Tag Archives: touring france


Normandy, France - Mont St Michel

Normandy, France – so peaceful, green and beautiful

There can”t be a finer place to tour by car on a sunny day than Normandy in France. Its vast tracts of farmland ensure you are surrounded by a wonderful landscape of fields, majestic trees and contrasting blue skies. It”s like driving in a huge water colour painting.

When I drove through the same area in March I found myself caught out by bizarre arctic weather on a journey which involved negotiating auto-route closures and queues of stranded lorries to reach the ferry terminal at Caen.When I returned in late April it was payback time on a balmy day in which the temperature hit 25C and the region just exploded in all its lush farmland beauty.

Normandy is crammed with monuments to human suffering with its legacy of warfare and has a regular tourist trade in those wanting to follow its various historical trails from the Bayeux Tapestry to the )Whether justin-bieber-news.info “is a racist” is not and never was the point. D-Day beaches. Viking Norsemen gave it its name and the 7th duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, invaded England from this shore.

Historic Rouen

Historic Rouen, Normandy, where Joan of Arc was martyred

Joan of Arc, who rallied France against the English, was burned at the stake in Rouen. And on these beaches a WWII battle changed the course of history.

But move away from this well worn trails and you find a beautiful and vibrant part of France just made for touring.


Normandy - its lush farmland makes for great touring


A nice run from the ferry ports is down to Avranches and the iconic Mont St Michel – an ancient monastery on a rocky tidal island. It is one of France”s most famous landmarks and part of the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. The road leading to it runs through beautiful countryside and the French have enhanced its tourist appeal with a great inexpensive car park and free shuttle buses to take you along the causeway if you don”t fancy the walk of more than a mile. Cars were banned from last year and major works are taking place on the new causeway that will connect with a bridge to the mount.



Normandy Mont St Michel

But even better on a nice day is to just get away from the crowds and enjoy lovely unspoilt villages and open spaces. The joy of touring by car!



Europe road trip – day one


Europe touring - rpad trip Portugal to England

Touring by car can give a whole new dimension to the joy of travel

Europe road trip day one – Algarve, Portugal, to Seville, Spain

I have always found touring Europe by car one of the best ways to holiday. There’s so much to enjoy and outside of the peak school holidays finding accommodation is so easy.

This means you don’t have to plan your route. If you get bogged down in rain in Picardy you can motor on to the south of France or Spain or Italy.

But that amazing freedom of the road comes at a price, a price which is continually, it seems, being upped at the petrol pump and the auto-route toll booth. So taking note of where you pay most for petrol and for using roads has become quite important.

As I am from the North-East of England, I usually head south but this time I was going the other way and heading north. I was setting off on a journey of more than 1,500 miles from Portimao on the Portuguese Algarve to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England so I decided to cut the cost of tolls by using N-roads.

I avoided the A22 and took the N152 eastward out of the Algarve to drive directly in to Spain which is relatively toll free and has excellent auto-routes.

Portugal has great auto-routes to take you northwards but they have installed electronic tolls on them which are a great inconvenience to its visitors. I took the Spanish route because I can’t be bothered with these electronic toll roads and avoid then wherever possible. You can read more about that on link below this story.

This pleasant Saturday drive – at one stage I was wedged firmly behind a horse and trap – took me through whitewashed Portuguese villages and the very quiet city of Faro.Europe road trip - ferry crossing I ran out of road at Vila Real de Santo Antonio on the Portuguese border and a ferry crossing was necessary. However this was pleasant and only cost 5 euros. I was the only car on the boat.

Once in Ayamonte on the Spanish side the E1/A49 no toll auto-route took me swiftly all the way to Seville –  85 miles  – at no extra cost.

Another financial point about the journey was that fuel prices displayed on Algarve forecourts were 1.60 euros and up for 95 octane unleaded. The first price I spotted on the Spanish side  was 1.44 euros and this got cheaper.

Landing in Seville at the end of a long journey is not to be recommended. The city centre is difficult to navigate for a first timer and overnight parking is crazy. You end up cruising the streets searching for a free space.

Next day I took the time to explore this great city and the day after I was driving through Spain to France – a journey I was able to complete on great roads and spend less than two euros on tolls. More about that later.








