Day 50…it’s exactly seven weeks today that we left for this trip!
Purely by chance, and in our naivety, we are pitched up opposite Sainte Victoire mountain, painted many times by Cezanne!
So, this morning, we walked to the base of the south-west face and my goodness, it was so beautiful.
I knew we were in an area of outstanding beauty but… Provençal skies, lush forests, rock faces, that red soil painted by Cezanne and a stream!
At the base are the ruins of a hamlet called Trou, which we climbed through.
On the way down:
Home for lunch then into Marseille. Today, Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde…a huge, highly decorative church with incredible commanding 360 views over this massive metropolis. Impressive!
The views over Marseille:
Having taken the over crowded, yet amusing bus ride up, through the narrow climbing roads to the basilica, we decided to stroll down, along very characterful streets.
We mooched about, enjoying the ambiance of this melting pot of a city, then hopped into the car for a trip to a hypermarché!
Home late…the rest of our rotisserie chicken for dinner…Rog then put on a Netflix series “Marseille”…to finish our day!
Left Sainte Victoire this morning, a beautifully located site, nice staff, but really annoying in other ways:
Closed off half of the showers leaving two for quite a number of visitors!
Tepid showers and no loo paper (that’s quite common)
No toilet seats! (usual in public loos)
Expensive extra cost wifi, one device at a time!
Power supply was locked so if you blew the very low amps, you couldn’t reset it!
One set of recycle bins, far away!
Don’t accept the reduced rate card after 14 October!
And lastly, when I went to pay, don’t accept cards, which I hadn’t noticed on arrival!
So, whilst Rog was doing the van, I had to drive into the French countryside to find a hole in the wall! The first two machines declined my cards, eventually found another and all was fine!
Rog moaned that it was all set up for the owner’s convenience not the visitors!
So off to Arles, continuing along the autoroute du soleil for a short while, en route home!
This turned out to be one of those funny days, actually the sort I do like, where we change plans or don’t have any to start with!
It started at Arles…
Arles…we had in mind an overnight site but on our arrival, it was closed for it’s two hour lunch break!
Not once did we experience this in Italy!
So, we unhitched the caravan, secured it in their large car park and drove the short distance to Arles.
Street views in Arles
We spent a few hours wandering through the narrow streets, seeing the Roman ruins (amphitheatre and ancient theatre) buying a loaf of seedy bread, cheese, tomato and eating our picnic in a Van Gogh garden!
The site being closed on our arrival, allowed us to see Arles without pitching up and helped change our plans…deciding to move on!
We returned to the site, hitched up the van and off we went in the direction of Montpellier.
A couple of sites in mind but seriously considering staying on an Aire tonight (a motorway stop, some busy with fuel, restaurants etc, some just a picnic type spot)
We stopped at two simple aires, one to have a tea, one very pleasant spot to stay on, but felt it too risky as they are not secure and you do get thieves!
The third was a busy service stop, almost stayed, but decided to go for the nice safe secure site!
We only just made that site in time…the sun had set by now and reception was closing!
Picked our pitch, and settled the caravan in record time…in the dark!
It’s funny with campsites…you just get a feeling…and this one gives us both a good feeling…so we’re staying another night!
This gave us time to sort our ferry crossing , and do some chores, plus, after a snack, take a 20 minute ride into central Montpellier on the modern clean tram.
Montpellier was a spontaneous stop, as most are, not even on our “to see” list.
So, a lovely calm morning…sorting stuff and playing with an adorable kitten, who was so friendly and just wouldn’t leave us! Sweetest nature.
So much for the Rabies warnings…hey Rog!!!
Love to stow him away in our caravan!
Montpellier…love love love it!
Once again, it’s instinctive and we both liked this city on arrival.
Being a university town, students make up roughly a third of Montpellier’s population, so it has a lively young ambiance.
Rog guided us on a great two hour walking tour, of the main points of interest, in the historical centre…luckily just before it rained.
Being a Saturday afternoon, people were out and about…we came across a local produce food fair, enjoyed a few tasters! The main and smaller squares were full of families and young people enjoying their day.
Attractive medieval streets, bars, restaurants…the usual but not touristy or pretentious, as some of these cities can be.
Around 18.30, we stopped for an aperitif, on a bar terrace, under the heater lamps…watching the world and the rain!
For dinner, we almost went to a Bistro on the square, looked good, but wasn’t yet open and on this miserable evening, we couldn’t hang around. So, was off to the only vegetarian restaurant in town! We enjoyed our evening and meal. Food quite good!
Across the wet but atmospheric square, along some night lit streets to our tram stop, to take us home.
At home, whilst watching the second episode of “Marseille” (enjoying it so far, especially as we’ve just visited), we had a guest!
Little Chou-chou came to be with us! We knew we shouldn’t let him in, but it was so rainy and he is unbelievably gorgeous!
Such an adorable little thing…would so like to take him home!
Oh my goodness…it rained all last night and continues…even with earplugs, I could hear the hammering on the skylights, then falling clunks of tree debris!
Looking out, the forest floor is a quagmire…well a muddy puddly mess!
Today is a long day of driving to get us in to the middle of this huge country…Le Massif Central.
I wasn’t much use at packing up this morning as I was rather distracted! I tried to do my duties but little Chouchou wanted me!
By 11.00ish, we were on the road north…a very wet day.
What an astounding drive…phenomenal, massive landscapes, even on this dull day.
Gorges, viaducts, densely wooded hillsides, vast views in each direction of valleys, canyons, patchwork fields, craggy rock faces, villages nestled in valleys and perched on hillsides…all my favourite autumnal colours…pure beauty but alas, one I cannot capture on my iPhone in the car!
