Saturday 5th October (Varazze to St. Stefano de Mare)
We wake up to our first day in Italy. It is a beautiful sunny day… At last… What a great way to start our third week. Today we shall have breakfast outside. It’s brilliant but after a while we are pestered by flies and mosquitos which beat us so we pack up breakfast and discuss our plan for the day. We decide to move on to an aire about an hour down the coast in a town called S. Stefano al Mare (Saint Stefan by the sea!)
It’s another twisty drive along the Italian coast which we take turns with. Finally we arrive at what is basically a public car park which for 10 euros you can park over night but with a great view of the sea. It’s busy here today, but very busy and we find the last suitable space. We say suitable, there were another two possible spaces but because of the inability of people to park their vans properly the space is unusable. Maybe they do it on purpose…?
Today we will get the bikes finally off the back of the van and get some cycling done, we manage 9 miles, not a lot but good enough for us to reward ourselves with an Aperol Spritz and a Prosecco! Well when in Rome, etc.
We take it easy going back to the van with an ice cream and a bit of wittering and planning about the next few weeks. It’s surprising how quick the time goes. We are undecided, again. Do we stay in Italy a bit more or do we start making our way across the southern French coast.
Dinner out tonight at a pizza house that in 2011 won the world championship pizza making contest. As if… Sure enough we get there and the accolade is on the menu along with what must be 70+ ways to have your pizza. We wait for an age for anything to happen, ordering, pizza arriving etc. The wait is forever. It was worth it though as the pizza was amazing along with a great view of the bay. Smashing.
So where to tomorrow?
Sunday 6th October (St Stefano al Mare to Frejus)
Another lovely sunny morning. Should we stay or should we go? Hmm….
We go. Today we are going back into France, 2 and a bit hours of driving. It’s a fine hot lovely day, most of the journey is on motorway and the French motorway tolls, which if you are doing many miles can be expensive. We probably spent about 15 euros in two hours and the toll booths seemed to appear every 15 minutes.
Today we are off to a campsite which has a massive pool and a sauna. We are just coming out of season so sites are not yet closed for the year but you do get the pick of the pitches which is nice and the place isn’tt crawling with kids! The site is Domaine de la Bergerie. The staff are friendly and sure enough we can pick our place. Hayley goes scouting and finds a nice one that will give us sunlight for the rest of the day.
Hayley goes for a swim leaving Del at the van to read and mess about on his computer. Peace!!
Dinner was a fine paella. Hayley is quite an expert at these. It goes down well with a glass of cold white, however as night is falling the mosquitoes are rising and Hayley is rather susceptible to them, getting bitten almost anywhere. No matter it’s getting on so we go inside to finish the bottle off.
All in all not a bad weekend…
Monday 7th October ( Frejus to Port Grimaud)
We are on a run now, for now. Another beautiful day is forecast right along the south coast of France. Good. We do a full van service, fill up with fresh water, get rid of the grey water and sort out the chemical toilet. Nice.
We set off and it is the best Monday you could have. The scenery is stunning and it’s hot, proper hot. Today we are making for a place that is basically a full resort but they have a large beach front area for camper vans with a full view of the bay that takes in Port Grimaud right round to St. Tropez. On the way we do look at another site but elect to continue to Camping Les Mures. The arrival is dead easy, but all the “on the beach” places are taken however we do get a good halfway position that when you open your door it’s a 10 metre walk and you are right on the beach with the full view…
Needs must however, the laundry needs doing, normally a weekend job, and Jess gets her weekly full clean inside. Once all the jobs are done then we are on the beach soaking up the Monday afternoon sun… Stunning. We make friends with our British neighbours, from Wales. They are in a campervan, with their springer dog Millie. A nice couple with a nice dog.
A short walk is required before we go back to the beach in the 5pm sun with a glass of fizz, listening to the waves lapping on the shore. We love Mondays!!!
8th October (Port Grimaud)
We are staying here another day. It’s lovely. Clear blue sky, 25 degrees+ heat and with a fabulous view of the bay with St. Tropez just across it why would we move on. Besides the forecast for tomorrow is some cloud so we will enjoy the sun here today and move on tomorrow.
The plan is to cycle the 9 kms around the bay to St Tropez for lunch and back via Port Grimaud. Soon we are ready and off. It’s great for cycling here with a cycle track almost all of the way.
We reach St. Tropez 45 mins later. It’s busy but not mad busy, people are milling around looking at the beautiful boats that come here or having lunch on the open fronted restaurants in the marina. There a lots of shops here, expensive shops. It’s nice though to walk around all the lovely little streets with their small houses dripping in colourful flowers.
After a good walk around the place we decide to by some sandwiches and a local speciality – pissaladiere. A pizza base with some onions, olives and anchovies. We also get a small box of Tropezienne Tart which is a custard cream cake. Sweet but ace… They make them in different sizes from small take away boxes of three to 12 in a box up to a large 12 inch thing that makes your pancreas work overtime just looking at.
We take our purchase to the sea front with a view of the bay with some very expensive boats that are anchored and no doubt enjoying their view.
After lunch we set off for the van on the other side of the bay. 10 minutes in we find a beach bar so of course needs must, we take a seat at the water’s edge and enjoy a small very cold beer. Delicious.
Time to move on as we would like to stop at Port Grimaud, France’s Venice. It doesn’t disappoint, it is very pretty. To appreciate it you have to take a boat so we pay 6 euros for a 20 minute trip around the watery streets. Lots of money here. Nice houses that look out onto very expensive boats directly moored right outside their front door.
After the trip we get back on the bikes and head for “home”. It’s still a bright warm sunny afternoon so we make for the beach for an hour in the late afternoon sun.
