9th January – 16th January
We had a quiet day today in our Nice Aire, just did some washing and read which was nice. We have been promising ourselves some quiet time but it doesn’t always happen. The weather is overcast with a bit of rain so our timing couldn’t have been better. Will venture out again tomorrow.
We walked the 3 kms to the train station and hopped on the train to Monaco – Monte Carlo which took about 30 minutes. We had to take 3 escalators to reach the street and the view when we got out was amazing. Not only the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean but the mega boats that were moored at the marina. You could smell the money in the air. Some of the boats where four levels high, there was even one that we saw that had a spa built in the back with glass walls and two security guards manning the decks and a matching coloured Mercedes parked out the front. The Monaco yacht club was built in the shape of an ocean liner, four stories high and blended in beautifully with its surrounds. We had a big walk around the marina drooling at all of the boats before heading up to the casino. We couldn’t go in as it wasn’t open until 2 pm plus they wanted €10 each to walk through the door, however the outside of the building was beautiful. The Christmas decorations were still up and they weren’t your average decorations. There were white Christmas trees everywhere, gold baubles hanging down from the entrance of the casino, it was just lovely. We saw some amazing cars, Bentley’s, Rolls Royces, Astin Martins, Ferraris just to name a few. You could feel the wealth just walking around and it was quite obvious who the locals were, with the ladies in their mink coats and designer label clothes. We walked up to the Le Rocher, the private residence of the Grimaldi family which gave fantastic views over the marina area and then we visited the Notre Dame cathedral and walked through the narrow streets of the medieval part of Monaco before heading back down to the port area. We did look in the window of a real estate agent and found a lovely apartment overlooking the bay which was 102 sqm for the small sum of €4,449,000! Cheap! Back on the train and home to our cosy Motorhome and reality and a nice chat on the phone with our youngest son and his wife.
After breakfast we walked to the Galleria Layfette, a huge shopping centre on the other side of the railway station. We wandered through the shops, not looking for anything in particular, we went more for the walk. Dave did an update on our maps.me and unfortunately lost all of the points of interest he had previously pinned, so we were biding our time until we heard back from the help desk. The shopping Centre is near the water so we did have a walk outside and watched some surfers for a few minutes then back inside for a bite to eat. We walked home via the laundromat that had wifi and the response from maps.me wasn’t quite what we wanted – no fix. We took advantage of the wifi and skyped Adam and Francesca before heading home. Dave has since worked out a fix for our maps and all is good now, however we won’t be leaving the area just yet. Another trip into Nice is planned for tomorrow.
We caught the train into Nice again this time walking half of the esplanade to the port area, a distance of around 4kms. The boats moored here were just as nice as Monaco but marginally smaller, so probably more in our price range NOT! There was a boat in the port that was partially sunk and they were trying to refloat it along with some divers who I’m assuming we’re checking to make sure no one was on board. From the port we headed back into the old town and had another wander around before deciding on our lunch spot of the Cafe du Palais in one of the many squares. Lunch was okay, wouldn’t rave about it. We then headed back to the main shopping district for a walk before sitting at the beach for a little while with the sun shining brightly in the sky and the waves of the beautiful blue ocean washing the shore. On the bus again and home to put our feet up for awhile.
It was time to leave the Nice area and move on and we travelled a lot further than we had planned. Originally we were to stop in Antibes with the hope of a stopover or at least a look around. It was not to be with nowhere for Motorhomes to park due to the dreaded height barriers so we kept on going, heading towards Cannes to an Aire Dave found on the internet. The Aire was there but closed for winter so after a bite to eat in the Intermarché carpark, we continued on to St Maxime which is on the other side of the bay to St Tropez. We have had some spectacular drives during our 10 months away and today on the D559 road was no different. In the glorious sunshine we hugged the coast for approximately 40kms with ragged cliffs and the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean. Fortunately there were several places to stop along the way for a photo with views back to Cannes and Antibes with the alps in the background. It seems no matter where you go on the French Riviera, the alps are almost always in the distance. There were some lovely towns that we passed through, many with sandy beaches and great bays for snorkelling. Houses were perched right on the edge of the cliffs and would have had views to die for towards the alps. It was quite late by the time we got to our home for the next two nights however driving through St Maxime looks like it will be a great place to explore.
