a12hgt227 7 day campervan road trip; Eastern France, Switzerland & Italian Lakes – Vicarious Media

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7 day campervan road trip; Eastern France, Switzerland & Italian Lakes

7 day campervan road trip; Eastern France, Switzerland & Italian Lakes

Bon Voyage, Gute Reise, Buon Viaggio

From Calais join the peage and pass Reims exit to fuel up at Total Access at St Martin-sur-le-Pre which has a Flot Bleu motorhome service point. N48°59.500' E004°20.528' 'Access' fuel stations are typically 10 cents less than normal stations and 20 cents less than peage stations.

Continue to Chalons-en-Champagne, note the supermarkets are closed by 7pm. We needed food so we headed 22km north to the small village of Suippes motorhome Aire de Service and parked with a Belgian motorhome. The boulangerie was open (yummy chocolate brioche) and pizza was available from 3 different vendors. We found the source of local revenue munching kebabs, so we joined the queue. Presumably the food in the local barracks is not cordon bleu. The church bells reveille us for our push into Eastern France. 

Overlooked by most tourists Eastern France is simply delightful. Make time for at least one scenic drive. You will be rewarded with beautiful views over hills, mountains and through quaint timber villages. They have there own food culture too. See; 1000 ponds plateau below.

On route to Verdun, we visited the WW1 American war memorial at Varennes-en-Argonne N49°13.570' E005°01.035'

Verdun motorhome parking is surrounded by a large E.Leclerc supermarket, an Aldi and Lidl. N49°06.994' E005°23.892' After brunch we continued towards the German border stopping at Rouffach to explore its charming centre N47°57.364' E007°18.033' Our night stop was at the motorhome Aire in Fessenheim N47°55.103' E007°31.888' because there is a lack of Aires in Switzerland.

Switzerland has a lack of Aires and amazing road designs

We entered Switzerland at 8am. Border staff admired The Bling Thing and waived us through. We were instantly engaged in a mind-blowing sequence of tunnels and roads through Basel. We took the motorway to Bern and then Thun. The motorway was relatively busy considering it was first thing Saturday morning, but it flowed well and was clearly signed. The motorways follow the valley bottoms providing easy driving but they are boring.

Swiss road trains

Catching a Swiss road-train was on our bucket list and we can't resist a mountain pass. Our route south included the Lotschbergtunnel road train, and Simplonpass, a mountain pass which is open all year. The road train was clearly signed all the way. Leaving the motorway at Spiez we meandered through beautiful scenery catching glimpses of the Bernese Alps which we would travel through. Windows open we listened to the tonkling of cow bells.

The approach to Lotschbergtunnel is uphill through a few hairpin bends before the train station and road-train station which mark the end of the road. Altitude 1163m. You can pay online, if you have data coverage in Switzerland, or pay a 29.50ch to a person at the kiosk.

We were near the front of the queue and were able to watch the train arrive and the vehicles disembark. A surprising amount of people took the opportunity to smoke. Suddenly the lights were green and three lanes chaotically merged into one before we bumped through the carriages. The experience is less refined but similar to Eurotunnel.

There is just enough countryside to get acclimatised before entering the 14.6km long tunnel. 20 minutes of being shaken in the dark and you see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is quite an experience and the vehicle exit has a surprising start. We turned hard left and entered a cork screw tunnel followed by a few hair pin bends before entering the town of Gampel-Bratsch. You must admire the engineering.

Swiss mountain passes

Following the valley road alongside the Rhone to Brig, we ignore the road train and tried to find the road to Simplonpass. The road signs did not help so record  these coordinates taken at the first layby N46°15.029' E008°02.054' Meli wouldn't hear the last of it if she took me to the Alps without letting me play a little on the mountain roads. As it happens, Simplonpass is unchallenging enabling sightseeing as you drive.  

Nepoleon first made Simplonpass a transport route. Modernisation has taken place since the fifties ensuring open all year access. The road has wide carriageways, avalanche tunnels, and plenty of laybys to soak up the breath taking views and thin air. Overnight motorhome parking is permitted at most laybys costing 2ch per person, pay via app.

The 2005m summit has a 9m high stone eagle Swiss army monument, small hotel, café, and good WCs. Camper parking permitted. 

We summited mid-May at 25°C. Deep snow was plentiful and people were cross country skiing. I made do by wading through snow in shorts and crocs, it sounds unpleasant but somehow nicer than cold water swimming. The road was snow free and dry. The road then meanders through a lovely alpine valley into Italy.

