MONTE CARLO OR BUST
AND THE FRENCH BORDER AREA
19 October Sunday
Drove all morning
on Italian motorways, down through the hills into Genova,
(didn’t appreciate how interesting the countryside is
on last visit) and drove across countless viaducts and
through innumerable tunnels along the Italian Riviera.
No wonder the tolls are quite high because it must have
cost a fortune to build. It would have taken yonks by
Passed into the principality
of Monaco, drove down into centre of Monte Carlo, along
very narrow steep, windy roads. No wonder it is a hard
Grand Prix in which to overtake. Drove through a series
of name-drop towns along the sea front road, aptly named
“le promenade des Anglais”, Nice, Antibes, Cannes. Very
impressed by young girl roller blader, hitching a tow
with a friends on a motor bike and beating us through
town. Heather threatens to get her blades out.
Continued along French
Autoroute, finding services for Camper vans en route
, very enlightened these French. Pulled into Service
Area near St Maximin to stay the night to find a huge
area dedicated to Campers and picnickers. Spent very
comfortable night. We have heard many stories of people
suffering problems parked up on motorways from petty
theft to the occupants of camping cars being gassed
and waking up hours later to find all their valuables
gone. South of France and Southern Spain supposed to
be worst, gangs of thieves operating these areas. No
Very tasty Chicken
a la crème and mashed potatoes, Cheese and biscuits.
Cheese bought in Italian supermarket. Ricotta with Pistachios
(tastes like marzipan and is a khaki green colour) and
a rather bland white cheese with black pepper plus of
20 October Monday
Left Autoroute just
after Aix en Provence and travelled along shore of Etang
de Berre and discovered fascinating old mediaeval fortress
village of Miramas le Vieux, stuffed full of interesting
restaurants. Drove through the Camargue, with the same
impression as last time that it may be an interesting
area but not a very attractive landscape. They actually
grow rice in the Camargue. Spent an hour or so in Aigues
Mortes, a mediaeval walled town last visited when Richard
was a student. Just missed a major festival at the weekend
with Camargue horsemen herding cattle through the streets
and singing and dancing, celebrating the area. Set off
along the coast, past yet another sea salt producer,
(since adopting fleur de sel from Ile de Re have found
salt pans everywhere) to le Grau-de-Roi and spotted
a car park full of campers. Flotte bleu, toilets and
free.Very narrow entry but joined them for the night.
Nice little sea port with a healthy mix of leisure and
industrial sea going craft.
Miramas le Vieux
to do some exercise so she grunts and groans doing sit
ups and stretches as I write. Have been informed that
I have to do some soon before I can have any wine !!!
Chicken and rice soup,
salad with a provencale game pie (bought from very talkative
proprietor of excellent charcuterie/delicatessen) followed
by cheese. Richard very pleased to be back talking French,
however badly. His Croatian was non existent.
21 October Tuesday
Stayed in Grau. Cycled
to Port Camargue and Grande Motte. Decided that our
next trip would be by boat. Need to learn to sail. You
have got to hand it to the French. They build purpose
built holiday complexes but they have much more charm
than anything we Brits would do. Mind you the weather
helps. Richard went off fishing, discovered yet another
technique to catch small bass, a bit like fly fishing
but with a float. Too cold and dark for me and tide
wrong. Gas was leaking again this morning, I probably
haven’t got the dual system set quite right; the problem
is to do with pressures when bottles get low I think.
Can exchange my old French gas bottle at Super U for
Butagaz which I am reliably informed is available in
Maroc (Morocco to you non speakers.)
Grande Motte Grau de Roi
Heather tried to cook
Roast Pork dinner. Got her knickers in a twist because
oven not big enough ! Good nosh though. Roast Pork,
roast potatoes, carrots, braised celery and onions in
cream, gravy. Vin de pays Merlot.
22 October Wednesday
Grotte (not flotte) bleu
Nice sunny morning.