The Aire we are staying in is near a forest area in which we think foxes or wolves live. We heard them early this morning and as quickly as they started, they stopped so we did manage to snooze a bit before getting up. We had a quiet sort of day today due to overcast skies and rain. We did the shopping before having our lunch. We ventured into town with umbrellas in hand and had a walk round the yacht club. Much smaller boats here, definitely in our price range but I held onto the wallet to make sure Dave didn’t get any ideas! Surprisingly the town shuts down for the dreaded lunch break so was closed for two hours although the restaurants remained open. It was good just to get out and stretch our legs.
The wild dogs were at it again, both last night and this morning. It was an unusual sound but definitely canine. The plan for today was to drive the 16kms to St Tropez where we were going to park in town, have a walk around then head to the Aire but all great plans may not come to fruition. Once again, there was nowhere to park a Motorhome because of the height barriers and as it was blowing a gale with the harbour area all chopped up, we decided to give it a miss. Back on the D559 road which still hugs the cliffs giving amazing views and to our next stop where we were going to walk from Plage de Gigaro to Cap Lardier. It is an 8km round trip and as the wind was still really strong it wasn’t going to be very pleasant so on to Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer where we have found a great park on top of the hill with glimpses to the Mediterranean. We had lunch before we walked down lots of steps to the beach that glistened with sparkly rocks. We then headed to Domaine du Rayol, a botanical garden with plants from Mediterranean climates round the world including a large section on Australian and New Zealand plants with lots of beautiful palms and a large number of wattle and eucalyptus trees. There were several lookouts over some beautifully coloured aquamarine waters where in the summer snorkelling is one of the many water sports on offer. Back up all of the steps to sit in the sunshine and read, which is a nice way to end the day.
16th January – 22nd January
It was really windy again today. Back on the D559 road to Bormes-les-Mimosas where we were hoping to stop for a walk. Same story, height barriers so onto Hyères which is slightly inland from the coast. The scenery along the way gave us glimpses of the ocean but the majority of our view was pastures and small villages. The Aire didn’t exist so we ended up parking in a E’Leclerc carpark (another supermarket chain), about 1.5 kms from town. After lunch we headed into Hyères, a pretty town with lots of palm trees lining the main street. We walked through the old town before heading up to the castle ruins on the top of the peak which gave us uninterrupted views out to sea. We visited the botanical gardens on the way back into town as well as a church in which the Knights Templar were based in the 1100’s. Another walk through town before a quick visit to McDonalds for wifi. This was the first McDonalds we have visited where the manager came and asked us if we were planning on buying anything! So we had a nice coffee while catching up with a bit of news before heading back.
We are heading to Marseille but as we don’t want to drive too far in one day, we stopped at the little town of Point St Elme. We had a nice drive along the coast however the roads were atrocious. Obviously no money is spent on any roads unless they are autoroutes which I think I may have mentioned before. The Aire here has only 6 places and while there was room for us, it was in the shade so we have parked on the roadside further up in the sunshine. Hopefully we won’t have too much traffic noise. We had lunch before walking a couple of kilometres to St-Mandria-sur-Mer along the road past a naval base. We walked around the marina where a lot of yachts were moored as well as the larger pleasure cruisers. It had a nice feel about it, even though everything was closed and there were quite a few people out enjoying the sunshine. On the opposite side of the bay is Toulon where the ferries leave for Corsica and Sardinia as well as a major naval base with two very large destroyers and many smaller ones. We also spotted a navy boat graveyard where two destroyers that had seen better days were being stripped down for salvage. Back to Tilly for hopefully a quiet night. At 5pm, we decided to move as the traffic was worrying us. We drove another 5kms to Cap Sijiè, where we parked on a hill in the Aire de Boeuf with views over the Ligurian sea to Corsica and Sardinia. We sat in the front seats and watched the view until the sun set.
