Europe in a Van Part 2 – France: Beaune, Lyon, Cassis, Saint Raphael and Fréjus

We’ve made it to weeks 3 and 4 of our tour in Europe, and we’re still in France. Since leaving Paris, we hit up Beaune, Lyon, Cassis, Saint Raphael and Fréjus, so we’ve been busy! Lets get straight to it.

Highlights and lowlights


  • We experienced our first five star campsite, and lemme tell ya, it was deadly (in the fun and the sinister sense!)
  • To quote Galileo “Wine is sunlight, held together by water” – we did a wine and bike tour and learnt all about the different chateau’s, appellations and the harvesting process
  • Family holidays are just the best aren’t they? We rounded off this fortnight with 6 nights with my family in San Raphael and Fréjus


  • Jaysis lads the heat is something else. Thankfully we fixed the broken ceiling fan as we would have melted and not slept without it
  • I’m struggling to find really good examples of accessibility for sight loss, and it gets frustrating at times. I’m finding way more gripes than greats. Full post on this coming soon!

Below, I have listed some of the extra facilities available at the campsites we’ve stayed at. Each campsite also had the basics – toilets, showers, sinks for dish washing (a god send as we don’t have running hot water), laundry facilities, bins, grey water disposal, chemical toilets and fresh water.

Du vin au vin – from wine to wine in Beaune

CampsiteCamping Les Cent Vignes
Cost – €33 per night for two people including electricity
Facilities – bar, restaurant, outdoor gym and playground
Accessibility score – 3 / 5

See here for further detail on my accessibility scoring system.

There wasn’t much choice for campsites in Beaune that were within walking distance to the town centre, so Les Cent Vignes was the only one for us. Price wise, it was more expensive than Camping Sandaya in Paris, with much less on offer.

Grand is the only way to discuss the accessibility of this site. The lighting was pretty good, as were the pavements as they were all flat. However, the map they gave at reception was really small, hard to read and the complete lack of large signage around the site didn’t help. There was no tactile paving to be seen.

Special shout out to their internal bathroom signage which had braille on it – the second tactile sign I’ve seen since arriving in France. The intention here is excellent, but there was no sign outside the sanitary block to say it was a sanitary block. So once, again, if you make it in, you’re good to go. It seems to be a common theme that signs are reserved for internal use only.

This image shows three square signs on a light brown tiled wall. The signs are in a vertical column, with one on top of the other. They all have a white background with black logos and braille. The top sign shows two figures, one man and one woman with braille wording underneath. The second sign down says WC and an arrow pointing left, with WC in braille underneath. The bottom sign is the symbol for wheelchair accessibility with braille wording underneath.
Internal large print bathroom signs with braille

Things to see and do – we did a fabulous wine and bike tour which took us out of Beaune centre and into the surrounding vineyards. We cycled 32km in total and stopped at 2 Chateau’s for some delicious wine tasting. The cycling got easier throughout the day – this might have been to do with the wine?? We did the day long tour with Bourgogne Evasion Tours.

In this image you can see three people cycling along a road from behind. I am closes to the camera wearing a pink t-shirt, green shorts, white runners and a brown bum bag. The road is black tarmac, the sky above is bright blue and there are old stone walls on either side. The mountains can be seen in the background.
This is me cycling into a tiny French village during our wine tour

How does a VI girl ride a bike? Simple – like everyone else but much slower! I was the cautious nerd on the trip, staying mostly at the back, wearing my cap under the helmet and giving the brakes on the bike a REALLY good test. I am way more comfortable on a horse than a bike. I think a part of me knows the horse can balance itself and look after me. A bike has no internal conscience or any self control – its all me. We started the tour off with the rest of the riders zooming off way ahead of the driver and I, so in hindsight, I should have said something to the tour guide in the beginning. I did mention it to him about an hour in, as he requested we stayed together as a group and I requested a slower pace. It was grand after that! We first visited Château de Chassagne-Montrachet, run by the Picard Family. The driver as a Star Trek fan was delira with this. Our second stop was Domaine Lejeune in Pommard, who have a fermentation vat that is the oldest of its kind in the Burgundy region (its really old, but I can’t remember the exact age!)

We also did a tour of La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot, a mustard mill in Beaune – a bit random but Burgundy is also famous for its Dijon mustard as well as its lovely wines.

Feeling the heat in Lyon

We drove about 2 hours, 160km south to Lyon, to set up camp for 3 nights as we worked. We’ll admit that the heat got to us for these three days. It hit at least 30 degrees, with little or no breeze and we spent a couple of hours sitting in what is essentially a greenhouse while driving down the motorway. We could grow our own tomatoes in the cab, its that warm. So we didn’t see much of Lyon as we just needed to get to the campsite and have a cold shower!

CampsiteCamping des Barolles
Cost – €27 per night for 2 people, including electricity
Facilities – a bar and a very small shop.
Accessibility score – 2 / 5

To be completely honest, this site was our least favourite so far, and way too expensive for what it was. It was very basic (which is fine, but adjust your prices accordingly), the staff weren’t the friendliest and it was right beside a main road. There wasn’t much choice in and around Lyon so we had to take what we could get.

There was nothing notable ref accessibility. The sanitary and laundry room did have a sign on the outside (finally!) and the signs indicating reception / car park were fine. The lighting was grand too. It was a basic site, but very clean. No map was given at reception, no tactile paving and the staff didn’t seem to be especially interested in their guests.

Things to do – before heading to the campsite, we headed into Lyon itself and had a wander around and a beautiful meal at Le Mercière – Gault & Millau. The food and service was excellent. Accessing the bathrooms was a challenge. They were up a tiny, narrow winding staircase with not one sign indicating where to go.

