The drive from Mourèze to our next destination – the Cap Cerbère – couldn’t have been lovelier with acres and acres of grapevines, glimpses of the snow-capped Pyrenees and most lovely of all, the beautiful sight of golden-yellow mimosas in full bloom.
Soon we were on the Mediterranean Coast on a precarious narrow and winding coast road with lovely views. We were driving behind a massive truck that appeared to be lost and having trouble squeezing past the oncoming traffic.
At one point we encountered roadworks where the poor driver had to nurse his truck through the road workers and their machinery. We felt fortunate to be behind him as we knew if he had managed to get through so would we!
We arrived in the town of Cerbère in the late afternoon. Only four kilometres from the Spanish border, the town is best known for its border railway station. France and Spain use different rail gauges so the station is quite busy with various transfer and gauge adjustment operations.
Just beyond the town is the Cap Cerbère where we were staying the night. This beautiful cape had magnificent views along the Catalan coast both to Spain and back towards Perpignan.
We felt so fortunate to be able to park for the night in this fabulous spot – as I’ve said before, France is definitely the best country to tour in a camper van!
After a bracing walk along the cliffs we sat on a seat conveniently placed just in front of the van and enjoyed a delicious bottle of wine (amazing wine is another good reason for travelling in France!)
As we sat there a glorious full moon rose slowly over the ocean and within five minutes its bright reflection could be seen in the sea below, making it look as though there were two moons shining. What a wonderful sight!
The following day we retraced our steps along the winding coastal road heading for a paid site where we could replenish our water etc.
As it was winter, we had (so far) been able to get into all the available camper sites quite easily but that was not the case at Beach Farret in Vias where there was literally “no room at the inn”. We hadn’t realised how popular this area was and of course it was Friday evening – it seemed “everyone “ had headed for this part of the coast for the weekend.
We had a couple of other possibilities lined up but with the 6pm curfew we were cutting it fine. So we headed for Marseillan-Plage and kept everything crossed that the site there wasn’t full too.
We arrived a little after 5.30pm and to our relief there was plenty of space in the camper park. We stopped at the barrier, paid for our entry and an extra two Euros for water via a machine and hey presto we were in!
Before settling down for the night we urgently needed to fill up our water tanks but we couldn’t find the tap anywhere! Eventually Jonathan found it outside the boom gate which meant – strangely – that we had to exit the park to fill up.
Unfortunately, the fitting on the water tap was completely different to any that we had seen anywhere else in France and try as we might, we couldn’t cobble together our hose attachments to make them fit to fill our tank. At one point Jonathan thought he’d managed to find a solution but then the hose shot off the fitting very dramatically – completely soaking him!
By this time, it was almost 6pm but we made a quick and soggy dash to the shops to see if we could buy a new fitting – of course, with curfew coming up every shop was shut.
By the time we arrived back to the camper park it was past 6 pm and then disaster – the ticket we had paid for earlier just wouldn’t open the barrier!
We tried phoning the emergency phone number and I explained in my school girl French what had happened. The lady at the other end didn’t appear to understand and didn’t have a word of English so I gave up. I think maybe I had a wrong number!
Fortunately for us, a very nice guy walking his dog around the camper park offered to call and this time got through to a man who grudgingly agreed to come over and raise the barrier for us. We were not happy campers and he was furious (and probably scared) about being out after curfew.
Like all life, van life has its highs and lows and the next day we went from a definite low point to yet another low point!
The drive from Marseillan-Plage to our next destination was grim – pelting rain, flooded roads and a camper site that didn’t exist.
Despite the awful conditions there was marvellous moment when to our amazement we spotted flocks of Pink Flamingos in the salt-water marshes of the Camargue. We were hoping to see some of the wild white horses that the Camargue is famous for but no luck – perhaps they were hiding somewhere from the rain.
We had a nightmare drive at one point with heavy traffic along a dangerous winding road. Along the way we saw a horrendous single vehicle accident where a sporty looking car had skidded across the road and was hanging over a precipice – with only two wheels left on solid ground.
We branched off the main road and drove up a long, narrow and winding mountain road for what seemed like hours but was probably only 20 minutes. In good weather it would have been a lovely drive but that afternoon it was scary.
When we finally arrived at the tiny village of Riboux (population 42) there was absolutely no campsite to be found. We drove on and entered a National park – still no campsite!
Eventually we came to a crossroads where the road we were in became a very narrow track and a sign informed us that the other road was private with no entry allowed!
By this time it was 5.30 and we had to drive all the way back to the main road and then find an alternative site!
Back along the busy, winding road we came across another accident quite close to where we had seen the earlier one. This time at least three cars were involved and it was heartbreaking seeing the traumatised people standing in the rain waiting for help to arrive.
By the time we had reached the town of Gémenos it was well after 6pm but we felt the local police would have enough to deal with and wouldn’t be monitoring curfew stragglers.
It was a blow to find that the little park dedicated to camper vans was already full (there were only four spots) but luckily a very nice lady from one of the vans suggested we parked across the front of her and her son’s vans as they weren’t leaving until late the following day.
It was a great relief to finally stop driving and be able to fill up with water at last after a less than perfect couple of days!