We finished our first week in new territory camped in the hills above the town of Vence. It has been a splendid week in a completely unexplored area for us – Alpes Maritimes. We have hiked amongst coastal volcanic mountains, hiked into a gorge from Pont du Loup, climbed 670m to a town (Gourdon) perched high on a cliff like an eagles nest and walked part of the Route Napoleon. Napoleon and his regrouped army walked the trail after he landed on the coast from his exile in Elba. It all ended badly 100 days later at the Battle of Waterloo.
We started the week camped in the seaside community of Antheor. This gave us access to the unique and spectacular l’Esterel region just east of Saint Raphael, which is an area of red volcanic rock rising up from the Mediterranean. Driving along the Cote d’Azur was quite the shock with tourists, hotels, bars and tacky souvenir shops everywhere; so we arrived with some trepidation at camp. We need not have worried. Although slightly run down, the site was great and enabled a day in the hills to remember. Incredible formations, lookout points and steep trails abounded.
Our second stop this week was a little further inland at the village of Bar sur Loup. This was after a “misfire” at a campsite in Grasse (perfume capital of the world), where the site was so bad, we just turned around and drove out. Our pitch at Bar sur Loup was one of the best we have had anywhere. Even the dishwashing station had a view to die for (see photos). Three fantastic hikes and one crushingly hard bike ride and we were ready to move on. To say this area is hilly is a little bit understated as from camp to the village is a 20-minute slog up 20% + slopes, meaning you arrive like a sweat ball before you go anywhere else. By the way……there is NOTHING in the village when you do make the walk. We did!
Things we have learned about Europe this week:
• Conversation between campsite owner and Ian. Ian asks if something in the village is “far”. Campsite owner, “Do you have a vehicle?” Ian answers, “No, but I do have a bike.” Campsite owner, “Is it electric?” Ian, “No.” Campsite owner doubles over laughing and walks away. Just outside the campsite entrance is a road sign showing a 27% uphill grade into town. (See photos).
• Breaking news - Ian Evans & Associates Inc. to announce a new French business venture! Liz acquired a portable fan to take on hikes this year – a good idea (see photos). When meeting other hikers on the hills who look particularly hot, Ian asked if they wanted to “rent our patented cooling system for 5 minutes for €5.” No takers so far; so the price has plummeted to €3 for 5 minutes. Follow up next week when marketing materials will be available.
• French bus schedules can be confusing. A key to our plans is to have a bus stop close to camp, enabling distant or one-way hikes. At Bar sur Loup it has proved challenging. The schedule at the bus stops is dated 2018. When Liz asked the campsite owner to verify the information she was met with a shrug and a gesture towards the bus schedule on the camp notice board. It was dated 2010 and had completely different times! Liz then checked online and found a third potential bus schedule. Take your pick. We went with the one posted at the bus stop. Success!!
• French auto makers – part 2. As you know, Ian is always slamming the French auto makers. However, Renault have come up with something really cool – a 1-person car suitable for backpacking (see photos).
• Our camp pitch at Bar sur Loup was perfect (for Ian that is), especially as it was right opposite the Salle de Television cabin and the Euro soccer final is on Saturday night. Will he manage to watch it? No such luck……………pay channels only.
• Campsite facilities are always an issue. It’s amazing how the little things become really important. For instance, some campsites provide toilet paper and some don’t. Keep the bog roll handy by the back door until you find out for sure. Another issue is hot water for dishes. This is a particular bugbear for Ian because he rants if there’s cold water only for dishes.
This week’s question: Pont du Loup used to be a fashionable country resort at the end of the 19th c. By train or horse drawn coaches the elegant society used to have lunch in the restaurants along the Loup River. After, they would explore the canyons and waterfalls. Which monarch of the 19th c. regularly came to Pont du Loup?
No “Googling” – answer next week!
Last week’s question: Another photo question! What is the name of this bird? We had never seen one before until it showed up at our campsite in Lourmarin. BIG clue – it is the national bird of Israel! See photos.
And the answer is…… It is called the Hoopoe! Congratulations to several people who emailed the correct answer.
Until next week!
Ian & Liz