First full week living in the van in Europe! Wow! It’s felt like we’ve been here forever and the van definitely fits our needs perfectly with us only having to make a few sacrifices to get huge gains overall.
We kicked things off on the 23rd August 2020, about 9pm Isaac came to pack everything into the van with me and finish off the last couple of jobs. We ended up leaving about 10:30pm meaning we didn’t get to Dover until 1:30am! Tired was an understatement.
The ferry left at about 7:30am the next morning and we were even greeted with a free breakfast (full English) which was really nice and a great way to start the trip even if we were exhausted.
When we arrived in France we hopped in the van and headed south straight away. The 24th was a big, big driving day and between us we covered about 370 miles in total getting us all the way down to Tours. We found a free place to camp in a little car park with a few other campers cooked tuna pasta for dinner and crashed out. Another tiring day but well worth the effort.
Tuesday was another big day of driving taking us down to the Dordogne river, when we got to our camp spot only 30 minutes from Bordeaux, we grabbed the BBQ, chicken drumsticks and a beer and kicked back for a well-earned rest. We even picked up some driftwood from the bank of the river and sat round the BBQ turned fire pit and enjoyed a couple more cold ones. A lot of driving but it felt good knowing we’d be in the baking sun in the morning, something we had both definitely been missing.
Waking up we made our way to Bordeaux for a big day in the city. We had to park about 25 minute walk from the city centre as it was free (cheapskates) but it was nice to walk in and watch the city start coming alive the closer we got to the main hub.
We were really hungry so the hunt for food was on almost as soon as we got there. We ate a really tasty pizza overlooking Le Miroir D’eau (the world’s largest reflection pool) and an overpriced Heineken (€8!) After eating we watched a street act near the pool and then walked down the main shopping street which is the longest in Europe!
After leaving Bordeaux we headed for a natural pool near the sea to stay the night. We went for a swim when we got there, about an hour from Bordeaux, but the water wasn’t very nice at all and smelt gross so we dried off and walked over the brow of the hill to find a huge mud flat of the Arachon Bay and started to walk out. it felt horrible but was a good laugh, at points the mud even went up to the middle of our shins!
We had a cold beach shower when we got back to the van and I even got to set the hammock up on a tree which was super comfy and we sat there all evening had chilli pesto pasta and called it a night.
On Thursday we headed straight to the Dune of Pilat, I’d seen this huge sand dune on a few videos and it was always said to be much harder in real life than it looked on the video and they were definitely right! The dune was not only high but also the deep sand made it almost impossible to climb! Isaac and I were struggling in the midday heat so no wonder how the older people felt when trying to conquer this great dune! The feeling at the top was brilliant and our legs were on fire not only from the hiking but also the 30° heat beating down on us.
Sitting at the top felt surreal and we sat there for about an hour just marvelling at the views over the ocean and boats whizzing past in the water below. We walked down the other side towards the water and stood in the ocean for only about 5 minutes before walking all the way back up, over and down the dune returning to the van. It was safe to say our legs would be aching in the morning!
After recuperating ourselves we hopped in the van and drove to the beach to enjoy the evening which had some huge waves. I went in and got absolutely smashed by a couple of them, it was good fun. We thought about staying in the car park but decided to move on as it was still pretty busy and not really somewhere we could see ourselves staying the night. Instead we carried on heading south and ended up overlooking a lake, we cooked dinner and headed to bed.
Thursday night was hands down the worst nights sleep I’ve had in months, there seemed to be a huge party over the road with about 60 people all about our age having the time of their lives until about 5am. The music wasn’t so loud it was more the people walking past, I kept thinking they would knock or try to break into the van. We woke up feeling horrendous but we didn’t want to let it ruin our day so cracked on with things and decided to drive down to start our adventure in the Pyrenees which was something we were both very excited for. Croissants for the road and we were away!
We made our way to Cauterets and got there about 5pm after a pretty chilled out morning tidying the van. We were finally there in the mountains exactly as imagined if not better, the views around us were breath-taking and the car park we stayed in was very quiet and right next to the rapids running through the centre of town.
We grabbed a pint from a bar then made our way back to the van to make dinner and chill out for the evening. We drunk slightly more than expected but it was Friday night so who cares eh?
Saturday morning was a rough one again but there was no one else to blame but ourselves this time... We walked to the shop and got a couple of French sticks to make sandwiches and went on a pretty big hike to blow away the cobwebs, it certainly worked and the views were unbelievable! The hike took us up the edge of the Cascade De La Raillère which was just magical and we stopped constantly the whole way up taking pictures and just taking in the view. It felt good to be back exploring and seeing what I love the most. Waterfalls!
After making it down we finally chilled out a bit in the van as it overlooked one of the big waterfalls nearer the parking area. It also started to rain which was just perfect for how we were feeling and really relaxed us. We went back to the same car park as the previous night but it was raining so we had to pull out our DIY awning which worked, honestly, better than expected and cooked our dinner under it before getting in the van, playing a few games of backgammon and hitting the hay.
Today (Sunday) has been a brilliant day. We went on another hike up to Lac de Gaube. It was beautiful up there and a donkey even came over to say hello whilst we ate our lunch only because he wanted a bit! The lake was crystal clear because it’s just melted glacier so the water was an amazing turquoise blue! We sat and admired the lake for about an hour before making our way down. The hike was supposed to take an hour but we smashed on the way up in 40 minutes and on the way down, even faster, only 25 minutes! That was with quite a bit of a march on though. Once again it felt good to get moving even if it was a bit chilly that made us move quicker!
The final camp spot to finish of this first amazing week is 1500m up in a little village in the Pyrenees at a ski chair lift car park (obviously not in use at the moment) looking over the mountains. It’s beautiful but definitely starting to get very cold!
Thank you for reading, I’ll be blogging every week and keep you up to date on all of my travel adventures. Hope you enjoyed!