Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199706 France Italy

SUNDAY 1 JUNE 1997 – Woke up to rain.  Drove to Marseilles and parked very easily at old port.  Walked around old town area, Canonbiere, old town, Le Panier, Musee de la Vielle Carite & Neo Byzantine.  Drove up to Notre Dame du Garde, very impressive with huge statue on top.  Drove along beaches and coast.  Cassis, walked to Calanque de Port Mion, Sanuary, Le Brusc headland. Stopped overnight in Forest of Janus just west of Toulon.



MONDAY 2 JUNE – Rained on and off through the night and we kept hearing strange noises.  A walk in the forest in the morning reveals that we are parked next to a zoo.  Cloudy day, spent all day trying to find a naturist beach with van parking nearby.  Les Sablettes looked nice but no parking.  Drove through Toulon but couldn’t find beach at Pradet.  Stopped for lunch near Les Oursinieres but again difficult for parking.  Very bad road trying to find beach at Beau Rouge, narrow and winding so gave up as a bad job.  It seems that almost all the car parks on the Cote’D Azur have height barriers.  Ended up between Hyeres and La Londe (have been to both before on coach camping holidays in 1981) at Ayguade, Centuron.  Bought back happy memories so will look at the La Londe site tomorrow.



TUESDAY 3 JUNE – Walked to the camping shop at Ayguade.  Drove to La Londe and looked at La Pansard site where we previously stayed. It’s all very built up now and the English companies don’t use the site, also quite expensive at about £15 night.   Parked at La Londe port and walked to naturist beach.  Called in at La Pansard and sneaked a shower on the way back.  Walked around the port.



WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE – Walked to beach purchasing the obligatory French stick, pate and red wine en route.  Hazy but warm morning.  Lunch on the beach.  Windy early afternoon so came back to van for 3.30pm and had a snooze.  Played scrabble then watched video “Under Siege”.  Rained quite heavily through the night.



THURSDAY 5 JUNE – Woke to heavy rain.  Left about 11am and it rained all morning whilst we drove along coast towards St Tropez.  Shopping at Geant in Grimaud.  Walked round Port Grimaud and took a 20-minute boat tour when it stopped raining in the afternoon.  Remember it from when we came 16 years ago but they are building 200 houses per year and clearing more canals so it is already much bigger.  Parked on visitor’s car park at Port Grimaud South.  Very old English camper next to us that was all battered.  An English van came to tow away a wrecked car and the garage man said he could do a service on our van if we needed one and to look for Chris Craft boat people as our motorhome has a boat engine.  In the evening vagrants came and broke into the old camper.  We head them saying they would stay the night so when they went off to get either their stuff or some friends we moved along the car park to be near to the security office. A noisier spot but we felt safer.



FRIDAY 6 JUNE – Much calmer day.  Drove to Liberty Beach at Pampelone just south of Saint Tropez.  Got chatting to a couple, Ray & Sandra, from Cookridge near Leeds.  He delivers to Bridge or Brigges printers on Parkwood Street, Keighley – small world.  Very nice beach originally made famous by Bridget Bardot sunbathing “bronzage integrale” here.  Sea a bit rough with weed and debris following yesterday’s rainstorm.  Met Ian who has a motorcaravan and left UK in 1991 to do a trip like us but now owns a property in Provence near where Peter Mayle (TV series and book “A Year in Provence”) lived.  From June to September he rents his property out and travels in his motorhome.  Sank 2 bottles of white wine in his van and then met up with him again in Guacahaini bar where they had live music.  Also met an English family from Portsmouth, Dave Irene & Beth, and all came back to our van for coffee.  Funny having not had an evening of English company since leaving England we are now bumping into a load of Brits.     



SATURDAY 7 JUNE – Dull morning.  Parked on edge of campsite and cycled into Saint Tropez.  The boats in the harbour were unbelievable and mostly British.   Phoned Netty to wish Nick a Happy Birthday and it’s raining in England.  Got back around 2pm and went to beach until 6pm.  Ian’s girlfriend Cynthia from America arrived today and we have been invited for a meal tonight at 7pm.  The campsite said we could park near the entrance, as we were visiting people on site but only for a couple of hours.  Lovely meal with Ian & Cynthia – popcorn, spring rolls, ratatouille, kebab sticks, cheese, ice cream with cherries.  Got back to van just after 1am and campsite gates were locked.



