Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
146Trip End Ongoing
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We've been busy, we've covered quite a few miles since our last entry. A quick catch up is in order.
We left our lovely french host Nicolas on the 18th October but not before heading to Montpellier to watch him play rugby! On the way we crossed the Millau bridge, the highest or tallest or something bridge in the world. Paid a tenner to get across and there was next to no view, courtesy of the railings stopping distracted drivers from plunging over the sides. We thought it expensive but talking to a local found out that the alternative to the 5 minute bridge crossing was up to 2 hours through the valley. It suddenly became economical!
After a short wander round the old city of Montpellier with co-volunteer and friend James we headed back to the stadium to support Nic and his team. It was chilly in the roomy stands and we were wrapped up in our thermals and excessive jumpers. The French have reinvented the rugby rules for "veterans", that's anyone over 21 yrs! There are 3 thirds to have plenty of breaks for tired old legs; no kicking except penalties and out of your 22; and uncontested scrums. The score was 1-1: another quirk. Evidently anyone over teenage years is senile and can't count so tries are counted as 1 point and there are no conversions. After the match we said goodbye to Nic and James, and headed off to find somewhere to park for the night.
We didn't realise it at the time, but that evening we enjoyed our last night of easy parking as we found a quiet residential back street after dusk and bedded down for the night. Cote d'Azur has become increasingly motorhome-unfriendly with prohibitive signs everywhere and in Italy wild camping is 'officially' only tolerated if you have the express permission of the local mayor which requires more planning than we ever do!
We headed south west and passed by Carcasonne in the sun and daylight for the first time. We'd seen the interior early this year, but regarding the formidable walls from an opposing hillside, we were rather more inspired this time. South of Carcasonne lay the little town of Belveze de razes, near Limoux, current home to Luke, Bev, May and Asha, our ex neighbours and now traveller colleagues in their truck. We took Asha, alsatian, for a walk and when we took the wrong turn at a fork, she sat down and waited for us to work out our error and return to the junction! We started paying attention to her behaviour and she took us for a walk. Luke and I serviced his car, replacing disks and pads on the front delaying our departure for Italy by a day to get the work done. We left as other friends of theirs arrived from England - busy social life on the road!
We headed on north and east towards the Camargue area, struggling to find anywhere we could park for less than ten Euros in any of the towns. We did decide to ignore the no motorhome parking signs to pull over to watch the flamingos. Most had flown south already but there were a few still wading in the shallow waters. They are amazing-looking birds.
We found some parking a distance out of the mediaeval walled town of Aigues Mortes and we gladly cycled in having missed the bull-taunting-demonstrations by a few hours. We weren't sure if we should be thankful or regret missing watching a local display of skill of men prancing around an angry bull to remove ribbons from it's horns!
The Cote d'Azur, though very beautiful, just wasn't motorhome friendly enough, so we skipped through in the hopes of getting into Nice to do some sightseeing. But we failed to work our way round the diversions and road works even with a TomTom and decided we didn't like cities anyway, and carried on! We did take a random road to explore into the hills which turned out to be tense and hideous driving in a van. It wouldn't have been pleasant in a car either. The single lane, but definately not one way, wound around hairpin bends up and down the side of steep hills for about 20km with nowhere to turn around. Then having arrived at the village where they are famed for their glazed sweet chestnuts, we saw we had neatly mis-timed it for yet another festival, and we had another 20km drive of similar uncomfortable roads to get out!
Later that evening we tried to find a legitimate place to stop. We arrived at 3 locations that were listed as aires in our book but these had been shut down and the 4th had nothing to prevent us staying there but we were put off by the late night chip van, the dubious scumbags drinking in vehicles and the burnt out cars on the side. Our last night in France was in a roadside carpark in the suburbs of somewhere near Cannes, conveniently placed for lovely fresh bread in the morning and a great view. We shall miss you, France.
We drove into Italy and wandered along the coast stopping to watch an explosion of windsurfers and kite surfers at Diano Marina .
We decided not to get soaked and therefore didn't stop at Pavia which boasts about its medieval towers. Historically, and rather like the houses of Romeo and Juliet, families occupying one town spent most of their time feuding and trying to control parts of the town, and would have had to constantly defend their homes against each other. We stopped at Cremona for two nights and enjoyed the impressive cathedral, town hall and other buildings from the middle ages. It is interesting to see churchs that are so elaborately painted inside and that have not been vandalised or had the faces scratched off. Some of the frescoes here are done by famous artists, apparently... we're such art heathens.
And now on to see some friends in Brescia, near Lake Garda, and then on to Padua and Venice for a couple of days!