Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200106 France

Friday 1 June 2001  We’re the last to leave the car park at 10.00am.  At Auchan we put in diesel at 5.12FF (51p) litre and draw cash at the ATM.  Seems there are just over 10FF = £1 which makes calculations nice and easy.  We are in the Normandy region of France and set off exploring up the coast.  Etretat has some impressive cliffs and rock formations.  Climbing the Northern cliff for a view we also find a memorial to 2 aviators who set out in 1927 over the Atlantic never to be seen again.  A plane has been formed out of concrete and the nose lines up with a statue and the church which is quite effective.  The town has some lovely old buildings and we rather like it.  After lunch we continue to Frecamp to visit the Benedictine Palace.  The building is magnificent and we take the self guided tour 30FF (£3.00).  After seeing many old rooms and a chapel we learn about the liqueur itself and the 27 different herbs and spices used in the formula.  The visit is rounded off with a tasting.  As with most French towns motorhomes are made welcome and the tourist board have shown us special parking places on the maps.  Sadly although 10 slots are signed for "camping cars" only we are too long to fit in.  Turn south and cross the Chanel de Rouen over the Pont de Tancarville 15FF (£1.50) toll.  Meander through country lanes where there are lovely houses many with thatched roofs.  Using the "Guide Officiel des Etapes Touristiques Camping-Cars" we head to La Riviere St Sauveur for the night.
Saturday 2 June   Wake up at 1/4 to 10 and after a quick breakfast head into Honfleur.  It looks like there is a big motorhome rally with dozens of them parked by the canal.  Investigation reveals that it isn’t a rally but over 100 vans free camped so we join them.  Honfleur is a picturesque seaside town at the mouth of the Seine. The nearest coast to Paris it is heaving with visitors as this is the French Pentecost holiday weekend with Monday a bank holiday.  St Catherine’s church is lovely made out of wood and with twin aisles.  The roofs look like upturned boat hulls reflecting the fact that ships carpenters built it. The bell tower is separate as they feared the vibration of the bells might make the structure unstable and also if it was caught by lightening it might save the church from catching alight.  Stroll the narrow streets with excellent old buildings then back down to the Vieux Basin where the longest sightseeing ships we have ever seen are anchored.  They measure 110m in length and 11.5m wide and look very plush.  Return to our interesting parking spot where we watch the sightseeing boats pointing out the motorhomes.  As we are still quite near England we pick up the British radio stations which means Steve gets all the sports results.  We also hear the shocking news of a white boy beaten up in Keighley by Asians in Lund Park.  As our Post Office was on the corner of Lund Park we reckon we got out at the right time.
Sunday 3 June   A little further along the coast are the twin towns of Trouville and Deauville.  Start in Deauville which is the more up market of the two and a playground of the wealthy.  Famous people are often seen strolling along the "Promenade des Planches" but we recognise no one.  Although not the traditional type there are blocks of beach huts with each hut named after a famous film star who has visited Deauville during the American Film Festival.  The Casino is impressive both inside and out and we also like the traditional old wooden buildings. Returning to our parking spot by the harbour we are blocked in by cars so after a coffee set out over the Pont des Belges to explore Trouville.  A huge market runs along the canal basin with lots of tempting food being cooked.  Resist and continue to check out Trouville Casino which is less impressive but much busier than the one in Deauville.  Marketed as a family resort Trouville has a kiddies amusement park right on the soft sandy beach.  Return for lunch then make a quick escape through a gap in the parked cars.  Head west along the coast passing through many smaller but still pretty seaside towns.  In Caen we drive round to look at the Romanesque abbeys built by William the Conqueror and also the huge fortress in the centre of town.  We are now on the trail of the D-Day landings and The Battle of Normandy and our first stop is Benouville.  As luck would have it there is also a special place for motorhomes to overnight with complimentary facilities including electricity.  Nearby Pegasus Bridge played an important part in the battle and was captured on the first day but not without casualties.  There’s a memorial and a museum on site but the evening sound and light show have been cancelled for technical reasons.  Steve buys a Travellers Guide to the Normandy battles with different tourist circuits so we study and form our own plan of action.