SUNDAY 8 JUNE – Hot all day.  Moved onto campsite in morning, 102ff (£12) without electricity.  Spent day on beach.  Steve repaired roof.  Ian & Cynthia came for meal in evening.  It worked out very well as I prepared a lot before hand.  Taco chips and dips, ravioli with grated cheese, BBQ’d chicken, pommes noisettes and fritters, mushrooms onions and peppers in red wine sauce finished off with banana split with chocolate sauce.  Good company and food, what more could we wish for.  Sat out until midnight, as it was still warm.



MONDAY 9 JUNE – We wonder who put 4 empty wine bottles, beer bottles and other empties on the table outside our van!  Surely we didn’t drink all that lot last night.  Left at 2pm and drove to naturist beach near Frejus.  Spent a couple of hours there.  Parked up just outside Frejus on road to Canoe Club by estuary.  A few cars parked up belonging to fishermen but they soon left.  Just a bit later we heard a noise and saw a dust cloud on the road.  A farmer was bringing his sheep down the lane and they had bells around their necks.



TUESDAY 10 JUNE – Good job I’m keeping a diary or we would not have any idea what day or date it was.  It doesn’t seem like 5 weeks since we left home.  We seem to be back to regular good weather now.  Feel sorry for anyone who came here for the first week in June.  Back to the beach until early afternoon then through Frejus and Ste Maxime then along the spectacular corniche road to Cannes.  Beautiful bays and rocky outcrops.  Saw a sign at 5pm showing 29C.  Parked on the road to La Napoule just outside Cannes.



WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE – Another shopping trip to Geant, a huge store with staff whizzing round on roller skates.  Bought a set of boules and some shoes for Steve, spent over £100. Diesel the cheapest so far at 3.97ff litre. Averaging 14.86mpg.  Drove along coast to Cannes and tried to find camp sites at Cagnes Sur Mer but ended up at top of winding road and the pool was closed.  Drove through Nice (wanted to stop in Cannes and Nice but all the car parks had height barriers) to Little France, Villefranche Sur Mer.  Parked behind tourist office.    Walked into old town down Rue D’Obscure where the houses meet overhead and form a tunnel.  Saw a church that is famous because it is a normal building made to look like a church with murals inside and out.  Spoke to some American sailors in the harbour.  Went back and played boules, I won 21-2 (a first).



THURSDAY 12 JUNE – Wanted to visit naturist beach at Cap D’Ail but garage wanted 80ff just for parking.  Drove past Monacco and into ITALY.  Detoured to buy GPL (gas for cooking etc) and arrived at a garage to find the GPL pump closed until tomorrow.  The next place was another 20km further on in the wrong direction.  Gave up and headed north towards Torino.  Another very twisty narrow mountain road – not Steve’s favourite.  Back into FRANCE.  Stayed by river for a couple of hours then drove on to town of Breil Sur Roya.  What a surprise, they have held the river back to form a small lake and people were kayaking down to it.  We parked by the river and went swimming in the pool at the municipal campsite, free swimming until 12 June.  Loads of kids were in there also.  Walked into the old town after tea, wow, an old church was literally split in two down the front from top to bottom in zigzags and again 1/3 way down across to the right.  It looked like either subsidence or lightening.  Very narrow dark streets with up to 6 storey houses on both sides, some very decrepit.  Saw a sign at the end of town advertising meals at a farm house (booking recommended) ½ hour walk away.  We attempt to translate a poster and think it says that the school are putting on a show on Saturday on the stage at the side of the lake and in the evening there will be illuminated kayaks and imitation fire on the lake!  Will have to stay to see if our translation is correct.  Steve tried his new shoes tonight and noticed that they were odd – not much chance of us finding a Geant in these mountain villages for him to return them.



FRIDAY 13 JUNE – Woken at 7.30am as we had unknowingly blocked a drive way.  Walked into town and made hair appointment for 11am.  Found out that the church had deteriorated naturally through age but they were going to restore it.  The church next door was open so we looked in to see domed ceiling and walls all painted with pictures and 4’ high gold candlesticks on the altar Moved onto the campsite.  My 11am haircut became 1215 shampoo and cut at 120ff but she did a good job.  Made use of the launderette to wash bedding and seat covers.  Went in pool in afternoon but there was a problem wit the filter and all the leaves came in so it had to be closed.  Watched videos in the evening.



