15th – 25th July 2016
Weather mainly hot and sunny late 20’s to mid 30’s
We awoke on the 15th July to the very sad news of the attacks on the Nice Bastille day celebrations, after answering texts from concerned friends and relatives we reflected on our own plans as had there have been a suitable campsite in the Nice area we would have been meeting a friend of mine there in around 9 days’ time. Instead although she was flying into Nice airport we had arranged to meet down the coast in Antibes instead.
Our plan therefore now was to head in that general direction. We identified a free aire at Greasque (GPS 43.432828 5.534615) as our next stopover point. The place itself was not particularly noteworthy unless you like mining museums and the weather was so hot that when we arrived we just hibernated inside Boris with all the doors and windows open to try and keep it cool. The parking area was huge and so we left plenty of room between us and the van next to ours, however before long two other vans had squeezed into the space. This is still slightly alien to us as in a huge parking area we would naturally give someone space and park away from them however the French seem to fill the gaps 1st and then park elsewhere.
The following morning we were awoken a little earlier than normal with a very loud bang on our door at 7.30am. It was the local police asking us to pay 5 euro for the previous nights stay, as there were no signs letting us know that there is now a charge we are not sure whether this was newly introduced charge or perhaps they were just off for a slap up breakfast on the proceeds!
As we hadn’t chosen the aire based on what there was to see around it we had no intention of hanging around for the weekend and made our way to the coast and a place called six fours. When we arrived though being a Saturday it was packed out and there wasn’t a parking place in sight. With a quick reprogramming of the sat nav we headed further along the coast to St Mandrier Sur Mer (GPS43.077883 5.904633) a small aire with just 7 spaces located about 10 mins from the beach and were lucky enough to find an empty spot. It still amazes me that France offers such a good network of places to stay either for a few euros per night or free. Even in July we are still finding it relatively easy to find parking spots without too much hassle. The weather was late 20’s so after getting set up we headed off to the beach for a few hours. St Mandrier is a pleasant little seaside town with an ample choice of restaurants and supermarkets. The beach was a little overcrowded (but it is July) and the entrance to the sea was rocky so as we hadn’t gone prepared we didn’t manage to go for anything more than a paddle. We spied a boules pitch on our way there and so challenged each other to a few games in the evening. As we don’t have a TV in our MH we spend a lot of time reading and Paul has recently been reading some books which contain a lot of French history. He had spotted a fort on the map dedicated to Napoleon so we planned to walk there the following morning. Unfortunately after a 2.5 km walk which was obviously uphill we discovered it was closed so we about turned and rewarded ourselves with an ice cream on our way back.
St Mandrier Sur Mer
Monday 18th we had a few tasks to complete today before parking up for the night. After doing the necessary filling and emptying we went in search of a supermarket. The first one didn’t appear to be at the location our app had told us of so off we went in search of another. On our way to it through Toulon the sat nav instructed us to turn off left, fortunately we hadn’t quite turned off fully when we realised that it was sending us under and underpass which was only 2.8 metres high with Boris being 3 metres we quickly jinked back into the line of traffic. After doing our shopping tried to locate an Orange mobile store to buy another sim for our mobile wifi. After 3 attempts we finally found one that we could park near in Hyres and after a bit of wrangling with the shop assistant we finally got a new sim 2GB sim for 14.90. On the way out of town we called into a Fuel station to fill with gas, we hadn’t however checked out the exit which turned out to be very narrow and on an angle. Paul’s driving skills were tested yet again with me directing from the outside. I’m sure some of these near misses are adding to my grey hair count!!! Tasks completed we could now head for our overnight stopover which also proved a little challenging with the first one being full and then an accident on the motorway stopping us getting to our 2nd choice, we finally ended up at a parking spot at La Londe (GPS 43.131953 6.230982) which was right on the edge of a busy road and although there was a stand pipe with water the services were no longer in good shape, but by this point we just wanted somewhere to park for the night so stayed put. I used the rest of the afternoon to catch up on our business accounts now we’d got wifi again. After a rather trying day we were happy to sit back and relax in the evening reading.
