France
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

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  • Day944

    La Tête de Chien, above Monaco

    January 26 in France ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    Privilaged. We feel so privilaged to be able to stay at this amazing spot. Martha is settled in the small car park, at the end of the road, at the top of La Tête de Chien; one of the Maritime Alps on France's South East coast. We are 550m above the wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. From within the van we have a view of the undulous coastline to the the west, the promontories and coves covered in a mix of deep green forest and chalk coloured communities, clustered together near the shore, but dotted like splats of paint on the steep slopes as they rise inland.

    It was a long, slow and difficult drive to get here. From our resort stopover at La Lavandou we climbed into the hills. The narrow winding road had no kerb, just a drop into a large ditch. Grooves cut when vehicles' wheels went over the edge and their metal axels scraped into the tarmac were disconcertingly frequent. From the hills we dropped down to the ribbon of high density urban development that is the French Riviera. We bypassed St Tropez, then travelled through Antibes, Cagnes sur Mer, Saint Laurent du Var and Nice. We felt cordoned in with concrete, funnelled into too narrow lanes, filters, roundabouts. The seafront boulevard at Nice provided some distraction as we watched well dressed people roller blading, biking, skateboarding, jogging, walking dogs and riding in groups of 4 on hire bikes. It was like something you'd expect to see on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles!

    From the metropolis we once again climbed, this time squeezing through little hill villages that felt far too small for our 7m van. Approaching the summit of La Tête de Chien, cars lined the right side of the road, but between them we glimpsed the most amazing views of the riviera layed out below. Our nerves were wracked from the drive as we came to the packed car park marking the end of the line. We stopped outside delivery gates for a small fort and waited around half an hour, when miraculously the perfect space was vacated. Once settled, our nerves began to calm and it sank in how beautiful the view really was. The sun was sinking low and many people were making a beeline for this spot, to look down over half a kilometre to the jagged line of the coast, jutting in and out as the sky began to change colour.

    We joined the French, fellow Brits, Italians, Romanians and Monacans, passing by a few abandoned buildings, their rooves just skeletal structures of rusted girders and stone chimneys. Teenagers gathered here and we even saw one responsibly disposing of spent spray paint cans in a wheelie bin. We clambered over bare rock, dirt and shingle and peaked over a stone ledge to see Monaco to the east, nestled into a cove and stretching out into the sea. It was strange to think this little area constituted a whole country!

    As the world's most densely populated principality, it would be extremely difficult to find a parking space in Monaco, so we'd decided to walk in. We scouted out the beginning of the route (more on this in our next post), then watched the sun set over the hills and the streetlights below begin to twinkle.

    As darkness fell, people departed. A taxi driver and their partner were one of the last to leave, cheekily hailing Will from within the van and asking if he had any wine! After tea, Will carefully made his way over the uneven rocks to see Monaco lit up. It was good timing because he was looking on when the Saturday evening quayside fireworks display began! The myriad of colours reflecting in the calm waters of the harbour. The loud explosions echoed off the hillside and drew Vicky out to watch the grand finale, after which moored boats blasted their horns in tribute! It was a really special experience to be the only ones watching from our quiet hilltop lookout!

    To watch a one minute video of what we saw, go to the VnW Travels You Tube channel here:
    https://youtu.be/R1f7IFOtKfA

    As if this wasn't enough, an hour later we got to watch the French firework display from within the van, looking down to the Grande Jetée at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat! Saturday night was definitely the right time to stay in this wonderful spot! As wonderful as the stars above were that night, they were eclipsed by the light show below!
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  • Day946

    Salernes

    January 28 in France ⋅ 🌬 7 °C

    My oh my were we glad to pull into the aire at Salernes! Starting the day with an interesting but stressfull drive into and back out of the world's most densely populated country (Monaco, click the link to see the video: https://youtu.be/VFaBLIDGnYg), we retraced our tracks of the past few days, along the coast road of the French Riviera, through Saint Laurent du Var, Cagnes sur Mer and finally Nice, thankfully turning inland before we hit Antibes. Driving an oversized vehicle in heavy traffic, on highly engineered road sytems that we are unfamiliar with does tend to wear on the nerves and many drivers along this particular ribbon development did seem to have an air of self entitlement that made it difficult for others around them. Straddling the middle and inner lanes, it seemed like an age before we hit the hills and just had the numerous switch back bends and roundabouts to contend with! Funnily enough we didn't see to many other motorhomers running the same gauntlet!

