and also France Passion is a great resource for finding unique, local stays.
What was the best place you stayed overnight at?
It’s definitely a toss-up between the champagne house of Champagne Bouquet. They allowed us to stay on the property with a view of the vineyards, for free, and we got a complimentary champagne tasting. Naturally, we ended up buying 4 bottles because it was so good! But that was a magical evening and in the Alsace region, we spent the night amongst vineyards in a free camper spot that had been set up by the local community and it was amazing.
What was your favourite thing to do in France during your visit?
We love fresh French pastries and baguettes, so every morning we would stop and pick up freshly baked treats, and it became a tradition throughout our time in France. But honestly, we just loved driving through the country. We preferred driving the non-toll roads (if you’re not in a rush) because you get to see so much more beauty and local towns.
What were the unexpected challenges of your trip?
One of the unexpected challenges we had was actually deciding what to see because there is so much to see in France and we really wanted to see everything, but there just wasn’t enough time, so we had to miss out on some spots such as Bordeaux, the ski areas and the Normandy region!
Tell us about your exciting round-the-world trip! You’re ending up in France – whereabouts will you be going here?
It’s going to be a mammoth adventure! We are driving around the world over the next 3 years, things may take longer due to the natural border reactions that Covid imposes nowadays. But we are happy to take it slow and go with the flow.
France was our first country, then we headed East through Europe, and are planning to head east around the world. Through central Asia, to South Korea, then shipping the van to the USA, driving down through South America, then shipping the van to Africa, driving up through, and getting the boat back to mainland Europe, then heading back to France to go back to England! On our return to France we will definitely visit the spots we couldn’t this time around, and I shall be taking a detour to the Champagne region to pick up some local champagne to celebrate (hopefully!) the success of the trip!
What three top tips do you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps and do a van road trip in France?
1. Take the non-toll roads when possible: The tolls roads are fantastic for getting from A to B if you’re short on time, but some of our favourite views were on the smaller roads, with amazing views and a real glimpse into traditional French life.
2. Plan an itinerary in advance: There is a lot to see in France, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you want to do. Plan your ideal road trip in advance, and use that as a base for seeing the country, but be prepared to add locations to your route when you get chatting to locals!
3. Travel in the “shoulder seasons”: France is a popular destination for vanlifers, so in the summer months it can get busy. I recommend you travel in either Spring or Autumn. You’ll still get great weather (most of the time!), and everything will be a little less crowded.