On Monday 5 August we left Tignes and started our journey towards the coast. We only made it as far as Bourg-Saint-Maurice, 30km away, before we needed fuel for the van (and caffeine for Jim).
This gave us chance to do a bit of route planning. At this point we didn’t really have a plan, other than an eventual aim to end up on the south west coast. We toyed with the idea of driving south towards the Verdon Gorge, which looks incredible. It’s a bit of a detour though and as we’re currently in the middle of French holiday season, everywhere is stupidly busy. We decided to shelve that idea for when we drive back through southern France in October. Instead, we stuck to plan A – head west, towards the Dordogne, another place on our must-visit list.
The route would take us past Chambery and Lyon, so it made sense to incorporate any necessary shopping. A couple of weeks in, we were already realising a few additions to the van would make life easier. Like more hooks! Seriously, I don’t think you can ever have enough hooks living in a campervan. We’re forever needing to hang stuff up, like clothing, wet towels, keys, bags. We found the French version of B&Q near Chambery, which – believe it or not – didn’t sell bloody hooks! Or at least not the type we needed. We did pick up some other very-boring-yet-useful stuff, though, like a French hose adapter (to stop Jim getting drenched every time he filled up the water tank. Ha.)
We were relieved to find a Lidl – as we hadn’t fancied selling a kidney to fund another weekly food shop in the Alps. We also discovered Babou, which is pretty much the French Home Bargains. And just like the UK Home Bargains, we went in for one thing (yep, hooks) and left with about €50 worth of crap. And still no hooks.
By then we’d blown our weekly budget in three shops and it was getting late, so we pulled over for the night just past Lyon. I was up early the next morning (thanks Zippy) and realised the motorway aire was a decent one (they vary, a lot). I never thought I’d be so happy to discover a free shower at a service station. Washing my hair without a water limit was like having a spa day!
The search for hooks was far from over and Google told us there was an Ikea about an hour away on the outskirts of the city of Clermont-Ferrand. I was excited at the thought of buying more throws and cushions for the van. Jim was excited about the prospect of an Ikea breakfast. We were both pretty excited about the hooks.
(Sadly for Jim, we got there too late, so ate breakfast in the car park instead.)
Three days later we emerged with enough hooks for a football team changing room, several spice racks (perfect van shelves), a couple of throws and a very-necessary van mascot named Clermont.
Just when we thought our day of van-admin was over, the fridge started playing up again. I made the mistake at first of Googling the problem. Won’t do that again, it’s like looking up medical symptoms. You just end up panicking, thinking you (or the fridge in this case) will die. Jim then sensibly found a motorhome (or ‘camping car’) specialist nearby. They were really helpful and didn’t charge anything as the problem turned out to be a simple fix. Simple if you know your way around a motorhome refrigeration system that is.
We were on the road again, leaving the motorway to drive through the volcanic Auvergne region. The area is overlooked by the dormant Puy de Dôme volcano (its image is used by Volvic water, which orginates from the area). It felt like we were driving through the Alps again, each twist in the road revealed another incredible view. It also gave Jim chance to utilise that geography degree and educate Eden about volcanic formation.
We headed for the town of Super Besse, which looked like a promising overnight stay. It’s located at an altitude of 1350 metres and is a ski resort during winter. The backdrop may not have been as mind-blowing as Tignes but as far as free overnight stops go, it was pretty good!
After the previous night at the motorway aire, it was so peaceful by the lake. The ground by the van was teaming with tiny green frogs, which Ivan thought was brilliant. The weather wasn’t great but I managed to get out for a run around the lake (without killing any frogs) and Jim checked out the mountain bike trails. The whole area kind of reminded us of Dartmoor, perhaps this was partly due to the rain!
It was the perfect place to recharge our batteries (and for Jim to put up my beloved hooks) before leaving for our next destination – the Dordogne.