Forget crowded hotels! The beauty of France as experienced in an RV

Categories: Mobility
  • In a bid to relive her childhood camping holidays, Jennifer took to the road with her husband in a rented RV
  • The six-berth vehicle featured a spacious shower room and toilet, a fridge-freezer, sink and gas hob
  • Their journey began in Marseilles and headed to La Yole, before looping back via the wildlife-rich Camargue area

Perhaps it was my enthusiastic recollections of childhood camping holidays in France that made my husband agree to a campervan trip in the south of France. 

Or maybe it was the chance to drive a wagon so big and flash, it was like being on tour with Metallica.

Either way, it was impossibly romantic from the start. We took a new direct Eurostar service to Marseilles, and stepped into the sunshine relaxed and ready to explore.

France’s oldest city certainly packs a punch. The station’s grand concourse offers spectacular views out across the jumbled cityscape to the magnificent, hilltop Notre Dame basilica beyond. 

Below, Vieux Port is a lively, historic marina of cafes, dishevelled buildings, a daily fish market and the new MuCEM museum, on whose seawalls two muscular 17th Century forts stand sentry. 

It was fun and easy to explore the city on buses and hired bikes.

Then it was time to hit the road. We collected our RV – a sleek, six-berth ‘beast’, featuring a spacious shower room with toilet and basin, plus a fridge-freezer, sink and gas hob in the wood-panelled kitchen.

Easing out on to the Autoroute du Soleil, we drove 220 miles west to Languedoc-Roussillon and our first campsite.

Le Haras is a friendly family-run site 12 miles from the Spanish border. Fellow campers helped my husband reverse into our pitch between two magnificent eucalyptus trees – then welcomed us with much-needed G&Ts.

This friendliness was something we experienced repeatedly over the next ten days. 

We returned the enthusiastic waves of oncoming RV drivers on our way to pretty Collioure, medieval Carcassonne, and Perpignan, its winding streets packed with improbably chic shops. 

Any inconvenience we felt daily at packing away the RV’s contents (so the cutlery and crockery wouldn’t fly around), was far outweighed by the freedom to stop and picnic on quiet lanes overlooking rolling vineyards.

Our second base, La Yole Wine Resort, had bikes for hire, so we loaded two into the Beast and drove to Trebes to cycle along the Canal du Midi towpath to Pezenas, where stalls were piled high with ripe figs and even riper cheese.

It was the kind of holiday you’re nostalgic for the minute it’s over. We drew it out by returning to Marseilles via the Camargue, a wildlife-rich wetland between the Rhone and the Mediterranean.

We met our guide Frederic Bouvet (he’d recently been out with Ray Mears for his new Secret France TV series) at dusk. A nightingale sang and I got bitten by 20 mosquitoes as we set off towards the vast salt lagoons.

Jennifer persuaded her husband to relive her childhood camping holidays in France with their campervan trip in the south of France

It was madly atmospheric: no buildings or people, just a huge sunset-stained sky reflected in miles of still water. There was a huge population of birds however, and Frederic’s powerful binoculars allowed us to see endless plovers, terns and redshanks.

Sunset appeared every bit as vivid as the Northern Lights: brilliant fingers of lilac, crimson, orange and purple reaching across the open skies.

When a flock of pink flamingos flew lazily overhead, I knew I’d have no problem convincing my husband to go campervanning again.

TRAVEL FACTS: Plan your own campervanning adventure 

The Camping and Caravanning Club has an online booking system allowing you to search and book RV and campsites across Europe.

A six-person RV costs from €1,750 for seven days, including insurance, unlimited mileage, cooking utensils and maps. 

Campsites cost from €189 for seven nights. Eurostar offers return fares from St Pancras to Marseilles from €122 return.

Camargue bird-spotting tours with Frederic Bouvet cost from €13 for three hours. Visit guide-nature


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