Typically our limit for close and fast paced travel is about 6 weeks. This is the threshold when we notice we are all a bit more snippy with each other and are just flat-out tired. After traveling non-stop for 5 weeks, we began our 6th week of travel on our longest drive yet. This time we were making our way from La Rioja Spain to Bordeaux France. Keep on reading to see how we did for 1 week in France.
I was a nervous wreck, as we really needed to get through this week still speaking to each other. Our house sit was the following week and there was no changing those plans, so no matter what, our road trip was going to continue.
We had a great week in La Rioja! Lars spent the full week volunteering at the Diverbo camp. They kept him very entertained and busy and he loved every minute of it. Of course they were up until about 2am every night and then up early in the morning to begin the day. Needless to say, we picked up one very tired teen.
Alan, Anya and I had a mellow but still active week, while Lars was away and we actually didn’t catch up on our rest. My fingers were crossed that this was the right combo to embark on the infamous week 6 of our road trip.
Remembering back to our 6 week European road trip summer 2013.
The pretzel child
Lars hopped in the car and briefly chatted before folding himself in half and falling fast asleep.
Sidenote: Lars has always amazed me with his flexibility. He can always just lay his chest on his lap and fold himself in half in the car. Now that he is a bit taller (nearly 6 feet), he can no longer just fold up. Now he needs to fold and curve to actually fit in the car. Either way, the kid can sleep!
We had 6 days to cover 12 hours of driving between La Rioja Spain and Morzine in the French Alps. We decided to break it up with 2 x 3 night stop overs. Our overnight stop was about 4 1/2 hours away in Bordeaux, France. Of course we rarely just drive straight through. We knew we would be passing through Pamplona (city for the famous running of the bulls), so we just had to at least drive through and take a peek.
Last stop in Spain
We arrived in Pamplona after about 1 hour of driving and meandered around a bit in the car. None of us wanted to stop at a restaurant to eat, nor did we want any fast food. So it was off to find an Aldi grocery store, as we absolutely love their ready-made caesar salads.
Once we were fed, you could tell the vibe of the family was not in exploration mode. So we just drove through the city center and looked at what we could from the car. I would say we spent no more than an hour in Pamplona, and it was on to France! We’ve crossed into Spain from France before, going right through Andorra in the Pyrenees mountains. This time we were able to skirt a bit around the side of the mountains, so not many winding roads!
Ready to spend 1 week in France
Well, we arrived in Bordeaux about 7pm and had a modern 2 bedroom apartment in the T3 area of Bordeaux. We were located just across the river from the city center and it was actually a very nice place. This was our 2nd positive experience using Airbnb, so maybe our opinion is changing about this booking site. The owner was very nice and showed us around, but informed us that the grocery stores were already closed.
Similar to Spain, France closes up shop earlier in the evening and is either closed or has very limited hours on Sundays. Of course it was Saturday night and we were so tired. We carried the basic food around with us, dry cereal, granola bars, nuts, chips and such, so that was our dinner option. We did hop out and drive around a bit looking for a gas station, so we could at least buy some milk. In a pinch, we found a McDonald’s, so that was dinner for the night at 10:30pm.
Refueled and Rested
The next day was Sunday, so there wasn’t much open for us. Not a problem, the grocery store was open from 9am – 12 noon, so at least we bought food for the next 2 nights. After that it began to rain, so the perfect day to just stay in and catch up on rest and relaxation. Monday was our last full day in Bordeaux, so we ventured off to the city. We spent most of the day falling in love with Bordeaux.
The buildings and architecture was so refreshing and such a change from southern Spain. We really enjoyed the vibe and know for certain that we need to return and spend more time in the area. Of course we really wanted to visit some wineries, but we read that family vibe and were determined not to have a family blow out this road trip!
A Bit Of A Scramble
Tuesday morning arrived quickly, as 3 nights just wasn’t enough time. We had arranged a 12 noon check out with the owner, but she was going to be on holiday and sending a friend instead. I had our departure day all planned out. I know we rarely find food for breakfast “along the way”, so I was timing it just right for the kids to sleep in late, have a good breakfast and quickly pop out the door.
Since we were scheduled to check out at noon, I woke them at 10:45am. Just as they were finally rolling out of bed and I was about to start breakfast, the doorbell rang. It was the friend who thought she was supposed to arrive at 11am! So much for the perfectly planned and timed departure. We made a quick scramble and told her we needed about 30 minutes. We did it, but once again we were hitting the road with no food in the bellies.