We stopped for fuel, so I popped into the large shop/restaurant to get some bread for lunch…French lunch time 12.30…long queues for everything! We grabbed a baguette, coffees and Rog bought crisps! So we snacked on these treats, before returning to the route!
A short while later, Rog stopped at an Aire with these views, where we finished off the baguette with butter, tomatoes and salami for the man!
On with our journey. We decided to stop at a municipal campsite in a small town called Issoire, just 25 miles south of Clermont Ferrand.
We’ve found the municipal sites to be good and this was no exception.
So, after pitching up, we walked into Issoire, a very typical French town. Not a picture perfect tourist town, but a pretty living town.
We ended up having over a five mile walk, as we got a little lost trying to return…needed the good walk after being in the car.
Off the motorway…we drove miles through beautiful autumnal forests, very flat terrain, and noticeably northern French villages, to our most pleasant site on the banks of the Loire (literally!) … ten minutes walk from the charming town of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire.
Once again, in the rain, we pitched up and made a cosy nest, overlooking the Loire…then went for our customary walk!!!
Well what a place…Rog described it as one of those magical mystical French towns…and he’s right.
Set on the very wide Loire, amongst changing forests, on a misty October late afternoon, it feels very mystical.
One of our lovely discovery walks…over the bridge and into town.
Our walk home:
Home by 19.00, Just when it started to pour…lucky!
Chicken in ratatouille with bulgar…good!
Watched films as the rain poured down around us…not a bad life!
Well, yet another site Rog has had to drag me away from!
I loved it here! We’ll be back!
On the road…creeping further north minute by minute.
Stopped off at SuperU fuel and the best supermarket so far…not over large…just right, clean and modern. Good prices too…had to prise me away from it to get en route!
We’ve entered the huge flat farmlands of the northern regions.
Each time we travel to Northern France, we’re in awe of the size and space of this area.
Today, this expanse, as far as the eye can see, is covered in a mystical autumn mist.
We are heading towards Rouen, a town which holds many happy memories for us, as we did a road trip along this section of La Seine, 28 years ago, shortly after we met!
We plan to stay on a site, by the river, near a pretty small town called Pont-de-l’Arche, which I’ll probably never want to leave, either!
A dull drizzly Normandy day, of which we’ve had many in the past!
Lunch break at service stop…we have to park alongside the lorries…so not such a picturesque view today!
Lunch was a quick Brie, tomato and chilli jam on pain traditionnelle…delicious!
Only an hour and we are at our last site of this amazing trip.
Another site another river…this time La Seine/Eure.
A great municipal site. We are definitely finding life cheaper in the north rather than any of the southern French regions. Not just the site fees, but also fuel and some foods.
The last two sites have been €11-12 per night, including all electricity water showers…could happily live on them with no bills!
So, a quick set-up, a cup of tea, then our usual walk around another new small town…love it!
A good walk, not miles today as this site is almost in the centre and we didn’t get lost!
Pont-de-l’Arche is a lovely, typical Normandy town…many buildings of the colombage style (exposed beams with natural cladding in between). Huge church, usually in the centre square…
At 20.00, we strolled in the centre (2mins) and chose to eat at “Plaisir Gormand” for our last meal…a highly recommended modern French restaurant.
We enjoyed a good meal and evening…don’t think I’ll ever need to eat again!
Each of our three courses plus an amuse bouche, were delicious, as was the half carafe of rosé.
As we waddled back to the caravan, I told Rog, he will never persuade me to have three courses again! Just can’t do it, but was delicious and memorable!
Still almost one day before the end, as our ferry leaves Le Havre at 17.30…we have decided on a long river walk tomorrow!
This is my last post of this almost two month trip…exactly 8 weeks to the day!
People call it a “holiday”… I, half jokingly reply…a “lifestyle not a holiday”!
It’s been fabulous…a great adventure and experience and if you know me…I’m already planning the next!
Don’t want to jinx things at this stage, but this trip has been remarkably trouble free, for our maiden European voyage!
The odd hassle with the caravan, the odd argument (!) but considering we’ve been pulling two tons for 1000’s of miles, up and down twisty mountains, through tunnels, along winding narrow residential streets, as well as all sorts of motorways…
staying at 15 campsites in 13 regions in 3 countries, all bringing their own quirkiness and individuality…
cooking, eating, sleeping, showering, relaxing and laughing in a luxury aluminium box…
I reckon “Team Mepham” has done okay!
I want to thank all those who have read our diary, and maybe even enjoyed our silliness…
To be honest, apart from a few family and friends, I’ve really no idea who has been dipping into these parts of our life!
But Thank You anyway.
I’d really love to know who has been reading my blogs and would welcome your opinions.
So, on with our last day…a lazy morning…a light bite and espresso…then a walk along the riverbank.
A misty autumnal noon, very atmospheric.
We especially chose this site, for it’s good reviews but mainly for it’s proximity to Le Havre, leaving us only a hour’s journey to the port…so we could enjoy our last few hours in Europe, not panicking and rushing for the ferry!
By 14.00, we had packed up, made an effort to clean the car interior (it gets so mucky living in fields and on sandy sites!) and we drove out through the gates of our last site.
A good journey, interesting views, then Le Havre port.
Through passport control to security, when a young female officer asked if she could look inside our caravan…I immediately thought, thank goodness I didn’t smuggle that little grey kitten!
On exiting our caravan, she started raving about it’s interior, the proper bed, shower etc. to her colleagues.
As I speak French, understood all she was saying and joined in the conversation… then explained to Rog…was amusing!
Our ferry was of old Brittany Ferries stock, filled with some very odd people and smelled of school dinners!
We swapped seats four times…does anyone else ever do this, or is it just us?
After two hours…dinner…I chose two cold fish starters…quite good!
Three and a half hours later, we were in England…driving on the left…just!
What a trip…what fabulous memories…some magical…thank you for listening!