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FRANCE-Visited Regularly
French Penant

We have crossed France many times on route to other countries. Motorway services and laybys, (aires) are excellent and there are very few without disabled facilities. On our very first camping trip in Auguest 1988, heading for the south of France and Argeles, I can remember how surprised we were at this. I don't know quite what we expected but it only made us more determined to return.

Camping at St Avit Loisirs

Camping is a way of life on the continent, France is no exception and good campsites with suitable facilities are not difficult to find. Armed with good guides, travel by vehicle in France is not difficult for the wheelchair user. This is our account of the trips we have made, to go direct to a section, click on the highlighted text. To read our notes on the other countries we have visited, use the left hand side menu.

Our first trip with the caravan was in the summer of 1990 whilst on the way to the Costa Brava. We stopped for 3 nights in Fumel in the Lot valley and on our return journey we also stopped 3 nights in Millau to visit the Gorge du Tarn. We travelled through France again in 1992 but only night stopped and it was not until 1993 that we stayed for any length of time. We visited the Dordogne for 2 weeks, staying at St Avit Loisirs, Le Bugue which is not far from Sarlat. This pleasant site, which is tucked away in the countryside, has disabled facilities. Local excursions by car presented no problems.

Our next lengthy stay was in early July 1998 whilst on the way back from Spain. We stayed 2 weeks in Brittany at Domaine De Pendruc near Concarneau. This site did not have disabled facilities but it is rurally located conveniently close to some excellent beaches. Again local and day excursions by car were not a problem. On our journey back to Calais we visited Rouen

Carcasonne Cite In May 2001 on our return from Spain we stopped at Carcassonne for a 2 nights. On numerous occasions, we had long admired this impressive fortress "Cite" from afar as we passed by, this time we were determined to pay a visit. We stayed at Camping La Cite.

We returned to France again in September 2001, taking a few days to travel down the west coast from Cherbourg into Spain before re-entering France to spend a few days at the coastal resort of Canet en Roussillon. After leaving Canet, we spent the next 10 days meandered back towards Cherbourg to catch the return ferry to Portsmouth. We first went west along the foothills of the Pyrenees before heading north into the Department of Aveyron where we visited Cordes, Villefranche de Rouergue, the village of Sauveterre de Rouergue and finally Conques before once more heading north. We night stopped near Chateauroux and then carried on to Le Mans and into Normandy where we spent a few days visiting the 'Overlord' invasion beaches and some of the World War II historic sites and museums which abound in this area.

In July 2002 on our way to Switzerland we briefly visited the Alsace visiting Kaysersberg and travelling along some of the 'Route de Vin'. On our way back we spent a few days visiting two of the great battlefields of WW1. the Somme and Vimy Ridge near Arras.

In 2005 we were back again for a longer visit spending two weeks on a circular tour. We had no real plans but ended up visiting Mont St Michel, Carnac, Cognac, Oradour sur Glane near Limoges, before finally taking the D940 to Vincelles near Auxere and then making our way to Brugges in Belgium via Soissons.

In April 2007, on our way back from Spain, we decided to visit the Millau Bridge and Lake Annecy.

In June 2009 we crossed France on our way to tour round the Iberian coast. We didn't linger on the outward journey but on the way back spent a couple of days in Montignac Charente, a small village on the banks of the Charente, a very peaceful spot to linger and laze. You can read the blog of our trip here

In April 2010 we crossed France to and from Morocco. On our outward journey heading for Pau and Spain via the Somport Tunnel, we only night stopped on the aires at Le Touquet, St Maure de Touraine and Preignac. Our return journey into France from Spain was via the Vielha Tunnel. The weather was very cold and miserable and we stayed at a number of campsites but yet again we did not linger. You can read the blog of this trip and view photographs here.

