Our wish list for this year’s holiday: a minimum number of kilometres, a maximum amount of beach, beautiful towns. And so our two-week holiday in Normandy began.
From West/Central Germany (Heinsberg), the large beaches start about 300 kilometres right after the French border. It’s from there that you can drift along the next 500 kilometres of coastline of the départements Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardy and Upper and Lower Normandy to enjoy their wide beaches, rugged cliffs and chic and welcoming coastal towns.
We recommend checking the weather forecasts, as Normandy is known for its rainy days. We’ve lucked out so far and had awesome autumn weather this time as well with just two half days of rain.
We were on the road during the first two weeks of October. In most coastal towns and campsites, that’s already the absolute fin de saison, end of season, fermé, closed. The advantage is that you hardly ever have to worry about the campsites being full. Some of the coastal towns even feel a bit like ghost towns. But as a whole, we like the more sleepy off-season.
We paid between 0 and 16 euros for our pitches. Most of them had supply and disposal facilities. Sometimes a station wasn’t working. There was power every now and then. There weren’t any washroom facilities. And we really don’t need either of them anyway! With Marygold, we have everything we need and don’t have to worry about things like that.
We stayed at a lot of “genuinely French” campsites. In other words, you should be happy if you’re able to even open your rear hatch. And that’s exactly what we love. You have a little chat with your neighbours using any means possible, including Google Translate, and everyone has a great time.
There’s a campsite “chain” called Camping Car Park. To use it, you buy a card from a vending machine that can be recharged. Our card is ten years old and still worked.
When it comes to food and drink, we highly recommend heading towards one of the (very!) large supermarkets. In the produce sections, you find things that aren’t as common at home, and the cost of living in general seems to be lower than in Germany.
For your daily baguette, it’s best to go to the local boulangerie. It’s tough to beat a fresh baguette with cheese and wine or simply with butter. As you can tell, we adore France!
There are also still plenty of pretty restaurants to choose from in the towns, even in the off-season.
Here too, don’t let the language intimidate you! Use “bonjour”, “au revoir” and a hearty “bonne journée” at the end and anything else you can think of to communicate in between. With a smile on your face, you’ll get whatever you want where ever you go while having lots of fun to boot.
During our relatively short holidays, we always appreciate how well you can drive on French motorways. And our new four-legged friend doesn’t like all of the roundabouts on French country roads anyway. Everything rocks back and forth. The costs for the northernmost motorway are also reasonable. For the round trip, we paid just under 70 euros.
One thing to note is the strange new rule in France that motorhomes over 3.5 tonnes are required to have a blind spot warning sticker. Even though Marygold still looks gorgeous despite the sticker, it’s still far from attractive!
And here’s an extra bit of info for those who like clean motorhomes: Bo is always delighted about France having plenty of motorhome car washes to offer.
That’s enough background info. Now we would like to tell you about a few lovely towns that we visited.
We’ve already been there several times, but always in winter, which is also a beautiful time to visit. The campsite is at the north end of the beach. If you’re lucky – like we were – you’ll get to have a view of the bay so you can watch the impressive tidal range. You’re right on the beach from the campsite, and it’s about a two-kilometre walk to town. The town might not look particularly attractive from the beach, but it’s actually quite lovely.
We drove on a mere 30 kilometres to Stella-Plage. There’s a parking area behind the dunes in a cul-de-sac that ends at the campsite, which is already closed in October. Incredibly peaceful and free of charge. The town has a very American design to it. But the beach was lovely as always with its colourful little beach huts.
We had already visited Le Crotoy many years ago and it was its campsite with a view of the bay along with the beautiful town that made us want to return. We lucked out and got a spot with a view! In the evening, we took a stroll through the streets with their pretty houses and could hardly get enough of it all. And it’s all by a huuuuuge bay that empties when the tide goes out. You can just barely see the ocean on the horizon. It’s impossible to capture in a picture.
We chose Arromanches as a stop because it has a campsite on a cliff with an ocean view. It’s simply amazing. We could sit there for hours and watch the water come in and go out.
