This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
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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 normal road.

Millionaires Playground

Millionaires Playground

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 problems yet.

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 course gorgonzola.

 


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

Miramas le Vieux

Heather desperate 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 !!!

Aigues Mortes

Aigues Mortes

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

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

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 and baguettes.

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 of wood).

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 annihilated.

 

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[Loire/Ile De Re] [Dordogne and Gorges] [Summer Alps] [Italy] [Slovenia] [Croatia] [On The Road To Morrocco] [Monte Carlo or Bust] [Spain, Benidorm and Gibraltar] [Rabat And All That] [El Jadida, Ounara, Essouria] [More meanderings & out of Africa] [Snowmads] [Snowmads 2] [Richard -  The BIG 50 !!!] [Eastern Europe] [Eastern Europe (cont)]
 

 

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