In 2011 we made our first winter crossing in January on the way to Spain returning in early March. The main problem with travel at this time of year is the lack of open campsites. With a motorhome you can stop on the Motorhome Aires, even so many of the facilities on these are turned off and finding water can be a bit hit and miss. If you are towing a caravan then you must plan your route carefully to arrive at the few open campsites for your night stops. Many prefer to use a ferry from the UK to northern Spain rather than drive across France at this time of year. You can read the blog of this trip and view photographs here.

In April 2013 we pottered 840 miles down through France avoiding the autoroutes to Provence spending a few days at Lake Annecy. again and then continuing the journey south via the Gorges du Verdun to Cannes where we also stopped a few days before the final stop at Port Grimaud. I kept a blog of this trip which also includes a short video of the Gorges du Verdun. You can read this and watch the video here.

OUR VISITS
Dordogne - Last visited August 1993. Basing ourselves near the small town of La Bugue for two weeks we toured the area often taking a picnic with us on the day trips. Canoeing is popular with tourist in this area, it is a great way of seeing the countryside but sadly the canoes are not suitable for a non ambulant wheelchair user with poor balance. Our trips to La Bugue, Sarlat, Les Eyzies, Roc-amador and along the Dordogne were all made by car. Sarlat has its fair share of cobbled streets in the old town and was probably the most difficult to get around with the wheelchair, but La Bugue and Les Eyzies presented little problem. The area is famous for its many caves but we considered these probably unsuitable for a wheelchair and made no attempt to visit any. However, a day trip to the picturesque monastic town of Roc-amador turned out far easier than expected. Parking for the disabled was available and although this medieval town is built on the sides of a cliff, there is a two stage lift available to help the less ambulant change levels. A visit here is well worthwhile if in the area.

Concarneau - Last visited July 1998. A two week holiday in the peacefull village of Pendruc, not far from Concarneau, was a welcome break on the long drive back from Spain. Located close to some excellent beaches it was the ideal place to relax with the occasional day out to visit Concarneau, Quimper, Douarnenez and the Glenan Isles. Concarneau is of interested due to the fortified old town built on a rocky island. It is a delight to wander its old streets even if they are cobbled and we made more than one trip there. We had no trouble finding parking for the disabled on the harbour front on these occasions before wandering across the short causeway into the Ville-Close (old town). Our visit to Quimper was for a guided tour of the HB-Henroit pottery. Beautiful hand painted items are made here, but at a price. Watching one artist painstakingly decorating a piece, I made the mistake of asking our guide it they ever used transfers, I hadn't intended it as an insult but still received the sharp end of the guides tongue! We also strolled around the town centre encountering no problems with the wheelchair. Douarnenez is well known to many yatchsman. Its the French equivalent of Britains Cowes or Falmouth. The object of our trip was to visit its Boat Museum, this was followed by a stroll along the harbour front and a visit to cafe to watch the comings and goings in more comfort over refreshment. The Boat Musuem was wheelchair accesible. Towards the end of our stay we took a glass bottomed boat day trip from Benodet out to the Glenan Isles. These are a group of fairly low lying islands some 11 miles off shore and the voyage took us around some of the islands before disembarking us on one of them for a few hours before the return trip. Not an easy trip with a wheelchair. Getting on and off the boat was fairly easy but there were stairs down to the glass bottom, not that there was much to see anyway and the island we were landed upon had three or four buildings clustered around the getty and to go anywhere else was a struggle over tracks and soft sand. No doubt very enjoyable for the ambulent but we spent our time picnicing in the sunshine on a nearby beach.

Rouen - Last visited July 1998. Many, on their hurry south to avoid Paris and its busy "Periphique", pass this city by without visiting its centre. This is a mistake for it is full of old world charm and colour. It is also the place where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. We stayed on a municiple site to the south west of Rouen and drove to the centre and were lucky enough to find parking not too far from the Rue du Gros Hortege, a pedestrianised street named after its huge 14th century gilt clock. The area around here is level and we spent a sunny day ambling around the area taking in the sights of the timber framed buildings, the cathedral and the Place du Vieux-marche where a cross marks the spot where Joan of Arc was burnt.