    Will drove for 5 hours to reach this sandy van parking area, bordering the town of Salernes. It has the small but clear, tree lined River Bresque running alongside and a water tap that produces little more than a dribble, but there is waste emptying, recycling and more importantly, there isn't a high rise building in sight! Will spent a little while fishing before the light faded and Vicky had an early bed. Deciding to stay two nights, so we were refreshed for the next leg of our journey towards Spain, we took a short day trip to Cascade de Sillans; a stunning waterfall just 6km away. Parking in a layby we walked half a kilometre along a woodland track, emerging to the sight of a beautiful white tail of water tumbling 42 metres down a rich sandstone cliff, into a milky turquoise plunge pool.

    Three other people were standing on the wooden viewing platform when we arrived, but they soon left and we spent some time just taking in the details of this natural phenomenon. The different varieties of moss and long tree roots that hung down from the back wall, most covered in ochre coloured calcite deposits that made long thin stalactites of them. The way the thin spray of water bouncing off a prominent rock ran so fast it appeared as a smooth, unfocussed, flowing whole, instead of thousands of clear, tiny, distinct droplets. The rainbow colours trapped in the high speed spray, formed as the force of falling water collided with the body of the pool. It certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in France!

    Back in Salernes we walked to the Biocoop, a shop Will had already visited and wanted to show Vicky. We put a lot of time and thought into trying to buy food that is as good as possible for ourselves, the environment, the people who produce it and animal welfare; not always an easy task when travelling to a new place every day or two! In all our time we don't remember coming accross a shop that ticked so many boxes. As large as a supermarket, everything it sold was organic. It had a massive range of products, including cheeses, meats and meat substitutes, fruit and veg, drinks, dried foods, washing and sanitary products and alternative remedies. It made a real effort to cut down on unnecessary packaging, offering a lot of foods such as rice, flour, nuts and seeds, loose for you to put in your own container or a paper bag. It had a focus on local producers, many of whom it seemed, made things especially for this shop. It was also a cooperative, meaning that its success was based on and benefited the community that supported it, rather than a handfull of rich board members. We were in raptures and waxed lyrical about how brilliant it was to the cashier. They seemed a little bemused when Vicky asked to climb the stairs to the mezzanine for a photo of the shop floor, but were happy to oblige. We hope shops like this will continue to grow in number!
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  • Day943

    La Favière, Le Lavandou

    January 25 in France ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    It has been a long day's drive and we are thankful for the spot we've found at the motorhome parking in La Favière, a suburb of Le Lavandou, between Toulon and St Tropez. With palm fronds and pine branches touching Martha's roof and just a low wall dividing vans from the multi million euro harbour, we are right in the middle of resort life here, except it is January and the resort has all but shut down for the winter. It does have the advantage that this €20 a night spot is currently free to stay at, which suits us well! It also suits the 20 odd other vans that we have joined. We feel lucky to have found a spot!

    With 3 weeks to go before our ferry back to the UK, we decided we needed to get a wiggle on if we were to see France's Mediterranean coast and border with Spain. On our journey south we avoided the chilly Alps, where driving conditions may well be dangerous, so we now needed to travel East towards Monaco. From our windblown camp at Carro, the road travelled along a route cut into the light coloured rock, topped by green bushy Stone Pines. There were blooms of white and yellow ground flowers and we noticed eucalyptus trees, with their light coloured bark and wavey leaves.

    It was a day of contrasts as we moved from forested hills to the high rise ribbon developments along the flat coastline. The road systems tended to hem us in, with central reservations, often planted with palms, even on inner city roads. Marseille gave an impression of colour and creativity with its pastel hued apartment blocks and artistically grafittid tunnels, all set against a backdop of inland cliffs. Toulon seemed more focussed on action than appearance, with cruise ships in its harbour, bland road tunnels and more industrial looking high rises, with sheets, rugs and towels flung over inset balconies to dry in the strong sun. We rejoiced as we read a balmy 12°C on the dash thermometer! We even spotted some prickly pear cacti, giving an associative feel of warm winter days spent in Italy and Spain.

