Vanlife in France – Brittany

Last Tuesday we headed off after a crazy boozy weekend hoping to catch the ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg but we just missed it. We had to swing by the DOE centre in New Ross to get the camper vans roadworthy certificate which will cover us for the next 12 months. We ended up pulling into the carpark at the terminal and stayed there for two nights to wait for the Thursday ferry. That area at Rosslare port is just beautiful, right on the beach with lovely cliff walks and a short walk to the centre. The weather was lovely, we watched the ferries coming & going, we played, walked & swam on the beach both days. It was a nice little wind down as we were rushing around so much the previous few weeks.

Tuskar rock lighthouse just off Rosslare.

Our second night in Rosslare was not so good though as we had a sleepless night. Although we were excited for the journey ahead, our sleepless night was because of some dude who pulled up right beside us, so close he actually blocked us from getting out of our side doors, in his van, in a big empty carpark. He left his engine running & we thought it would surely be for a short time but by 2am after listening to his engine & his cooling fan coming on every fifteen minutes we decided enough was enough & Liam, reluctantly because of an incident recently with a camper at Hook head, went out to give a knock on his door. No answer. We could only assume he was dead or abandoned his van so we ended up moving to another empty carpark at the terminal. As we were having breakfast the following morning, his van still running, out he pops from the van half naked, took a leak in the hedge & off he went on his way. Prick.

Ferry spotters

We booked our crossing with Irish ferries, the Oscar Wilde one which departed at 4 last Thursday. We had prepared snacks and food to have on board as we decided that from now we need to be frugal af. We got Buckie, our springer into the on board kennels and headed up to our cabin. We booked the cheapest one which was about the same size as the camper with four pulldown single beds and an en-suite. We got a cabin with no windows as they are usually right in the middle of the ship and would be less rocky. It didn’t matter anyway because the sea was like glass for the entire crossing. We had a wander through all of the decks, watched dolphins playing all around the ship & the whole time the kids were hounding us to go to the play area which was located right beside one of the bars so we said we would have a wine. Two 1/4 bottles of french merlot set us back €7 each & three rounds later we had paid €42. We noticed while people watching there were some clever folks walking around with large bottles of wine then we realised they were selling them in duty free for €7 for the full bottle. We’ll know the next time & a little tip to anyone sailing on the ferry. We had made plenty of food so we got stuffed and we all slept like babies the whole way to Roscoff.

Welcome to France

The ferry was pulling in to Roscoff and we decided to take our time watching from the deck as I can’t stand the rush and stress of people to leave the ship so we headed down when it was quieter to pick up Buckie who was the last dog in the kennel and hopped into our campervan where I barely had time to strap the kids in as the crew were waving us on. We drove to customs and had to use our French from then on. I did French in secondary school which I hated but I was pretty good at it & I lived in Toulouse for a few months while working in an Irish pub there so I learned a little bit then too. Liam has no French whatsoever but he’s picking it up quickly. The kids, I’m amazed are picking it up so fast. I had bought them a Carol Vorderman learning French workbook so they knew the bare basics.

Ellen filling her travel journal

We pulled in just 10km from Roscoff port at a little village called Santec where there was a free camping park at a beach called Plage du Thèven where on low tide it feels like a different planet & on high tide it’s like an oasis with it’s white sand like snow. The unique rock formations resemble all sorts of randomness from castles to turtles and climbing them on low tide is a must and there was a lighthouse nearby called Ile de batz.

That is a lighthouse. Le phare de ile de batz
Brittany rock formations

This particular little inlet is full of little one man boats where the locals all do the odd bit of fishing whenever they feel like it or else just stand around all day in their hats and scarves in blistering heat which they call cold chatting & most likely give out about tourists. While parked up, there were a few other campers parked along side us, all of which were French but we managed to have chats with them & they were all lovely. The kids made friends with a little boy called Gabôn and got to practise their French. Gabôn’s grandparents were so friendly they gave us a big pot of freshly picked mussels (les moules) which Ellen was delighted about!

Mussels / les moules from our camping neighbours

We found it hard to leave Santec, it really is a beautiful place but today we decided to head a little more south. Although we’ve only been in Brittany a few days, it feels like we’ve been here weeks. Camping here so far has been great, the roads have been brilliant, all of the gas stations have facilities for campers for waste and water, some also have showers & washing machines. There’s hundreds of aires paid & free camping sites. The park4night app has been & will be a lifesaver in choosing where to stay. We’ve already seen dozens of areas for free recyling and rubbish disposal which get picked up and emptied very frequently so I think we’ll find it very easy to be frugal af here in France just as long as we can stay out of the feckin pubs!

Plage du Thevin, Santec at high-ish tide

Published by Niamh & Liam Colfer

Niamh & Liam Colfer currently livin' on the Hook peninsula in County Wexford offering yoga and breath-work classes, personal training and hike the Hook walking tours. All about healthy balanced lifestyle, home schooling, travel, outdoor life, sea swims and on the Hook / off the Hook adventures.

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