Dinner was Mexican style – fajitas, a winner after which we invited the Welsh couple that we met yesterday over to our place for a drink. 12:30am this goes on until. Lovely couple, Tim and Fiona and their dog Millie. We exchange some of our life stories all night. Smashing. We’ll be sad to part from them tomorrow, we enjoyed their company but we are all doing different things and going different places adding more to our life stories.
Tomorrow we are moving slowly along the French coast, we are halfway through our trip and soon we will need to start thinking about moving north.
9th October (Port Grimaud to Cavalaire sur Mer)
Today we are moving on. We start our pack-away and meet up with Tim and Fiona, who makes a mean cup of coffee. Fantastic. We get a show and tell around their lovely van “Ruby” and end up chatting until well after checkout time. We say our goodbyes, sad to be leaving them and off we go. We do a quick van service and trundle off along the coast heading west…
We remember this coastline fondly but our view was from the sea. It’s a beautiful part of France, it’s a little on the grey side today but on a Wednesday morning it’s well worth it. We go to one site and rule it out as being a bit cramped and not as welcoming as we hoped. Hayley finds us another one, Camping Bonporteau. It is a lovely place, in a forest. lots of tall trees and different levels, lots of room and dead dead quiet. Great.
By now it’s about 3pm so we just settle in and decide to do two nights here. Tomorrow we will go in to the town of Cavalaire sur Mer and sit by the campsites heated pool in the afternoon, who knows what will happen come the evening.
In the meantime we sit basking in the afternoon warmth and light and continue to get bitten by mosquitoes. Hayley gets it the worse, always has done. Even in October they are still around biting and causing havoc.
10th October (Cavalaire sur Mer)
We do like these two hour breakfasts. Up at around 8, it’s gone 10 before we actually start thinking about doing anything. Well it’s not all about flashing lights and tweaking your gamma is it? It’s a glorious day today, clear sky with a slight gentle breeze. We are staying for the day today for sure.
We sort ourselves out and take a stroll into the town of Cavalaire sur Mer. We remember it fondly when we were on the boat down here so we know more or less where we are going. We walk around the marina in the sun and reminisce but if we are not mistaken the wind is starting to build, as well we remember from the 16 years ago we were last here, it’s either too windy or not enough…
While walking around the town and crossing the road who should we see coming down the street, but Fiona, Tim and Millie in “Ruby” the van. A smashing bunch who we meet in St.Tropez, what a lovely surprise. We give them a wave and shout out to them where we are camped.
We get back to the site after a 5 euro coffee (5 euros for a small cappucino… Really?) to find “Ruby” with her passengers are already ensconced in the same site. Excellent. We like their company so we are pleased to see them there. We all make for the heated pool at the site and catch up on what has happened over the last 24 hours, not much probably which is a good thing.
We are all still being bitten, that much hasn’t changed. We’ll move off tomorrow, maybe we will get a break from the mozzies.
11th October (Cavalaire sur Mer to La Ciotat)
Check out in these sites is normally anywhere between 11:00am and midday, so our usual lengthy breakfast is as normal. We do a bit of a pack up and go looking for “Ruby”. Fiona and Tim do the best coffee on the trip so far so we are intent on ‘coffee burgling’. We find them and their wonderful hospitality provides us with copious amounts of coffee and a lot of wittering which we enjoy. Before we know where we are it’s gone midday so we say our goodbyes for a second time and get cracking. As we leave we note the site manager checking his watch but he’s ok. We are off….
Today we will continue along the southern French coast. The views of the seaside towns to the south and the house covered hills to the north all spectacular in the sun. A beautiful place indeed.
Today we are heading to a site called Camping Santa Gusta near the town of La Ciotat, 50 km or so west of Toulon. We stop and look at other options but continue in the direction of La Ciotat.
We arrive at the site. Hmm. Not sure about this. The front is a closed down petrol station and the office looks like a run down and probably closed hotel. The reception for the site is closed until 2:30 so we have about 10 minutes to kill before they open so we start to have a look around. Before we could get any further a lady calls us. Hayley, in her best French asks about staying and we gather that the reply was yes, we can go in have a look and choose our place.
We go into the grounds of the site. Well what can we say… It is amazing…. For small vans like us there are terrace views right at the front with a full uninterrupted view of the bay, high up. Stunning. The site itself looks like it is stuck in the 1960s/70s but it’s popular. We are out of season but some pitches are already taken but we are lucky to find the best one!. The highest one as well. Brilliant. We set up with all the garb, chairs, table and all that when Hayley spots a kayak place right under us. She can’t resist so off she goes for an hours punting on the Med while Del cleans up the van and prepares cold beer for her return.
What a lovely afternoon. Clear blue skies and great views. Amazing.
Dinner was a Hayley special paella and with the sun setting we sit back having enjoyed a great day out.
That was Friday.
Week 3. In conclusion.
At last we finally escaped the wet weather in week 2 and have at last found some warm temperatures and sunshine. The south coast of France is a beautiful place with its rough rocky coast line, gorgeous sandy beaches and steep hills with some beautiful and expensive houses stuck on the side. We have an affection for this part of France as it was 16 years ago as relatively inexperienced sailors, we sold up, bought a brand new sailing boat and decided to sail the Med… Some said we were mad but it was without a doubt one of the best life experiences we have ever had.
We have had good warm weather all week, we know it can’t last. We have to go north soon so the weather will change but we are, after all, in the middle of October. We have had a good run and after all it’s really not all about the weather. This week we met a lovely couple and their dog. From Wales Fiona, Tim and Millie the dog were good company, very interesting and funny. We are not sure if we will meet them again but if they are reading this we wish them safe travels and good health.