The highway... MY way; PAUL COLE takes to the roads of Brittany in a motorhome and finds that Britain has a lot to learn.
YThere's Brie, baguettes and Burgundy. And then there's motorhomes.
Once you take your home with you across the Channel, you'll be telling everyone 'Vive la difference'.
Because it's a world apart from driving on our own congested and cramped roads.
Not so long ago, I made the mistake of towing a caravan down to Devon in the school summer holidays. It was five hours on the road to hell, being waved straight through motorway services because the caravan and motorhome spaces were already full.
Rarely with caravans and motorhomes, mind. Most were taken by small private cars, whose owners couldn't care less.
So taking a motorhome to France, again in the summer holiday, filled me with foreboding.
Not the vehicle, itself, you understand. I've driven many motorhomes over the years, and this was a splendid one. Majestic, in fact. A name with a lot to live up to. But more of that later.
As we'd made a last-minute decision to hit the road, we took Brittany Ferries' Portsmouth to Caen route. (Both Roscoff and St Malo would have been closer to our destination but both were fully booked).
Driving on to the ferry is easy, even if you're a novice. Once parked up, you're free to explore the ship.
And, yes, ship isn't a misnomer. Today's ferries are like minicruise liners, complete with cabins, VIP quiet zones, play areas, restaurants, bars, shops and a cinema. In the summer the public areas can get busy, so paying the extra for a cabin to which you can retreat on a long crossing is worth every penny.
Disembarkation at the other side is just as simple. A few formalities and you're off.
On the wrong side of the road, of course, but off all the same.
And that's when you realise you made the right choice.
The French highways are wide and comparatively clear. Driving is a doddle once you've realised that the camber tends to want to pull you off onto the hard shoulder for much of the time. In a high-sided motorhome, take a little time, too, to acquaint yourself with the vacuum created by passing lorries. It's a breath of fresh aire. And, yes, you read that correctly.
Regular pull-off rest areas - aires - offer the chance to take a break. They're unlike our motorway services; some boast patisseries and delicatessens, some just picnic tables and loos.
And watch out for the camping car symbol, which means there are facilities for you to fill up your clean water tanks and empty your waste water. As well as en route on the highways, you'll find one in pretty much every major town or city, complete with dedicated parking bays.
It's a lesson Britain needs to learn. Motorhomes are often unwelcome here, but the French realise they bring in the tourist euro and lay out the carpet rouge.
We'd booked several nights at a French coastal campsite just outside Beg Meil in Brittany, Sunelia's Camping L'Atlantique. It lives up to its name, offering direct access onto a long safe, sandy beach via a path through a nature reserve. It's ten minutes from your pitch to the sea.
If you're expecting the pristine pitches and manicured lawns of club sites in the UK, you'll be disappointed. The French equivalents are more laidback affairs, and the coastal sites often sandy and scrubby at first sight. But the warmth of the welcome more than makes up for it.
And there's little better in motorhoming than collecting your baguettes and croissants fresh from the oven in the early morning sun.
The site boasted a family pool complex, makeshift spa, bar-restaurant, a hugely popular wood-fired pizza takeaway, mini-golf, shops, nightly enter-tainment, bike hire, soft play hall, sports areas and even an old-fashioned funfair carousel.
Exploring further afield, we visited Concarneau - less than half an hour away - with its historic walled Breton old town. Beg Meil and Benodet offer family beaches and - well worth a day trip - Brest is home to Oceanopolis, a sprawling aquarium complex six times the size of your average sea life centre.
Here, you can watch everything from sharks to seals, pilot fish to penguins from above, from eye-level and from below, such is the depth of the huge tanks.
Oceanopolis | But, d'you know, there's as great an attraction in touring the area in the comfort of the Majestic 155, stopping where and whenever you choose, a French radio station babbling in the background.
Built on the new generation Peugeot Boxer chassis, with a 2.2 litre, six-speed turbo diesel engine offering 150bhp, it'll cope with pretty much anything the road throws at you. Nominally a four-berth (there's a fixed double bed and you can turn the facing sofas at the front into another double) it's ideal for two, with plenty of space to stretch out in.
As with all the Majestic range, you'll find all mod cons included, such as reversing camera and parking sensors - both of which are must-have in a 19'8" long vehicle with no rear window - an intuitive sat-nav, touchscreen entertainment, automatic lights and wipers, and all manner of sockets.
in Brest The furnishings are comfortable; there's a kitchen area including a gas cooker, gas/electric hob, microwave and fridge-freezer; the loo and shower wet room is necessarily cosy but welcome on long journeys, and the memory foam mattressed bed is extraordinarily comfortable.
It is a home away from home, without - sorry, caravanners - having to tow the damned thing. You can see for yourself at the Motorhome and Caravan Show in Birmingham from October 13, where it'll be on display on the Marquis stand (Stand 6.55), with the rest of the range.
The show - Britain's largest - is dedicated to motorhomes, caravans, campervans, trailer tents, caravan holiday homes and lodges, with all manner of accessories to browse and buy. On the first day there'll be a world record-breaking life-sized caravan made from LEGO bricks, and I'm A Celebrity biker Carl 'Foggy' Fogarty opening the show.
There'll also be new product launches taking place each day in the Experts' Theatre, exclusive show-only deals, 400 exhibitors and the opportunity to try caravan towing and motorhome manoeuvring.
Now, if only the Transport Minister would give his French counterpart a call...
SAVE PS4 ON SHOW TICKETS THE Motorhome and Caravan Show at Birmingham's NEC from October 13 to 18 is the UK's biggest leisure vehicle event- and readers can enjoy a PS4 saving on admission.
Call 0844 338 7799 or visit www.
motorhomeandcaravanshow.co.uk and quote offer code TM1 and tickets are PS8 (Adult) and PS7 (Senior) if you book before 11.59pm on October 12.
On the door prices will be PS12 (adult), PS11 (senior) and children aged 15 years and under go free when accompanied by a paying adult/senior.
Car parking is included in the ticket price and the free show guide is subject to availability.
Calls to 0844 338 7799 cost 7p per minute plus your phone company's access charge. A PS1.25 transaction charge applies unless otherwise stated.
NEED TO KNOW Paul Cole | TRAVELled in a Majestic 155 motorhome loaned from Marquis Motorhomes & Caravans. The on-the-road price is PS48,923 but there's a saving of almost PS2,000 at the Motorhome & Caravan Show, which runs at Birmingham's NEC from October 13 to 18. Visit www.marquisleisure.co.uk/majestic or call freephone 0800 026 77 77.
He crossed the Channel with |Brittany Ferries, sailing from Portsmouth to Caen, and had the use of a four-berth cabin on the five-hour crossing. For latest timetables and fares, and full details of facilities available onboard including restaurants, shops, cinema, play areas and entertainment, see www.brittany-ferries.co.uk.
Paul booked his own sites |through Eurocamp Independent, who offer a complete campsite and ferry reservation service for motorhome, caravan and tent holidays across Europe. See www.eurocampindependent.co.uk
Brittany in |France has some beautiful coastal roads
Paul Cole took to the road in a Majestic 155, with plenty of room |inside for two, inset
Sunelia's Camping L'Atlantique
Oceanopolis in Brest
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Oct 8, 2015|
|Previous Article:||Baby Felicity 'looks like a tiny doll'.|
|Next Article:||A change of direction.|