Carcassonne - Last visited June 2001. Our chosen site, Camping La Cite, had no disabled facilities but we had been told you could walk along the river side to the town and fortress. This was indeed the case and we had no trouble getting to the towns outskirts. Our first attempt to enter the "Cite" via a back door was a failure and we found our route barred to a wheelchair by narrow steps and gateway. We retreated back down the hill and into town from where we approached via the main route to find you could in fact drive up and park near the main entrance. Once in the "Cite" we were surprised to find that it was far more accessible than its age led us to believe and we spent the rest of the day wandering around the narrow streets admiring the quaint squares, shops and the splendour of the architecture. There are no specific disable facilities in the "Cite" but there is a public toilet with disabled facilities in the lower town.

Canet en Roussillon - Last visited September 2001. Canet is a flat area of coastal southern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees. Great for a family beach holiday, there being miles of beach in either direction. Canet itself is nothing special. It is modern, flat and fairly wheelchair friendly with pleanty of parking for the disabled. There is a wheelchair accessible toilet on the western esplanade in the car park but it can only be accessed using a swipe card which is available free of charge from the local tourist office on production of your disabled badge.

Department of Aveyron - Last visited September 2001 Cordes Cobbles Cordes is a medieval town set on a hill top. A one way tarmac road ascends the hill side from the lower town and comes down on the other side of the hill. It skirts the old town and at its highest point passes the main gateway into the old town. For Frs10, cars can park on this road. The old town is not wheelchair friendly, the streets are steep and cobbled and unless you have a good electric chair and are willing to accept a rough ride it is not recommended. The walk up the tarmac road though offers fine views of the surrounding country and a peek into the narrow 'touristy' streets of the old town. Villefranche de Rouergue on the other hand is far more accessible and in my view more interesting, it still having a feel of an old French working town unaffected by tourism. It is but a short walk from the riverside car park through the narrow streets to the compact ancient centre. The Place Notre Dame is encircled by overhanging houses beneath which traders ply their wares.
Sauveterre de Rouergue is a medieval bastide village with a fine central square. No wheelchair hassles here as it is largely flat with well made up pathways and narrow streets. At 3p.m on a cloudy September afternoon we virtually had the place to ourselves.
Conques Conques was the jewel in the crown of our visit to this region, a delightful medieval village set on the hill side of a sheltered valley. We were so taken with the area we stayed two days. Wendy relaxed reading in the sun shine by the riverside adjacent to our pitch while I explored the surrounding area on foot. A steep winding road leads up to the village from the valley bottom. There is plenty of parking even for a few motorhomes at the back of the village and the road through the village is wheelchair friendly though a little hilly and a small section of it is cobbled. Some of the streets off this road, although cobbled, can be accessed without too much effort so you can see a good bit of the village. Some areas are stepped and far too steep and rough even for an electric chair. There is a very poor wheelchair accessible toilet at the top end of the village near the top car park.

Normandy - Last visited September 2001. A climate change away from Conques and two days later we were on the D-Day beaches of Normandy. I have read the books and seen the films but standing above Gold St Mere Egise Churchand Omaha Beaches I was still taken aback at the exposed positions of the landing forces. I think everyone should visit this area at least once in their lives and reflect and remember what many men died for. We stayed on the municiple site in Arromanches. There is an adjacent aire but it was full. From here it was a short easy walk to the sea front to view what is left of the Mulberry Harbour and to visit the well presented "6th June 1944" museum which is fully wheelchair accessible. A steep walk up the hill will take you to the war time positions overlooking Arromanches and Gold beach. A 360 degree cinema presents an interesting film about the invasion. It is fully accessible and a wheelchair accessible toilet is available here and in the town. There is also a large car park by the cinema so you can drive up to it if you cannot face the walk. A free 'road train' also plies the route but it was not wheelchair accessible. From here we visited the peaceful haven of the British cemetery at Ryes (not easy to find tucked away in the countryside) then on along the coast road to the American cemetery above Omaha Beach. Both very moving experiences. St Mere Eglise was next. We parked in the square overlooked by the dangling paratrooper which still adorns the church tower. We were not charged to visit the Airborne Museum and again it was fully accessible. Our visit over, we night stopped just outside Cherbourg before catching the early morning ferry back to Portsmouth.

