Spain, Bikes and Bandits
Oct 28, 2004
|From Italy to France and then Spain
Monday 20th September
Off to France - which went rather well, no real problems - and the route we chose - thanks to Via Michelin (on the web) proved most interesting.
It actually took us close(ish) to a ski resort we visited 7 years ago, called Bardonecchia - just at the southern end of the Frejus tunnel. So we had a visit there and had a slow lunch (that's the service - not the amount of wine drunk). Pleasant though!
It goes up over the Col de Montgenevre - which is REALLY high - and then down to Briancon and then on towards GAP - though we actually stopped at a campsite a few miles short of Gap, on a lake side, with fabulous views of lake and mountains all around. And virtually deserted - well just a few caravans!
Tuesday 21st September
A nice day dawns so we decide to stay at least one more night. Tennis is the game of the morning - but sad to report - Carolyn wins easily in 3 sets.
Off to Gap to get the supplies stocked up at the local version of Asda - Leclerc. But it's really busy - on a Tuesday afternoon - Why?? Back at the campsite it's really windy - but a small stand of young trees is giving us some protection. The Caravan Club book does say keep to the East of the site to avoid the wind, but of course the best views are from the West side - so where did we park? Right, the West side!!
Wednesday 22nd September
So, another game of tennis, but yet again Carolyn wins - but 2-0 - a comprehensive defeat!!
Then in the pm we take a little drive into the mountains - to a local ski resort - and lots of new build chalets - very nice looking - well, as much as a ski resort can be in the summer. The place (Reallon Station) has lots of walks on the info board for the summer time but as we are not geared up for a walk - not today thanks - maybe tomorrow.
Thursday 23rd September
Fabulous clear sky again overnight. Lots of stars and constellations visible - easily - especially Orion - easy to see "his belt and sword" - and if YOU don't know which stars these are you SHOULD DO. So, get a star book and start looking. Once you do, it does give one the feeling of awe and the "bigger picture". AND remember, given the speed of light, you are seeing these celestial objects as they were a VERY long time ago. And all you parents - teach your child(ren) how to find the Pole Star - and they will never get lost at night again!! Well not unless it's cloudy that is!!
So, we move on and head for Montpelier, which is easy going and very scenic - that is until the French Motorway system decide to close (COMPLETELY) an entry/exit to the main Autroute d'sud - truly bizarre. So we are sent on a detour - not just a little one - but some 90 km - crazy French.
We eventually reach Montpelier and have some difficulty finding the campsite due to crap directions in the Caravan club book - but thanks to some decent signposting in the town we find it. And it's OK - no more than that, not a favourite. So we cycle into the town of Lattes, nice enough but quiet out of season. Sounds like some of the comments I made about Sweden in June!!
Friday 24th September
So, a trip in the country to visit St. Guilhem-Le-Desert -yes really that's the place's name. And it is fine, but it would be hell in mid tourist season. (It's actually a lovely ancient town, definitely worth a visit!) Then on to Gignac for lunch at a little alfresco restaurant on the square (Advertising Menu complete 11 Euro including ¼ lt of wine).
And very nice it was too. Though, when we sat down the restaurant was virtually deserted. Then a couple sat at the next table - and you could see Carolyn saying inwardly, WHY sit there? Vacant tables all around, no need to sit NEXT to us! And then they spoke - English - agh NO!
However, once we engaged them in conversation - they were very nice people - who have owned a property in a near by village for 14 years. They come out for about 1 to 3 months at a time from Oxford (we did not get round to introducing ourselves but he is called Richard).
We then took a wee tour to Pezenas, lovely historic city (wee town, really) where Carolyn spent her pocket money on an interesting top. Then down to the coast to La Tamarissiere, where we stayed 2 years ago for a night - on the recommendation of Paul & Petie Clarke. Quite different out of season - last time we were here it was Mid July and we got the last room in a very nice hotel - well, it was a suite actually, and cost an arm and a leg, but by that time of day we were tired and would have paid anything for a decent place, having been shown a truly horrible room in a promising sea-view hotel.
Saturday 25th September
So south it is to Argeles-sur-Mer. Nice day for a short drive (110 miles). No incidents on route and found the campsite easily, but it was very windy on the Autoroute and at the campsite - well - it's on a headland - and it's blowing at least a force 8 - the whole van is shaking and the car is rocking on it's suspension. But it's still shorts and tee shirt weather.
So we take a drive down to Argeles to look round. Now Neil came here with his parents some 45 years ago and so we go in search of the "hotel" they stayed at - except Neil does not remember the name and only has this vague picture of what it looked like all that time ago. Still, it's fun and he spots a couple of likely places - but God knows if they are the ones. So, we try the local Museum, (to see if they have a map of the village back then) but as it's Saturday they are closed.
Now, Argeles today is a true tourist hole, but the next village south, Collioure is set in a rocky bay and is really pretty, and even on a windy Saturday in September when everywhere else is ghost town quiet, it's chock'ablock. The parking site in the middle of the village was full and luckily Carolyn spotted a free space in another square as she was driving round!
However it's worth the bother as it's very nice with sheltered spots to take a refreshment or two! A Recommended place to visit rather than Argeles.
Back at caravan, which has not blown away, we have to readjust the legs as it's rocking so much in the wind!!
Sunday 26th September
What a night!! - It was so windy that the caravan was bouncing on its legs and after 3.00am it was impossible to sleep, cause of the wind buffeting the caravan and the howling noise of the wind. We actually had to move the car closer to the caravan in an attempt to act as a form of windbreak! The caravan flexed so much during this wind that one of the lower metal seams "popped" out and we had to repair it in the morning. Anyway the wind was strong all day so we had a couple of walks to Argeles and Collioure - so no parking problems this time!! In the evening the wind seems to have eased a little but it still must be at least a Force 6.
Monday 27th September
At last the wind has dropped - no white horses and for the first time, some boats out. Though it's too good to last and by 10.00am the wind's back up to about Force 5.
So, we go into the "centre ville" to try the museum and library for old maps or photos of the "plage" back in the 50's. BUT the museum is closed - even though the timetable says it should be open - then the library - and it's closed all day Monday and Tuesday mornings. Gosh - no wonder the French have the shortest working week in the EU - nothing is open, when you'd expect it to be!!
But at least the supermarket is open and busy for a Monday morning .And it is cheap; we buy 14 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of gin and umpteen tonics all for 37.5, Euros - or about £25.00 in real money! Oh, yes and some foodstuffs!
Later in the day we cycle round to the next bay and do some exploring along a closed off path (padlocked gate) at the base of the cliffs. But it's easy to circumvent and it's fun and would be great, but one of the concrete bridges has been washed away so we are stuck about 300 yards along it - pity. It only needed a few chains to make it passable, just like the Chain Walk at Elie! (If you don't know about this - find out! - it is a good thing to do on a day out from Edinburgh, especially for those of you with energetic kids).
Back at the caravan site we find that a motor home has parked in front of us obscuring part of our great sea view, despite the site being about 10% occupied - guess which nationality? Need a clue - think beach towels! Yes, right first time, bloody arrogant, unthinking, selfish Germans. So stop buying those BMW's and Merc's you are only encouraging them!
On to Spain - please see next text update - the whole thing was too big for one Lonely Planet entry!!