The sun beckoned so after only a week travelling through France we crossed the border into Spain hoping to find sun, sea and sangria. We actually found something even better – our friends Ian and Paula, who we met on our last European trip. But let’s return to France for a while.
We were advised not to miss the medieval town of Annesy which rests on the edge of an enormous lake, a boating enthusiasts dream. The old town was heaving with people that have come to see an antique market. The antique stalls were everywhere, down every street, in every square, on every bridge all displaying their wares from old wooden sleds, timber ski’s, beautiful carved chairs, pots and crocks galore. The following morning we thought to have a relaxing coffee in the town but we found Annesy just as busy with a cheese and cured meats market along with fresh fruit and veg. The smells from the cheese counters made your taste buds tingle but some were very pungent, smelling like un-washed feet! We had our share of taste testing before finding that spot for a coffee and to watch the milling crowds.
We passed through the town of Orange, stopping just long enough to see the Roman ruins of the 1st century Triumphal Arch and Roman Theatre. William III of Orange (1650-1702) who became the King of England in 1689 came from this area. That night we spent parked at the Chateau Maucoil vineyard amongst the grapevines with a wonderful view down the Rhone valley.
The Avignon campsite, on an island in the middle of the river Rhone with its stunning views of the Papal city, was our next stop. We knew we could get internet here and catch up on some washing and being that Paul had run out of clean socks and jocks it was a job that had to be done.
Paul’s family members, Cathy and Alan, were holidaying with a group of friends in nearby Beaucaire. Finding us so close, their friends Mike and Diane invited us to join them all for dinner in their 500 year old fortified farmhouse. We were made very welcome and given a guided tour of this amazing old house with its flagstone floors, a dining room that was once the winter shelter for cattle still complete with its stone fodder trough set in the three feet thick wall and a courtyard shaded by a beautiful cerise pink bougainvillea. We had a wonderful evening, great food, plenty of wine and the company of lovely people. Thank you, Mike & Diane and Cathy & Alan, and all the rotary friends for inviting us to share your table. It will be a memory to treasure.
We headed for the Mediterranean and stopped at a few towns along the way. Palavas Les Flots with is fishing trawlers, Cap d’Adge and its marina with boats of every size and shape for sale (Jim you would have loved it) and on to Port Vendre were we enjoyed a pot of mussels and a glass of wine at the harbours edge just as the sun was setting.
On our way to Carcassonne we drove along side part of the famous Canal du Midi with its banks edged with tall trees in regimental rows and the barges navigating the calm waterway. As we approached Carcassonne the view was something from a fairy story with the city’s 13th century fortified ramparts, towers, turrets and drawbridges glowing in the sunshine. In the 19th century the French Government planned to demolish the decaying city but this caused uproar and the mayor agreed to save and preserve the city. An architect was called and he repaired many of the towers and parts of the walls and ramparts. It’s just a shame he didn’t use the same building techniques or try to match building materials they had used in the 13th century as it’s a bit of a miss mash and not true to how the city originally was. Still it’s a delightful place to visit with its narrow cobbled streets and a French café on every corner.
The coast road into Spain hugs the sea and is wild and rugged as it zig zags its way around headlands, over crests and through small villages giving us fantastic views of the Med. As usual we took our time heading south and stopped off in Blanes because as you know we don’t drive too far in a day! We had a great chat to fellow travellers Patrick and Anne from Ireland. We wish them well with their first long trip.
Now we are in Spain and have met up with our friends Ian and Paula. They are encamped in Cambrils, a hidden gem south of Barcelona. After big hugs we got down to the serious business of opening a bottle of wine and catching up with each others news. We’re been playing Patong, the Brits against the Aussies, to the amusement of the French on the camp. Paul and I won, but not too sure how. We’re had a few late nights lingering over a bottle or two debating the important matters of the day, sex, politics, religion and tomorrow’s weather!
To celebrate my birthday Ian, Paula, Hank and Betty joined us for lunch at a beach side restaurant. I had a fantastic day, so many laughs and of course far too much to drink, then we all staggered back to camp as the sun was setting behind the hills. We have enjoyed our week in Cambrils with its beautiful sandy beaches, busy fishing harbour and good friends.
Hope all is well.
Liz and Paul x