Having now pretty much recovered from this holiday, a blog entry is in merited to account for the last few weeks. As is usual with these sorts of events, some things go well and others, well...not so well. We were due catch the 1000hrs ferry from Dover on day one, but owing to a slight miscalculation on the timing (caused in no small part by a large cooked breakfast) I left it too late, and despite a very hair raising and bloody dangerous drive (never to be repeated) in torrential rain through to Dover, we missed the sailing and had to wait for the 12oo crossing.
SWIMBO not a happy bunny.
We managed without mishap on that day to get down to Metz for our first overnight stay and then we travelled on towards Annecy in the French Alps (about 35Km south of Geneva) but as we went progressively south the impending storm broke. Imagine then, we were floundering around in an unknown city at around 2000hrs in the evening, sheet lightning all around and torrential rain lashing down, not knowing where we were going (no good trying to find a camp site as we couldn't put a tent up anyway)
SWIMBO even more of an unhappy bunny, not a good omen...
Eventually, more by luck than judgement we managed to get the last room in a B&B motel (just before the manager cleared off for his pastis) at around 2100hrs and I had a pretty 'chilly' night of it from then on.
The saving grace in this sorry debacle was Janie, fantastic and wonderful Janie, the Tom-Tom sat nav that worked without so much as a hitch all through the holiday and navigated us without fail to any destination. Without Janie I think I would have quite definitely got myself into a lot more of the sticky stuff than I'm used to (as a very good mate always says..."blokes are always in the bloody shit, it's only the depth that varies") and would have probably called it a day pretty soon. Anyway, to cut a long story sideways, it was still pouring the next day when we set off, but gradually the weather improved as we left the low front behind and headed further south. We eventually got down to St Aygulf near St Tropez by early evening and pitched our camp at quite a good site, where we stayed for several days.
SWIMBO still wasn't very happy though as this part of the coast didn't quite match up to the pristine, squeaky clean conditions that we'd found in Switzerland during the last two holidays (I think we'd been spoilt somewhat)...the beach was dirty and littered with fag ends, bottles etc etc, but at least the sea was warm, which was glorious and it was hot, very hot which after the utterly awful weather of the last few days (and in the UK) was fantastic! However we did manage to have a run out in the Landy so see the 'boats' (said advisedly) in St Tropez harbour.
We then travelled on twoards Monaco but the camp site was unsuitable and decided to head inlands towards Castellane (along the Route Napoleon, the 'road' that Bonaparte took to Paris in 1815 after his escape from Elba) and it was at this point that things started to look a little more promising as we managed to find a really superb site. Having made camp, we had a nose round the town, which was delightful. It's an odd thing, but once we got away from the coastal strip, even by a couple of miles, the whole character of the place changed...the interior is a far more pleasant place to spend a few days than the frantic, chockablock, hectic pace of life that's the Cote d'Azur.
The main reason to stay at Castellane was to visit the Gorge du Verdon, which had to be one of the highlights of the whole trip and somewhat made up for my many and varied cock-ups of the last few days. What a fantastic drive round the gorge that day and in superb, really hot weather as well! The whole thing is a deep gash (200m or so) in the local limestone which stretches for about 40miles. It's truly an awesome (I hate that word, but it's applicable here) experience to see the gorge.
After that we moved further into Provence to the town of Apt, where we found a site half way up a hill that was densely wooded.
Another low spot...SWIMBO decidedly unhappy again and to make matters even worse we had the most torrential thunder storm that night, with sheet lightning directly overhead (SWIMBO thought her days were numbered!) and a very violent downpour...my estimation is that the storm lasted for about 6 hours and we had about 50mm of rain. Unfortunately I'd pitched the tent so that we had a river of brown muddy water that almost came in, had I not raised the ground sheet by using tins, snorkeling flippers and anything else that I could find...all this a 0300hrs in the morning. Fortunately, we survived but SWIMBO was still a very unhappy bunny as she was permanently cold. However, things took a turn for the better as the next day we took the Landy out for a run to see the hill top villages of Gordes and Roussillion. Gordes was quite an experience but was totally eclipsed by Roussillion, the staggering thing in that village was to see the sand strata in the local area nearby...amazing! The colour of the sand changed from orange to bright yellow in the space of about 20m!
Anyway, we then decided to head for the heat again for the last week and ended up in a much quieter site near Giens, which is about as far south in France as it's possible to go, being near Hyres. The site we picked was a cracker, and I pitched the tent about 20m from the sea so we eventually were both happy...and it was hot, very hot. The bikes got used that week as well as we had a couple of really good rides out to see the flamingos...fabulous creatures. We spent most of the final week just messing around on the beach, where I was able to potter around most days with a pair of flippers and a snorkel...great stuff and when I wasn't doing that I got stuck into the Bourne Trilogy. We also had a really great day out on the island of Porquerolles where we also just spent time on the beach with a snorkel (much to SWIMBO's amusement, I managed to spot an octopus)
Being a bit of a people watcher, I couldn't help smiling at the antics of the local populace...why do they insist on kissing each other? Even a couple of spotty oiks with punky hair do's and the arse's hanging out of their pants gave each other a peck on the cheek and on one occasion I saw a couple give each other four kisses, a pair on each cheek! Very strange. The stangest thing though is the French blokes with their man-bags. After being unable last year to fit Alpine air horns on the Blokebike, am I going to get an inferiority complex this year 'cos I haven't got a man-bag?..mayebe not.
As someone far more erudite than me once said a long time ago..."France is a beautiful place, it's only the bloody French that spoil it"
Or words to that effect...vino time.