Breakfasted and approached new type Flotte Bleu to empty
tanks and fill up with water. Incompatible pipe system
to ours. Tried to join best I could. Pressure too much,
Richard ended covered in S**T and all over floor. Luckily
H could switch valve off before unloaded whole tank.
French and Germans very amused until they approached
too close. H not been too well night before !!!! Cleaned
up (floor and Richard) and set off, changed gas bottle
for one compatible with Moroccan ones (we hope). Stopped
at Perpignan camper van shop and finally bought Aire
de camping book. Definitely staying for free tonight.
Drove to Port Leucate and pulled up on free car park
with grotty service area and got rid of offending material
from morning. Another 20 vans on site and adjoining
coach park. John Thistlethwaite rang on Croatian Sim
Card Mobile and he and I used up all remaining credit.
It costs us if we are called outside Croatia. H into
serious text deprivation until we buy new foreign Sim.
Horrendous storm overnight, Thunder, lightning and tornado
like wind. We as usual opened curtains to watch.
23 October Thursday
Woken by car horn
pipping as it passed car park and then pulled up on
it. “Pillock”, I thought, some people will go a long
way to express their displeasure at being invaded by
camper vans. Discovered later he was selling croissants
Very productive day.
Serviced van and drove into Leucate, in search of dentist.
Heather worried crown enough for it to come out again.
Then tried to restick it. Couldn’t get it in ! Certain
amount of panic. Drove into Leucate to buy phone card
and find dentist. Lady at La Poste not impressed by
my request “Est-ce qu’il y a un dentiste pres d’ici
parce que ma femme a l’air de Dracule.” Anyway gave
me an address. Went in search of dentist in wrong part
of town. Interrupted a local Planning committee site
visit to get correct directions. Arrived 5 minutes too
late, gone for lunch and lady at Patisserie next door
thought he might not be back this week. Dracula panics!
Found launderette and other Brits. Well he was a Brit
(John) and Ruby as the name implies was Norwegian and
kids Britwegians ! H very happy to do washing again.
Easily pleased these women. Men talked as usual about
the intricacies of gas. I wonder if that is where the
description gassing comes from.
Rang dentist and arranged
immediate appointment for Heather. Entered surgery met
by Brigitte Bardot's elder sister wearing lip liner,
extremely tight flared jeans with yellow inserts, high
heeled shoes, and a seventies quarter panelled multicoloured
smock. The exact corollary of a dental nurse back home.
Waited our turn with lots of seat offering to various
old French people (H concerned that I shouldn’t offer
my seat to old French men) and then ushered H into surgery.
Explained situation and superglue. Small shrug from
dentist. Discovered that had to pay cash for treatment.
Left H in capable (we hoped ) hands of dentist while
I went to ATM at other end of village. On my return
I walked straight into surgery to see H gripping side
of chair , feet lifting off foot rest with dentist pushing
a piece of wood with all of his might into H’s mouth,
from which emanate little gurgling sounds like she was
being throttled. Shortly afterwards he was content that
the crown was far enough inserted and admired his handy
work. A bit of tarting up and H delighted with result.
The dentist was most uncomplimentary about British dentistry
having had to file down crown to make it fit (or was
it layers of superglue ?) and actually asking whether
it was really H’s tooth ! 20 euros well spent. Dentist
gave a wry smile when I commented that I was impressed
with his highly technical dental instrument (the piece
Finally too, got through
to Val Thorens to finalise ski booking for March. It
was snowing and the resort due to open 7 November.
Headed for free camp
site next to Lake where our new Britwegian friends were
parked and met other Brits, Ben and Lisa, a young couple
having sold everything to travel and Mary and Dennis,
retired Crafters having escaped the Rural Crafts circuit
ahead of the game. Ate early (Seafood Risotto) and had
everyone round for drinks at 8pm. Kicked the last two
out at 2.20am. Literally fell into bed. Booze stocks