SATURDAY 14 JUNE – Woke up to rain.  This country is just like England with rain on bank holidays.  It stopped raining by 9.30 and we swam in the pool.  Went into the village in the evening for the “show”.  8 kayaks came down the river and the kids rowing them had helmets on with lights.  The imitation fire on the lake turned out to be about ½ dozen rockets let off over the lake.  The highlight of the night was seeing fireflies.  A man caught one and held it in his hand to show us close up.  It is the females that glow to entice the males and David Attenborough once did a programme where he “talked” to them by flashing a torch. 



SUNDAY 15 JUNE – Father’s Day in England.  Left Breil and drove north towards Italy.  Saw some very aptly named “perched” villages.  Arrived at mountain tunnel separating France and ITALY and had to wait 15 minutes for traffic lights to change to allow large vehicles through (cars could go through any time in both directions but it was only wide enough for 1 large vehicle and 1 car to pass).  Steve hated it, the cars coming towards us gave us very little room and the tunnel roof was curved so we couldn’t drive at the edge.  Drove into Turin to see the famous shroud but the Duomo San Giovanni was closed.  Wandered round for ½ hour near Palazzo Reil looking another famous places until the church was open.  What a con, all you see is a photograph by the altar.  Drove north to a naturist campsite at the bottom of the Italian Alps just north/ne of Ivrea, Camping Mom Barone nr Torre Danielle.  Walked into village in evening and up and down the alley ways to come upon a very modern house, flowers on the balcony etc but in place of a garage on the ground floor there was a barn with cows in it, all in the middle of the village – how strange.  Next we saw an old lady in her yard washing clothes in a stone sink. 



MONDAY 16 JUNE – Hot and sunny until about 11am then lots of rain, thunder and lightening for the rest of the day.  Had a good clean up in the van, even washed the ceiling.  Had poached egg on toast for tea then noticed that each egg was stamped with a date code – what a good idea.  Felt sorry for the couple next to us with a motorbike and tent so we invited them for a drink but they declined and have spent all day shut inside a small dome tent – maybe we shouldn’t feel sorry for them if they can entertain themselves all day!  We find the awning very useful when it rains as we can leave the table and chairs out and we have a dry area to go out into.  We can also have the door open for fresh air, it has rained so hard today we couldn’t open the windows or roof vents at all.  Went down to bar for a cappuccino in the evening.  Graham arrived on a motorbike with a tent and came back to us for a drink until midnight.



TUESDAY 17 JUNE – Nice weather.  Lazy day by pool didn’t sleep much, too excited about Sandra’s visit.



WEDNESDAY 18 JUNE – Drove to Milan to meet Sandra.  Passed through Verceli on way, the largest rice producing region in Europe, paddy fields everywhere but looking strange with snow capped mountains in the back ground.  Arrived in good time and found Sandra.  Drove for about 1 hour towards Lake Garda then pulled over for a drink.  It was like Christmas when Sandra unpacked, load of letters and goodies.  Very exciting and it’s so nice to see a familiar face.  Thank you for your letters etc.  Drove on to Lake Garda and parked just outside Sirmione.  Swam in lake then looked around town.  BBQ for tea, having told Sandra how good Steve was with the new BBQ he had problems cooking the chicken in windy conditions.  Sandra went to bed early and we started to read the newspapers she brought for us.  Woke up around 4am when the bin men came to empty the big bins in the car park.



