Summer 2013 – Week 13 – Homeward bound

Sunday 8th September 2013

Cracking start. First fill up with water. Glad we don’t drink the water that goes in the tank! Went over to the drain point. What a horrible stinking mess. I’m sure no one has cleaned it up for months. Ugh!!! This is a poor show. They have two people to run the site but clearly their duties do not extend to either keeping it clean and tidy or reporting to the powers that be that it needs tidying up.

Not far to go to the border, several tunnels and then all of a sudden France and Menton. So pretty.

Straight up to the motorway to bypass Nice, Cannes Monte Carlo, Antibes, St Tropez, Toulon etc. It started to rain and it just got heavier and heavier but unlike Germany the drivers did slow down and there were no incidents, people sensibly taking it slowly through the lakes forming on the road.

Down south towards Marseille and onto the beach near Carro. We had lunch at an aire but didn’t like the aspect even though it was free. Joanna likes free. A bit further on a huge aire with about fifty vans already parked up and with a view of the sea, the port and the beach. We checked the facilities, excellent, all clean and tidy and fully automatic so no one there full time to keep it clean. Now the sea. We went for a walk along the beach, pure white coral, stony, but clean water. We got the bikes out for a potter round the town and an ice cream whilst watching the locals playing boules.

Jo’s concocting supper. I’m just going to get some photos. We do like France.

Monday 9th September 2013-09-09

We would have got going earlier had not two French campervans taken 35 minutes between them to empty their tanks, empty their loos and fill up. It really is quite easy,; drive onto the drain site, open the drain tap, if in a queue we would have our hosepipe and the appropriate tap connector handy. Connect up the fresh water hose to the van and then empty and clean loo by which time the dirty water will have drained away and your fresh tank would be full.

Move off the drain area and put everything away. Five minutes at the most but these fellas had to pack away all their gear whilst still parked over the drain. What a pair of ninnies. Am I getting to be a grumpy old man? You bet I am? I’ve earned the title, dammit!

We planned to go to a spot in the Carmargue which we had visited eighteen months ago. At that time there were very few campervans about (new year). We had to cross the Rhone so got the ferry (five euros) and then drove past the salt pans and purple lakes. Salt has been produced commercially here for centuries and the purple lakes produce a bluey looking salt, which is quite expensive.

At the end of the road is the sea and there were at least a couple of hundred campervans of all makes and sizes parked in a long line on the sand stretching for over a kilometre. We took one look, there were the normal vans like ours and there were serious off road vans on 4WD lorry chassis, VW campers and all sorts of other vans painted in polytechnic and psychedelic colours. We had come to see the birds so we drove back along the salt lakes and added some new ones to the list; purple heron, my spot, great white shark – I mean egret and some others we were not sure about so they haven’t gone on Jo’s list such as squacco heron, or was it a bittern, and ruff. Anyway, Jo is now a happier bunny having seen some wildlife at last. I think I am going to have a snooze whilst Jo paints what she has seen

Snooze over and painting finished we set off along the bank to watch the birds especially the hundreds of flamingos which kept their distance so didn’t get their photo taken. We will spend the night here but it could be noisy, the wind is certainly blowing.

Tuesday 10th September 2013

We could hear the flamingos first thing in the morning so I pulled on some clothes and snook outside for a better look. The birds were quite close to the van so I got a few photos.

Pretty Flamingo 2

Pretty Flamingo

We wanted to go on via the back roads so navigator-in-chief Joanna pointed north. We stopped at the salt works as there is a viewing platform. The evaporation lakes were a distinct purple cover.

The purple salt evaporation lakes 2

The purple salt evaporation lakes

We have made a note to find out how the process works. We could see them in the far distance scraping out the salt with huge machines and then dumping into big lorries which then drove onto the top of the salt pile and creating an ever bigger mountain several hundred feet high. How they refine it, how the evaporation process works an why the salt lakes are such a deep purple we have yet to find out. Watch this space!

