………….where to go? France was the choice and it had to be the South, sun atmosphere scenery and shopping were very high on the list! St Tropez, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, Monte Carlo the choice was endless but not the mode of transport. It had to be the iconic VW Camper van in the shape of Margot 1978 and Amélie 1968 Bay window courtesy of 69 Campers, a company offering a range of vintage and T5 VW camping cars for touring in absolute style around the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France.
Four people, two Campervans and our road trip… cruising this stunning coastline from St-Tropez to Monte Carlo over 14 days. Let the fun begin…..
We flew into Nice, left-hand side of the plane was the place to be with magnificent views of the French Riviera which were to be our playground for the next two weeks. With a transfer organised by 69 Campers we were whisked away to their headquarters in Seillans, the heart of Provence, in less than an hour. Paperwork and Campervan tutorial done we set off.
1- St-Tropez was our first point of call, a unanimous vote and a great opportunity to get the hang of the gears and brakes of our Campervans as it was downhill all the way! A great ride meandering through the vineyards of backcountry Provence down to the coast, with a journey time into St-Tropez of 1hr 20mins and 67 km.
For our first night, we stayed at Les Tournels Camping Village 10km south of St-Tropez. Camper vans parked up it gave us our first opportunity to see them close up. Margot 1978 Californian Bay dressed in Yukon Yellow and Amélie 1968 Bay from Alabama in Pacific Blue both feature bespoke interiors comprising of fridge, sink, gas hob, 240V hook up, radio/cd and leisure battery. The Campers can sleep 5 but the Rock ‘n’ Roll bed was all we needed. With the roof popped and bags unpacked we made full use of the luxury hamper we had pre-ordered with 69 Campers. Outside table and chairs prepped, we sat back and enjoyed our first evening under the star filled sky drinking chilled champagne and eating homemade brownies.
2/3-Awoke to blue skies and sun, a quick check on the vans in the morning, dipsticks at the ready, oil looking like golden syrup we headed back into St-Tropez. With our windows down we cruised in convoy waving at our appreciating audience. Parking the vans at the Port, a 5-minute walk brings you instant chic as you enter the stunning harbour front that is St-Tropez. Later that afternoon we headed to our next campsite, a short journey of 12km round the Bay of St-Tropez to Camping De La Plage, Grimaud. This was to be a 2 night beach stop of pure chill and indulgence and to just absorb the atmosphere – the pink light, the fragrant air…. A simple campsite with a pitch on the beach gave us panoramic views of the bay morning, noon and night. The two Campervans parked up next to the beach really brought home to us the ethics of what this holiday was about. That evening chez Margot & Amélie, we served another fine meal and a night to remember with great friends….
4 -Managed to tear ourselves away from the Golfe de St Tropez and then headed 52km inland, to the boys choice, actually they had made a good choice, a wine tour and tasting chez Le Château des Demoiselles, La Motte. Fantastic scenery, culture, history and wine
Armed with new liquid provisions and a sober driver our overnight stop was 40km down the N7 through the roman town of Frejus with it’s Amphitheatre, to St Raphael and Esterel Caravaning. A 5* campsite with, get this, YOUR OWN private bathroom and jacuzzi on your pitch!! The private bathroom contained: a shower, toilet, washbasin, mirror, blow-dryer, and dishwasher, pure luxury! All the basics of electric water and drainage as well. An early evening swim and Wifi time provided a catch up on life.
5- One of the most stunning natural features of the Côte d’Azur is the Massif de l’Esterel, a coastal mountain range of red-ochre rock which forms the backdrop to some of the most iconic images of the South of France. The Massif de l’Esterel is located between St Raphaël and La Napoule, then onwards to Cannes. The N98 coastal road called the Corniche de l’Esterel is a must for driving, plus being in a Campervan brings that added height to enhance the experience through it’s numerous twists and turns. A 30km route to remember, striking red rock and azure-blue sea creates spectacular views. Along the road we found numerous places to stop and take some holiday snaps plus a mid-morning swim. The road passes through such places as Agay with its sheltered bay and beach, Le Trayas and Théoule-sur-Mer with its scenic harbour and local cafes.
Specially organised by 69 Campers, we had an afternoon of water activities with Thierry at Jets’Cool. After thrills, spills and total exhaustion on these top of the range jet skis we drove to our campsite for the night Les Cigales in Mandelieu-la-Napoule. With the nights chef democratically elected we ate chez Margot with Amélie playing the summer tunes. This option was really growing on us – your own private space, eating what and when you like, dressing how you want and drinking as much as you wanted . It is so soothing just to be outdoors, listening to the sound of our neighbours the Cigales (grasshoppers).
