Day 11 Millau – Gorges Du Tarn – Camping Saint Lambert

I woke up early this morning due to the air bed deflating and Bruce and I went in search of croissants.  We found a bar  tabac, boulengerie and Lydl on the outskirts of town and then returned to see if our pitch by the toilets was free as we were due to move today.  Sure enough the pitch was free and we returned to camp to find the kids and start Operation Up Sticks.  First the kids cycled round to the new pitch with all of the bikes while Bruce and I bungled all sleeping bags and pillows inside the car.  Next we bungeed the airbed and camp beds on top of the trailer and slowly drove round to our new pitch.  I may have mentioned that there are a lot of Dutch campers at this site and some seemed very tidy, organised and pedantic and not the least bit impressed with our moving mayhem, especially the weird chap camped opposite our new pitch.  I say weird because he and his family hardly spoke to each other, never smiled and spent the day sitting outside their caravan staring at us.  We gave them something to stare at when we went back to collect our tent and carried it round, fully erected, a person on each pole and plonked it on our pitch.  Pegs in, airbeds unbungeed, sleeping bags in et voila, job done – decamped and recamped in under an hour.

We then had the rest of the day to enjoy canoeing  (without oars as we had left them in the car park at Salles) and swimming in the river.  The campsite has a riverside beach and plenty of shallows to play in.  It’s also fun to watch those in hired canoes navigate the mini rapids caused by kids daming the river in various places.  After a day resting, swimming and being stared at we lit the barbie and enjoyed a lovely family meal.  Afterward we listened to a few tunes on the car stereo (not loudly), George played guitar and Bruce and I even had a dance around the pitch.  Being stared at.  At 10pm the music went off and we tidied around ready to strike camp the following day.  We were right next to the

This is NOT miserable, staring man but he looked very similar!

toilet block which was noisy with washer uppers and kids larking about with the water but it didn’t bother us, our neighbours were playing a film, kids were playing around and we all sat and played a game of “How many cars can you name beginning with the letter R”  – that is until Weird Staring man got up from his chair in the dark, left his very quiet family around the table and came over and asked us to keep our voices down! He didn’t ask our neighbours to turn off their film (complete with loud dramatic music) or his Dutch neighbours to stop playing cards and arguing, nor did he ask the screaming kids to quieten down or the washer uppers to stop clanking their pots.  Just the English (who are not all English anyway) family sitting down altogether and playing a game, I have never experienced prejudice before but I can tell you it isn’t nice. So we just put on our best shell suits and in true football hooligan style told him to F*** OFF!  Only joking, we actually wished him a lovely evening and completely ignored his request.  I can’t stand insular, intolerant bigots and it really hacked me off.  Luckily his Dutch neighbours were fantastic, chilled and laid back with a really cool bell tent and they completely restored my faith in the Dutch camper.

Despite Weird Staring man I would return to this campsite as it’s location by the river is fab and it is comparatively cheap – 62 euro for 2 nights for 6 with electricity in high season.  We were paying nearly that per night at La Barque and that was cheap for the Med coast.  The toilets are clean but not quite 4 star luxury, the owners are friendly and the bar is fairly priced.  It is generally quite laid back and friendly with the odd exception!  If I were to book I would ask for a riverside pitch, although the river might be a bit noisy for some!

 

Advertisements

Day 10 – Moving On to Millau

We left Saint Aygulf around mid day to head for Millau, apparently it has a big viaduct there (whoopee) and it has appeared on top gear (fantastic).  I like bridges but not enough to head to one for 2 nights camping, it must be a man thing and I happen to be surrounded by young men so on the hottest day so far I found myself on the autoroute, in the traffic, heading for a bridge – I was not impressed!  As we came off the autorroute and on the road to Millau we came to a viewing point and it was there I got my first view of the viaduct and the gorge running below and what a bridge!  It is magnificent and the contrast between the man-made magnificence of the bridge and the luscious green of the river gorge below blew me away.

