Saturday, 21 July 2007

St Desirat and Viviers

This post covers our stay at 2 aires de service, without a vineyard in sight...

At 1pm on Friday 13th July we set off from our Beaujoulais vineyard south towards Lyon. Traffic was pretty heavy on the motorway, the autoroute du soleil. We turned off south of Lyon and drove through the Pilat hills. Goats and cows lined the road which curved up and down, poor Ace was getting a workout yet again!

At the bottom of the hills we drove along the Rhone River, stopping at a Carrefour to stock up on supplies and so that Sarah could phone her family. It was very hot this afternoon, so the chilled aisles of the supermarket were a welcome relief. Back in Ace we were determined not to spend another night on a vineyard. Leafing through our Aire de Service book we came across a site only 20 minutes away, and no, it wasn’t a vineyard… It was a distillery!
Left: Small village whose name escapes me
Below: Me and my bottle of green apple liqueur

We arrived in the small village of St Desirat and parked up next to four other motorhomes. The distillery provided free parking, water and electricity, what a bonus! Outside, the air was full of a sweet pear smell, this reminded me of boiled sweets but Sarah thought it smelt like Worcestershire Sauce! There was no need to visit the distillery to take advantage of their facilities but we were drawn in by the smell. The showroom was quite large and 3 ladies were packing up for the night. We asked for a tasting and they were only too happy to oblige. We tried 6 different types of liqueurs (lemon, orange triple sec, pear, green apple, raspberry) which varied in strength from 18-38%! They also had a range of fruit whiskies and aperitifs. Typical, the first place where we weren’t obliged to even visit the sales room, we came out with a bottle of green apple liquer! Sarah believes our purchase was influenced by the fact we were tipsy. We sat outside enjoying the sunshine before dinner but then had to come back out again at 10pm because it was so hot and stuffy.

On Saturday 14 July we left St Desirat passing orchards where the fruit for the distillery is grown. We continued south, often in queues of traffic near towns as today was Bastille Day, or as the French call it, le fete national. We stopped off at a small village for half an hour, exploring the steep cobbled streets and admiring the views. There was a series of sculpture exhibitions in people’s gardens that weekend and the restaurants were full of families.

We headed on to Montelimar, stopping off at a nougat factory. There were no free tastings on offer though, so we kept on going! Some roadworks prevented Ace getting too far into town so we cut our nougat losses and headed to a supermarket for a box of Mars and a box of Maltesers ice creams, which we eat 2 at a time! We looked up our aire de service book for our next stop and decided to head to the town of Viviers, where the aire de service (motorhome parking area) is located right on the Rhone River. The aire was quite large and we parked under some trees for shade, taking advantage of the electricity on offer. The fee for parking the night here was €4, collected by someone every evening or morning.
Above: Sarah enjoying the sun, St Desirat
Below: Viviers

We chilled out for a while before dinner then headed into town for a walk. There was a lower town and upper town, the latter providing good views of the surrounding countryside. The town was eerily quiet though, no one was about and we only heard the odd voice from a buildings roof top terrace. Sarah didn’t like the town, she said it reminded her of the House of Wax town. I didn’t think it was quite that bad…

We got back to Ace at around 8.30pm, with this being a national holiday, 2 bands were just warming up, one was in the adjacent restaurant bar. With all our windows and doors open due to the heat, you could’ve sworn they were playing right outside! The band was quite good and we sat outside drinking some rosé, taking advantage of the free entertainment. As good as they were, we’d had enough by 11.30pm and we slowly managed to drift off to sleep, even with the music playing into the early hours. The next day we had a note on Ace asking for our €4 payment, even though we’d paid the night before. We wrote a note back saying we’d already paid and headed off on our next adventure.

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