Vanlife in France

When you live in your camper van and you’re travelling around, depending on whether you’re on a time budget or not, if you find a spot to park up that’s relaxing, safe, beautiful, quiet, then stay there because it could take a while to find the next one. Moving day for us is a little bit stressful, it is exciting but if we arrive to our destination after driving up to 2 hours and it’s shit then it becomes minus craic pretty quickly.

Like when we unexpectedly stayed in the tiny inland village of Sainte Foy for three days beside the playground with our angry neighbours but we ended up having a great time. Alex and Ellen played with lots of kids in the playground and got to awkwardly practise their french. We played, read, crochetted, caught up on some meditating and yoga and read some more. There is, it seems, more concern about whether children learn the mechanics of reading and writing than grow to love reading and writing. I love watching Ellen reading. She is just 6 and is devouring books and is back to re-reading some of them so we’re now on the lookout for somewhere to buy new books. Lots of villages and towns have a free book swap facility usually found in a cabinet located beside the tourist offices or playgrounds but we’ve yet to find english books.

Order these cute barretts through my etsy shop

Black lace tassle crop top available to order on etsy

We have been mostly shopping at lidl and the local markets for fresh fruit, vegetables, baguettes and wine. The fresh vegetable markets across Brittany & pays de la Loire are a haven but it’s not cheap, it’s actually more expensive than Ireland. I’m surprised there aren’t any vegan or vegetarian sections in the supermarkets like there are in Ireland, I can’t even find any hummus! Hummus is my all time favourite food and I would easily eat a tub every day. The aldi & lidl ones are the bomb but they can’t be bought anywhere here. I’ve stopped at every aldi & lidl we’ve passed all along the west of France in search of le hummous but nothing. I even asked a girl in one lidl if they had hummus and she was totally confused, never heard of it so I tried to ask in french if they had purèed chicks and left out the peas bit (my shit french could get me in trouble one of these days), it’s kind of funny coming from a vegan but she wasn’t even shocked she just said “no sorry, no purèe chicks”. We did however find tahini so we bought that and a masher and are making our own hummous for now. The kids & Liam have mostly the same diet as me, they don’t eat meat or dairy at all (except for chocolate) they do love their croissants and have eaten shellfish kindly offered to us by our camping neighbours on two occasions. It’s a good thing we don’t eat meat as we’ve no need to plug in our camper van into the main electric supply at all and can free camp everywhere we go. Our fridge is basically just another cupboard. Plus our camper doesn’t smell meaty, the smell of meat from some of our neighbouring campervans is often enough to make us move. All our devices are usb chargeable, we just use our phones, ipad & our bose revolve wireless speaker which we couldn’t live without, we can play music all day every day on this listening mostly to spotify & BBC radio 6. Both Liam & I however have both used up all our mobile data for this month, we’ve been downloading Ozark & kids movies on Netflix and streaming radio every day so it’s something we will have to watch next month and take advantage of the free wifi offered at most tourist offices for uploads and downloads & keep an eye on our usage. We need to watch our water & waste consumption every day too and can currently go four days without having to stop at an aire to fill our water tank and empty our waste water and toilet cartridges. We had to buy a bottle of gas last week but they are different coloured cylinders here and the gas station wouldn’t take our empty Irish cylinder so we had to carry it in the back of the camper for a few days until we asked a lady at a field we camped at if we could leave it there. She had no clue what I was talking about and said yes ok so we left it there amongst some other empty cylinders she had at the back of her field and we legged it.

We were missing the sea so we drove west to Jard-sur-mer with its lovely windmill overlooking the beach & marina. We could see the island of Ré just off La Rochelle in the distance. The coastal villages and towns in this region are so much more busier than the northern regions. We decided as we had made it that far it would be a shame not to go to île de Ré so we drove to la Rochelle and across the €8 bridge to the island just off it. The island has five little towns, it is just 30km long and 5km wide at its widest and it has over 100km of cycle tracks. It’s highest point is the lighthouse called Phare des Baleines, referring to the many beached whales in the area. We climbed the 257 spiral steps to the top to the amazing views of the entire island stretching right back to the mainland. The island was so busy and all the camping spots were packed tightly but we luckily found a spot to camp for a couple of nights beside one of the beaches towards the south and shopped at the local market. One punnett of strawberries and six nectarines set us back €12.60. It was that moment we decided fuck this, we may go back in land while in this region.

Mother & daughter twinning on top of le phare des Baleines on île de Ré, France

Phare des Baleines, île de Ré, France
Lighthouse spiral staircase

Granzay gript was our next destination which we found on the park4night app and it had great reviews, the enchanted forest just south of Niort. We arrived mid week and we literally didn’t see another person for two days which was kind of strange and a little bit scary. I wanted to leave at first, I just thought it was too odd & got the fright of my life on the first night when I heard something running right passed the campervan in the middle of the night but we’re so glad we stuck it out. It was a beautiful, magical place full of life and it tuns out the footsteps were from the wild deer running around the place. There was a huge playground, bowls pitches, crazy golf, table tennis tables & five little tree houses right beside us as well as toilet facilities and a water pump so we ended up totally chilling out there for four days. It rained on one of the days but it was lovely, we watched movies on the ipad and played board games all day. “Pass the pigs” is our new favourite game & the kids love it. They each take turns writing & counting scores, who needs maths lessons, practical maths skills is so much more fun. It was our sixth wedding anniversary on one of the days so we cooked up a special three course meal and champagne to mark the occasion. We had a brushetta starter, chickpea falaffels with salad and potatoe wedges for our main and a banana & cacao cake for dessert.

We have been in France now for one month and we haven’t eaten out once. We’re doing very well on our budget and at this rate we could get up to two years out of this trip as long as everything else goes smoothly. We haven’t been logging our spending but we know we’re spending fuck all, I’ll do a spending diary for October and see how that goes. Currently, our biggest spend is on our dog Bucky and his vetinary bills after he broke his leg two weeks ago. Man, I wish we had got him insured. We will post an update on him in the next couple of days.

Getting in my yoga anywhere and everywhere
Crazy golf, Irish style, with a hurley & sliotar

ps.I’ve been busy crochetting, pattern writing and updating my online crochet shop on Etsy go check it out. I love custom orders too so if you have a piece in mind or if you see anything you like get in touch.

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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