Arles to Villeneuve-Loubet
Today we woke to the sound of a cookoo on a lovely warm, bright, sunny morning. We had spent the night on a campsite 6km southeast of Castellane. I gave The Chef the option of either making for the Service Area on the A8 toll road near junction 43, and spend the night there or making for Camping Hippodrome at Villeneuve-Loubet and see if they could take us a day early. She opted for trying our luck, and I can't say I blame her, as there would have been nothing for us to do once we'd arrived at the Service Area.
We had crossed country and were now ready to head south on 4085, a 'red' road on the map, and should therefore have be a good, easy run. Unfortunately the road wasn't much better than yesterday. What was making Rosina uncomfortable was that firstly she's not keen on heights, and we were high, and secondly much of that journey was spent on twisting roads with no safety barrier, which meant our vehicle was on the edge and she was the one looking over that edge (we're left hand drive). I was having to concentrate quite hard because should there have been situations like yesterday where we had motorcyclists cutting corners, and cars coming straight at us trying to overtake two-abreast cyclists, then my natural reaction would have been to snatch the wheel to the right to try and avoid the oncoming vehicle. Unfortunately on this occasion that would have been entirely the wrong thing to do. It's coming to something when the safest course of action, if sharp braking doesn't work, is to have a head-on collision. On occasions we were so high up that if we'd gone over the edge there would have been time to sing a verse of 'The Day Thou Gaveth Lord Is Ended' before hitting the bottom of the gorge.
Understandably there were no photographs taken along the stretch of winding road with no crash barrier as The Chef was firmly grasping the armrest on her seat.
The Satnav continues to defy logic. On the outskirts of Grasse, rather than take us around the fairly large town it took us right through the middle of it. The air was blue, the only reason I paid through the nose for the Caravan Club's edition of the Snooper Satnav was because I could feed in the dimensions of the vehicle and what it is, and it should help me to avoid such situations. It has the added bonus of a large database of campsites and Aires etc. When new it worked just fine, but since having sent it away to be checked and the mapping upgraded it has been pants. We have now decided to run the Garmin spare we bought in America for use on the trips there, upgraded with European maps in 2009. We'll start off running them side by side and just see what happens. If the Snooper turns out to be rubbish then I'll have a Victor Meldrew moment with the company when we get back.
Fortunately Camping Hippodrome (GPS: N43.641882º E7.137931º) could take us and we're now set up here for a couple of weeks without having to live like nomads. Tomorrow will be chores day followed by day trips etc thereafter.
When we passed through here last year on the way back from Istanbul we visited Monaco just eight days after the Grand Prix, and it was still like a building site, as they were dismantling everything. When I realised we'd be here for the Grand Prix next weekend I thought it would be nice to get a couple of tickets if possible. It was possible, with the cheapest tickets selling at about £450 each. Oh well it was just an idea.
Having spotted in the guide book that Riez has a Saturday market we were keen to take a look round. Despite spending several weeks in France over the past three years we'd yet to go to a local market, always passing through such places on the wrong days of the week.
After a nice hot shower to use up more of our water we wandered down to the village. My word the market was most impressive, divided in to two parts, one selling cotton products and old tat and in the other there were numerous stalls selling a large range of really good fresh produce, beautifully presented. There were several selling a large selection of cheeses, though of course no Cheddar or Red Leicester. Some of it smelt worse that a Turk's armpit.
The temptation was too great, and as well as a baguette from the local boulangerie, we went home with a fresh chicken cooked on a rotisserie, some tomatoes and cucumber.
We prepared for the road, dumped our waste water, then headed out of town, not easy as the Satnav wanted to send us through the road closure for the market and offering no alternative route. After finally clearing the village we were pleased to be leaving them to their fly-swatting.
Our journey today was to be about 25-30 miles. "That's not far then" says The Chef, "It's not the distance, but the type of roads" says I. Oh dear and what a road it was. Ages ago when reading one of the guide books for this area, I spotted the 'Tour of the Gorges du Verdon'. 'Only an idiot would make a journey like that in a motorhome' I thought. Well there we were - the road to hell, the Tour of the Gorges du Verdon. "You've got it marked on the map as the way to go" observed The Chef, and she was right. The problem is, the only maps I have to work with are a road atlas of Europe, which means the information for each country is much disseminated, so when running an orange highlight pen from 'A' to 'B', it is indeed possible to select such a route. Now that I can look back knowing that we survived it, I can honestly say I wouldn't have missed it for the world. The scenery was absolutely spectacular, what a lovely part of the world this is. The Chef was busy clicking away with the pocket camera so when I download the pictures this evening I can, once again, expect views of blurred trees, bushes and telegraph poles. I did say to her at one point "Try and take a picture of the telegraph pole, that way you'll end up with a picture of the scenery".
It had been a bit of a white knuckle ride, had we been in a small French car - no problem, but we were in our twenty-four foot mobile home which we love dearly. It wasn't the road itself which bothered me, I could drive on roads like that all day, but the behaviour of other motorists. Don't get me wrong, generally the standard of driving here in France is very good, better than back home I think, drivers are far more patient and courteous, but you just need one stupid idiot to do some serious damage to you.
These idiots come in two forms. Firstly the kamikaze driver, presumably given just hours to live by his doctor, and therefore has nothing to lose by overtaking us on blind bends at speed, or crossing white lines approaching us.
The second group are geriatrics who would like assisted suicide with Dignitas in Switzerland but can't afford it. Instead they buy themselves a set of Lycra and hire a lightweight racing bike. Having done so these individuals, and there are an awful lot of them around here, cycle down the middle of the road hoping some poor unsuspecting individual like me does the job for them, thus saving them money. I don't mind running them down if that's what they want, but hey, I've just repaired the leak on the waste water outlet pipe, so don't go rolling around under there, thank you very much.
Satisfied that we had just survived an amazing drive, we settled for a campsite, Camping Les Collines de Castellane, near Castellane. (GPS: N43.824319 E6.569919) It will do us for the night, basic but quite pleasant.
Tomorrow I plan to make our way down towards the seaside, then, being really cheeky, looking to spend the night on a service area on the Toll Road running along the coast, before entering Villenueve-Loubet mid-morning on Monday.