Near to our campsite was the Saint Genis 2 Shopping Centre where I found the fabulous toilet sign in the picture below. I took one morning to walk to this centre, leaving The Driver to work away in the van. I picked up a few bits of food, my favourite La Roche-Posay SPF 50 and a new mouse for the laptop. It is so much easier to use a mouse with screen magnification rather than relying on the track pad. I just use the the built in magnification on Windows as I’ve found these settings to be just as good as the pricey software available like Dolphin.

An image showing the inside of a shopping centre, with shop fronts on both sides. The floor is made of shiny pale brown tiles. In the mid ground, there is a toilet sign. The sign is a light filled cube, with the male and female figures indicating the toilets on each side.
An excellent toilet sign!

Taking in the views in Cassis

Due to the heat, we drove as fast as we could to the coast, which was 100% worth it. The sea breeze and beach swim swept away our heat induced fatigue and grumpiness of the previous few days.

CampsiteCamping Les Cigales
Cost – €31 per night for 2 people, including electricity
Facilities – a bar, very small shop and a restaurant
Accessibility score – 2 / 5

This was another pricey site and was very similar to Lyon and Beaune where there wasn’t much competition. However, it was close to the seaside town of Cassis and had a younger customer demographic, which we enjoyed.

This site had really pretty sanitary blocks and wash up area. They had peach walls, a slate roof and had a cool vintage vibe to the tiling. However, they had a dreadful step around the basins which was right in the shade so I tripped down it on multiple occasions. Otherwise, the accessibility of this site was OK. We weren’t given a map at reception, the lighting was poor around the pitches, and there was no tactile paving or decent signage. It was a small site, so it was easy enough to get around it.

This image shows an outdoor washing up area. It is rectangular in shape, with white basins around the edge. The stone walls are painted a peachy pink, and the slate roof is in a terracotta colour.
The washing up sinks in Camping Les Cigales
This image is of a very bad step. It is in the shade and is made of grey concrete.
The terrible step at the sink area

Things to see and do – we didn’t do a lot while we were here. We just chilled out around the van, I did a bit of writing and we took a wander down to Cassis harbour one night. It was really nice to have these chilled days though, as it had been a busy week or so before this and we were heading into another busy one at the next stop!

Family Fun in Fréjus

Our last two stops for this fortnight were San Raphael and Fréjus, which are further east along the south coast. We met up with my family here, and spent a couple of nights on a sofa bed in my mums air conditioned AirB&B in San Raphael. It had black out shutters as well so it was the darkest and coldest nights sleep we’d had in weeks. We then moved into our pitch in a five star campsite where some more of my family were staying.

CampsiteLa Baume and La Palmeraie
Cost – €40 per night for 2 people, including electricity
Facilities – 2 swimming pools, bars and restaurants, supermarket and a pool shop (we also got a free bottle of wine because we booked directly with the campsite)
Accessibility score – 2 / 5

I got to relive my childhood holidays this week. Our family were great for the campsite holidays when we were small, and we were actually in this exact site about 20 years ago. It still brings out the kiddish joy in me as I whizz down the water slides or float around in my inflatable pineapple.

While the overall facilities were great, with lovely sanitary blocks and shaded pitches, I struggled to give this site more than a 2 for accessibility. They have good signs, a good map handed out at reception, and very good lighting at night time. That said, there are some really awful steps around the pool area, which are really hard to see. Especially when you’re walking around in full sunshine, wearing sunglasses. I honestly considered bringing my symbol cane to use as a white cane, as I was so nervous walking around. This is not the intention of a symbol cane, and they are not designed for this, so I didn’t do so in the end. I was that worried about it that I really did consider breaking the rules.

This image shows my feet in lilac flip flops at the bottom. The rest of the photo is of the stone tiled ground surrounding the pool area. The stones are cut into random shapes and are in shades of pink, brown, orange and red. There is a step in the middle of the photo, which is indicated by a row of straight stones.
An example of a bad step at the pool area
This is another image of steps and a ramp at the pool area. The ground is made of flat but randomly shaped paving stones in reds, oranges, pinks and browns. There is a step running the length of the picture, which is indicated by a row of straight paving slabs. There is also a ramp in this image, made of the same stones. These are both very hard to see. The blue pool can be seen in the top left hand corner.
Another example of a bad step and ramp at the pool area

They also tie their sunbeds together to prevent people moving them, but this results in there being pretty significant trip hazards around the place, which are really hard to see. We all either tripped, or nearly tripped over them (fully sighted or otherwise!).

This image shows black decking, with two black and brown sunbeds at either side of the image. Connecting the two sunbeds is a red coated wire. The canopy above causes spotted shadows and light across the ground.
An example of the red wire, holding the sunbeds together that also acts as a booby trap. The canopy above is made of a mesh material leading to this funny shading pattern seen here.

Lastly, they have very, very few shaded spots by the pools, and you are not allowed to bring your own sun umbrella. This is a hugely disruptive and disappointing feature in this site. It is not advisable for anyone to sit out in full sun, and with a skin condition like Albinism, it is frankly dangerous to do so. They also have pretty strict rules on what swimsuit you can wear, men’s shorts have to be skin tight boxers or speedos. They do allow the wearing of rash vests and long sleeved swimsuits which is good.

I have emailed the site with my observations and a link to this article so I’ll update this if anything changes or if I get a response!

Things to see and do – once we got to our campsite, we didn’t leave! There was too much fun and chilling to be had at the pools. Like in Cassis, we really enjoyed the break and spending time with family.

So weeks 3 and 4 did not disappoint and are keeping us in love with vanlife and France. Our next fortnight we’ll be chasing the colder temperatures in and around the French Alps, Mont Blanc and we’ll finally leave France and head to Switzerland. We think anyway, who knows what will actually happen!

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