Swiss Italian border Saturday

The unmanned Italian boarder is shabby and the road is poorly maintained. Follow the river for 3km to Iselle to the manned border. Expect to be asked if you have ‘Anything to declare?’ We missed all of the signs and the officials had to put their expressos down to stop us.

Crevoladossoia Area di Sosta camper is a good place to stop overnight at 277m. Services and parking free, N46°09.405' E008°18.410'

Beautiful Villages of Italy

Our intended destination was the beautiful borghi village of Orta San Giulio on lake Orta. We arrived on sunny Saturday afternoon and it appeared that everybody had the same idea. Every parking space was occupied and there are no lakeside laybys or out of town parking. Cyclists and motorcyclists were everywhere and we saw far too many crazy overtakes. Pro tip; visit mid week out of season and read our blog Motorhoming in Northern Italy.

Our plan B was Borgomanero Area SostaServices and parking free, N45°41.646' E008°27.390' Borgomanero turns out to be a charming place with a thriving centre and excellent gelato.

We were up with the larks and even more motorcyclists, on Sunday and spend the morning visiting the charming Borgi villages of Morimondo and Cassinetta di Lugagnano, listed in The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy

If you need any parts or accessories, Camping Sport Magenta is a huge camper dealership with an area di Sosta camper. Services and parking free, N45°28.710' E008°53.274'  The accessories shop is like a supermarket having every widget in every possible configuration. We learnt that panel van conversions are as popular in Italy as the rest of Europe.

Caravan Writers Guild Press Trip Fiamma Milan

We headed to the very accommodating 4* Cardano Hotel Malpensa N45°38.546' E008°46.034' near Malpensa Airport to meet up with fellow Caravan Writers Guild members. The Bling Thing fitted in the underground car park with 30cm clearance at the tightest points. Fiamma (flame in Italian) sponsored this press trip. At 5pm we joined Fiamma staff on a coach to Como, the charming lakeside town that Lake Como is named after. We had a tour around town then a boojee evening at Giulietta al Lago getting back to the hotel shortly before midnight. See why we chose to drive.

Monday,  work commenced 9am. Fiamma staff took us to their product showroom and factory. Next their head office factory which has just been impressively expanded. Read more about Fiamma here. We had delicious and extensive multi course lunch at Restaurant I Gelsi N45°39.158' E008°47.005'. We were bussed to Milan, which is overwhelmingly impressive. Having not eaten for 3.5 hours it was time for dinner at Revello-18 N45°28.326' E009°11.031. Once again Fiamma treated us to delicious food and wine. We got back to the hotel just after 11pm. All in a days work.

Driving around the Italian lakes

Tuesday morning is grey and drizzly, perfect for a relaxing drive along the west side of lake Como. Our Route; Como to Menaggio, then across to Lugano and along Lake Lugano, which is both in Italy and Switzerland. Como roads provide glimpses of the lakes and limited stopping places. Sections are single track and there are blind corners in the villages. The road along Lake Lugano was just as lake-lustre.

Having done the Italian job we relaxed on the calm Swiss motorways. We drove north on the A2 we passing through the 16.9km long Gotthard road tunnel. Italy to the French border in 4 hours.

1000 ponds plateau 

Waking early on Wednesday we drive into les plateau des mille étangs  the 1000 ponds plateau in eastern France. Heading to Faucogney et Le Mer we spend the day touring the area, enjoying the peace interrupted only by the frog chorus at the various ponds and lakes. We spend the night at the motorhome Aire in Ecromagny overlooking the lake.

Homeward bound

Return to the Total Access at St Martin-sur-le-Pre. You will use half a tank to get to Calais.

We spend the day travelling back to Eurotunnel, the pressure is on to make our train on time. Arriving an hour before departure our number is instantly called. Joining a long, winding queue for customs, there is slow advancement, and fellow passengers pull off madly looking for passports and other documents. We get through the French customs quickly, delayed only by the official not having the correct stamp to stamp our passports with! The British customs is overwhelmed, with only 3 bays open and a massive queue. Finally another bay is opened and we begin to make progress. After customs we get searched by a 3rd party operating for border force. The inside of our camper looks like it has been picked up and shook like a snow globe. There is bedding, shopping, window screens and clothes everywhere all piled up on the bed ready to be unloaded! The official looks in, stuff falls out, he sighs and sends us on our way. We finally make it into the boarding area with 5 minutes to spare.

