Barcelona – SOUTH FRANCE – Figueres – Parc National Regional de Camargue – Gemenos – Six-Fours-Les-Plages – Plan-de-la-Tour – Cap Roux – Plage de la Salis – Monaco – French/Italian Border 20th April – 26th April 2017

Woke up early in the Barcelona glorified “campsite” to take a shower and also to avoid the risk of being charged for 2 days! It was surprisingly easy to leave the city centre, not too much traffic and roads pretty straightforward. We took the N-11 coast road for a fair while, eating up some miles before stopping at a viewpoint just outside Canyelles for some lunch.

We then took  a lush road G1-682 which took us right by the sea, on top of the cliffs with loads of bends. Headed further on the C-31 and saw ‘Parque Natural de las Zonas Humedas’ on the map; somewhere we thought we could find a free camping spot for the night. The area was lovely however nowhere really suitable to park as alot of the area was residential;we also had plans of swapping our back tyre for the spare as the tread was getting pretty worn! We ended up going back to our trusty app and found a spot at a supermarket in Figueres. We figured as long as we bought something from the supermarket we’d be more than safe to stay in one of their designated spots for campers! Much to Zo’s delight there was a Haribo Pick’n’mix stand where we spent a small fortune!

Had dinner – Tris’ egg and tomato speciality(!) before making the most of the supermarkets well lit carpark and changing the tyres over! Got some funny looks from other motorhomes – I think they thought we had a bigger problem haha!

After chatting to some of the “neighbours” in the morning, checking the oil, sorting the van out and topping up on fuel, we headed towards the French border on the N-250; a gorgeous road with views of the Pyrenees to one side and the Mediterranean coastline to the other.

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Charlie managed the roads no problem (despite there being a ‘not suitable for caravans/etc’ warning on the map which cast doubt in our mind!). Continued on the coast road in the sun and parked up at St. Cyprien Plage – huge beach with an equally huge free carpark! Had a bite to eat and a quick drink before heading onwards with plans to visit Perpignan…

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No chance! The traffic was horrendous – rush hour! – and the van hates sitting in queues so we headed back towards the coast again and took the D-83. Drove past a stunning lake “Étang de Leucate” (also known as “Étang de Salses”) then followed the D627 and D6009 towards Port-La-Nouvelle.

Found the Aire that was mentioned on our Camperstop app and turned out to be a really nice spot. Lots of green open space and plenty of parking places and even had a free water and toilet disposal service station. Laid out in the sun ’til it started to get dark and cooked up some pasta for dinner.

After making use of the free services, we headed slightly inland to rejoin the D-6009 towards Beziers on our quest to find a Campingaz supplier as we were on our second of the two bottles on board. After a quick “Google” a few places popped up as stockists; none of which seemed to supply our sized bottle. After another “Google”, we could see that the next place to try was the area around Montpellier including ‘Decathlon’; a store where you can get pretty much anything that involves “the outdoors” – including camping gear! Taking the 612 road out of Beziers; we were taken back towards the coast, part of which followed ‘Bassin de Thau’ – a lagoon which banks backed on to the beach, effectively creating a bridge-like effect for a stretch of the road.

After following the coast road a little longer, we arrived at Montpellier; a place that we both had visited on an Interailing trip a couple of years back and due to this we didn’t feel the need to stop(although it is a very beautiful city!). Although Decathlon didn’t stock the large gas bottles we required; they did however have a couple of camping chairs on offer which even matched the van!

After trying another couple of “stockists” with no joy, we gave up for the day and headed back towards the coast along the D-21 and D-62 around another beautiful lake ‘Etang de l’Or’ past Aigues Mortes and took the D570 to Saintes-Maries-la-mer as we saw there were a few free stops. Turned out they weren’t free – around €13 and not even as nice a setting as the free aire at Port-la-Nouvelle! Left swiftly and headed back on the D-570 as we were on a point! Re-planned our route to get to Salin de Giraud. Took a lovely road (D-37 through the Parc National Regional de Carnague) past another lake and some wet plains (possibly rice – but still not sure!) whilst the sun was setting. Turned up at an old firestation which had been turned into a free Aire! To Zo’s disappointment there were no firemen; just a few motorhomes!

Woke up to sun and even got to enjoy a coffee outside in our brand new chairs! Tris got chatting to a Dutch guy who was interested in our travels before we packed the van up to carry on along the coast… Or so we thought before finding out we would need to catch a ferry if we wanted to follow the coastline! Instead we drove inland on the D-35 and back towards the sea before a quick drive through Marseille and Aubagne on the A-50 and stopped in Gemenos where two free campervan spots were still available!

Our spot for the night!

Met another Dutch man who parked up next to us, despite some sad circumstances meaning he was now travelling on his own, he had a great sense of humour and passion to continue a dream he and his late wife had – to retire and travel for as long as he can. He taught us some funny phrases in French(!) in addition to showing us his tattoos which included the ministry of silly walks as well as a few meaningful ones in remembrance of his wife and dog. His sad yet inspiring story (his passion for travel was amazing!) made us remember why we were travelling – because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring…

We explored the town which we thought was very typically French – quaint, beautiful and a bakery open early evening! After buying a baguette we came across a small stream near where we parked with a mountain as a backdrop-really pretty!

