View Full Version : First Road Trip - France, Spain & Portugal

01-06-2011, 13:35
Hi everyone

We are setting of in July in the van for 16 days. We are planning to get to Portugal asap (don't mind hours of driving etc!) but have never done this before....we are planning on stopping for a couple of sleepovers "free" if possible, any hints & tips much appreciated?! Thanks

01-06-2011, 14:03
Once in Portugal stay away from the Algave, the west cost nazare porto plenty of free camping, we will be down there for 3 months but always go inland to a big fresh water lake the coast gets busy june onwards the Algarve is ok in the winter but last summer we got moved on. Look out for the toll roads some you pay for in a toll shop and not easy to find a right mess up they are. safe travel ken

01-06-2011, 14:19
Experience of our first family trip to France and Spain

we've just got back from this trip and i wanted to share some experiences, especially for other first-timers as we were. Thanks to Rickboy for the hint on using the St Nazaire to Gijon ferry, this was a golden nugget

We have a VW Reimo Transporter conversion, and went with our 9-yr old daughter. The kit we took with us was as follows:

Storage boxes from 'Really Useful Box' company - very strong (sit on) and sized to fit our limited van spaces perfectly; Reimo 'Tour Easy 2' driveaway awning - invaluable; Portaloo (avoid night-time walks for the girls).


Day 1 - Eurotunnel to Calais, then down coast road, stop off at Cap de Gris Nez. First 2 nights in Camping Champ Neuf in Baie du Somme area - fantastic area (good tips on this website) with huge beaches, walks all close to camp site. Camp site has a 'natural' area which we used, but also had an indoor heated pool, playground, bouncy castle and nice bar / cafe area with Wifi. From here we visited St Valery sur Somme (mentioned a lot on this website too, which was very pretty).

Day 3 - drove to Rambouillet (4hrs) and stayed in a 'Huttopia' campsite (lots of wooden cabins, forest location. Again perfect for children with playground, bike hire, pool (natural water, but too cold for us in April). Communal dining / bar area bit like a ski chalet where you can take your own food, hang out, very comfortable. 45 min walk to forest activity centre, with tree walkway, birds of prey demonstration, deer park etc. 2 nights here. We chose off-toll route which was a mistake as the road that follows the Seine was very stop/start.

Day 5 - overnight from St Nazaire to Gijon. Left 9pm, arrived 12 noon next day. Had cabin and woke up in Spain... LD Lines do this route and it was very pleasant crossing. Mainly truck drivers and freight, but nice enough cabin and facilities. Dolphins on the way and a bit of sunbathing on deck.

Day 6 - Gijon really interesting town, with nice beaches of its own. We had booked in a 'Green' b&B for a change, in the Asturias mountains nr Infiesto (Casa D'Ayulga). Beautiful rural location with stunning views across mountains/valleys. owner keeps 2 horses and lets the children help with feeding / cleaning. 2 nights here.

Day 8 - decided to head to North coast around Llanes, recommended for beaches and find somewhere to camp. Our daughter spotted a beach called 'Playa de Poo' so we had to check that out. Arrived to find the most pretty beach I have ever seen in Europe. No campsite, but small hotel right on beach. On spur of moment I checked prices (65 Euros for 3 of us, bed only) and decided we would stay for a couple of days. This was a magical place and wonderful for kids. We cooked our own food in our camper, parked in a field next to the hotel. Look at pictures on the internet. The owners were very friendly, and the restaurant served superb (but pricey) food. So good if you want to dress up and splash out. We tried it once and the anchovies and grilled vegetables were very good. We stayed for an extra day it was so good. On last day we took a trip back towards Arriondas, up river from Ribadesella. This is a big river activity centre - we did a canoe trip down the river which was awesome. Took 3-4 hours with packed lunch stop on the river. We booked with Cangas Aventuras and i think it costs about 30-40 Euros each. Good value though and some exciting but not dangerous small rapids we enjoyed (lifejackets supplied). The same centre in Arriondas has a Go-Ape equivalent which we tried. They have a 1.2M minimum height, which meant our daughter could do it (In UK she is too young). Highly recommended ! Nice car park where you can set up for the day amongst the trees, near the river.

Days 11-13 - tried to find a good camp site along the coast around Llanes but failed. All were crammed tightly with caravans, and no god vibes. La Paz looked the best, best but didn't suit us as it was very exposed on the cliff tops and steep climbs to beach. We headed into mountains and stayed in Camping Picos Europas near Avin for 2 nights. This was excellent too with a stream and good facilities. A good base for exploring the Picos. Some stunning drives around the National Park here and plenty of places for wild camping noted...

Day 13-16 - same overnight ferry back to St Nazaire, and we stayed in Briere in Asserac for our last 3 days. I think this was our daughters favourite as we had a perfect spot next to indoor/outdoor pool, trampoline, sandy beach. The camp site was Le Moulin d'Eclis. Last day took 5 hour drive back to Le Havre and LD Lines back to Portsmouth. One memory from here was us all trying 'bulots' at a restaurant, which are large sea snails.. brief attempt from wife and daughter but they aren't cooked at all. I ate them

We were very lucky and had perfect weather. I'd recommend highly all the places we stayed. I chose the route and stop-overs based on the advice in this forum, so thanks to everyone ! OK so we didn't wild-camp but this was our first trip and the main objective was a family holiday. Of course too it wasn't the cheapest way to do it, but still very good value for us. Also, the whole trip we met almost zero english people and were forced to try our French / Spanish - we loved that challenge but maybe some wouldn't.

If anyone wants more details or info then please send me an email or post here.

Already mentioned on this forum many times, Northern Spain is fabulous. The Asturias are amazing and the beaches surprising.

I hope this helps some other first-timers with families.


01-06-2011, 14:19
Thanks for your reply....Oh dear - The Algarve is where we are heading! Alvor in fact. We have a friend there who we plan to visit. Will watch out for the toll roads though, thanks again :-)

01-06-2011, 14:37
we have been there a large car park near a block of flats that were being built that had stopped working on we got away with 3nights but we moved on before the weekend ask you friends if they know anyone that will let you park up i found them very friendly there even the police were ok. Just say O dear I am very sorry if ask to moved your be ok.