Bon Voyage, Gute Reise, Buon Viaggio

From Calais join the peage and pass Reims exit to fuel up at Total Access at St Martin-sur-le-Pre which has a Flot Bleu motorhome service point. N48°59.500' E004°20.528' 'Access' fuel stations are typically 10 cents less than normal stations and 20 cents less than peage stations.

Continue to Chalons-en-Champagne, note the supermarkets are closed by 7pm. We needed food so we headed 22km north to the small village of Suippes motorhome Aire de Service and parked with a Belgian motorhome. The boulangerie was open (yummy chocolate brioche) and pizza was available from 3 different vendors. We found the source of local revenue munching kebabs, so we joined the queue. Presumably the food in the local barracks is not cordon bleu. The church bells reveille us for our push into Eastern France. 

Overlooked by most tourists Eastern France is simply delightful. Make time for at least one scenic drive. You will be rewarded with beautiful views over hills, mountains and through quaint timber villages. They have there own food culture too. See; 1000 ponds plateau below.

On route to Verdun, we visited the WW1 American war memorial at Varennes-en-Argonne N49°13.570' E005°01.035'

Verdun motorhome parking is surrounded by a large E.Leclerc supermarket, an Aldi and Lidl. N49°06.994' E005°23.892' After brunch we continued towards the German border stopping at Rouffach to explore its charming centre N47°57.364' E007°18.033' Our night stop was at the motorhome Aire in Fessenheim N47°55.103' E007°31.888' because there is a lack of Aires in Switzerland.

Switzerland has a lack of Aires and amazing road designs

We entered Switzerland at 8am. Border staff admired The Bling Thing and waived us through. We were instantly engaged in a mind-blowing sequence of tunnels and roads through Basel. We took the motorway to Bern and then Thun. The motorway was relatively busy considering it was first thing Saturday morning, but it flowed well and was clearly signed. The motorways follow the valley bottoms providing easy driving but they are boring.

Swiss road trains

Catching a Swiss road-train was on our bucket list and we can't resist a mountain pass. Our route south included the Lotschbergtunnel road train, and Simplonpass, a mountain pass which is open all year. The road train was clearly signed all the way. Leaving the motorway at Spiez we meandered through beautiful scenery catching glimpses of the Bernese Alps which we would travel through. Windows open we listened to the tonkling of cow bells.

The approach to Lotschbergtunnel is uphill through a few hairpin bends before the train station and road-train station which mark the end of the road. Altitude 1163m. You can pay online, if you have data coverage in Switzerland, or pay a 29.50ch to a person at the kiosk.

We were near the front of the queue and were able to watch the train arrive and the vehicles disembark. A surprising amount of people took the opportunity to smoke. Suddenly the lights were green and three lanes chaotically merged into one before we bumped through the carriages. The experience is less refined but similar to Eurotunnel.

There is just enough countryside to get acclimatised before entering the 14.6km long tunnel. 20 minutes of being shaken in the dark and you see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is quite an experience and the vehicle exit has a surprising start. We turned hard left and entered a cork screw tunnel followed by a few hair pin bends before entering the town of Gampel-Bratsch. You must admire the engineering.

Swiss mountain passes

Following the valley road alongside the Rhone to Brig, we ignore the road train and tried to find the road to Simplonpass. The road signs did not help so record  these coordinates taken at the first layby N46°15.029' E008°02.054' Meli wouldn't hear the last of it if she took me to the Alps without letting me play a little on the mountain roads. As it happens, Simplonpass is unchallenging enabling sightseeing as you drive.  

Nepoleon first made Simplonpass a transport route. Modernisation has taken place since the fifties ensuring open all year access. The road has wide carriageways, avalanche tunnels, and plenty of laybys to soak up the breath taking views and thin air. Overnight motorhome parking is permitted at most laybys costing 2ch per person, pay via app.

The 2005m summit has a 9m high stone eagle Swiss army monument, small hotel, café, and good WCs. Camper parking permitted. 

We summited mid-May at 25°C. Deep snow was plentiful and people were cross country skiing. I made do by wading through snow in shorts and crocs, it sounds unpleasant but somehow nicer than cold water swimming. The road was snow free and dry. The road then meanders through a lovely alpine valley into Italy.