6 – Day 6 and a tick in the box for Cannes, girls had a big smile and the boys conveniently forgot their wallets as we shopped in the chic boutiques of La Croisette. Another must is the Forville market with its vast provençal larder where you can stock up the fridge. Residence that night was Camping Parc Bellevue, a 3 star campsite with all the necessities needed to accommodate our Campers as we headed off for a night in Cannes.
7 – Cannes in a day… no chance. The girls had found the wallets and we split up. Shopping without the boys, and beach starring without the girls….
8 – Heading out of Cannes with the windows open, we spent the day driving in convoy up the coast through the elegant residences that occupy Juan-les-Pins and Cap d’Antibes. A real eye opener to wealth that the Côte d’Azur houses. One thing for sure every turn and twist on the coastal road brings a different shade of blue in the crystal clear sea. Margot and Amélie’s admiration over the week had been growing, two stunning vans in tandem presented another photo shoot at the Château Grimaldi in Antibes which houses the Picasso Museum. You may be surrounded by wealth and beauty but driving a classic VW Camper beats a wide and loud Ferrari any day.
Two nights planned at camping Le Sourire in Villeneuve Loubet and we are loving this simple lifestyle. Drive onto a pitch, pop the roof, put the tables and chairs out and in less than five minutes you are pouring your first drink…. silently sniggering at the other campers struggling with their tents. This is definitely camping in style.
9 – Another day of blue sky and our activities were planned at Marineland and Aquasplash, conveniently placed side by side. We watched a great sea life show followed by lunch back at the vans with few admirers popping their heads in, our French had improved immensely over the week! Aquasplash that afternoon with swimwear intact, a great place for all families and ages.
10 – An early start and Amelie led the way into Nice (20km), four lanes of traffic and very little road markings provided the mornings entertainment!! Followed by calming visit to the old town (Vieille Ville) with its narrow streets curving between old buildings with red-tile roofs, small restaurants and open markets. Driving along the Promenade des Anglais with the windows down and the tunes pumping we were the epitome of cool! In the afternoon, we headed up the coast – literally- into Villefranche Sur Mer. The Camper made light work of the hills and we were greeted with a spectacular view of the coastline below. We drove into the port, a test on the brakes….and managed to park alongside the beach giving easy access to chilled drinks and the picnic. That evening we escaped the heat with a 20km drive inland to the foot of the beautiful perched village Peillon, which was our stop for the following two nights.
11 – Headed back to the coast in the morning to visit the medieval village of Eze (24km) and the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle (torn down in 1706). Amazing girl shopping and the opportunity to partake in the outdoor café culture that reigns throughout the region. An enriching morning of history followed by an afternoon on a private beach in Eze-Sur-Mer with our very own man-servant providing the mojito’s. Designated driver took us back to Peillon that evening, there is a lack of campsites in this area so be sure to book in peak season.
12 – A big day for the boys as we headed to to the furthest point of our trip – Monaco and Monte Carlo (30km). They were desperate to drive the race course; another ambition fulfilled although not quite at warp speed. Margot pipped Amélie by a tenth of a second! A final drive through the beautiful principality of Monte Carlo to wave at the rich and famous before we headed back down the coast to Cagnes Sur Mer. (36km) We thought we would brave the motorway and were pleasantly surprised at how well our Campers faired with the lorries. We cruised along at 100km per hour, albeit on the inside lane, without causing too much trouble.
13 – Final day on our epic trip and we headed inland up the D2085 into Grasse (25km), the perfume capital of the world. The old town is very interesting with tiny streets winding forever between the 17th and 18th century buildings, up and down ancient steps, passing through arched tunnels and sometimes opening out onto large squares. We meandered to our final stop in Saint Paul en Forêt (31km), enjoying the country roads and beautiful views. A evening in a secluded woodland setting drinking the remainder of our rosé…. it doesn’t matter that we have drank all that we intended to take home, summed up this VW Camper experience for us. As the 69 Campers tagline states, we went our own way, saw many of the beautiful sites this region has to offer and truly experienced the joys of driving and living in a VW Camper van.
14 – A short drive back to 69 Campers head quarters in Seillans and the end of our VW Camper tour. We handed the girls back, finalised the paperwork and with were whisked back to Nice airport with a camera full of photo’s and a head full of happy memories.
Distance total 500km (310 miles)
If you like the sound of this, get in touch with 69 Campers, you can find them on our France hire page