Travelling through France to Spain takes a look at our car route and the associated costs of driving from the UK to our cave home in Andalucia.
The reason we found ourselves back in the UK was that our dogs had a release date from quarantine of 28th March. It was time for the dogs to complete their journey from the Turks and Caicos to Spain 🙂
Leaving our cave house, we took the ferry from Santander back to Portsmouth. We took advantage of the trip by de-touring to spend a couple of wonderful days with our friends in Extremadura.
What we really wanted to do was a repeat of January, when we had taken a ferry to Spain and drive to our cave house from there. Sadly, there are limited dog holding facilities on either the Bilbao or Santander ferry, as such they tend to be booked months and months in advance.
This meant our only option was to drive through France and on into Spain.
The first thing we had to decide was how we were going to get to France. We were travelling from Bristol (where the dogs were). The easiest option would have been to travel from Poole to Cherbourg, unfortunately this was an 8:30 AM departure and would mean spending an evening in Poole with the dogs. What we really wanted to do was pick them up on the Tuesday morning and start the journey home.
This meant we would have to travel to Calais, using either Eurotunnel or the Ferry. The tunnel was certainly faster (30 minutes) and it meant the dogs would not have to be left unattended. The problem was that we could only guesstimate our arrival time ( 200 miles from Bristol to Dover on congested motorways) and so would need a flexible ticket. The flexible ticket would allow us to get an earlier or later crossing depending on circumstances. Whist the ferry crossing was longer (90 minutes), it was cheaper (by 100 GBP). The decision made.
Picking up the dogs was a truly magical moment – 14 weeks later than intended they were on the final leg of the journey to their new home in Spain. They greeted us like nothing had happened and jumped into the back of the car without a care in the world – lets see how they would feel after a 2500 km road trip 😉
Arriving at the ferry terminal, we topped up the fuel tank (60 GBP) and reset the mileometer. We had just missed our proposed ferry, but caught the next available one. As we were travelling with dogs, we needed to be there an hour before departure. As it turned out check-in was smooth. They took a brief look at the pet passports but barely gave the dogs a glance. I thought they would check their microchips to confirm their identity, but they are obviously not too worried about dogs entering Europe. I am pretty sure it would be more stringent if we took them back into the UK !
Parking up, we left the car windows ajar and the dogs relaxing on the back seat. We went upstairs and grabbed a couple of seats with prime views and relaxed. It felt much more natural to be heading back to Spain than it had in January. This time round it felt like we were returning home 🙂
A few minutes out and we were in the open seas. Once this happened car alarms started to go off in unison ! When you travel to Spain on a ferry, you are told to turn off the alarms on your cars, but they don’t seem to mention this on shorter crossing. This was a little distressing for us as we knew the dogs were down there with all that noise going on. It is something to be aware of if you are thinking of crossing with pets. Thankfully it ceased after about 15 minutes and the dogs seemed none the worse for wear when we returned to our car.
Entering France was a breeze, we drove off the ferry and straight onto an empty motorway. Our destination the first day was the town of Arras, about 100 km South of Calais. We picked Arras for no other reason than a friend of mine regularly used it as an overnight destination when heading to Southern France. The journey was straightforward, the motorway was largely empty, no road works and a 130 km/hr (80 miles/hr) speed limit – perfect.
We had found a hotel chain called B&B Hotels that were happy to accept dogs for just 4 euros per dog. At the Arras Hotel they spoke good English at the reception (to he honest everyone we encountered in France spoke pretty reasonable English – it’s very humbling). The room was clean and the dogs quickly settled down on their beds. Their first night outside of captivity for 14 weeks 🙂
Day 1 Summary:
Ferry: 115 GBP (Estate car, 2 passengers and 2 dogs).
Fuel: 60 GBP.
Tolls: 7.90 Euros.
Hotel: 77.10 Euros ( double room, 2 dogs and 2 breakfasts).
Distance travelled: 73 miles (117 km).
The following morning we took it in turns to have breakfast (whilst the other looked after the dogs). Breakfast was first class – coffee, juice, bacon & eggs, croissants and bread, cereal, yoghurt and fruit. Best of all there was real crockery and cutlery 🙂 We have a thing about the disposability of styrene and plastics that are appearing in many hotel chains !