Monday 4 June    Back track over the Pegasus Bridge to Ranville to look at the war cemetery before checking out the enormous bunkers at Merville.  At the nearby museum they are re enacting a typical army camp to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day and as we tour round we often see old army vehicles with people in traditional uniforms.  Down to Ouistreham on the coast where the "Musee du Mur de L’Atlantique" 40FF (£4.00) is a bit of a let down.  At Douvres the Radar station museum is closed but on the ground outside Steve finds what looks like the end of an old rifle.  Walk round the British cemetery at Douvres (1123 tombs), the Canadian one at Beny-Sur-Mer- Reviers (2048) plus a small British one at Bazenville-Ryes (987).  Each has a book listing the names of the soldiers buried there and we look for our family names.  Lots of Marsh’s but no Varley’s or Swatman’s and only one Colley.  Commonwealth soldiers are buried near where they die which is why there are so many British cemeteries.  Americans and Canadians prefer to have them all together on one big site.  Arrive in Bayeux the first town to be liberated after the war.  It’s incredibly quiet for a Bank holiday Monday and as usual has special motorhome parking.  46FF (£4.60) to see the famous tapestry plus 2 other museums. First we follow a copy of the tapestry which tells the basics of the story then we watch a film.  When we get to the original tapestry we feel we already know the story but take the headsets anyway.  In a darkened room you first see less than half of the cloth as it then turns the corner and goes back up the other side of the room.  It’s magnificent in detail and awesome in size.  We are talked through the whole sequence of events and learn far more than at school.  The two "free" museums are poor and have displays of lace making, church things, paintings and pottery.  The cathedral is huge and surprisingly survived the bombings.  It’s where the tapestry was originally displayed.  Walk on to the "Musee Memorial 1944 Bataille de Normandie".  One full price war museum admission gets you a discount in all the other so we pay 26FF (£2.60).  It’s the best museum so far with heaps to look at and also a film in English.  Steve identifies his find as then end of a World War 2 rifle.  We’re surprised by just how much memorabilia is still being unearthed including a Spitfire which was only found in 1989.  Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest commonwealth one with 4868 graves and the same immaculate format of lines of white headstones with flower beds in front.  It’s still bright and sunny at 7.00pm when we return to the van so we head down to Arromanches on the coast and soon find a special motorhome parking spot.  The surprising thing this time is that it is right outside the entrance to the campsite where in addition to regular campers the army have tents set up. After a late meal we stroll into the village and enter the "Pappagall" pub.  Old war time songs are being played and it seems to be the meeting place of the war veterans from Britain, Netherlands and America but mainly Britain.  At the other end of the scale are young British soldiers from a Surrey regiment.  Chatting to a group of 17 – 21 year olds we learn they are here for the D-Day ceremonies and to learn from the veterans what it was like.  An American soldier arrives in a wartime amphibious duck which he parks outside.  Welsh soldier Bill Evans (82) tells us about his landing on Sword Beach and how he has been coming back here on the anniversary for the last few years.  It’s like a big re-union gathering but with bittersweet connotations as all the soldiers have friends buried out here.  Dutch veterans tell about the Canadians liberating Holland and incidences which make them hate the Germans so much.  Everyone joins in singing to the traditional songs.
Tuesday 5 June  Walk along the sea front and out at sea spot the huge concrete blocks remaining from Port Winston.  146 blocks were towed over from England to create an artificial harbour (also know as a Mulberry Port) where 2.5 million men, 4 million tonnes of equipment and 500,000 vehicles were unloaded.  Walking up the hill to the 360 cinema we get an even better view of the huge port area.  28FF (£2.80) gets us in for the 30 minute circular film of the Normandy Landing battles.  There’s a great atmosphere in the town with vehicles and veterans all around and the occasional war plane flying over.  Motorhomer Edwin was a veteran and he sits with us in the afternoon telling stories along with his wife Dirna.  A rainy evening puts us off going back into town.
Wednesday 6 June The 57th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the events start at 10.45 with a service in the Place 6 Juin.  This should be followed by the commemorative ceremony but because of the rain they postpone it until 3.00pm.  Take a ride on the free Noddy train to take in the view from the top of the hill.  Return at 3.00pm when after the ceremony they launch balloons in red white and blue, play music on the bagpipes and have a display of period vehicles.  Next action is at 6.00pm with a service in English and a parade of the proud war veterans.  Since these reunions began in 1984 many have come back annually but the numbers are now dwindling naturally.  Finally at 11.00pm an outdoor film show about the Landings and the making of Port Winston followed by a cracking fireworks display.  Lots of rockets appropriately in red white and blue set off to 1940’s music to put you "In the Mood". 
