Tour de France Tips 2013

Submitted: Monday, Jul 09, 2012 at 11:21
ThreadID: 96763 Views:3193 Replies:4 FollowUps:1
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My sister, brother in law and I are going to Europe next July to follow the Tour. We intend to hire a campervan for the duration of the tour.

As this is our first European adventure, we would appreciate tips from anyone who could advise on the best place to hire a van (we've been told hiring from somewhere outside France might be the best option), a website that could assist with the location of campgrounds around France, actually any tips at all -dos and don'ts!!!

We would love to hear from anyone who has done this.
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Reply By: Member - john y - Monday, Jul 09, 2012 at 19:16

Monday, Jul 09, 2012 at 19:16
My wife and I have been thinking along the same lines. We intend to follow it up next week when we visit Melbourne . We will advise in due course of our investigations . RegardsJohn y
AnswerID: 490504

Reply By: Neil - ACT - Monday, Jul 09, 2012 at 23:18

Monday, Jul 09, 2012 at 23:18

We can't help with information on hiring a motorhome, but as we have now had 3 wonderful camping holidays in France (in 2009, 2010, and earlier this year), we have some experience of the campgrounds in France. France is generally acknowledged as having the best network of excellent campgrounds in Western Europe.

We have obtained very useful information - including an iPad/iPhone app - from the Alan Rogers (UK) website. The ACSI organisation also produces an excellent book, but it was very difficult to obtain earlier this year compared to 2009 and 2010. It used to be readily available at the participating campgrounds. For some reason, the ACSI organisation will not post a copy to Australia, despite us offering to pay the postage.

Re the French campgrounds, we noted a few important differences to those in Australia:
- generally, the sites (called "pitches") are larger than usually found in Australia, and are typically classifiedby their size. Some campgrounds will charge more for the larger pitches. Howver, most are very well grassed, and are usually separated from the neighbouring pitches by a hedge varying in height from 10-12 cms to over 2 metres
- the "camping municipale" sites are usually very good value for money.
- except for the recently built or upgraded campgrounds, it is not usual for individual pitches to have their own water supply and sullage facilities. Typically then, motorhomes in particular need to be driven to the campground's drop point to empty the grey water tanks as necessary. Given the above water supply arrangements, most caravans and motorhomes do not have onboard water tanks. Rather, a separate water drum, not unlike a garden roller in design/appearance, is rolled to the nearest water tap and filled. This drum is then located next to the motorhome, and a hose from the motorhome is inserted into the it. This hose is connected to a pump in the motorhome, and water is pumped from the tank as needed.
- the powered pitches do not have a 'standard' electricity supply with respect to the amperage available. Typically, the available options are for either 6, 8 or 10 amps, and you pay the relevant daily rate.
- generally, the amenity blocks are maintained to a very high standard, although it is not unusual to have to pay for showers, and to provide your own toilet paper. Also, be aware that it seems that Europeans are comfortable for a lower level of privacy than most Australians, and the design of the amenity blocks can reflect this situation, particularly with the placement of the men's urinals!

When travelling in France, be aware that roundabouts are beloved by French road designers, red lights, speed limits etc are definitely obeyed, there is an almost total absence of Australia's prediliction for road rage. In other words, once you get used to driving on the right, it's usually very easy to get around. However, in many towns/cities, and particularly the smaller towns/villages, the streets are very narrow and often quite twisty, and thus not 'user friendly' to something the size of a motorhome.

Finally, can we strongly suggest that you use a GPS with European mapping at all times. How people ever found their way around France, and particularly through the cities in the days before GPS is a question that we asked ouselves almost daily.

Safe travels, and enjoy!!
AnswerID: 490525

Follow Up By: Neil - ACT - Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 at 08:14

Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 at 08:14
Hi again,

Some additional thoughts.

1. While it is a personal thing, we have found the DK series of travel guides to be the most useful. Even relatively small towns, and everything larger, has an Office de Tourisme. We quickly found these should be one of the first places we went to in a new area, as they are excellent sources of information. However, they only cover their immediate area. Even if you have an idea of something that might only be 20-30 kms away, if that attraction is close to the next town, then you would need to visit the Office de Tourisme in that town.
2. We have found the French people to be very courteous, helpful and friendly. We are now of the opinion that stories of the French being rude/discourteous may well be the result of that person's response to a lack of courtesy (or the like) by the tourist.
3. Europeans are far better and more courteous drivers than most Australian drivers.
4. The "A" roads (including the toll roads) are the quickest way to your destination. Howerver, using them means that you miss out on seeing so much of the area you are travelling through. On the other hand, using the "B" roads or lower means that you will regularly slowing down through towns, going through many roundabouts, and limited to a maximum of 90kph outside the towns. The toll roads have rest stops, many with amenities/fuel/food etc, roughly every 20kms. Australian governments should take note!! Even small local roads in the countryside are in excellent condition, if very often quite narrow and without road marking.
5. While it is slowly changing, all shops except boulangeries (bread) and some restaurants/cafes close on Sunday, and between 12-2pm during the week. Some even close from lunchtime Saturday for the weekend.
6. At the campgrounds, the cost a pitch is comparable to, and quite often cheaper, than you would expect to pay in Australia. Also, it is much easier to find a campground within easy walking distance of the local shops etc.
FollowupID: 765883

Reply By: heldus - Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 at 06:16

Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 at 06:16

I hope this links will help you.

Best regards from Germany
AnswerID: 490530

Reply By: Dillons - Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 at 10:43

Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012 at 10:43
Wow, thanks everyone for your tips. This is certainly a start for us.
AnswerID: 490545

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