We detoured to a Lidl to buy food and drinks for the day’s journey and rejoined the motorway. The plan was to travel just south of Bordeaux and stay in hotel of the same chain.
We had decided to take the most direct route and not worry too much about avoiding tolls. Our rational was that the cost of tolls was outweighed by the time we saved. This also meant paying for less nights accommodation. The motorways continued to be a dream to drive upon and there were numerous stops along the way (called ‘Aires’). Some are simply picnic areas (with toilet facilities), whilst others offer full services.
We braved the Paris ring road, which wasn’t as bad as I expected. You had to be a little offensive with your driving skills, but the traffic continued to move freely (although more slowly). I can’t say that I would want to experience it at rush hour mind you.
The only downside with using the motorways was the scenery. It was very uninspiring – if you ignored the lack of traffic, lack of road works and the signs being in a funny language, then it was no different to any motorway in the UK. Hour after hour and nothing much changed, it certainly didn’t do justice to the beauty of France.
We hit traffic for the first time about 8 miles from our hotel and crawled along for the next 45 minutes (so near and yet so far). Eventually we arrived at our hotel at about 7PM. It was handily located just off the motorway and next to a McDonald’s (if that’s your thing).
Day 2 Summary:
Tolls: 48.20 Euros.
Hotel: 78.60 Euros ( double room, 2 dogs and 2 breakfasts).
Distance travelled: 496 miles (798 km).
We awoke early, had breakfast (same as previous day) and climbed back into the car. The previous night we had researched dog friendly hotels in the Madrid area (our proposed destination for the day). We had drawn a blank, whilst France is very dog friendly, Spain doesn’t seem to have realised this potential market. Those that would take dogs would either only take small dogs, or no more than one per room. Then there was the cost (in addition to us needing 2 rooms) – they charged between 17 Euros and 24 Euros per dog !
We decided that despite it being a long way (over 700 miles/1100 km) we would try to continue all the way home. If we couldn’t make it then we would see how accommodating the hotels along the motorway were to dogs. We fuelled up (60 Euros) and got on our way.
The scenery continued to be uninspiring for the next hour and then in the distance we could see mountains 🙂
Crossing the border into Spain the scenery changed instantly, we were in the Basque region and finally we had the mountains we had seen in the distance. Being back in Spain lifted our hearts (Country number 5 for the dogs). It was also great to be able to understand road signs and advertising hoardings. It certainly made us realise how much our Spanish had progressed over the last few months.
The day rolled on as we ticked off the miles … passing Madrid mid afternoon, we started to feel we could make it home that day. We took the toll road around Madrid to save some time and fuelled up a final time just to be on the safe side (46 Euros). Sharing the driving and with regular stops for the dogs the day flew by.
It was also a benefit that the nights were drawing out, by the time it was dark we had less than an hour of driving until we were back in our cave.
After 12 hours we pulled up outside our cave, tired but happy to finally be home with our dogs.
Day 3 Summary:
Tolls: 16.10 Euros (France).
30.50 Euros (Spain).
Fuel: 80 Euros (used). Although we spent more than this we had half a tank of fuel
Distance travelled: 712 miles (1145 km).
Total Cost of Journey:
Ferry: 115 GBP/ 135 Euros.
Fuel: 128 GBP/ 150 Euros.
Tolls: 88 GBP/ 103 Euros.
Hotels: 132 GBP/ 155 Euros.
Total: 463 GBP/ 543 Euros.
It was lovely to wake the next morning in our own bed – albeit a little cramped with 2 dogs sharing the space 🙂 Oh, and I didn’t step foot back in the car for about 3 days. Even the thought of driving 3 miles to the supermarket made me shudder !
So … Who are one foot in the cave ?
We (Danny and Josie) have spent the last 10 years living and working in the Caribbean. In 2015 we decided we wanted to move closer to family and friends so bought a cave house in the Granada region of Andalucia, Spain. We moved there full time in January 2017. Now we write about our experiences of cave living and how we are adapting to life in Spain.
We also have a Facebook page full of pictures, experiences and information that we have found useful along the way. If its your thing, you can also follow us on Instagram 🙂
5 words related to this blog entry …
Ferry – El Ferry.
Toll – El Peaje.
Hotel – El Hotel
Home – El Hogar/La Casa.