Swiss Italian border Saturday

The unmanned Italian boarder is shabby and the road is poorly maintained. Follow the river for 3km to Iselle to the manned border. Expect to be asked if you have ‘Anything to declare?’ We missed all of the signs and the officials had to put their expressos down to stop us.

Crevoladossoia Area di Sosta camper is a good place to stop overnight at 277m. Services and parking free, N46°09.405' E008°18.410'

Beautiful Villages of Italy

Our intended destination was the beautiful borghi village of Orta San Giulio on lake Orta. We arrived on sunny Saturday afternoon and it appeared that everybody had the same idea. Every parking space was occupied and there are no lakeside laybys or out of town parking. Cyclists and motorcyclists were everywhere and we saw far too many crazy overtakes. Pro tip; visit mid week out of season and read our blog Motorhoming in Northern Italy.

Our plan B was Borgomanero Area SostaServices and parking free, N45°41.646' E008°27.390' Borgomanero turns out to be a charming place with a thriving centre and excellent gelato.

We were up with the larks and even more motorcyclists, on Sunday and spend the morning visiting the charming Borgi villages of Morimondo and Cassinetta di Lugagnano, listed in The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy

If you need any parts or accessories, Camping Sport Magenta is a huge camper dealership with an area di Sosta camper. Services and parking free, N45°28.710' E008°53.274'  The accessories shop is like a supermarket having every widget in every possible configuration. We learnt that panel van conversions are as popular in Italy as the rest of Europe.

Caravan Writers Guild Press Trip Fiamma Milan

We headed to the very accommodating 4* Cardano Hotel Malpensa N45°38.546' E008°46.034' near Malpensa Airport to meet up with fellow Caravan Writers Guild members. The Bling Thing fitted in the underground car park with 30cm clearance at the tightest points. Fiamma (flame in Italian) sponsored this press trip. At 5pm we joined Fiamma staff on a coach to Como, the charming lakeside town that Lake Como is named after. We had a tour around town then a boojee evening at Giulietta al Lago getting back to the hotel shortly before midnight. See why we chose to drive.

Monday,  work commenced 9am. Fiamma staff took us to their product showroom and factory. Next their head office factory which has just been impressively expanded. Read more about Fiamma here. We had delicious and extensive multi course lunch at Restaurant I Gelsi N45°39.158' E008°47.005'. We were bussed to Milan, which is overwhelmingly impressive. Having not eaten for 3.5 hours it was time for dinner at Revello-18 N45°28.326' E009°11.031. Once again Fiamma treated us to delicious food and wine. We got back to the hotel just after 11pm. All in a days work.

Driving around the Italian lakes

Tuesday morning is grey and drizzly, perfect for a relaxing drive along the west side of lake Como. Our Route; Como to Menaggio, then across to Lugano and along Lake Lugano, which is both in Italy and Switzerland. Como roads provide glimpses of the lakes and limited stopping places. Sections are single track and there are blind corners in the villages. The road along Lake Lugano was just as lake-lustre.

Having done the Italian job we relaxed on the calm Swiss motorways. We drove north on the A2 we passing through the 16.9km long Gotthard road tunnel. Italy to the French border in 4 hours.

1000 ponds plateau 

Waking early on Wednesday we drive into les plateau des mille étangs  the 1000 ponds plateau in eastern France. Heading to Faucogney et Le Mer we spend the day touring the area, enjoying the peace interrupted only by the frog chorus at the various ponds and lakes. We spend the night at the motorhome Aire in Ecromagny overlooking the lake.

Homeward bound

Return to the Total Access at St Martin-sur-le-Pre. You will use half a tank to get to Calais.

We spend the day travelling back to Eurotunnel, the pressure is on to make our train on time. Arriving an hour before departure our number is instantly called. Joining a long, winding queue for customs, there is slow advancement, and fellow passengers pull off madly looking for passports and other documents. We get through the French customs quickly, delayed only by the official not having the correct stamp to stamp our passports with! The British customs is overwhelmed, with only 3 bays open and a massive queue. Finally another bay is opened and we begin to make progress. After customs we get searched by a 3rd party operating for border force. The inside of our camper looks like it has been picked up and shook like a snow globe. There is bedding, shopping, window screens and clothes everywhere all piled up on the bed ready to be unloaded! The official looks in, stuff falls out, he sighs and sends us on our way. We finally make it into the boarding area with 5 minutes to spare.

Christopher Doree

Christopher Doree

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