Taking the low points with the high

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.

Our route to Cap Cerbère
We passed acres of vineyards
Vineyards everywhere
Lovely glimpses of snow capped mountains
Spring is on its way! Beautiful Mimosa on the roadside

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.

There were lovely views on the winding coast road
Wonderful to see the ocean again

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!

The poor truck driver – this road was very challenging

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.

Only four kilometres to the Spanish border
Looking towards Cerbère from the twisting coast road
Cerbère is a colourful little town

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.

The views from Cap Cerbère were magnificent

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!

France is definitely the best country to tour in a camper van!
Looking back towards Perpignan
The light on Cap Cerbère
We loved these rugged cliffs

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!)

We were so fortunate to be able to park in this fabulous spot
View of Cerbère on our cliff top walk
Wine time!

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!

How fortunate to see this beautiful full moon-rise
The moon’s reflection in the ocean made it look like there were two moons

The following day we retraced our steps along the winding coastal road heading for a paid site where we could replenish our water etc.

Driving back along the winding cliff road

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.

The camper park at Marseillan-Plage

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!

The machine we had to use for entry to the car park.

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!

The barrier at the entrance refused to let us in

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.

Driving in grim weather
The train was beating us as we had to drive carefully on the flooded roads

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.

Driving past the Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône
The rail yards at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône

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!

There was supposed to be a camper site on this road but it was no where to be found!

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!

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.

The camper park at Gémenos

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!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

4 thoughts on “Taking the low points with the high”

  1. Amazing to see this, Dot! We had a holiday in Cerbere a few years ago – it was a really wonderful place to stay; we were in a little apartment looking out over the sea and you could watch the sun come up over the Med every morning! A few miles back up the French coast is the lovely small seaside town of Collioure, famous for its anchovy canning factory and also because Matisse and Derain spent two summers there in early 20th C, experimenting with the painting in wild colours which would become the Fauvist movement. The town has little signboards with copies of the pictures they painted from those places/views. We really enjoyed it – as you say, the coastline is full of amazing land and seascapes. Sorry you had such problems with the campsites though! But France is indeed a lovely place to travel in and we can’t wait to go back.

    But we hope your journey to Turkey goes well and that you’re happy to be reunited with Sunday very soon!

    xxxxx

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    1. Wow Sarah I didn’t realise you’d stayed in Cerbere! It’s such a pretty little town. I wish we’d been able to stay longer in the area – Collioure sounds lovely, we will have to visit next time we are in France. We are all set to go tomorrow as our PCR tests have returned negative. It’ll be great to be back on the boat once again. We really hope you and Martin will be able to visit soon. We can arrange to be in a marina for at least some of the time if not all, if you’re not sure about sailing around the place.

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  2. Phew! I bet you needed a stiff drink (or two) after that journey! But glad to hear you’re into the wonder and awe of the the moon as much as me!

    On Saturday I flukily awoke at 6am and went to the top of the house to see the beginning of a beautiful dawn, dash to the other side of the roof and open the Velux window, to hear the dawn chorus, watching the full moon in a clear blue sky. Magnificent!

    Incidentally the February full moon is called the Snowy Moon, as it can be snowy weather at this time! but finally we’ve been having clear blue skies and warm weather!! (We’ve also done a low tide beach walk going towards the faint white outline of the full moon! in a clear blue sky.)

    And after a few such similar, lovely beach walks and I love to swim in the sea in the summer ( no ” cold water swimming” for me! ) we’re beginning to wonder whether we want to downsize to Chichester?) I love the city, parks, theatre ( when it’s open), the Cathedral (and the family joke about me becoming a guide/helper), or to stay by the sea?!

    Love S&J xoxox

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    1. I can just imagine you flitting around the top floor of your house gazing at the full moon and watching the sun come up! I love the dawn chorus too. Just before we left Pijnacker I was being worn by the beautiful song of a blackbird in Hannah and Pieter’s garden. I can see your dilemma about whether to move to the town or the beach. How about you get a smaller place in town than you were planning and buy a “weekender” that all the family could use near the sea? I’m not sure that’s a very helpful suggestion ha ha. Thanks for reading my blogs and for the feedback. It’s great to hear from you xxx

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