Saturday, 7 October 2017

Our Very Own Tour de France - Day 43 - 47

Castellane to Carro - French Riviera 

Tuesday 3rd - Thursday 5th October 2017

On Tuesday, as we left the Aire at Castellane and our much loved Alpine journey sadly came to an end as we headed for the coast of the French Riviera.  Most of the day was spent fuelling up, shopping and driving so I haven't really got much to say other than to tell you about the fact that Mrs Snoopy was up to her old tricks again.  John nearly always has her set to avoid toll roads, and sometimes he fibs and tells her we weigh over 3.5 tons so that she doesn't take us down silly confined routes when we come into towns!  However, today she must have thought we wanted to intimately explore every nook and cranny of the very busy town of Grasse.  Now, I was quite interested in this town because since the 16th century it's said to be the centre of the world's perfume industry - and as we approached it we noticed fields of flowers that we later learnt included lavender, mimosa, jasmine and roses. There were also lots of stalls and outlets at the side of the road that sold all sorts of goods related to pleasant smells.

However, as I said it was BUSY and there was absolutely no opportunity to park our big bus and stop for a look around- and as we got drawn further into the buzzing metropolis all we think about was our safe escape - I think if we'd had a ramp on the back some of the scooters would have come right over the top of us!   But once again my chauffeur mostly kept his cool (he did swear when he turned into a dead end and had to reverse out) and achieved our retreat from the city with great aplomb! Then we didn't have too much further to go before the deep blue Mediterranean Sea came into view along with the Chez Marcel Aire where we planned to spend the night.

But that was a strange little place - it had all the usual services available but it was spread out over several levels with little paths leading from one area to another, and if it had been full (it was supposed to hold 50 vans) privacy would definitely have been out the window.  But it served us well for one night and allowed us to go for a stroll along the sea front, and it was then that we discovered that Motorhomes maybe weren't a 100% welcome in these parts - there were signs everywhere banning motorhome parking and all the car parks and even some of the supermarkets had height barriers!

The purple blob makes our camping spot!
So on Wednesday morning we decided to move further on down the coast to the Giens Peninsula and onto an ACSI campsite called La Fondue.  This proved to be another very busy place, I think mostly because it's the only campsite left open in this area - all the others have closed for winter - which it certainly is not at the moment!  It's also from here that you can catch a ferry over to the island of Porquerolles, but from what we could gather, the island didn't really have much more to offer than the very pretty coves and beaches that we already had access to.

So to finish our day we just lazed about in the very warm sunshine and then took a short walk onto the sea front and up to the Tour Fondue which is an ancient fortification that sits on the very tip of the peninsula.

On Thursday the sun was blazing down again so  I decided it was wash day, and by 10am all our smalls were swinging on the line!  And after all that hard work (no machines involved) I had to fortify myself with a nice cup of coffee, and by the time that was drank we thought we may as well stay in for Lunch!

Therefore, by the time we'd gathered ourselves enough to go out it was 3pm and still to hot to do much in the way of exercise, so we settled for another walk along the shore front in the lovely cooling sea breeze.  However, in places our jaunt became quite challenging as we traversed along very narrow ledges, crossed rickety bridges and climbed root strewn slopes!


There were plenty of trip traps which made watching the off shore divers all the more difficult!

Apparently, just off from the beach the town of Hyeres has reconstructed an underwater archaeological site - they have taken parts of a shipwreck and re-immersed them in a shallow place so that anyone with a mask snorkel and flippers can experience the excitement of discovering  the wreckage.

We only managed about 4.5 miles on our wander, and then it was back home to empty the sand from our shoes and to do a bit more chilling while we debated - should we stay or should we move on further down the coast tomorrow!