    Arriving in La Lavandou the streets were narrow; thank goodness it was low season and they weren't lined with cars. La Favière was a typical resort development, its sienna hued apartment blocks standing empty. We backed into the one suitable spot in the motorhome aire and wondered how many vans stayed here long term, as there seemed to be quite a community feel. The urban driving had stressed us both, so Vicky took time to breathe while Will went for a five minute wander. After a cuppa we both explored the almost empty streets. We couldn't believe the change in temperature; having woken to icy blasts, we were now in lightweight coats enjoying the still air and some warmth!

    A group of around 40 club members played petanque on pitches planted with bare Plane trees, whose leafy shade is no doubt appreciated each summer. A sandy crescent of beach was backed by a wooden board walk and a few restaurants were open, but the majority of businesses were closed for the winter.

    The night was infinitely more restful than the previous windblown one and we felt refreshed when setting off the following morning. The motorhome service point was on the roadside at a junction and Vicky parked carefully, so as not to block passing cars or the pedestrian crossing. Soon, a French van pulled in behind us, making it exceptionally difficult for any cars to pass. A relaxed looking guy in his 60s with a thick woolen jumper and grey hair tied in a ponytail emerged and started chatting to Will. He had the air of a retired art teacher who enjoyed sitting round a campfire playing guitar! Drivers honked as they squeezed past his van but he was unconcerned, telling Will how he usually spends 6 months in the van in France and 6 months in India. When a particularly disgruntled carload shouted at him, he commented that he'd prefer to be in India, as you didn't get that sort if behaviour there! As we were packing away our watering can we heard a bang. A car had hit his van! It didn't seem to have damaged it and he maintained his calm demeanour as he helped the driver stick the wing mirror back into its casing! We would have been pulling our hair out in his situation, but he seemed so comfortable in his own skin and distant from the everyday concerns that might upset others. Meeting people who leave an impression is one of the things we love about travel!
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  • Day942

    Pointe de Carro, the Med!

    January 24 in France ⋅ 🌬 6 °C

    We've reached the Mediterranean Sea! Parked to the west of Marseilles, at Carro Harbour, we have 270° views of the deep blue water as the sun shines brightly from the south, turning the surface to a blinding, shimmering silver. However, we aren't donning our flip flops and swimwear just yet; the famed Mistral wind slams into the side of the van at 30mph and we fully agree with the weather forecast; that icy blasts give the air a real feel of 0°C or less. Nonetheless we are stuck out at the front of the motorhome aire, nearest the water, while all 6 of the other motorhomes shelter in the shade of a building near the entrance. We've paid €7 to be here and we are going to revel in the sight of the white horses rolling in as the gusts whip dark shadows out to sea!

    Will braved the winter air for an admirable period, finding a sunny spot on the rocks near the harbour entrance, from which to cast his fishing line. He picked up some of the litter strewn around, probably blown by the wind. Soon he was joined by two old, dark tortoiseshell cats, their fur fluffed up against the cold and no doubt waiting in hopeful anticipation of a few fish flung their way. No such luck this time kitties!

    Carro is one of the best spots for wave kite surfing in the south of France, but the offshore winds and lack of a beach make it dangerous. Nobody surfed while we were there, but there were a couple of swimmers in thick wetsuits towing orange buoys and another in a swimsuit. It was probably warmer in the water than it was on land but neither of us plucked up the courage to test the temperature. The Mistral felt arctic, in fact it felt colder than when we were actually in the arctic in summer 2017! It put us off going into town to explore; we felt a lot happier watching the scene from within the van, whose heater and batteries were working double time to keep us warm! On our drive through we got the feeling the place was doing well catering to tourists with artisan boulangers and tastefully attired restaurants. No sign of tacky souvenir shops, but then it is still January!