Time for the next move and hungry again
This is a general theme of our European road trips, as they are very different from a road trip in the USA. One of the biggest differences is the lack of services along the roads in Europe. You rarely have fast food available and mainly have sit down restaurants.
If you are on a toll road, which we usually opted for, there is rarely anything along the way. Of course they have the designated rest stops and services areas, with the same exact restaurant at all of them and triple the price of any regular place. These types of places don’t really appeal to us, but we usually found something crazy expensive to at least tide us over.
We made our way out of Bordeaux and had plans to stay the next 2 nights in Feurs, France. It was about a 4-5 hour drive, just about 45 minutes west of Lyon. The drive was pretty uneventful and we didn’t make any planned excursions off course. After so many weeks of packing, unpacking, driving and more driving, it really takes all of your energy to keep going.
We arrived in the small village of Feurs late in the afternoon. This time it was early enough to buy groceries before the stores closed. This again was another Airbnb booking and another pleasant surprise. We had a beautiful historical apartment, right in the town center. We were just a few doors down from the tourist office and town cathedral. Of course there were bakeries nearby too!
The apartment was a 5 bedroom, 3 story apartment, with one bathroom on the bottom floor. The kids had the top floor, Alan and I were on the second floor and the living area and kitchen were on the bottom. We finally had a place for us all to stretch out and have our own space. This is exactly what we needed. We all kind of went off and did our own things for the remainder of the day.
We had a nice comfy couch and decent internet, so it was perfect for me to catch up on a little writing and photo editing too. You have no idea how much time it takes to write these posts, but we know they help you with your planning. An added bonus is we also have a log of our adventures, so we just keep on writing!
We did a little exploring of the town on foot, since we were centrally located. It really felt comfortable here and we found it very welcoming. Alan and I went out on a “date” and just drove around the outskirts of town. It was just for an hour or two, but it was nice to see what it was like. As we were driving the most glorious sweet smell crept into the car. We followed the smell and it led us to a caramel factory! We were so excited and thought that would be the perfect thing to do the next day.
Once back at the apartment, we looked up the factory on the web and contacted them to see if we could schedule a tour. Unfortunately they don’t do tours and don’t allow the public into their factory. So the only memory we will have is the awesome smell of caramelized sugar.
The entire 3 nights were spent relaxing and trying to catch up on work. We didn’t want to arrive at the house sit exhausted, as we knew we were going to be looking after a 9 month old puppy. Of course, we needed to be at our best for that.
The day finally arrived!
We had been waiting for months for this day to arrive and it was finally here. We were so excited, it was Friday August 5th! This was the day we were going to our house sit in Morzine France to take care of an adorable 9 month old chocolate lab. We had another 4-5 hour drive in store, but we couldn’t arrive until about 7pm. The owners of the house weren’t going to be home until that time. Of course we needed to checkout of our current rental by 12 noon, so we had a couple of extra hours to burn.
After about 45 minutes of driving, we arrived in Lyon. We stopped at a shopping mall, as we needed to look for a few items in the electronics store. In no time we were back on the road again. We were heading towards Morzine and I knew we would be passing by Annecy.
Do we have to stop again?
We arrived in Annecy and the kids were moaning and groaning about making another stop. Do we have to stop again? Can’t we just get to the house sit and wait? This was one time, we were going to stop regardless. I wanted to visit Annecy during our summer 2013 road trip and we just passed by it, as we were at the same 6 week burn out stage. This time we were stopping!
We parked in an underground garage, right in the city center. Once we surfaced from the garage on foot, we were all drawn towards the lake. It was absolutely stunning. They seemed to also be setting up for a festival for the next day, so there was quite the buzz around town on a Friday afternoon. We made our way along the sidewalk around the lake and made our way into town.
Now we are excited!
At this point the kids are “all in” for stopping in Annecy. We all absolutely loved it, and of course stopping for some fresh banana and Nutella crepes didn’t hurt either. It was a blast taking photos, as the village was so picturesque. A Wagoners thumbs up for Annecy, as it was wonderful roaming around for a few hours. Next up, our house sit stories! On to Morzine we go.
Where to stay in France
Of course you can choose what type of experience you would like. We think there are some great options and here are some of the booking tools we use:
- Home Away Apartments & Villas – click here for deals
- Flip Key Apartments, Villas, & more – click here for availability and pricing
- Booking.com Apartments, Hotels & more – click here for availability and pricing
- Airbnb – if you are new to Airbnb and are looking to either rent a room or the entire place, use this code to receive a $34 USD discount on your first booking.