Have car will travel – touring from Newcastle to the Algarve

a href=”http://globewanderer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/photo.jpg”img class=”size-full wp-image-61″ title=”Have car will travel – road trip from Newcastle to the Algarve” src=”http://globewanderer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/photo.jpg” alt=”Touring – road trip from England to Algarve, Portugal” width=”478″ height=”640″ //a Touring by car gives a whole new dimension to the joy of travel




















h2Touring by car offers freedom of the road/h2

Taking the open road to the sun can be a little bit pricey these days but the further south you go in Europe the cheaper it gets. And touring by car offers so much more freedom that maybe price comparisons with other holidays miss the point. Getting overnight accommodation in France, Spain and Portugal is so easy you can decide your stopping points as you go along – for example, will the first stop in Europe be Paris for the nightlife or Rouen for its medieval history?

To help balance the budget a bit, we have been taking a look at the sort of costs motorists will face this year if they tour in Europe.

First of all, don’t expect fuel to be much cheaper. You’ll pay over E1.70 a litre for 95 octane gasoline on roads in France and  in Portugal. Spain proved the cheapest with E1.50 a litre.

Then there are the tolls on the best routes to take. In France in particular these are becoming excessive and forcing many cars back on to the Route National which is slow going and can be badly congested in areas.

For less than an hour on the A28 from Rouen to Alencon, we were expected to pay E29.40. The circumstances were exceptional as we were diverted off it on to the RN because of a tanker crash but it still smacked of highway robbery.

If you’ve plenty of time to explore,  the RN roads can be fun, weaving their way, for instance, through the towns and villages of the Loire Valley.

If you are in a hurry to get to the  Spanish or Portuguese coast then it has to be the toll roads.

The bill for our car through France was 60 euros for tolls but it got cheaper in Spain and Portugal.
h2Electronic tolls/h2
In Portugal a href=”http://www.victoryag.org/”pokies online you/a encounter electronic tolls and, if you don’t want to risk falling foul of the authorities, you have to buy a card from a post office or service station.

You pay a refundable deposit of more than 20 euros for the card and it is advisable not to pay cash but to pay by debit or credit card.

Toll road fees are taken automatically from your card as you travel and when you hand your card in at the end of your trip you get your deposit back. Time-consuming and shrouded in controversy, but that’s the Portuguese way now.

Most things get cheaper the further south you go, particularly  the price of food and accommodation and wine.

We paid  96 euros for a room only in an Ibis hotel in Bordeaux while in Valladolid in northern Spain a Novotel room plus a meal for two and parking came to 101 euros.

In the Portuguese city of Castelo Branco an overnight stay in a Best Western hotel cost 93 euros but this included dinner for two, breakfast the following day and parking and a room with a balcony.

Getting accommodation is easy with a laptop if you travel outside of peak holidays and can be arranged the night before as you travel or even on the day.

You can often be given a room with just a shower so if you like a good soak at the end of a journey it’s worth asking if you can have a room with a bath or indicating on the web your preference.

The Channel Tunnel may be the quickest route across the English Channel but its also the most boring, twiddling your thumbs in a train carriage as it nips through the subterranean passage.

A one-way hour and a half ferry crossing with DFDS at £45 was almost half the price and probably more relaxing.

But don’t get too bogged down in the practicalities as this mode of travel gives you so much freedom to pick and choose what you want to see and do.

Our five-day trip to the Algarve gave us the opportunity to visit the historic medieval town of Rouen, the brandy lovers’ mecca of Coignac,  the sophisticated city of Bordeaux, the typical northern Spanish town of Valladolid, the historic  Portuguese city of Castelo Branco and then the Algarve where we could spend an enjoyable couple of weeks.

The trip fom Newcastle to the south coast took little over six hours and was broken up with a stay at Brighton. The route in France avoided the excitement of the Boulevard Périphérique ring road and headed via Rouen and Bordeaux to the south.
h2The bills/h2
The total fuel bill from Calais to Praia da Rocha, on the Algarve, was 280 euros.

Toll road bills in France were 60euros, in Portugal 50 and in Spain just 10. Total toll road bill was E120.

Mileage clocked from Newcastle to Praia da Rocha was 1988 miles

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