Reminders of the Second World War are omnipresent along the entire coast. This is where the allied troops landed. An artificial harbour was built in Arromanches to secure supply lines. The remains are still visible in the water and give pause for thought. There are museums about it on the cliff and in town.
We continued on to Utah Beach. As the name clearly indicates, it was also an arena of World War II. The beach is gigantic when the tide is out. When the tide is in, it’s just a small strip of sand. There’s also a local museum there. You see lots of American cars in the neighbouring towns, and military accessories are sold everywhere. That also gives pause for thought. The campsite we selected is about 500 metres from the beach in an idyllic location with paddocks and llamas as neighbours.
Les plus beaux villages de France – one of the most beautiful villages in France. Along with a free pitch by the bay. We had to go there. It became the highlight town of the holiday and the weather was spectacular. It’s also where we took the cover picture for the article.
It takes a whole five minutes to walk from the campsite to the village. Either along the beach or, when the tide is in, along the road. This brings you right to the harbour where you can see all of the hustle and bustle.
This is a place where you can once again see an impressive tidal range. When the tide is out, the entire harbour is empty. It’s quite astounding to see the big fishing boats and the medley of small boats sitting there on the ocean floor. The next morning, the harbour looks like a harbour should – like the tide had never been out.
Up north on the Cotentin Peninsula, there are also more cliff-lined coastlines and small sandy bays. And that makes the contrast of high and low tide even more interesting. Strolling through the small village was great fun and we discovered amazing views and lovely details. It’s a place we would absolutely recommend!
We then switched to the other side of the peninsula. The aim was a pitch with an ocean view. But even in October, there was still no chance of getting a pitch on a Saturday with magnificent sunshine. Instead, we ended up a few kilometres away at a pitch with that campsite feeling. We checked in easily using a vending machine and actually stayed for two nights. There are lovely dunes near the campsite along with a bay that fills up again during high tide. We took some great walks on the ocean floor while the tide was out that sometimes felt more like a walk on the moon.
Something you find everywhere on the coast are oysters. A major hobby here is heading to the ocean when the tide is out with a shucker and bucket to harvest your dinner. You’re allowed to gather enough for your own needs. They’re cultivated here commercially as well, which means there’s quite a lot going on when the tide is out.
It was time to start our voyage home and we stopped at our favourite place for when we’re passing through: Honfleur. The campsite is within walking distance from town, is very close to the motorway and is big enough to always have pitch to offer. A stroll through the beautiful town promises to deliver the ultimate in Normandy vibes: a historic district, lots of restaurants, pretty shops and many galleries, as the town has been visited by many artists in the past.
The next morning, the fog made the Pont de Normandie, the Normandy Bridge, disappear. Quite an autumnal sight to see.
The last day in France definitely kept us on our toes. We had already wondered about the queues at some petrol stations and then learned that we found ourselves in the middle of a petrol station/oil refinery strike. Two-thirds of the petrol stations were closed in the area and our fuel warning light was about to go on.
We decided to end our day of driving and headed back to Berck. It has a pretty campsite and, if necessary, we could have waited there for a few days.
Fortunately, we were able to find an open petrol station. It might not have been the best option for an 8.5-metre motorhome. All of the locals waited nicely until we made it through without any dents.
After all the excitement, we decided to spend our last night in Berck after all. One last fantastic beach. What’s special there is that you can watch a seal colony right up close when the tide is out. An amazing spectacle!
Two weeks and roughly 2000 kilometres had come and gone. It’s pretty mad that such a beautiful corner of the world is right on our doorstep.
Because the coast is so close and it’s always worth making a stop when heading south, we’ve been there quite often. We have even more towns to share with you on our website from our New Year’s tour with Marilyn. Especially in winter, we think the coast is particularly attractive because it’s even more rugged.
We also wrote about two other fantastic cities (Dieppe and Le Treport) in our Portugal travel blog. You can find it here:
Au revoir, bonne journée!
PS: There are more pictures of the town and beach of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage here:
and more stories about trips to France are on the Stranddeko website.