Friday 6th October 2017
This morning the big 60 caught up with me, but because we were far away from family, friends and home I wasn't going to think about it much!  However, right from the get go lots of birthday messages started to arrive (thanks everyone), so rather than forgetting  about it I decided to count my blessings!
  1. My wonderful travelling partner and Husband - without him I wouldn't be able to live this alternative happy life I do!
  2. And next has to be our excellent good fortune that both of us are in very good health and have a reasonable level of fitness - without these our other blessings might not be so accessible !
  3. Our lovely family.  We have 3 fantastic children and 3 beautiful grandchildren who's number will soon increase to 4 when Adam Vicky and Jack have a new addition to their family in February! 
  4. Our extended family - Mum, brother, sisters, (and their partners) and also our very close friends - we miss you all while we're travelling but seeing you all makes coming home wonderful!
  5. The fact that we no longer need to work - we're far from rich but we've got enough for what we want to do and where we want to go!
  6. And finally, our charmed life style which gives us the freedom to roam as we please - we've been to some fantastic places and met some lovely people, and there is still lots more on our list to look forward to in the near future! 
So what more could a girl want for her birthday - many things you could wish for are gone by the next day or very soon after, but I think I'm very lucky because amongst all of the above I've got lots to look forward to!  Anyway, enough of that mush - now I'll tell you about our day!

This morning we left the Giens Peninsula and headed towards the city of Marseille, and at first John thought Mrs Snoopy would take us around the outskirts - but NO, this time she took us UNDER the city - through The South Prado Tunnel that is several miles long and which almost skimmed our roof in places!  It was also a very tight squeeze to enter this underground highway, and for the honour of doing so we were charged 3 euros - but really it was money very well spent because it allowed us to miss all the inner city chaos .  While we were in the bowels of the earth we passed under part of Marseille's massive harbour, and when we got chucked out of it there was still plenty of maritime activity to see as we nipped along the coastal road.

Our final destination was a sea front Aire at Carro - a purpose built parking area for about 50 motorhomes which only costs about 8 quid for 24 hours and which fronts straight onto the the very wild and windy beach!  There really isn't much there except the wonderful ocean that froths and foams in the very strong winds that frequent these parts, and for entertainment there are plenty of wind surfers to watch.

Once we'd settled in we went for a walk along the sea front but the powerful 'gusts' nearly tore the clothes from our shoulders, and then John explained that what we were experiencing was the mighty hand of the Mistral!  Apparently this is a regular phenomena in these parts and it occurs when there is an  anticyclone caused by an area of high pressure  in the Bay of Biscay, and an area  of low pressure from around the Gulf of Genoa.  The resulting wind can last for days and often exceeds 41 mph and has been known to reach over 100 mph!  Needless to say we didn't stay out to long and it was a very bracing walk!

And now as I sit typing this our ship is rocking quite alarmingly but our views of the huge waves that are are having their tops stolen and tossed into the air by the gale that is blowing is magnificent - and the icing on the cake is that we'll be able to see the sun sink into the sea while we eat out supper!  It's Monk fish with tomato and ginger sauce which will be washed down with a special bottle of Pierre Sonnen's Grand Cru Gewurztraminer from the Alsace Valley!
Our view while eating our supper!

Saturday 7th October 2017

Well, the wind finally blew itself out at around midnight so really the only effect it had was to rock us to sleep, and now this morning the sun is shining again and the area has taken on a much more gentle character.  However, this place was only ever meant to be a one night stop over to break our journey while we travelled to the Camargue Region.  So now were getting ready to travel the 60 miles to get there, and our plan is to stay a few days in another purpose built Aire right on the sea front.  The Camargue covers an area of about 432 square miles and includes wetlands, dunes and salt flats which are home to white ponies, sheep, cattle and  flamingos and hopefully much unspoiled territory!

However, our days of being able to stay on wild Aires might be numbered for this trip because it seems like we've got a resident gremlin and this time he's got into the diesel pump - it's ceased to function!   The fuel for our heating and hot water can either be electric or diesel but the diesel needs pumping and that's not happening at the moment - although it works fine on electric.  But when you think about it our van is quite ancient in years of use!  Vehicles like ours are only really intended for holidays - so maybe 6 - 8 weeks every year, but our ship has been used constantly for the last 18 months - and that's the equivalent of 10 years - so it's probably not surprising that things are wearing out!

While we're in these warmer climates we're ok, but as we travel back northwards towards England we might struggle and shiver if we have to manage without the little luxury of heating so if it can't be fixed while were over here we'll have to look for campsites.  However, even that might be difficult because many of them have closed now for the winter,  therefore our plan is to maintain our independence if we can by calling in at a Truma dealer in the next few days to see if they can help, and if not we'll just have to get our thermals out a bit earlier than we'd planned.

Anyway, I've got to go now cos John is packing up around me - I think he's keen to get on the road!

Bye for now and take care 😘

Click here to see our French camping spots