Due to covid-19 we were not sure a summer trip outside Belgium would even be possible.
So unlike other years, there was no special preparation, no track planning, just a potential destination: Massif Central and return via Brittany.
As the situation was pretty ok and we travel in our own closed bubble, the first real big trip for Dexter could start.
Last minute we found a touristic track and an off-road track in the Auvergne. They cross each other several times so a combination of the two should work.
First part of the route was the fastest toll-free route until just past Reims. From there we would take the smaller roads towards the start of the touristic track.
The start of this route was at the castle of Bourbon-l’Archambault and took us South to our first two night stop.
At an intersection we saw a touristic sign (the brown ones in France) towards Lac des Fades-Besserve and decided to leave the planned track to have a look.
We arrived at an intersection of two rivers near Les Ancizes, which has a sort of beach, plenty of fishing spots and other water activities.
We decided to stay here for the night and we took the opportunity to take out the kayak and have some fun on the water.
Next day we had to do some shopping and due to a closed supermarket we lost half a day driving to the next nearest supermarket. Since we had to pass the river intersection again to get back to our planned track, we decided to have a lazy afternoon and stay another night.
As camping for two days at one place is a long time for us, we moved on and got back on the planned track. We didn’t drive that long before we arrived at Puy de Dôme,
one of the many extinct volcanoes, and for which the area is known for. Puy de Dôme is probably the most famous.
You can reach the top in two different ways. One by train or one by foot via a steep track. We took the last one. Soon we discovered one of us had to work a bit harder on the condition.
Once at the top, you get an awesome view over the region and the many other volcanoes. Well worth the steep walk.
Not far from Puy de Dôme we found a nice place to camp, with permission from the farmer.
As we continued the route, we came along the next volcano, Puy de Sancy. The highest of them all (1886m). Recuperated from the day before, we parked Dexter and chose the walk of “Boucle Sancy”.
The area might be less known, but the walk to the top is so much more fun than the one to Puy de Dôme. Not easier, as there are several steep climbing passages, but the surrounding is much nicer.
Once at the top you are awarded with great views. The walk back down is less fun as it’s via the ski slopes, but when you take one of the many cow trails instead of the large slopes, it does make it more adventurous.
Finding a good camping spot was not that easy this time. First we were in an area with flat grounds and possible sleeping places, but it was too early to settle that day. Driving further, we got into a valley where chances are very slim to find a spot. Once out of the valley we came into an agricultural region. Due to the many farmlands almost everything is fenced and pretty much all small tracks were only allowed for local traffic.
Nevertheless we managed to find a place with a nice view, although aside the road,luckily it was a very calm road. People passing by were curious but very friendly.
Next day we started the off-road track. Even more than before we enjoyed the great scenery of this region.
Dexter did very well off-road. Crossing a small river during a first off-road trip is challenging, but he passed without a problem. The same with steep climbs, no issues there. We only feared being stuck at one passage due to a very tight turn while going upwards and with a pretty high banked angle. We had to reverse, but couldn’t reverse all the way anymore. There was no alternative but going forward. We took the turn as wide as we could, and yes, Dexter moved on. Dexter’s AWD system does work very well and without we wouldn’t have made it.
The fact that we had the body lift and bigger tires sure did help. One part of the track had to be bypassed as there were too many low hanging tree branches, way too large to bend.
By the evening we drove along one of the many GR routes and found a nice place along the track. Again with a great view, and on the horizon we could see Puy de Dôme and Puy Sancy.
Weather changed that evening and the wind and rain set in.
Next morning the weather was still rainy, chill and windy. The roads were less off-road but still very nice narrow roads to cross this nice landscape. Even in the rain.
As by the evening we ended up in a valley again, we had to go up to the valley to find a flat camping place. The view wasn’t for long, as soon we were in the clouds again.
During the trip, we noticed the smell of melting plastic each time we used the warm water boiler. Since we woke up in clear sky we decided to investigate more in depth where this could come from.