We made our way down into the town and then followed a river for about a mile to Camping Saint Lambert.  We hadn’t booked but luckily they had a free pitch by the river for 1 night only and the next day they had another pitch free by the toilet block.  After a hard days drive Bruce and I made our way to the bar for a drink and left the kids to put up the tent, which they did brilliantly.  We then all had pizza and chips from the bar along with a litre of wine all for 27 euro – that’s 1 euro less than a round of drinks in St Tropez.  With the last of our money almost gone we turned in for the night and were lulled to sleep by the gurgle of the river.

Day 9 – St Tropez and packing away!

We decided to leave the south and start heading home on Monday because our money was fast running out.  I had under budgeted by a

Busy striking camp!

longway and for several reasons, the euro exchange rate being the main culprit plus the high costs of food and pitches on the Med, we now needed to head home.  We packed the kids off down to the beach and started to strike camp, taking down the pup tents and generally sorting out.  Around lunch time we stopped for an ice-cold beer at the bar and strangely enough for the first time all holiday we relaxed completely, so much so that when the kids returned they found us both chilling and relaxing in the sun enjoying the peace.

The peace didn’t last long so we set off for St Tropez using the back road to Ste Maxime and the usually horrific coast road around the bay, I say usually because for the first time in years we sailed along the coast road, through Port Grimaud, Cogolin and into St Tropez with hardly any traffic at all – strange!  We parked in the port and had a wander around the town and the harbour and then stopped for a drink.  What was i thinking?  Stopping for a drink in St Tropez is like filling your car up with liquid gold – very expensive! 4 colas and 2 coffees cost 28 euro, almost £28 at todays exchange rate.  I had quite obviously taken leave of my senses and we returned to the car before we became stranded in St Tropez with no money for diesel home. To add insult to injury the route home was as jam-packed as ever and we crawled along among the Ferraris’ and Bentleys in our little old Fugly, they were so obviously impressed with our daisy stickers!

Note to self:Take a flask or remortgage when next visiting St Tropez.

Day 3 – The Beach & The Campsite

Day 3 – Monday – The Beach:

After a good nights sleep we all felt a little more human.  I had a shower and checked out the facilities; there are ample shower blocks dotted around and all facilities are spotless, no matter what time of day you use them, although the loo roll runs out on occasion so best to take an emergency supply.  The kids were keen to get down to the beach which is 2 miles away down a bumpy track that Fugly had struggled with the day before.  There are alternative ways to the beach in the car but these are a lot longer and inevitably mean sitting in a traffic queue (these can’t be avoided on the coast in the height of summer and are a pain in the buttt, I don’t do queues, so much so that on the way down the one campsite in Regluss that might have had spaces I walked away from after I had stood in reception for 15 minutes in a queue).

We decided to use our bikes and pumped up tyres in readiness.  I have not been on my bike for a long time and a few things had seized up, like the rear brakes, but no matter, I was not going fast enough to use them.  The route down was bumpy but it didn’t take very long and was relatively traffic free.  There is an excellent cycle track along the coast and was so much better on my bottom when we got to it.  After the kids had been sun creamed up we left them with provisions (baguette, meat, drinks, 10 euro, sun cream) we left them to have a coffee at the beach bar, the coffee was awful as it had been stewing in the filter pot for probably the last few days.  So we mounted our cycles and rode to the village of St Aygulf where we found a sandwich bar on the road island and enjoyed coffee and a Salad De Chevre – yum yum and double yum.  Even in a touristy hot spot where they don’t really need to make an effort it seems the French have such a respect for their food that they wouldn’t dream of serving up anything that’s second-rate or unfresh.  We left the kids on the beach all day, well most of the kids, George came back to the campsite and we then went off to Lydl for more provisions, the prices were fairly comparative to home so no major shock there.  When the kids returned we had a big pot of pasta and home-made tomato sauce made in the bowl thing on the Cadac – thanks Mum and Dad for lending us the Cadac it’s a brilliant bit of kit.  We then fell asleep listening to the entertainment – a music quiz – and slept incredibly well once more.