Alsace Last visited July 2002. A brief trip, stopping for a couple of nights on route to Switzerland to visit Kaysersberg and Ribeauville. Both places provide overnight parking for motorhomes for a small charge, Kaysersberg having a large "Aire" with parking and full service facilities for about 50 vans. This is within easy walking distance of this pretty touristy town. Ribeauville is equally as interesting but had a more working rather than a touristy feel to it. There are some cobbled areas but both towns are not too difficult to get around and are well worth a stopover.

WW1 Battlefields Last visited July 2002. On our way back we headed for the Battlefields of the Somme, first stopping at Peronne to visit the fascinating WW1 museum which has been set up there. We were lucky and managed to park the motorhome right outside the museum where we spent the morning getting a feel of not only the background to the war but also those involved and its great battles. The museum is excellently laid out and is completely wheelchair accessible and boasts a cafe and good wheelchair accessible toilets. In the afternoon we visited some of the huge memorials built in the area but little else of the battle remains although we read French farmers are still killed or injured every year by unexploded munitions. We night stopped in Arras on the small Municiple site, very handy for visiting Arras itself, but we did not walk into the town centre. The next day we made our way to Vimy Ridge. Here a section of the trenches of both sides have been preserved and face each other just a few paces apart. The ground here has been given to Canada in perpetuity and it still bears the scars of battle. You can take a free guided tour of the area and venture underground into the tunnels built for protection and assault. Non of this is wheelchair accessible but a visit here is a real eye opener but do take the guided tour for maximum impact. The huge white memorial which stands here overlooking the valley below was the most impressive that we viewed and a trip to this site cannot fail to have a sombre impact on the visitor. There is no difficulty parking here with a motorhome.

Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel Last visited June 2005. We paid our overnight fee to stay in the adjacent carpark We did not expect the "Mont" to be wheelchair friendly so I explored it in the evening leaving Wendy in the van. There is parking for the disable at the end of the left hand side car park outside the entrance, but only the main street is accessible and this slopes uphill becoming very steep towards its end. There is an accessible toilet in the street and a few of the premises have level access from it. This area represents a small fraction of what there is to see but nothing else is accessible. I had a good wander around and we both revisited the main street the following morning before deciding to head for Carnac.

Carnac Last visited June 2005. We wanted to head south so Carnac seemed the next logical stop to head for. We found a site just a quarter of a mile from the beach midway between Carnac and LaTrinite sur Mer and settled down for the weekend. The site was practically empty of tourers. The area is largely flat but we did encounter a hill whilst walking along the coast cycle way which leads into Trinite sur Mer where we went for Sunday lunch. Once down by the harbour side the going was much easier and we selected a restaurant of the half dozen or so scattered along the harbour front. We must have chosen wisely because within half and hour of opening the place was full. We chose to follow the coastal footpath back. It was wheelchair friendly and there were a number of points where it was also possible to cut back inland to the roads. We chose to keep going and eventually encountered a flight of steps! We did manage to get down these and get back to site but it spoilt what was otherwise an enjoyable day. Our brief stay over without ever visiting Carnac we headed south again for Cognac where we were to meet friends on the Municiple site.

Cognac Last visited June 2005. Camping Cognac is located on the D24 on the banks of the River Charente about 2 miles from the centre of Cognac. This is a popular well kept site and was largely occupied by Brits. We walked into Cognac for the day. It is slightly uphill and there is no pathway alongside the busy road for the first 3/4 of a mile, thereafter it was no problem. There were plenty of dropped kerbs and the centre is pedestrianised but it was not the shops we had come to Cognac for! A brief visit to Hennessy's visitor centre established the times of tours which were wheelchair friendly and we went for lunch. The afternoon guided tour and tasting took about an hour and involved taking a short wheelchair friendly boat trip down and across the river. We liked Cognac but felt a two night stay was sufficient to look around. Our guide books indicated the scene of one of WW2s greatest atrocities was not far away and, on the way to our next night stop, Oradour sur Glane was the next place we visited.