Had our baguette with oil and vinegar in addition to some cheese and vino and sat outside ’til the sun set and the frogs started to croak from near the stream!

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Dinner Time – looks pretty posh with our colour co-ordinated chairs 😉 !

Having fell in love with Cassis when we went Interailing, we stayed in Gemenos knowing it was only a short drive in order for us to visit again. Unfortunately when we were last there we didn’t appreciate the lack of parking especially near the beach;the parking at the port/waterfront was also closed due to an event! So we drove through the town, brought back some good memories and decided to move on to a place we hadn’t visited before. We stopped at an Intermarche and treated ourselves to some wine,bread, pâté and cheese and drove the D559 to Six-Fours-Les-Plages where until 1st May it was free to park! Lovely beach and the sun was out too – perfect spot to enjoy our little picnic!

Carried on the A57 which involved going through the ‘Tunnel de Toulon’ which took us directly under the city before deciding we’d try and take a visit to St.Tropez. The D98 road we took to get there was gorgeous – lots of bends, lush woodland and glimpses of the sea now and again. Arrived to find the traffic was pretty heavy in addition to parking being an issue – many carparks were height restricted and others stated “no motorhomes/campervans”. With nowhere obvious to park and traffic building up we decided to avoid the risk of overheating and took a road towards Ramatuelle. Turned out to be a good move – narrow roads through woodland, up high and past some pretty grand houses! We joined back on the D559 and carried on past St.Tropez towards Saintes Maxime. Traffic wasn’t as bad but did allow us to have a conversation through the window with another travelling couple whilst stuck in a queue!

Drove through Saintes Maxime and made a plan to get to Plan-de-la-Tour as we found a camperstop there. Eventually found the “tolerated” spot – a bit of rough ground used as a car park by the locals and had an amazing mountain backdrop!

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Went for a walk around the village; similar to Gemenos with the addition of a village square and more bars and restaurants. Buildings were covered in lush green ivy and had colourful window shutters – very picturesque!

Got back to the van and finished off the rest of our bits we bought for lunch and washed it down with a couple of glasses of red!

Woke up to overcast skies but still sat outside for a coffee and some breakfast. Got chatting to a local French man who owned a Beetle; our French speaking skills were pretty basic but we understood some words and gestures! He gave us a poster advertising a vintage car show that was to take place in the village and pointed to our window for us to advertise it for him! Placed the poster in a prime position and said our farewells before heading off. We did debate whether to stay for the show; the village was nice and we could easily drive to the beach from the camper stop, but we had made plans to cover the south of France pretty quickly as we had already seen much of the coastline and wanted to spend more time in Italy. Therefore we left and carried on the D559 through St.Raphael before stopping at Cap Roux for a couple of photos!

Continued along the coast road, through Cannes and drove through Golfe Juan and Juan les Pins before stopping at Plage de la Salis(in Antibes)to have some lunch. Grabbed a spot right by the beach and despite the overcast skies we braved it and went for a swim! Bit chilly but the benefit of having your van so close means you can quickly dry off, get dressed and put the kettle on ;)!

Just outside of Nice we visited 2 camperstops – both of which were completely full, no space for little Charlie amongst the beasty motorhomes!  After a few stressful moments amongst rush hour around Nice (and a cheeky McDonalds whilst we waited for the traffic to die down!) we made our way out of the city (was worth waiting for – the port looked beautiful lit up at dusk!) and carried on along the coast hoping to find somewhere to park up for the night.

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We pulled up in one small town only to find that the parking spots were residential/charged and that campers weren’t meant to be there anyway… Eventually came across an Aire before Monaco. A few cars (with people sleeping in them) had parked up in addition to a motorhome. Parked up to realise the police were then leaving after speaking to the motorhome owner… He caught our attention soon after the police left – Italian bloke who didn’t speak any english(and we know only basic Italian!) but tried his very best to put things simply! He explained that motorhomes/campervans shouldn’t really stay in the Aire but that it was ok until the morning then we had to leave. He absolutely loved our van exclaiming “Bella, Bella!” many times and loved the fact we even had a toilet in there, apparently it was “spectacular!”. He poured us a glass of wine each before saying he was going to bed! We finished our wine and went to bed too as we needed to be up at the crack of dawn to avoid being towed…

 

Woke up to pouring rain at 06:30, nice and early before the sun came up! Swiftly left without having breakfast to ensure we didn’t cause any hassle by taking up space in the day and headed towards Monaco. Met the early morning traffic and witnessed some pretty expensive cars whilst driving on the ‘Circuit de Monaco’! We stopped just outside the border to have a quick bite to eat and drink before heading into Italy for the next chapter of our journey!

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