Back on the D559 again to drive firstly to Sanary-sur-Mer and once again height barriers prevented us from parking. All of the car parks were empty, so we don’t understand why the councils can’t open them up during winter! Never mind, on to Cassis which is a lovely little fishing town not far from Marseille. The weather is a bit gloomy and wet however we walked into town for a look. Another small Marina surrounded by lots of seafood restaurants and small shopping precinct. We visited the tourist office to get brochures on the Calanques, which is a stretch of rocky promontories that rise from the waters of the Mediterranean and span a 20km trail, ideal for hiking which is why we are here. If the weather clears, we will be going on a hike tomorrow. The gentleman in the tourist office kindly agreed to charge our camera battery while we had a walk around and a beer at a nice bar overlooking the marina. Back to Tilly for what will be a cold night.
We woke to grey skies but no rain so we decided to do the hike to the Calanques. We set off after breakfast and headed to Sentier du Petit Pance which is where we were to pick up the red and white marked trail. The path which was quite steep took us along the edge of the cliffs to the first of the three that we were visiting, Calanque de Port-Miou where we looked down from our vantage point into blue waters. While hiking to the second one, Calanque de Port Pin we heard what we thought was a blow hole. Upon further investigation we found this hole in the rocks about the size of an apricot where the air pressure from the waves under the cliffs below were shooting up this vent. It sounded like a dragon breathing in and out, minus the flames (I have to stop watching Game of Thrones!) The waters in Calanque de Port Pin were that beautiful turquoise colour that all of the tourist brochures show, it was just lovely. We thought with the day being a bit overcast that we wouldn’t get to see these wonders of nature at their best, but the sun came out later on and the colours were no where near as deep. The red and white trail went inland from here through rugged terrain before breaking through to Calanque d’En Vau. The water here was by far the best colour of the three and the views were just stunning with several islands off the coast that provided a great backdrop. We had our lunch here taking in all of the view before joining the blue path back. If you are ever in this area and are thinking of doing this walk, take the blue path, it is much more spectacular hugging the coast all the way back to the first Calanque. As you would imagine, we have come home exhausted after hiking for 4 1/2 hours, but it was well worth it.
On the road again, the D559 to Marseille. The scenery was very mountainous with jagged limestone outcrops towering above us. We have come into Marseille on the wrong road, which took us through some very narrow streets with crazy French drivers, suffice to say the nerves and tempers were a bit frayed. We managed to get to the Aire unscathed and vowed we wouldn’t drive into another city. Perhaps if we had come in on the right road, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Lesson learned? I hope so! Might now be time to purchase a Sat Nav, especially if we are going to continue travelling. We had a relaxing afternoon, plugged into power for the first time since January 1, so we are charging everything. We did take a walk into the little shopping area up the road before deciding we should have just stayed at home!
We had a walk of a couple of kilometres this morning to the bus stop. A nice Frenchman overheard us trying to work out which bus to catch into Marseille. He didn’t speak English and of course we don’t speak French so something got lost in the translation as we were none the wiser. We asked a young Frenchman if he could help us, which he did. We ended up catching the bus to stop Castellane where we hopped on the metro train to Vieux Port station right in the heart of Marseille’s port district. We had a walk around the port first where fresh fish was on sale direct from the boats and we saw the Greenpeace boat Sea Shepherd before heading up to the Le Panier district, which has been dubbed Marseille’s Montmartre. We visited the Cathedral de la Major, a stunning building with a stripy façade made of local Cassis stone and green Florentine marble. The interior was beautiful, the vaults have been restored to their former glory and millions of elaborate mosaic tiles cover the floor. We had our lunch sitting at the port before heading into the shopping district. Marseille is huge with 16 arrondissements (districts, Paris has 20) and was nicer than we expected. The shopping malls reminded us of Paris, not sure if that was intentional and there were lots of people about enjoying the sunshine and the after Christmas sales! Back on the train and bus for our journey home and relaxing in the sun.