Thursday, 6 September 2007

Provence and the Cote D’Azur

This posting recounts our journey through part of Provence, our trip to a perfumery and our drive along the beautiful, but motorhome unfriendly, Cote D'Azur.

On Saturday we spent the morning opposite our campsite at the beach. Dozens of motorhomes were parked up along the coast as parking spots are plentiful along the Med here. We drove on past Sete and headed towards our next stop, Aigues Mortes on the western edge of the Carmargue. Along the way we saw flamingos and wild horses which the area is famous for. We arrived at the aire de service in Aigues Mortes in the early afternoon and took one of the only available spots there. Sarah spent an hour in the sunshine while I finished my last 2 Spanish assignments, then we headed into town for a look around.

Aigues Mortes is a walled medieval town, it was from here crusades were launched to the Middle East in the 12th century by the King of France. The town is rather touristy, but charming nonetheless. We found an internet café in town where we checked our emails and then printed out one of my assignments. That night we both rang home, Sarah to touch base and me to ring my Dad as it was Father’s Day in Australia.
Above: One sweet dayyyyy, I'll make her mineeee, pretty flamingooooo
Below: The aire de service in Aigues Mortes

The next morning we decided to leave early. The guy from the local council hadn’t turned up by the time we left at 7.30am to collect our €7…what a shame! Perfectly planned don’t you think? (The facilities here were broken by the way...) We drove on and decided to have breakfast out for a change, we headed to McDonalds in the nearby town of Arles as Sarah fancied having hash browns. McDonnys wasn’t open until 11am… damn! We had a walk around Arles (carefully avoiding a crazy drunken guy) and admired the Roman amphitheatre (not as big as the one we visited in Nimes last year). There was a bull fight in the arena later that day, though the French bull fights are not deadly to the animals like some of the Spanish ones.

From here we drove on past Marseilles and up into the hills of Provence. Driving through a forest we noticed many of the leaves had started to turn a golden yellow or brown! The campsite we were headed to was in the grounds of a castle. The WiFi they had advertised was non-existent, there was no waste point for our grey water… but the final straw was when the electric wasn’t compatible for Ace (positive and neutral wiring was reversed) so we left – deflate, hot, tired and hungry.
Above: Aigues Mortes
Below: Ampitheatre at Arles, no bull!

We kept driving… we stopped at McDonalds as they are advertising Rugby World Cup burgers and I wanted to try an Aussie Melee burger… but they weren’t available this week, damn! We headed on to a campsite called Les Cigalles but it looked like it was closed down! We drove on further to another campsite near Antibes which was great. We spent some time at the pool while doing our washing – to get into the pool you had to put your belongings in a hatch and then walk through a turnstile which had a hot shower come on automatically and then you came out on the other side to pick up your stuff. Strangely, there were no chairs at all at the pool! The campsite was pretty full but very quiet.

We spent the morning chilling and doing jobs and checked out at 2.30pm. We drove to the town of Grasse, where we visited Fragonard, a perfumerie. Grasse is the world’s leading perfume producer and as well as growing flowers such as mimosa, lavender, roses and violets, they also import flowers from many countries, including eucalyptus from Australia! We had a tour with a guide around the factory (wasn’t much too it) then went down to the sales room where we liked the scents so much we parted with €107! High on perfume fumes we drove off to Carrefour, what a nightmare! Today (Monday 3rd September) was the night before la rentree… back to school for French kids. Carrefour was packed! We quickly stocked up on a few things and then headed off at 8pm – just as it was starting to get dark. The summer was almost over!
Left: Perfumery at Grasse
Below: Cote D'Azur

We go to the sea but couldn’t work out how to join the other motorhomes parked up as there were 3 very low bridges Ace couldn’t get under. We drove to a campsite but the unfriendly nightwatchman wouldn’t give us the rate advertised, so we told him to stick it up his derriere! In the end we spent the night at the side of the road in a country lane near the campsite which was noisy and we only got 5 hours sleep!

We headed to McDonalds in search of hash browns… they didn’t even do them! We checked our emails courtesy of their free WiFi and then drove past Nice to Monaco. This stretch of coast is very beautiful but because space is at a premium, there was nowhere to park for poor Ace! Eventually we stopped in Menton and had a nice walk along the sea front. The waters are a beautiful shade of blue and very clear. I rang my sister as it was her birthday and then we jumped back in Ace and drove a few kilometres… into Italy.

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