2018/01/01 France – from the Med to the Mountains

Monday 1st January, 2018

We had waited in eager anticipation to end the 2017 year and the start of 2018. Ten minutes before midnight, the rain came bucketing down which seemed to end the activities planned for the city. Fireworks start was delayed by five minutes and only a small number were let loose before more rain saw the end of the celebrations and guaranteed a very quiet New Years Eve.

The morning brought with it perfect cloudless skies, so packed down and headed off for Marseille.

Beautiful scenery along the way as we headed further into the hills and then back down the other side to Marseille. Saw the Port looming as we came down the mountain and cargo ships way out to sea waiting for their time to come into Port. The Port was full of ships being loaded and unloaded and cruise ships so tall, they looked like they were top heavy with cabins.

Our NAVIE took us through the Port area where people were everywhere enjoying the waterfront cafes and being a public holiday, was extremely busy. We ventured through some scary narrow streets and under some really low bridges – the signage not being very clear about where the low bridges were so my driver was really tested and had heart in mouth for several kilometres.

Central Marseilles

Ziggy is 3.3 metres tall and most of the signage had height warnings of 3.2 metres -we gambled on the fact that there was a fudge factor involved and got through – it was either that or try to reverse up with a lot of frustrated drivers behind us.

Happily we arrived at the campsite (the only one in Marseille) and drove into the driveway with a sigh of relief. We were stopped from entering by three policemen and behind them some very angry looking motorhomers. We were not permitted entry and have no idea what was happening but probably some sort of result from New Years Eve. That was the end of our planned trip to Marseille.

We needed fuel desperately (the low warning light had been on for a while) as we had not planned on using so fuel much getting through Marseille. Our credit cards do not work in French Express fuel stations and as we had no choice, we pulled into one and waited for someone else to arrive before asking them to use their credit cards in exchange for cash (with a bonus of course for helping out). Spotted a young couple in a German registered car so opted to approach them. Turns out they were French with a German registered company car and they spoke German but they were super and helped us out big time and refused to accept a cash reward.

Headed out to the hills asap just to get away from the big city congestion, narrow lumpy roads and people everywhere.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping-Car Le Jardin, de la Ville, Cuges Les Pins

 Hurtling down the highway now leaving all that big city congestion behind, we soon drove through some magic natural countryside. This camp spot is part of a Natural Parc or to us seemed like our national parks. Surrounded by hills, woodland and very few houses, it was just bliss. We were greeted at the entry gate by three very fat goats who followed us right until we parked and then stuck around for a long time waiting for a feed. Didn’t think they needed one so sadly they missed out. Total serenity and beautiful natural woodland walks is what we needed and we certainly took advantage of this. Only shared this spot with about six other motorhomes.

Our type of camping – not another person around – in a pine forest

The town itself is nothing more than an old country town but just outside of town, a new estate was being built.

The sun hid behind the mountainside fairly early in the afternoon and soon it was quite cold. Thought back to being home and the camping we really love and this fit the bill, except we couldn’t have a camp fire – ugh!!

Tuesday 2nd January, 2018

Slept in this morning and had a leisurely breakfast before heading off through the countryside again and then back to the seaside.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping-Car, Saint Maxine

The campsite is just outside of town, about a 2km hike to the seafront and town. Because it is close to the beach the campsite was packed with motorhomes.

A really great walk but very windy and cold. People were everywhere enjoying all the outdoor restaurants and of course because of Xmas, the harbourfront became a theme park for rides and shows to keep the little and big ones happy. Xmas lights and decorations everywhere were fabulous. A very touristy town with no old town that we could find but hundreds and hundreds of very expensive looking yachts and cruisers were packed into the Marina in the harbour.

Sunset on the Saint Maxime waterfront

When we arrived back, the campsite was filled to capacity, with even a centre lane started where there was no space for a centre line – could be interesting in the morning.