    Sunset over the sea burnished a few low whisps of cloud and backlit the spray as it was blown from the top of breakers rolling into the rocky shore. Neither of us got much sleep overnight as the van was in constant motion, being blasted by the wind. Roof vents rattled and the lids of the aire's large wheelie bins banged with every gust. Still, we got to wake up to a gorgeous dawn, the huge, almost cerise sun, speedily emerging from behind a headland over the sea. It was worth one sleepless night!
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  • Day18

    Acrobranch in Cormatin, France

    September 15, 2018 in France ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Today we went to an aerial park and went flying through the trees on zip lines and climbing through large tunnels. Geoff Chloë and our friend Yohann (Who also went around the world on his bike with his partner Clara) went on the adult course and Malcolm Dale and Lara went on the kids course. There were 5 levels of courses, yellow (test), green (easy), blue(medium), red(hard) and black(extreme)! Yohann Geoff and Chloë did part of the adult black and Chloë also did the kids black! Malcolm did the kids black 3 times! Talk to you soon,
    Cheers Malcolm
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  • Day50

    Sur le Pont d'Avignon

    October 17, 2018 in France ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    In Avignon, we found a beautiful garden inside the medieval walls of the city, and Chloë and I danced and sang on the Avignon bridge (much to her hidden delight which looked a lot like embarrassment...). In fact, the original 16th century tune is quite different than the one we learn in Canada as children, but we stuck to our own version. We also came across a teenaged basketball tournament in front of the Palais des Papes, in the center of town. I really do love how Europe uses its public spaces!Read more

  • Day2

    Villefranche-sur-Mer

    March 24 in France ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    Nach langer Fahrt vom Bodensee (Vorfrühling), durch die Schweiz (Wintersport und Schnee bei 2000 m), an Mailand vorbei ... sind wir jetzt an der Cote d'Azur (Vollfrühling). Viel Polizei überall, denn im Nachbarort trifft der französische Präsident heute und morgen den chinesischen Staatschef. Jetzt gehen wir Wein und Käse kaufen.Read more

  • Day3

    Villefranche-sur-Mer, Altstadt

    March 25 in France ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Von unserem Appartement hoch über der Küste sind wir heute ca. 800 Stufen in die Altstadt herunter und 800 Stufen wieder herauf gestiegen. Eine sehr schöne verwinkelte Altstadt haben wir gesehen. Die Stadt ist noch sehr friedlich, es ist noch in der Vorsaison.

  • Day7

    Cassis - Markt

    March 29 in France ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Seit gestern sind wir in Cassis, wenige Kilometer östlich von Marseille. Heute waren wir zum ersten Mal auf einem lokalen Markt. Besonders der Käse hat es uns mal wieder angetan. Der "Bleu de Brebis" schmeckt sehr lecker (vor allem mit Rotwein) ... auch wenn er etwas veraltet aussieht.

  • Day12

    Séguret - Sablet

    April 3 in France ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    Wir wollen heute eine kleine Tour durch die Provence unternehmen, sind aber nicht über Séguret und Sablet hinaus gekommen. Das sind zwei schöne Bergdörfer, die zu den schönsten in Frankreich gehören sollen. Aber es hat so stark geregnet, dass wir unsere Tour (mit dem Auto!) abgebrochen haben und lieber eine Weinprobe gemacht haben und im Bistro d'O in Vaison-la-Romaine sehr lecker Essen gegangen sind. Es war die beste Küche während unserer ganzen Tour.Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Provenza-Alpes-Costa Azul, Прованс-Алпи-Лазурен бряг, Provença – Alps – Costa Blava, Provenco-Alpoj-Bordo Lazura, Proventza-Alpeak-Cote d'Azur, Provence-Arpes-Couta d’Azur, פרובאנס-אלפ-קוט ד'אזור, Provansa-Alpe-Azurna obala, Provenco Alpi Azur-Rivo, Provenza-Alpi-Costa Azzurra, プロヴァンス=アルプ=コート・ダジュール地域圏, პროვანსი-ალპები-ლაჟვარდოვანი ნაპირი, 프로방스알프코트다쥐르, Provansas-Alpės-Žydrasis Krantas, Provença-Aups-Còsta d'Azur, Prowansja-Alpy-Lazurowe Wybrzeże, Provença-Alpes-Costa Azul, Provența-Alpi-Coasta de Azur, Прованс — Альпы — Лазурный Берег, Pruvenza-Alpi-Costa Azzola, Прованса-Алпи-Азурна обала, 普罗旺斯-阿尔卑斯-蓝色海岸

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