On the byroads between the lakes and the canal and then across to Le Petit Rhone at Albaron, following alongside for a few kilometres until Aigues Mortes. I can’t remember why we drove round the town twice! Old age creeping ever further on.

Along a spit of land between lakes and sea then onto a short bit of free motorway around Montpellier then onto another huge lake, Le Bassin de Thau at Meze stopping at a picnic spot overlooking the lake and the oyster beds with Sète in the distance.

Oyster beds on Bassin de Thau with Sete in the distance.

Oyster beds on Bassin de Thau with Sete in the distance.

Just a short distance to great friends Ken and Carol’s campsite. They don’t own it they just like Cap d’Agde and brought their Eriba touring caravan. It is one of the low vans with the “pop-up” centre sections and considered by their girls and quite a lot of other people to be very cool. We were just by the edge of the river l’Herault, a kilometre from the entrance to the sea. It is an active fishing port – are there any fish left in the Med – and popular with campers.

We sat outside and enjoyed some wonderful food cooked by Ken followed by a sort of Eton Mess which Jo concocted and all downed with a bottle of rosado.

Wednesday 11th September 2013-09-12

Ken and I were going to have an early start to go fishing. We were only four and a half hours late getting started and the fish had obviously all gone home. Jo went for a ride along the river on her bike .

After lunch we jumped into Ken’s motor and drove to Sète for a walk round and an ice cream. On the way home we called into the aire at Cap d’Adge and met friends of Ken and Carol, Pete and Wendy. They own a lovely campervan, owned a cycle shop in Kingswinford and flew a Kitfox microlite similar to Ken’s Kitfox so we had a bit in common; the cycling and the campervanning, not the microlite! You wouldn’t get me up in one of them for all the tea in China, ask Sue’s lad Steven!

Late back and no supper. Jo made a superhuman effort, helped by the sous chef and supper was ready by eight but it has got colder so we all squeezed into our van but this time the food was accompanied by rosè. I’m getting the hang of these foreign terms, aren’t I?

Thursday 12th September 2013.

We both slept well not waking till eight. Quick breakfast and away on our bikes with Ken. Carol has a problem with balance so sticks to terra firma, and the more firma the less terra. Boom! Boom!

Jo wanted to show me a boat she had seen on her travels. There were several similar but this was the best. If I could take to sailing we would be able to sail it on the sea or travel the canals on it. In the meantime we are restricting our plans to a scow on the Solent. It’s not for sale anyway!

 Ted Wal 11 on the river at Cap d'Adge

Ted Wal 11 on the river at Cap d’Adge. Dropdown keel and an inboard motor.

Ken and Carol were going to stay for a few more days and then head to St Tropez for the regatta. (Lucky beggars) It’s very posh with millions of pounds worth of yachts due to take part. They showed us photos of last year’s event. Fully restored J class yachts and all sorts of other classic boats, no motors. That begs a question I have always puzzled upon. Why are motor boats called yachts? I thought yachts had sails.

We had to leave. Goodbyes said we headed through the centre of Beziers (or Bezeers as one English lady camper called it) then Narbonne where we took the bypass route and then on to the Etang de Bages hopefully to see some more flamingos. The best spots were already taken so onto another favourite spot neat the same lake at Peyriac de Mer. We have bought wine from the vineyard here in the past and also some glasses engraved with their emblem, the flamingo, but they got broken somehow.

We’ll stay here for the night and tomorrow about three hours driving excluding a stop at Auchan in Perpignan to stock up my fridge and we’ll be home, thirteen weeks after setting off and just a little over nine thousand kilometres.

Friday 13th September 2013

Last day today. Up to the main road, stop off at Auchan in Perpignan for some provisions especially meat which is so much better than my local supermercado and then home.

The house looks bare. Empty of all my personal stuff, no clothes, no books, no pc, just an empty house. Unload the van, get the washing machine going, have a swim, where are my goggles, where’s the shampoo?

Now the work starts. Unload everything. Return all the contents of the house from where they have been for the last three months, mainly the garage. Will the car start?

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