THURSDAY 19 JUNE – Dull morning.  Walked back into Sirmione to see the “Grotte”, old villa.   Sandra and I tried to Italian ice creams, so may flavours to chose, I had 1 scoop liquorice and 1 of tiramisu, Sandra had liquorice and banana.  Drove on towards Verona and as it was raining we stopped at the hypermarket.  Spent a few hours, yes hours, shopping.  Steve and Sandra choosing cheeses, fish and pasta and me looking at ice cream and cakes.  With no exaggeration there were literally isles full of different types of pasta and oils.  Saw a whole fresh roasted chicken for 5000 lire (under £2) with a tray of roast potatoes free.  We bought two and went straight back to the van to eat them hot for lunch, what a bargain as just one lot fed us all.  Drove to Verona, saw Roman arena and Juliet’s balcony (from Romeo and Juliet).  Started raining again so called in for a cappuccino.  The bar man told us of a better place to park for the night so returned to the van but spent a good hour driving round getting lost.  Returned to original parking spot near the main ring road to see there had been an accident.  One car was a real mess.  Strewn over about 100 yards was a wheel with  part of the axle, the whole engine, bumper, remains of car and other debris.  A second car was bashed at the front end.  This had happened by a big roundabout at the entrance to an underpass.   There were huge crowds and cars parked everywhere.  A few more cars narrowly avoided collision skidding in the oil slick as it was still raining.  No sign of any casualties so it must have happened awhile ago and looking at the worst car the drivers seat area was still intact.  As  I write this (yes live news) the car park is filling up with sight see-ers, a fire engine has arrived and the road has been closed.  Meanwhile we have had our 3 course meal and enjoyed the action from our viewing window (what sicko’s).



FRIDAY 20 JUNE – Not a bad night once all the excitement had died down.  Walked into Verona and managed to buy tickets for a concert in the arena tomorrow night with Sting and Van Morrison 55,000 LIRE (£22).  Also bought a combined ticket to visit 7 churches, which turned out to be very interesting.  The roman city was built 9 feet below the current one and many of the churches have old ones underneath and these are now being excavated.  The old city was prone to flooding so you can see areas of the original city under glass screens in some of the streets.  Went up to the top of the “Lamberti” tower for a city view – very appropriate for Sandra Lambert.  Returned to the van mid afternoon and sunbathed.  Had our second chicken and roast potatoes for tea.  The fridge is crammed full still and I have had to put things in date order so we know what to eat first.  The fridge has also been smelling horrible with all the cheeses that Steve and Sandra chose so they have been eating cheese with every meal to try and use it up.



SATURDAY 21 JUNE – Drove to the local theme park called Gardaland.  Went on all the best rides and saw street parade in the afternoon.  Very good “Pirates of the Caribbean” type ride with laser tunnels, whirlpool and canon balls landing in he water beside us.  Drove back to our usual road side car park in Verona and walked into town to the old Roman arena for the concert.  Sting was excellent playing a lot of Police tracks.  Van Morrison seemed like a real “has been”, old short, fat, out of breath and not a song that we knew – guess we were never one of his fans.



SUNDAY 22 JUNE – Drove via Vincenza, Padova and along Brenta canal towards Venice.  Stopped to look at Villa Nationale, Pisana at Stra (one of hundreds of villas at the side of the canal).  The rich Venetians used them in the summer.  There was a labyrinth in the garden, like a maze but circular and better.  You needed a plan to get in and out and still it was difficult.  Would have been a great place to leave the kids (without a plan of course).  Parked up at the side of the canal near Fusini.  I went round the back of the van for a wee as the toilet was full.  In full flow I realised there was a road on the opposite bank of the canal and a car coming along!  Steve had a problem with the BBQ again.  The bacon was too fatty and flames went everywhere.  We had to abandon it and cook under the grill.  This meant the meal was later than planned and more was supped (3 litres between us).  Good recipe for a bad head.



MONDAY 23 JUNE – Yes bad head morning, but not too bad.  Moved onto Camping Serenissima at Oriago intending to catch the bus into Venice but the bad heads and hot sun over ruled that plan.  Alcohol free day planned for today.  An ‘E’ reg small English camper pulled up next to us with John & Lesley from Perth Australia.  They are on tour for 6 weeks around Europe and have rented this camper.  Got chatting and went into Venice with them on the 1410hrs bus (very cheap 50p each way).  Found out it was John’s birthday so invited them round for the evening.  Arrived in Pal Roma, Venice and walked via Rialto Bridge to St Marks Square.  There were still puddles where it had flooded with the lunchtime high tide.  Went into Basilica and Doges Palace.  Walked by side of lagoon and through St Marks Square to catch a boat all the way along Grand Canal.  Arrived back on site around 8pm.  Saw an American motorhome with sticker for Travelworld Wolverhampton (where we bought ours).  Spoke to the owner, John from Cannock (small world).  Had meal in our van then John & Lesley came round followed by John, the latter had fallen out with his girlfriend, son and son’s girlfriend and left them in the van.  Drank and chatted until John left just after midnight and Lesley and John at 3.30am.  So much for our alcohol free day but a most enjoyable night.