During the day I had a chance to have a quick chat with Veronique about the floods last year.  As she was speaking she became visibly emotional and it bought it home to me how frightening it must have been, she had watched her husband and children swimming for safety and witnessed the helicopters rescuing people from roofs of mobile homes in the campsite next door, Etoile D’Argent.  The river is situated at the bottom of the site and there is launching and mooring facilities, it flows calmly down to the sea passing a few campsites as it does.  It was this river, the Argen, that rose and engulfed the campsites in June last year rendering them all useless for the 2010 season.  The owners and local tradesmen must have worked extremely hard to transform  a site that was flooded up to above head height (there are markers dotted around the site to indicate flood levels) to the pristine and well kept site that stands today.  This is the first season since the floods and obviously one of mixed emotions, I hope Veronique, her family and anyone involved in last years floods don’t have to witness anything like it again.

Day 1 – 2 Arrival at camping La Barque

 

Our pitch

Finally my laptop is fixed and I can try to catch up on the last few days.  The picture to the left is a bit misleading as it shows the sun shining which it has definitely not done today, Wednesday, in fact it has tipped it down all day with a bit of local flooding, thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure.

As I have mentioned we had an epic journey down here and all the planning has gone completely out of the window due to the rain and cold further north.  I can’t tell you how relieved we all were that Camping La Barque had room to allow us to arrive 3 days earlier, later that day they were completely full, in fact the whole of the south of  France is fuller than I’ve ever known it.

We were met by Veronique and Boucherie the campsite owners who are very warm and

Reception at Camping La Barque

friendly, Boucherie showed us to our pitch on a golf buggy and before long we were pitching up.  I am not going to pretend that after driving for 34 hours we were all happy bunnies, pitching up was like pulling teeth and seemed to drag on for ever and I so wanted my bed.  After near divorce (which would be relatively easy as we’re not married)  we were ready to sit and open our treasured bottle of red and relax. I didn’t even finish mine, the call of the bed was so powerful and once in a horizontal position I remained comatose until the morning, when I woke up refreshed, with the sun shining in one of my favourite places in the world,

An epic journey……..

Just a quick post as I’m using Georges laptop which means a)I’m time limited, b) it’s a nightmare c) I have no access to photos and no time to upload.  My laptop is not working but will hopefully be fixed tomorrow.

We left Leicester at 7am Saturday morning and disembarked the ferry in Calais at 3pm French time.  It was raining and by the time we got to Reims it was still raining so we continued…….and continued……..and continued!!  We stopped several times and I can’t praise my children highly enough, all 4 of them are the best.  At 4am we stopped south of Lyon, it had finally stopped raining and the temperature, although cool for Lyon was warmer than in the north.  The children volunteered to watch a film outside on the picnic area as the sun came up so Bruce and I could sleep for an hour with the chairs reclined. I could at this point say I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the journey on but in truth I woke up and felt like I had been hit by a large mallet and forced to eat sawdust however after a drink and a leg stretch we continued south to the Gorge Du Verdon.  We tried several campsites which were all full, in all my years of camping in high season I’ve always managed to find a pitch somewhere but the whole region, we were being told, was full.  Tired, hungary and a little bit anxious we rang Camping La Barque which I had booked from Wednesday and they said it would be no problem for us to come early.  Our luck had turned, we stopped for a fabulous meal (which I will blog about tomorrow) and by 3pm Sunday we were on our pitch in St Aygulf, South of France, which is where I’m writing from now.  More tomorrow as I’m being watched, hassled and pressured to finish on the laptop.

See you in France……….

This time tomorrow we’ll be snuggled up in our tent in France.  I have been watching the weather on Lachainemeteo for the last week and the forecasts have improved, but Annecy and the Alps are a bit cold so we won’t be heading that way.  The plan is to head for Reims and a stop over at the municipal campsite in Guignicourt, this site is just off the auto-route and very convenient,it ‘s is clean and borders the river and there’s a small Casino supermarket in the village – http://www.camping-aisne-picardie.fr/emplacement-caravane-tente/index.html  for more details.

On Sunday the forecast is unsettled and cold in the north so we will spend the day travelling south.  For the kids there is plenty of food and drinks, George is taking his laptop and we have the War of the Worlds audio book which I’m looking forward to.  All being well we will be somewhere near the Ardeche by evening for a few days messing about on the river in the canoe.  I’m shattered now and we are leaving at 7am so goodnight and I’ll be blogging next from Francais.