Thursday 7 June Well we’ve been in France a week now and by a direct route are little more than 100km from Le Havre where we landed but with our detours we have travelled over 300km.  At this rate we could be going round France for the rest of the year.  It’s a rainy day but we continue on the "Operation Overlord" itinerary west along the Normandy coast.  At Longues there are a number of the German guns still on display and they are huge.  St Laurent is famous as the place where the pipelines emerged from England bringing fuel under the sea.  Pass many more memorials along the coast and spot lots of war ruins on the cliff tops.  The American cemetery is at Colleville overlooking Omaha beach where so many of their troops were killed.  One of only 4 American World War 11 cemeteries on foreign soil it has 9387 graves plus a wall naming a further 1557 missing soldiers.  It’s a vast area laid out with predominantly white crosses with the occasional Star of David to mark a Jewish soldier.  Find Brigadier Roosevelt’s grave in amongst all the rest and marked as the recipient of the Medal of Honour.   Down on Omaha beach it’s easy to see why so many lost their lives as sitting targets with the Germans just waiting on the cliffs above.  Private Ryan and The Longest Day were filmed here.   Point Hoc is amazing, as apart from paths being created and dangerous areas fenced off it has been left just as it was after the war. Enormous bomb craters can be seen and there are many German fortifications.  Returning to the car park we spot a Solifer of exactly the same design as our first motorhome.  Parked by us the whole van is only as big as the motorhome part of ours and looks like a baby.  End our Battle tour by visiting the largest German War Cemetery in the world at La Cambe.  Here there are rows of 5 black crosses then lots of plaques in the ground.  Over 20,000 German soldiers lay here bringing the total number of people buried in war graves in Normandy to a depressingly staggering 177,000.  There’s a visitor centre and it’s interesting to note how much emphasis the Germans are putting on world peace and even educating their children by using them to maintain the cemeteries.  Inland at Coutances we stop to quickly look at the gardens, which at the right time of year in the sun could be lovely? The cathedral looks magnificent from outside but nothing outstanding inside.  St Pair Sur Mar is our final stop for the day in the special motorhome parking area.
Friday 8 June   Awake to hear on Radio 5 that the Labour government are still in.  William Haigh has resigned and now we may suffer with a weaker pound.  Continuing around the coast we get our first glimpse of the famous Le Mont Saint Michel from many miles away.  Between the 11th and 16th centuries the Abbey of Saint Michel was built onto a rock out at sea.   Because of the huge 15m tides here there are times of day when the rock would be completely ocean bound but for most of the time you could walk out to it.  We arrive with the tide well on the way out.  30FF (£3.00) to park for 24 hours so we take a nice spot by the beach with a direct view of the Mount.  Cross the causeway to the busy bustling main street.  There are some incredible wooden old houses along the narrow cobbled streets which abound with tourist souvenir shops and restaurants.  After a steep climb we reach the Abbey and pay 42FF (£4.20) admission which although it includes a tour in English there isn’t one for 2 hours so we go around alone.  Although impressive in size and the fact that it has been built directly onto the rock there seems to be nothing outstanding inside.  For us it is just the whole setting which is amazing.   After lunch in the van we return to walk around the Mount which you can only do at low tide.  It’s still very muddy with areas of quicksand but not a sign of the sea even in the distance.  Return with extremely muddy feet and we now understand why the tour which walks you out to a nearby island suggests you go bare foot.  We’re surprised to get a knock at the door then even more surprised to be presented with an "Awake" magazine by a Jehovah’s Witness, yes they certainly do get everywhere.  High tide is around 10.00pm so late evening I take a walk around the ramparts and note that the island is completely cut off as well as the Mount.  Spot a car in the lower car park despite a sign saying it is only safe until 8.00pm.  Return to fetch Steve with the camera.  Must be a canny person as although the tide laps around all four tyres it then starts to recede.  Perhaps it is a prop to see what the tourist do.  We fell for it as Steve tried to see if he could get in to move it and even tried pushing it but to no avail.  Maybe this time he is the one to be a stooge for candid camera.   The sun sets at 10.00pm and when it gets dark the Abbey looks lovely with floodlights all around.  What a fantastic spot.
Saturday 9 June  Pass into Brittany and following the coast towards St Malo we find it has got warm enough for a beach stop.  Near La Guimorais we walk down a leafy lane to emerge on a beautiful sandy beach where we repose for a good few hours and even find it gets hot.  Make it into St Malo at tea time and park near the port overlooking the marina which is full of yachts.  Stroll back to the old town and round the impressive ramparts with fine views in all directions including to a small island with the old jail.  Walk back via the new town but nothing is happening there and all the action seems to be within the old walls.  Notice a very large number of British people here with ever other person talking English.