Oradour sur Glane street

Oradour sur Glane Last visited June 2005. Oradour, a village a few miles to the north east of Limoges, was raised to the ground by the Nazis a few days after the D Day landings and over 700 men women and children were killed and their bodies burnt. Only a handful of survivors lived to tell the tale. The village was never rebuilt but remains as the Nazis left it as a memorial to those who died. You can stroll around its deserted streets, past the wrecked cars and household items where not a building remains intact. An exhibition starts the visit recounting events through pictures and a video presentation. The majority of the area is wheelchair accessible with a helper. You cannot fail to be moved by this visit. A new village has been built along side the old but I cannot imagine what it is like to live with the constant reminder of such an atrocity on your door step. We drove on, night stopping at Eyemoutiers before taking the D940 north.

Vincelles Last visited June 2005. Limousin always did look an interesting area and the D940 cuts through its heart and provided a quiet alternative route north. We night stopped early on a sunny day near La Chartre before continuing northwards to Vincelles, a small village a few miles south of Auxerre in the Yonne valley. We spent two nights at a pleasant level site we found next to the canal. This had an excellent level well made up tow path which we used for a days walk southwards to the next village. Still in fine weather we then headed for Belgium and Brugges.

Millau Bridge. Last visited April 2007. We only stopped the one night in Millau at a level campsite on the banks of the Tarn whilst on our way back from a visit to Spain. I wrote a blog on this trip. For more detail read this and view our pictures of the trip by clicking here. It is easy enough to visit or cross the bridge with your own transport. The D992 from Millau to Albi passes under the bridge where there is also a visitors centre which was unfortunately not open at the time we visited. We then carried on across the Ardeche to Lake Annecy.

Lake Annecy. Our first visited was in April 2007. We based ourselves within walking distance of Annecy old town at Camping Belevedere for three nights before moving on round the lake to Camping Le Lac Bleu for one night. On our second visit, in April 2013, we stayed at Camping Europa which is on the western shore 5 miles south of Annecy old town. This is a beautiful area to visit and our first visit, in excellent weather, was all too short hence our choice to make a return trip, this time in poorer weather, but again for only three nights.

Annecy old town is at the northern end of the lake and the terrain here is level. It is easy to get round the town and the lake side but stray too far from it's shores and the ground slopes steeply. Parking on the sunny weekend on our first visit there was in short supply but it did look much easier to park on a weekday. Boat trips can be taken on the crystal clear waters of the lake and, although we did not embark on one, we noticed at least two of the boats were wheelchair accessible. On our first visit we walked into Annecy on two days and on the third day we drove around the lake and visited the Col de la Forclaz viewpoint. It is quite a drive up to this but we had no difficulty parking at the top in April. Here there are tourist shops and cafe, all wheelchair accessible and from the cafe there is a superb view from it's terrace.

On our second visit we remained local and did not visit Annecy. The area around Camping Europa is a little more open. However, the weather was not so good but we still managed a couple of days walking along the lake side paths and cycleways taking in the scenery and the mountain air.

Provence. In May 2013, we spent a total of 8 days in Provence. We found coastal Provence very busy even this early in the year. It is a nice enough area but it didn't do it for us! We thought it over commercialised and while the scenery could be spectacular, the beaches weren't and the two campsites we stayed on, Camping Cigales near Cannes and Camping de La Plage near Port Grimaud, were the most expensive of the trip at just over 30 euros a night and were certainly not value for money.That said we had no difficulty getting around with the wheelchair at any of the places we visited and the sun did shine most of the time!

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