Vive la France!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 29, 2009

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Monday, August 17, 2009

As I've said before if we ever live in Europe again our heads would choose Germany, but our hearts would defiantly choose France, and being old romantics our hearts would probably win! What can we say that hasn't already been said, as soon as we crossed the border we were lifted from the gloom of returning home, the sun greeted us and the rolling countryside made it feel like the start of the journey all over again.

We headed to Reimes, which is a place close to our hearts. Being close to Calais its been on the cross-roads for our journeys into Europe in the past, and is one of the best cities in the North away from the English speaking crowds, and in my opinion has the most impressive cathedral in the world (well the best finished one not including Barcelona!). Even after three visits we had never realised there was a camper stop right in the center, another good advert for the camperstop bible. The weather was getting really hot again, we were two minuets from a great supermarket and cheap French wine was back on the menu, so we just soaked up the sun in the park we were next to and quickly got back into the French grove.

After a couple of nights it was time to make a decision on Pairs, would we go for it or just circle the north west of France for the rest of the holiday? We finally decided to go for it and if it got to much bail out and maybe go to Chartles then head back along the coast to Dunkirk. We didn't get up early that morning, it was getting really hot and the excitement of driving to Paris and the hot night had kept us awake. But we needn't have worried driving into Paris with the sat nav was fairly easy and our plan was to do our usual trick of parking on the outskirts and cycling into the city.

We parked on the west edge of the city near the massive Boulogne park, we had checked out a campsite to use as a base nearby but it was rammed full and didn't look much fun, but it looked like we might get away with camping near the park as there seemed lots of campers and places to park for the day. We cycled towards the city excited as children, its been fifteen years since I was last in Paris and Sharon has never been, its one of the last major places in western Europe we haven't been to together, for one reason or another we just never made it. So to see the tower for the first time spurred us on, it felt like the end of a marathon the legs were empty but the excitement of the finish line kept us going. I can't describe the feeling cycling under the tower it really did feel like journeys end, five months on the road we had done pretty much everything we had set out to do and here we were in one of the most exciting cities in the world with a final set of experiences left to enjoy.

We must have cycled 20km or more that day we just went from one sight to the next, it was fairly hard going for Sharon on some of the busy roads but she did really well and soon got the hang of it, the Parisians respect the bikers and usually give you priority and there is a excellent network of cycle lanes it really is the best way to see Paris, its just the tourists walking in the bike lanes you have to watch out for!

On the way back just off the Champs Elysees we noticed allot off campervans, they looked like they were actually camping there, we found it hard to believe but decided to explore, there must have been a catch? We managed to ask a Polish guy who spoke English and he told us he had camped there all week for free! This had to be our number one lucky find, apparently you can park on most car parks in august for free, Paris largely takes August off, and in the words of the guide book hands it over to the tourists. So that was it, we raced back to the van to get our spot, which was just as well as we didn't realise the park we were going to camp by was a hooker magnet at night, cycling back in the early evening the pimps and pros were getting ready for the night ahead, I don't think we would have slept to soundly there!

What more can I say, here we were with an amazing spot with the whole of Paris within easy reach on the bikes, we may have only spent a day or two here otherwise but we ended up staying five nights, everyday there was something to do or see its not hard to see why its such a romantic place, art and culture oozes from every corner and the French are rightly proud of the capital.

It didn't cost us much at all during the week, we are pretty savy to most tourist traps in Europe now and it wasn't hard to find the cheap local shops tucked away from the main routes, our biggest expense was a two day museum pass at 30 euros each, but this is Europe Paul and Shaz style and we hammered all the major museums and sights on the card bringing each entry fee down from around 10 euros to about 3 euros for each visit. The queues for the tower were massive and the card included a tour of the Arc-de-triumph so we climbed that instead, I have been up the tower before and have to say this view with its elevated position on the top of the Champs Elysees was as good if not better.

The week had been exceptionally hot and buy the end of the week we were stuffed full of culture, hot and sweaty, tired but happy and in need of some real r&r, we had seen everything we wanted so unfortunately we had to go, and I had a feeling the van would want to retire in this spot as it felt like the end of the road and low and behold when we came to get going the battery was dead! Five days slowly draining the main battery through the leisure battery had finally killed it off. For one, hopefully last, time we had to ring the AA for a jump start. Two house later the very nice mechanic gave us a jolt and that was it we drove out of Paris, I can say I tackled the most famous nine lane roundabout at the Champs Elysees and came out the other end sad but unscathed, and we headed north for a place to freshen up before the trip home.

I'm sat today at the municipal camp site in Beauvais, the guide book describes this place as dull city, its still very picturesque compared to England and if this is as bad as it can get in France it would still suit us down to the ground. We have cleaned up relaxed our tired legs and are all set to go, hopefully we will make it in one piece and unless something drastic happens I will be signing off from this blog here. Going home, if only for a few weeks feels like the end of one adventure and ending this stage here seems the natural thing to do, keep an eye out for our next stage which starts with the flight to Kuala Lumper on september the ninth.

The van may go on ebay when we get back we are still undecided, if you want a slightly used but reliable van with everything you need for 6 months on the road let me know! Offers in the region of 7k will be seriously considered.

Sharon has been conspicuous by her absence when its come to writing on the blog, but to prove she exists and has a voice she has decided to come out of self imposed hiding and write the final European summery which will fittingly end this journey.

I bid you au-revoir, thanks for listening to me ramble on over the last few months, I look forward to seeing you all in Aisa and eventually Australia!
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