A road trip is an adventure.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But is is ours.

After last year’s road trip through Denmark and Sweden we decided to go South this year.
Last year we drove to and from Scandinavia in one go. That was a bit stressful for me since I am the only driver and handling more that 5 hours behind the wheel in one session is not good for my stress and happiness levels 🙂
So this time, we decided to actually stop more often on the way to our Spanish destination and see some places in France we usually pass by thinking ‘we should visit here some day’.

Some day had finally come.

Like last year, we departed on a camping trip again with my trailer tent.
Our first and last stops were in hotels, just because they were overnight stays and starting out and ending in comfort is a good plan.

We drove to Bourgogne and stayed our first night at Hotel Les Hauts de Meursault. It’s a charming little hotel in the middle of the wine region. They also have a camping across the street, a restaurant where we ate and I had a taste of the local wine.

Our first real stop was in Royat where we set up our tent at Huttopia.
We chose this location because it is right next to the Puy du Dome located in the Auvergne region, which is known for its many extinct volcanoes. The Puy du Dome is 1465 m high and can be reached via several hiking paths or via a train on a rack railway. This is what we did and the boys were of course interested in the mechanical workings of that train. When we visited it was quite windy, but we had clear views of the magnificent landscape of the volcanoes.

Since our goal was to mix culture/learning with fun, we also spent a day at Vulcania , the park that explains everything about volcanoes and the Auvergne region. Well worth a visit.

On our way to our next stop, we took a break at another well known highlight in that region, the Millau viaduct. It is the tallest bridge in the world, with one mast’s summit at 343 m above the base of the structure. We stopped at the rest area north of the bridge and took the steep walking path up to the viewpoint.

What a stunning piece of architecture!

We arrived in Preixan, a village close to Carcassonne in the afternoon to set up our tent at the local camping Grand Sud. This was one of our favorite campings from the trips because it was close to water (lake and river), plots were large and there were hardly any tourists. The kids were happy to bike around, go for a swim and even take our rubber boat on the lake. During our stay, we of course visited the fortified town of Carcassonne. There is lots to do and see in the town, from visiting the fort to shopping in the tons of souvenir and candy shops. It’s also a great place to have lunch. Yes it’s touristy, but in summer there are lots of activities for kids as well and it’s great to pretend to be knights for an afternoon.

After all this culture (and food), we needed something active and went to do some karting.

The next day, the weather was good and we headed to the Lac de la Cavayere, close to Carcassonne where there are lots of activities for kids. We chose Aquaviva, a waterpark where kids get swimvests and can jump around the many structures, slides, jumps and trampolines on the water. Needless to say they slept well that night!

We drove from Carcassonne to Tarragona where we planned to stay for one week at the Tamarit camping.
This is not the kind of camping I prefer as the plots are side by side like sardines, without much intimacy or nature. Then again, it’s always sunny and warm, there are lots of kids activities, it’s on the beach and close to other things to do. You never get bored. You might only get sick of too many people. But for one week it was a great experience. We had anyway planned to spend 3 days visiting the Portaventura parks. The amusement park full of rollercoasters and rides, the waterpark full of crazy slides and waterfun and the newly opened Ferrari park with the fastest rollercoaster in Europe. The camping was an ideal location to combine parks and beach. It has several restaurants and a great beach/lounge bar which we visited almost every night. We had planned to go to Barcelona one day but skipped this excursion and stayed on the beach. We did visit a friend of mine near Vinaros one day and it was great to escape the mass tourism and just lounge beside her quiet pool and barbecue.

The next stop was already on our way back up North. We stayed a few nights at Camping Les Grands Pins in Lacanau on the French Atlantic coast. I have been to few places in the world where I wouldn’t mind living, or at least having a little cottage. Lacanau is one of them. It’s touristy in summer, yes, but they are the active kind of tourists, the hikers and surfers, which gives the town a hip kind of look and feel. Sipping kid-friendly cocktails on the boulevard and having a lovely dinner at Le Bistrot des Cochons was a wonderful end of a long road trip.

After one week of staying put we were on to our longest drive for that vacation, from Tarragona to Mendeixa, near Bilbao.

Crossing Central Spain is pretty boring. There is literally nothing there but empty landscape. And then, after 5 hours, suddenly the world starts to become hillier, greener and you get immersed into the wonderful landscape of the Basque Country. What a paradise! Not only is it beautiful, it is not overrun with tourists like the rest of Spain. It has lovely beaches, great places to hike and numerous things to visit and do. We stayed in Mendeixa, 1 hour north of Bilbao at camping Leagi. A great place to start hiking from. We can highly recommend to visit the Oma Painted Forest where many trees are painted and you can wander around looking to combine the the trees into an image. It’s quite a hike to get there. We went Bilbao on a day it was raining because our main goal was to visit the Guggenheim museum. Parking is easy in Bilbao. We only cued for 20 minutes to get in (we did not reserve tickets in advance). The museum in itself is a piece of art and inside there are lots of rooms full of paintings and sculptures to amaze you. My boys complied with Mommy’s need for culture and afterwards we had the best Spanish ham at Serantes III. Driving back to the camping was quite an adventure because the road had a 26% inclination, something I have never seen before.

Our very last stop on the way home was in Orleans where we stayed at the Ibis Orleans Sud for our last night before heading home.

All in all we drove more than 4000 km and set up and broke down our tent 5 times. When I asked the kids what they liked the most it was definitely Ferrari Land and the amusement parks (they are that age you know…), the ham and the camping in Royat and Lacanau.

They did not like setting up and breaking down the tent.

So next time we do a road trip, we will do less stops and longer stays. Next year however, we are looking at a different kind of road trip. At the moment we are dithering between Bali, Florida and South America.