It’s been a long time since Bertie had a big adventure!
When we returned from our two years of travel in 2019 we aimed for another five years of working and saving to fund another long term trip in Bertie. We started to save, hoping that this time we would have enough to be able to travel while retaining a base in the UK.
In the end it looked as though we might beat our target and head away on our travels last year, but 2022 was not the greatest year and so we postponed things for a little longer, always having in mind that, whatever happened, we’d catch the end of the ski season.
Paul had finished work in June 2022 to focus on things we needed; sorting out a few jobs on our rental property, doing some bits and pieces in the flat and making some upgrades to Bertie. And of course he spent some time enjoying the lovely warm summer.
I settled on the end of Feb 2023 (actually 3rd of March) to end my contract and informed people that I wouldn’t be looking for more work for at least six months after.
It was sad to leave my colleagues, but I was well on the way to workaholism again, so probably for the best that I stuck to my guns and finally said my good-byes.
When we’d planned the dates I’d joked with Paul that I wanted everything ready to leave on 4th March, but in fact we had a lot of things to sort out (plus Paul managed to get a last minute stomach bug) so on the Monday we spent the day washing the Bertie and it was finally on the 7th that we finally started the long trek from the South West to the Alps.
I know some people manage the trip in 24 hours but that was never all that likely for us. I can’t drive the beast that is Bertie which leaves Paul with the hard work of coaxing out every bit of fuel efficiency and managing every manoeuvre. In the end we took 3 days. The first from the South West to Kent, then from Kent to Langres and finally from Langres to Les Saisies.
We stayed at the Black Horse Farm campsite in Kent for our first night, opting for a campsite at the last minute because of the forecast snow that left a frosting of white over the ground.
Our tunnel crossing was paid for courtesy of Tesco Clubcard vouchers. A process that is even easier now that you can use a code online to make the booking and don’t need to phone up. We’d booked a 10:19 crossing hoping to be offered an earlier crossing on arrival, which did happen, but sadly border control was so slow that we ended up on the 10:19 anyway (which was then delayed by another 20 minutes).
We were extremely decadent and took the toll roads where ever possible across France. This was definitely easier on Paul and on Bertie. We want to squeeze as many years out of Bertie as possible and decided to avoid the many roundabouts on French roads. Especially because we knew that switchbacks aplenty were waiting for us at the far end of the journey. I also think it’s important that Paul lasts for as long as possible otherwise I won’t be getting out and about in Bertie.
Langres was our middle of France stopover. A paid aire (10.10 euros for the two of us including tourist tax) with electricity and services, it made a relaxing interlude except for the sat-nav trying to direct us down a one-way street to get to it. We popped out for Pizza when we finally arrived. Paul’s ‘Cow Boy’ pizza made me feel slightly ill when I saw it (I thought it looked like someone had emptied their food bin on a pizza base) but he was very happy with unexpected chips aa well as a multitude of meaty offerings.
Our L’Eclerc shop the following morning topped up the fridge to bursting point and then we finished off the journey. Picking up the autoroute a few km from Langres and only leaving it at St Gervais Les Bains. There we started the haul up into the mountains, heading up through Megeve and Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe, finally making it back to the same aire in Les Saisies we stayed at in 2019.
Using the Autoroute get to the Alps
Using the autoroute was a new experience for us so we thought it was worth noting down a few details.
We took the A26-A5-A31-A39-A40 which went past Saint-Omer, Saint Quentin, Reims, Troyes, Dijon, Bourg-en-Bresse and Geneva. Not that we saw any of these locations. The scenery was very dull until we got to the Jura region.
Tolls cost us £120.13, quite a whack for those of us who are used to free motorways. However the autoroute is not like a British motorway, they are much quieter and so an easier drive.
We probably saved about 3 or 4 hours this way and approximately £40 in fuel efficiency (assuming we would have made about 23 mpg on the non toll route).
Was it worth it? For us on the way out to the Alps – definitely. We will consider whether it’s worth it for the return drive.