Family Travel

France and Switzerland with two kids, a Campervan and one pot

1 September, 2013

Last night Tim, after a meal preparation that involved me angrily pouring cooked macaroni into the sink because I’d used up all the containers and needed the pan for the sauce, ever so sensitively, asked if he could mention something… “You’re kind of swinging from mood to mood Lu- intense happiness to extreme annoyance… What’s the story?” I haven’t been getting much sleep- Juno is waking a lot at night at the moment- but there is more to it than tiredness. This kind of living seems to provoke big emotions in me. Being in these wild and glorious places with startling beauty on our doorstep and the freedom to roam and explore makes me SO FLIPPING HAPPY. Like dance around, laugh out loud, shout WOOHOOOOO in a tunnel happy. But the fact is, that to experience this we have to live in a tiny van with one pan, a host of mosquitoes and two kids with needs (NEEDS! It’s absurd!) There is also the sometimes stress of trying to find a place to stay each night, weighing up free but possibly risky riversides and car parks against the security but crazily high prices of campsites.

It’s hard to believe we only left England 16 days ago. It feels like we’ve done SO much; how are we possibly going to survive the next 80 days?! We’ll combust with the combination of extreme feelings of joy and frustration and contendedness and stress!

We have just entered Germany. France and Switerland have been amazing… Here is the run down:

Our holiday really began once we got to Troyes, somewhere Northish in France. We went to the little lake about 20k north of there and camped and swam for two days. Bliss. We planned to go far on the third day but fell a little bit in love with Lac De Liez just in Langres where we had just stopped for lunch. It was truly gorgeous so lunch turned into an afternoon visit which turned into a night time free camp which turned into two lovely days! We then drove up to a tiny village Mouthier Haute Pierre about half an hour away from Besancon where we swam in the freezing river and climbed a waterfall. We drove an hour South to Lake Ilay and free camped in the most tranquil spot on the south of the lake, having campfires and cooking potatoes and melting cheese on there. After a couple of days we had an epic drive over the mountains through HAIL, yes! HAIL, to a village called Le Grand Bornand in the Alps by Annecy. There we met up with my sister and her family and enjoyed the biggest kid’s festival in Europe. It was spectacular- so much creativity and not a jot of consumer culture. A hand crafted merrygoround and an enormous musical garden made of recycled stuff. It was brilliant to have so much space dedicated to kid’s autonomous play and we think we might try and pull something off like this one day…. Watch this space! We were really sad to say good bye to my sister and my nephews and nieces – Ramona shed all our tears for us.

We beat a hurried path into Switzerland through Geneva and up to Gruyere where we explored this cheesey village in the pouring rain. Such an enchanting place with a castle and mountains with musical cows (well, bells) that Ramona loved. We camped in the car park there with a couple of other motorhomes- killing our first massively rainy afternoon by making hot chocolates, reading and playing our Ukelele squished in the van.

We went to drive by Lake Gruyere but spotted an island in the middle with the ruins of a monastery, that, coupled with the azure waters enticed us in. We stripped off and with a few hoots waded in completely in the nick. Gosh, skinny dipping makes your lungs explode with life!

We meandered up to Bern and after a bit of deliberation handed over £25 for a night at the campsite on the river. It gave us space to stretch out and we were able to walk in to town and float down the river and explore the free zoo right over bridge. We were only going to stay for an afternoon and night but once again just couldn’t leave! I think it might be my favourite European city. It is worth going just to sail yourself for miles down the cold, clear waters of the Aare alone. Food and accommodation is super expensive in Switzerland but there are plenty of free things for a family to enjoy.

We popped to Basel, another lovely city, free camping just on the outskirts. But Switzerland was making us feel pretty skint so we were pleased to arrive in Germany yesterday. Freiberg is where we’ll be for a little while now.

Perhaps we have come too far too quickly; perhaps for our own sanity we need to stay for longer in a place, to create microhomes and adventure from a base. And perhaps we need to invest in another pan.


Photos take forever to upload so sorry there aren’t more! X

You Might Also Like

  • Teeny 1 September, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Hi Lucy! I’m a long time follower but seldom commenter…..I need to come back and read this post properly later when I’m not on my way to bed,; but thought to relate that we travelled for a month around California last year. We definitely found that when we had 3 day (or more) stays in one place, we got better all round rest. Travelling and the stimulation that goes with the newness is so overwhelming! (As enjoyable as it is of course)

  • becca 1 September, 2013 at 10:54 am

    miss youuuuuuuuuuuuuu.
    sounds great (and intense)- give yourself love and care for these feelings and getting used to it all. and OMG i am jealous!!!

  • Sharon Pickles 1 September, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    What a stunningly lovely photo. I can’t imagine how wonderful it must be to swim somewhere so beautiful. I can imagine the stress and frustrations of living in the camper van – you are so much braver than I would be to take on this trip 🙂

  • San 1 September, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Definitely stopping a little longer in one place could possibly save your sanity and I second the need for another cooking pot!

    San xx

  • Circus Queen 1 September, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Wow, that is a lot of travelling in such a short space of time!! Hope you can manage to slow it down a bit more. Love hearing all about it. x

  • Molly 1 September, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    What an incredible adventure. And those views… wow. Just wow. To be able to take it at your own pace and go as quickly or as slowly as you like must be so liberating. I can’t wait to read more about it. x

  • Kat Wray 2 September, 2013 at 4:16 am

    You’re doing so well! As a creature of habit I would have been crying for my favourite fry pan and assortment of bowls by now. Adventure rarely translates to ‘easy ride’ (otherwise it would just be a bit boring). I guess the universe is trying to balance the awesomeness you’re otherwise experiencing! Keep having fun!

  • HaydenS 2 September, 2013 at 8:27 am

    So cool to hear of your adventures guys! Keep the stories coming!

  • Mammasaurus 2 September, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Loving reading and seeing how you are all getting on Lucy – keep enjoying and loving x

  • Danielle Askins 3 September, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Sounds like you are having an amazing time!

  • Mary firth 7 September, 2013 at 9:36 am

    So jealous! We’ve just come back from a fortnight in Spain and it’s cold here and boring! I understand the mood thing. I’m not the most even-keeled mother at the best of times but there’s something about new experiences that brings out your need for space and time as well as for your kids.

    Also I think you could do with another pan, and maybe a colander? If that’s not pushing the boat out too far?

  • Ali 17 May, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Hi Lucy, This is a great post and blog. We have bought a campervan and will be going to France for a few weeks this summer with our 4 year old twin girls. Can’t wait! We did consider a longer trip but I thought I would go mad with 2 mad toddlers in tow for that long!
    Your post is so inspirational and I was wondering how you decided on where to go especially in France – did you have some good local maps or just a big map of france (?!) and just found places that looked nice on paper or did you have some recommendations from friends or books?

  • Fran 27 January, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Hello! Sounds great. What was he name of the festival?