As we changed the household electrics right after we bought Dexter, we also had to move one of the heating tubes. It was not shortened yet and was lying over the Truma heater/boiler. Maybe the smell came from the tube, so we tried to place it next to the Truma. While doing this the water hose to the outside water connection came loose. As the water system is under pressure, even when the pump is off, water rushed out. Luckily the rear doors were open and most of the water was outside. We wanted a semi-permanent fix for this and putting a valve on it seemed the best solution. Or replacing the broken water connection. For this we had to drive back up North where there was a Font-Vendome reseller. Our Dexter is the German version of the French Forty-van.
No spare part available, but they had what we needed to fix it so we could use our water system again.
At last we could continue our track again. Some more off-road as the day before and, we are in repeat mode, the scenery was great again.
Again we found a nice place to camp, very calm and with a nice view over the valley. It was Saturday early evening and the idea was to go shopping the next day. But as it was then Sunday, we had to find a shop in the morning. Not keen on having a rush day, we decided to stay the Sunday in this place and have a lazy Sunday. Apart from a walk in the neighborhood.
We followed the track one last day South for then to drive towards the South of Brittany. Along that direction was, via a small detour, the location of a reality show we watch called “Chateau Meiland”.
For those who don’t know it, it’s a series about a Dutch family that bought a castle near Limoges to renovate it and start a B&B in it.
There was nobody home, but at least we saw the castle in real life. Silly as it might be, but we had fun in it.
After two and a half days of driving via small roads we arrived at Île d’Oléron. We got the tip to go there from a retired Belgian couple, living in France now, who we met while camping at lake Bournazel.
The island is known for its many oyster farms. Unfortunately, a few days later a stage of the Tour de France would depart from the island. The result was an overcrowded island full of campers. And as this is a very touristic region, it’s for sure not a place to find a camp spot like we are keen on. So we headed North to see where we could find a nice place along the way.
As the weather was nice and we were near the coast we decided not to drive all day but to find a spot at or near the beach in the neighborhood. Easier said than done. As this part is popular with surfers, many places are blocked from cars or at least high cars. But as we don’t tend to give up easily we managed to find a nice parking spot, right next to the beach. No sea view from within Dexter, but just a few meters away from the beach.
There was a sign at the parking place that said that campers are not allowed to park from 22:00 until 06:00, but as it was already outside high season and the fine is less than a night on a camping, we took the risk.
We stayed there for two nights having a great time at the beach, amongst surfers from Germany and Netherlands. No police seen, no fine received. Who dares, wins.
Again, two days at one place, that’s more than enough for us, or it must be a really outstanding place. So we drove up North again. As the weather forecast didn’t look good in the area we were, we took a semi-fast route up north and found a nice quiet place with sea view near Lessunus.
We stayed for a day, two nights, and had a nice walk along and on the beach.
The next couple of days we drove along the very nice coast of Brittany, stopping for a scenery walk and skipping some corners, as we wanted to end up near Saint-Malo.
During our last kilometers before Saint-Malo we had a hard time finding a good place to camp. As a last resort we used park4night and found a small parking space used by oyster farmers to park their gear to collect the oysters and mussels from the sea. As the sea retracts over a long distance over there, we made a nice walk “in the sea”. We did however keep an eye on the tides and made sure we would not be closed in by the sea.
As it was time to plan the drive home, we continued along the coast until Mont Saint Michel, for then to head towards Caen and then East, inland of Normandy. Again a part we never drove through and surprisingly very nice to explore.
We slept one last time in France near Rouen with a great view over the valley of the Seine.
This trip brought us to places we never visited before, and we’re very happy to have discovered this part of France. The time in Brittany was too short, for that we will for sure be back to explore more.
This was also our first long trip with Dexter, and despite selling Olli with big regrets, we did not regret any minute buying Dexter. He opened a lot more opportunities to stay overnight. The type of weather didn’t bother us anymore, the ease of cooking and sleeping is huge and the fact that we can take a shower whenever we want, go to the toilet where and when needed are making our trips even more fun.
Link to complete album below.
The driven track