Wednesday 4th January, 2018

Having been to the French Riviera before, we agreed to stay clear this time around so back to the hills for now. Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo etc. are places we really enjoyed on a previous trip, but in Ziggy would not be easy.

The scenery today was one of the most beautiful and picturesque we have travelled through. We travelled through the vast Grand Canyon du Verdon. Just amazingly beautiful mountains and rock formations towering over a stunning icy blue lake and river. The roads weaved in and out of the mountainside and after every corner another magic view appeared. Little hillside towns appeared out of nowhere all built into and forming part of the landscape.

Our campsite for tonight: Parking de la Gare, Entrevaux

The campsite is situated in a mixed parking area right beside a train line, but with only one train every hour, and only during the day, was not a problem at all. This is one of the most interesting medieval towns we have ever seen.

The town is split into two with the train line, a road and a waterway separating the two sides. The new side is not very interesting but on the other side, you access the medieval town by crossing the waterway via a drawbridge.  Once in the town, the narrow cobbled stone streets showcase a maze of beautiful old buildings. It is so hard to believe people still work and live here – but they do.

Entrevaux Medieval City

Set high on the hill above the old town, is the citadel. How these are ever built, we cannot imagine as they are built on sheer rock faces. We started up the steep hill but were blown apart by the massive winds sweeping through the valley. Got halfway up and retreated when the winds were too strong – we were actually blown off our feet not fun on a sharp incline.

The Citadel – the access via a zig zag cobblestoned street is a real challenge

Enjoyed a few ales with the locals in the newer part of town before handing back to Ziggy. We were the only ones there – not surprised but this was a very safe spot but unfortunately open to the windy conditions.

Access to the medieval city via the drawbridge

The Citadel was fully lit up high on the mountainside and was spectacular as were the lights and the Xmas tree in the medieval town.

Today was a truly special and wonderful day from start to finish.

Thursday 5th January

The winds were very gusty throughout the night so we were not unhappy to leave the campsite to escape this the next morning.

We were still in the Grand Canyon so really enjoyed the scenery again. Would highly recommend the trip to Entrevaux, though it is a tough drive.

This seaside part of France is extremely congested and the roads in and around the major cities were a nightmare. We opted to avoid these roads after a couple of horrific hours. No wonder all the cars here have bashes and gashes and busted side mirrors. We soon gave these roads a miss and took to the A8 tollway for a breather. When we left the A8 and headed inland to our next destination, we only had 22kms to get there – a breeze, one would think. Wrong – zig zag up the steep hill all the way through hairpin after hairpin bend.  Got halfway up and really wanted to give up. There were no places to stop so had to move on. Fortunately the road got better (a little) and eventually we reached our destination.

Our campsite for tonight: Aire de Camping Car, Sospel

 Another quiet spot set just on the edge of town. Room for only 6 motorhomes and fortunately we were no 4.

There were two parts to the town separated by a river bed but this time with an old town on both sides. We visited the tourist office who were really helpful and armed with maps, explored both sides.

A drawbridge over the moat to the medieval city

Very similar to Entrevaux where one part was over a drawbridge with a stone archway and tower leading into the town. The entrance was so narrow, only very, very small cars or bikes could get across to this part of town.

There were several Roman baths like these scattered around the City

On the other side, the small square’s cathedral is the focal point. Not what we would call a spectacular exterior, however, on the inside, it is really beautiful. These places are what interests us the most and we just adore exploring and being part of their heritage.

The Cathedral interior

Shared a drink with the locals in the pub before heading back for a well deserved rest.

2 thoughts on “2018/01/01 France – from the Med to the Mountains”

  1. We were in entrevaux, annot and Castellane in October. Really liked the area – good walking too. Stayed where you did by the rail station. Where you headedc broadly next?

    1. Thank you for your comment

      Just recently visited Cinque Terre, Pisa and are currently in Florence – not sure where to next – will decide in the morning

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