How can I compete with a blog post that ends in a birthday? Well I guess I have the south of France to play with so at least maybe the photos will be good ;O)
We left Italy with me quite excited. We had fallen for Italy after a bit of a rocky start, but I was really looking forward to some time in Provence and the French riviera, with all the familiarity that being in France gives you.
We left our lovely marina stop and got back on the glorious E80 through more tunnels and bridges towards the border. One final biglietto stop and then we were in the world of peage (roads are a big part of our life right now…this stuff matters!). Almost immediately we felt a difference. The roads were bigger and busier, it’s not that the Italian side had been empty but France felt like the fast lane. All the development and coastal sprawl of Monaco, Cannes, and Nice makes this border feel far more definite than most others we’d crossed. So we crossed feeling excited and bullish and with an, in retrospect, crazy idea of coffee on the front in Monaco. I dived off the motorway and with little planning tried heading downhill. The main tunnel through town was closed. Traffic was bad. We ended up on a little road winding down with parked cars either side. Then very…very….nearly got stuck! We made it through with a couple of centimetres either side…and scuttled off back to the motorway with our tails between our legs and me a little stressed out. Monaco in a 7 metre motorhome…JUST SAY NO…it sounds so obvious now you say it!
We ploughed on, looking for a place to stop, feeling a bit frustrated that there didn’t seem to be anything. Through Nice and along the built up shoreline. In the end we stopped at a massive Casino supermarket in Cagnes-sur-Mer and tried to work out what to do next. Everything seemed a bit better after baguettes and humous (the first humous for weeks…it makes me faint thinking about the deprivation!) and we made a plan to drive a chunk further and miss out on the fanciness of Cannes etc and jump straight to the less built up bit of the coast near Saint-Maxime.
We got to the campsite after more driving in a day than I think we’d done before. Not what we’d planned but when we pulled up the campsite made us forget it all. It wasn’t shiney or fancy but it was relaxed, we had a lovely pitch under the trees, and the beach was just at the end of the drive. Checkin was just a guy who put his beer down long enough to tell us to find a pitch and tell him later. We hadn’t really thought about how long to stay but it was all so relaxing we gave ourselves three nights there to chill out. We hung out on the beach, took the little bus into Saint Maxime on market day (love a french market even if the cheese stall was a bit intimidating!), and caught up on the laundry! Bliss…except the laundry bit…oh and the continuing battle against mosquitoes!!
Our next move was a bit of a memory lane trip. We visited a place called Gigaro beach last June and loved it so we headed back for the day. Its on the other side of the headland with St Tropez on one side, Gigaro on the other and Pampelonne beach on the end. It couldn’t be more different than St Tropez though, sleepy and chilled. After a day relaxing on the beach and a bit of a trip down memory lane we headed to a big motorhome aire, just behind Pampelonne beach.
I didn’t get a good impression of the beach when we visited last year. Too big, too hot, blah blah. This time however, we were at the opposite end, the season was properly wound down, and the weather was juuuuuuuuuust right! As has been a popular refrain…”We intended to stay one night and stayed…..more”. We ended up staying in Pampelonne for three nights and filled the time with floating about in the flat still water with the kids improving their swimming and visiting the lighthouse that we could see beaming out at night. Oh…and also stressing a bit about the van fridge.
Motorhome fridges are a miracle of modern science…or maybe an overcomplicated pain in the arse depending on how you look at it. They work on mains, 12v, or gas, and it’s the gas that lets us be off hookup and still have a nice cool fridge. We’d been getting a bit of a smell from the burning gas for a while but it was at Pampelonne that we had to admit that it just wasn’t cooling the fridge as well as it had been. Eeeep. More on that in the following post.
We’d been trying to work out what to do next. The plan had always been to head inland towards Aix-en-Provence before working across to Avignon and then south towards Spain but we were struggling to tear ourselves away from the coast. We ended up leaving Pampelonne and giving ourselves one last beach stop at a place (amusingly) called La Tour Fondue (cheese tower….tower of melted cheese???). We only stayed one night but there were beautiful beaches and Jayne informed me there was a naturist island nearby…and ferries…not sure why she told me…errrr…
Anyway…After almost a month on the Riviera, Italian and French, it was hard to drag ourselves away, it’s all just too damn nice, but we figured if we we wanted to see more of Provence and have any time left for Spain we needed to buck up and get going.
With that lecture we’d given ourselves ringing through our heads we set off snailing our way inland towards Aix…