TUESDAY 24 JUNE – Woken at 7.30am with a loud clap of thunder followed by hair stones as big as “aniseed balls”, Sandra’s words and not my exaggeration.  What a storm, for about 1 hour it was like bedlam.  Storm died away and we woke again at 10.15 to clear blue skies, hot sun and views of lots of tents hanging on lines to dry.  Left at 12.00 and drove south towards Ravenna.  Stayed in a field especially for motor caravans at Porto Corsini, just north of Ravenna.  A super spot near the beach but with intermittent rain.



WEDNESDAY 25 JUNE – A shop in the village supermarket before heading south via the ferry on Canadian Canal.  Check onto Camping Classe at Lido di Dente, a conventional campsite with a naturist area and 200 yards or clothed beach adjoining 6km of naturist beach.  Needless to say we checked onto the naturist section of the site.  The swimming pool was in the clothed area but we were parked opposite a cold water Jacuzzi, splendid for cooling off.  Had a few hours on the beach and then came back for a Jacuzzi and sat there sipping Pernod.  Sandra took to the naturist life like a duck to water.  Fried eggs for tea cooked on Sandra’s newly exposed pink bits!



THURSDAY 26 JUNE – Off to the beach with red wine, bread, pate and cheese for lunch.  Again late afternoon sunbathing on site with cooling dips in the Jacuzzi.



FRIDAY 27 JUNE – Left site around 11am after a quick Jacuzzi.  Over yet another twisty mountain pass to Florence via Forli.  Arrived at 4pm to Campsite Michelangelo on the hillside overlooking the city.  Walked into Florence and saw Ponte Becchio, Uffizi gallery, various squares and the Duomo.  The duomo is very big (4th largest) and pretty with pink and green marble façade.  We saw a ballet rehearsal in one square and a polo match in another.  Started to walk back to the campsite but a policemen (with a bandage on his head said it was 1km uphill with no street lights so we decided to get a taxi and play safe.  Campsite very big and noisy with lots of young people in tents.



SATURDAY 28 JUNE – Set off at 9.15 for our “early” bus into Florence.  Went to Santa Maria Novella and San Lorenzo churches.  Into the local indoor market where Steve and Sandra chose cheese and bread for lunch.  Walked to the duomo and up o the top of the dome.  Over 400 steps in strange directions then we climbed over the dome for a superb view over the city.  I had an ice cream with 6 different flavours plus hot chocolate sauce for my lunch.  Left Florence at 4pm for Pisa.  Saw sign saying 36C, knew it was hot but were amazed by that.  Just coming into Pisa we passed the usual line up of roadside prostitutes, keep trying to get a photo but they appear in the strangest places without warning.  Saw a truck driver negotiating with one the other day whilst at the side of the road he lifted her skirt right up to look underneath (perhaps he was the bottom inspector from Viz magazine?).  Settled onto campsite and walked into Pisa.  The tower is still leaning as much as when we were here before.  We have tried taking some trick photos of us holding it up.



SUNDAY 29 JUNE – Left site at 12.00 to drive to Milan via La Spezia and Palma.    Stopped at Casa Mercado to stock up on groceries but found out it was a supermarket for houses selling furniture, kitchens, household goods etc.  The problem was that once you had gone in you had to file through the whole store just to get out.  1 hour later we emerged with 1 film, a packet of pan scrubbers and a brolly – that should all taste nice.  Arrived at campsite in Milan, the brochure said stay 2 nights and get free use of aqua park and 10% discount but it’s wrong again – you cannot use the aqua park until the 3rd day and can’t have the discount and the aqua park.  Would normally have taken our custom elsewhere but at 7.30pm we were too tired to bother.  Pulled up onto flooded muddy pitch with noise form a music festival in the aqua park so open the wine…



MONDAY 30 JUNE – Used local bus and underground to go into Milan.  Went in duomo and up on roof, la galleria, la scala (opera house), the castle and arena.  Saw a 4 for the price of 3 meals at “Ciao” (like an up market McDonalds). For under £10 we ended up with 2 large sprites, 2 large beers, 3 large slices of pizza, 3 huge Cornish pasties type things of doughnut mix filled with pizza sauce, 2 shortbreads and fruit salad – a veritable feast.  Rain thunder and lightening in evening, typical when we have the aqua park planned for tomorrow. 





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