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Northern Spain/southern France Back roads,and free camping

Northern Spain/southern France Back roads,and free camping

Old Jul 8th, 2016, 04:52 PM
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Northern Spain/southern France Back roads,and free camping

Hi,We are a couple of oldies from New Zealand our first time ever in Europe, we have hired a camper van for two weeks and would like to travel from Barcelona to San Sebastian over the Pyrenees and back through the bottom of France to Barcelona, we are into free camping and back country roads.
We arrive the 8th September depart 22nd September. We would appreciate as much advice and info that you can give us thanks.
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Old Jul 8th, 2016, 05:08 PM
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I would not count on free camping unless you think you can depend on the good will of locals who would let you park your van in their field.

These pictures might give you a sense of what to see:

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Old Jul 8th, 2016, 06:07 PM
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Hi Michael
Thanks for the photos they are absolutely magnificent.
Do you or any other Fodor user's have any information/ideas
about back country routes and camping grounds?we are struggling to
put together an itinerary and need our hands held thanks again
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Old Jul 8th, 2016, 10:11 PM
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I don't think I have directly relevant information, sorry! Like Michael, I was surprised to read that you believe you can camp in these areas -- but I'm no expert! For routes and routing information, I would recommend that you consult the <i>Michelin Green Guides</i>. Be sure you know where you will park your van when in cities like San Sebastian / Donostia, where even a small car can be costly to park. I'll add that I felt challenged driving some of the roads in the Pyrenees with a small car; I wish you luck using anything larger -- unless you limit yourselves to major roads. But of course, that would probably mean facing higher prices for food and lodging than being able to get off the major highways. Again, though, I'm not an expert....

Good luck!
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Old Jul 8th, 2016, 10:49 PM
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Free camping in Spain may not be allowed. It is a grey area so you can be expected to be moved on or possibly fined.
Covering France: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntr...b-fdce36ce6216
Camp sites are not very expensive: (change the country at the top) https://www.coolcamping.co.uk/campsites/europe/spain

This is the Spanish autocaravan website. Gives information about those places where you can park (if there are not too many of you!) plus locations of waste points.
more information. http://www.campercontact.com/en/
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Old Jul 9th, 2016, 12:24 AM
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Some 20 years ago we slept in the car in picturesque places in this region like Isaba, Panticosa etc.

I especially remember a night camping by the little river in the Southern end of tiny Isaba. The moon-light, the surrounding mountains, the river, some good, local cheese and a nice bottle or two; pure magic!

From Isaba down in the valley, you can go up to Arette-la-Pierre-St-Martin and then towards Jean-Jean Pied de Port, and then down to San Sebastián. A very scenic route. Have driven here in and out of - and occasionally above - the clouds with rainfall and sun shifting around almost every corner. My most spectacular drive ever.
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Old Jul 9th, 2016, 02:35 AM
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There are plenty of camper stops around which give you safe places to spend the night, have a look at these sites
for many (but all) that are available. Some are free, some charge a few euros.

Some supermarkets in France have camperstops, others will allow you to stay the night in their car park, but generally proper camperstops are nicer places to spend the night.

Unless your camper is fitted with solar panels you can't spend too long off grid, and will still have to find service places every two to three days to dump grey water and the toilet. If you are only using the services expect a charge for that.
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Old Jul 9th, 2016, 02:57 AM
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As hetismij noted above, there are a few places in France where you can stop for free, but they are utterly charmless and won't be on back roads.

A google search for campgrounds in France will yield thousands of results. They are plentiful, and star-rated, with varying degrees of amenities. Most are lovely. Almost every town also has a bare-bones municipal campground. But you do have to pay for them. You cannot just park in a field on a back road for free. People who have attempted that in the small commune I live in in SW France have invariably been fined and removed from the area by the local police. I wouldn't try it. Whether or not one can do that in Spain, I don't know.

For routes, get yourselves some maps and plot one. If you want back roads, in France they are the N and D roads. Every commercial campsite has a website. Every town that has a campground has a website with information about it. When you've plotted a route, check those out and make reservations (for commercial campgrounds in France, people reserve up to a year or more in advance, so if using those, don't plan on just showing up).

Lovely pictures, Michael!
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Old Jul 9th, 2016, 05:01 AM
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Check the dimensions of the camper you are hiring - height, and width in particular, but also length - too long and you can't manage some bends on backroads, and you could be too big for some. Bear that in mind when planning a route.
Our camper is 2.8m high, 5.68m long and 2.5 wide including the mirrors. You can always fold in the mirrors to get past oncoming traffic of course. We had to do that a few times in the UK last month. Width restrictions apply to the total width so including the mirrors, not just the width of the body.
We tend to use small campsites with our camper, because we like to be able to sit out, and cook for ourselves. Others are happy enough with a charmless camperstop, and eat in the town/village. Generally at camperstops you cannot sit outside, or put out the sun shade. They are really meant only for sleeping and as parking. Useful when travelling a long way and you want an overnight stop, and of course good for the wallet, but often depressing places.
Try to keep the number of Kms a day down, so you have time to enjoy things along the way. If you want to visit a particular town then the aire/camper stop there can be useful, as they are often near the centre, or by public transport, but otherwise small campsites are nicer, and usually will also provide much needed shade. Try and park with the fridge in the shade btw, so it doesn't have to work too hard.

The camper hire company may have routes and or lists of places to stay which can help you too. We use campercontact.com a lot, but not exclusively.
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Old Jul 10th, 2016, 11:42 PM
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Hi Guys,
thanks again for so much information that's fantastic will check out all the web sites. cheers
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