Tag Archives: Van life

Driving through France with “France Passion”

There we were, in Germany, with our newly purchased campervan, Vinnie the Van, trying to figure out the quickest, and most beautiful way to get to the north of Spain. We knew we would have to drive through France, but we couldn’t decide which way to take — do we just speed through the country on the highways, or do we take the scenic route past Switzerland and down the south of France? Well, all the super fast highways in France are tolled, the degree to which is astronomical (we paid €27 for driving 200km!*), and driving past Switzerland and through the Alps along those winding mountain roads in a 1997 Ford Transit didn’t sound like my idea of a good time.

That’s when we discovered a third option — France Passion! France Passion is a program that’s been running for 25 years. Members are able to stay for free with farmers across the country. There are thousands of farmers taking part in the program. We purchased our year-long membership for €25, and it gave us access to an online guidebook that allowed us to plan our route according to length of the drive in between, and the kind of produce they made. It was the best way we could have imagined to get across France (I proudly say this without any sort of compensation from the company).

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One of the “Golden Rules” of France Passion is that campers are not obligated to buy anything from the farm, but really, how could we not? What’s a few euros for a fresh snack from those who made it, especially when you aren’t paying for accommodation? France Passion is the ultimate cheapskate solution. As I mentioned, we mapped out our trip based on the food and goods we wanted to buy, so it wasn’t even a question if we would buy anything. We began our stops with Beaujolais wine (€12 for two bottles), enjoyed some charcuterie in Montregard (€4 for jar), and then followed the Route des Fromages (yes that’s a real thing!) to a farm that made the most delicious cheeses (€7 for two blocks!). We decided to try something new and drove to a fois gras farm (€10/ tin), and then finished our trip with a private vineyard tour of a winery in Bordeaux (€13 for two bottles).

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If you are driving across France, in an RV or campervan, the average cost of a campground is €20-€25. Do yourself a flavour (haha!) and sign up for France Passion. For the same cost, you can stay for free at thousands of farms around France, and taste the sweet, sweet goods from the farmers themselves.

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*Not only did we pay €27 for about two and a half hours of highway driving, but also, the highways are not picturesque, and the gas prices are crazy high! When we switched to toll-free driving using Google Maps, we saw way more of the countryside, drove past beautiful little villages and towns, and paid a solid €0.25/Litre LESS for fuel. Take it from a cheapskate, unless you are desperate to make it through France in a day or two, avoid those toll roads, they just aren’t worth it!

Drinking Beer at Oktoberfest!

This morning we woke up, ready for Oktoberfest! We made ourselves a hearty breakfast, knowing full well the main activity of Oktoberfest is drinking beer, and got ourselves ready for the day. I donned my bright red dirndl, a traditional Bavarian dress, Michael donned his lederhosen, basically a pair of leather shorts, and we walked to the train station. After about half an hour on a train filled with people wearing everyday clothes and not lederhosen or a dirndl, we finally arrived at the square. Oktoberfest is just a huge fair. There are rides, fair games, and big food stands. What makes this fair different than others though, are the HUGE tents, lined end to end with table and benches, in which the only size beer you can order is one litre. We chose the Augustiner Brau tent first for we heard from a Bavarian local that it’s the best beer.

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The woman who brought our beer to us was all kinds of Oktoberfest — frills and lace, tumbling cleavage, and forearms like hamhocks, carrying four, sometimes five litres of beer in each hand! Michael and I cheers’ed each other, and the other folks at our table, and drank up. People around us sang songs and danced dances that looked so silly to us, still sober folk. We just laughed and watched everyone have a good time.

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We head to another tent after we finished our first beers. On the way, we passed a stand that sold cookies. This is a weird Oktoberfest tradition, actually. It’s a gingerbread looking cookie that is in the shape of a heart, has some icing sentence written across it, and is worn around the neck. Some are small, the size of my palm, some are medium, the size of my face, and some are HUGE, bigger than my face! I had to buy one! It said something along the lines of “a sweet for a sweet,” which I thought was damn cute.

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Our second beer was enjoyed in the Löwenbrau tent at a table with a drunk American, a drunk British couple, and a few drunk Aussies. That second beer went down way easier than the first. Dang. We ordered our third beer. Things got a bit blurry now. All of a sudden, the silly songs and drunk people became our favourite drinking sing-a-longs, and our best friends. We sang Ain Prosit, a Bavarian drinking song that translates to something about good fortune (I think), and for some reason that song that goes, “Heyyyyyy, hey baby! HOO! HA! I wanna kno-o-o-o-o-o-ow if you’ll be my girl!” Apparently it’s a favourite sing-a-long song at Oktoberfest?

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I finally ate the cookie around my neck. It was horrible. It wasn’t even a cookie. I would say it was kind of like a dense bread. Or like a gingerbread cookie with no ginger flavour or sugar. Or like a really thick piece of cardboard with an icing sentence written across it. It really was horrible. I shared it with everyone at the table. They were thankful until they took a bite and realized why I was sharing. We were drunk. I guess three litres of beer is my limit. We said farewell to our new friends and hit the road. We were on the train and arrived home before ten. I do love an early night. Off with the dirndl, off with the lederhosen. You know, I’ll never forget my first time at Oktoberfest, except for the parts I just can’t remember…

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