As we were the only people there we set to alarm for 7.30am the following morning so we could give Boris a quick wash before the sun got too strong as he was looking more than mucky, after which we set off on our travels again back along the coast road. On route we spotted a series of small coves which looked perfect for snorkelling and as we were there early had no problem parking Boris at the side of the road (GPS 43.149653 6.416041).
Stunning spot for a mornings snorkelling
Although other motorhomes stayed there overnight after a few hours snorkelling we decided to move further up the coast to the aire at Romoutelle (GPS43.211589 6.659478 Cost 8.50 euro per night). The drive to it was more than a little challenging as we followed the sat nav’s instructions which took us there on the scenic route of very narrow roads with far too many hairpin bends and crazy drivers coming at us from all directions to take notice of the scenery. We lived to tell the tale (at times it felt like only just though) and vowed to get a good much better map and follow that rather than the sat nav in future!
Although packed out with other motorhomes the aire was located right next to a beach and only a few KM’s from Ramoutelle village. The village itself is set up on a hill with fabulous views and quaint little cobbled streets where a small market sets up each Thursday. We discovered that the beach had more than it’s fair share of exclusive restaurants from which their staff would hop on to their tenders to fetch diners from their yachts moored out to sea. The restaurants must have been pretty good (needless to say we didn’t try them) judging on the amount of yachts in the surrounding waters, unfortunately though the beach itself had been somewhat neglected having big piles of seaweed all along the access into the water. We still made use of it whilst we were there though enjoying a bit of snorkelling and people watching. Parked next to us were a German couple Connie and Bernd and their dog Pepe, they spoke excellent English and taught us a couple of good new games that we have now put on our list to buy when back in the UK (Trianimoes and Skip Bo).
Ramoutelle boats moored for restaurants and our lovely German neighbours Connie, Berdt & Pepe
After 3 nights here our next stop was to be Antibes where my friend Shona was due to arrive on the 23rd. We took the coastal route avoiding the toll but instead enduring a crawl in places so the 70 km journey took us around 4 ½ hours. We had pre-booked our campsite by phone at camping La Rossignol and after a 2nd phone call had received an e mail confirmation. When we arrived one of the owners showed us to our pitch which on 1st glance seemed a little on the small side. With some manoeuvring back and forth we managed to get in, but it wasn’t ideal as with our bikes on the back we still protruded into the roadway. As we had stated the size of our vehicle when booking Paul went back to reception to see if we could move. The owner’s response was to scoff at him and say that all other pitches were pre-booked, Paul explained that we too had pre-booked, and after a 10 minute back and forth he did agree that we could move. When sorting out our laundry later I got chatting to an English Aussie who had also experienced his grumpiness – apparently all the reviews mention the lack of customer service, although this is the 1st we have encountered on our trip!!! Had we have not have been meeting my friend we may have considered spending our money elsewhere as at 34 euro a night the camping wasn’t cheap.
I got up the next morning bubbling like an excited school girl as my friend Shona was arriving today. As our campsite was located about 45 mins walk from the centre we caught the bus to town and got our bearings before heading to Shona’s hotel to meet up. Within minutes of her arrival at lunchtime we had all ordered a glass of wine and sat down to catch up. We knew each other through working together 30 years ago and hadn’t seen each other in 7 months so there was a lot of catching up to do. This kind of set the scene for the day as we moved from venue to venue eating and drinking ourselves around Antibes. Please don’t ask for any recommendations though as A) we can’t remember the names of places we went to and B) the food we ate was purely chosen on its capabilities of soaking up the wine intake and not for its deliciousness. After embarrassing ourselves by requesting Je t’aime in the bar we were in we thought it was time to leave, Paul and I did manage the 45 minute walk back to our campsite which ironically only felt like a 10 minute walk (buses stopped around 8pm). The following day we decided to try and stay out of mischief and chill by our pool only to find out that the pool closed for 2 hours in the middle of the day (just as we were going to visit) between 12.30pm and 2.30pm – am I missing something here – this is a campsite where people go on holiday – I have never heard of the swimming pool closing for 2 hours during the day on a site before??? We had a great few days catching up, but it was all over too soon and Shona was on her way home again on Monday afternoon. Next time she agreed to come for longer although I’m not sure how my head will feel about that!!!
Having fun with the gorgeous Shona Beedham
Until Next Time Andi & Paul x