Sunday 10 June  Cross the River Rance over a hydroelectric dam which uses the extraordinarily high tides to generate 10% of Brittany’s electricity.  Dinard is a resort for well-heeled clientele.  In town we spot a statue of Alfred Hitchcock complete with birds, a reminder that they hold the British Film Festival here.  Promenade Clair De Lune is a super walk around the bottom of the cliffs again giving us stunning views and a chance to see some of the many spike-roofed "belle יpoque" mansions close up.  There’s an equestrian event here this afternoon but not the expected horse racing along the beach.  It’s dressage events rounded off with the horses parading on the beach and not our scene. Low on diesel the only places open today are 24 hour petrol stations but only with French cards.  We ask another customer if we can put it on their card and give them the cash which thankfully they agree to.  Dinan is perched above the River Rance just inland from Dinard.  The medieval town was once surrounded by ramparts and stone towers with many still standing.  Find a good spot to park under the viaduct by the river.  It’s a fair climb up to the old town but well worth it. Great views, dozens of beautiful 15th-century half-timbered houses and cobbled streets.  The sloping street back down to the port reminds us very much of Haworth. 
Monday 11 June  Getting well into Breton country we speed along inland to get to Perros-Guirec on the Cote de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast).  There’s a fantastic walk around the boulder strewn coast to Ploumanach.  With a little imagination you can see all sorts of things in the rocks and each twist and turn reveals another pretty stretch of coast.  Many houses in the town are made of the granite and even the lighthouse is pink.  In Ploumanach we check out the sculpture park before returning to the van.  Even more British in this area which is explained when we spot the "Keycamp" tents on the campsite.  Further round the headland at Beg Leguer we make the most of the hot sun by visiting the sandy nudist beach for the afternoon.  We have a good parking spot so stay the night in the hope of another hot day tomorrow.
Tuesday 12 June    Hang around until 10.00am then give up on any chance of sun between the many clouds.  On the outskirts of Bourbriac I spot an "Aire" and we double back to get water.  It’s a neat spot by a lake with a large outdoor washing sink plus an indoor sink, two toilet cubicles and a cold shower.  As if that’s not enough there are even power points.  Decide to stay put and set up the laundry with me washing the clothes and Steve doing the rinses.  Just over an hour later we have cleared the two week backlog and can sit down and relax for the rest of the day.  A man calls round early evening to collect the "hefty" fees of 5FF (50p) per person.
Wednesday 13 June  We’re desperate to get on the Internet and in the larger town of Rostrenen they have computers in the library but none available until 2.00pm.  It’s only 10.00am but it’s a pleasant town to stroll around and do a bit of shopping.  Surprisingly they only charge 25FF for the Internet as the only other place we have seen it offered is in terminals at the Post Offices at 50FF hour but we need to use the disc drive.  Our intended destination of Lac Du Guerledan is a disappointment as the only access points to the lake are busy and touristy.  Stop further south in Baud.  It’s a lovely evening so we walk off our evening meal by strolling round the town.
Thursday 14 June   A miserable drizzly morning which turns to rain once we set off.  Carnac is famous for the many Megalithic remains from the Noelithic period between 4500 and 2000 BC.  That’s seriously old.  First stop are the "Alignements du Menec" where 1100 stones can be seen in line.  Due to become a UNESCO world heritage site the area has now been fenced off to preserve it but we get a reasonable view.  Further down the road are the "Alignments de Kermario" with 1029 huge stones (menhirs) each weighing between 2 and 200 tons.  This in turn almost runs into the next group at Kerlescan but between them we walk into the forest to see the Geant de Manio and the Quadrilatere which rather disappointingly is just one fairly big stone surrounded by a quadrangle of small ones.  The most impressive thing for us is the sheer number of  stones understood best from a scale model in the Kermario visitor centre where you can see all three groups at once.  In the Grand Briere marshland we stop in St Lyphard to climb the church bell tower 13F (£1.30) for fine views over the surrounding countryside.  Canals run through here and on a fine day it would be nice to be punted around on one of the many barges.  In Kerbourg I run up a lane to look at an example of a Neolithic dolmen which turns out to be a type of covered tunnel of stones leading to a room at the end, Steve can’t be bothered getting out of the van in the rain.  Nearby the village of Kerhinet proves interesting as it is for pedestrians only and retains all the old thatched buildings.  At Saint Nazaire we cross the Loire River over the huge bridge with good views of the ship building yards below.  Queen Mary 2 is one of the more famous ships built here.  We’re now in the Loire Atlantic coast region but still no improvement in the weather.  Call it a day when we see the motorhome parking sign in St Gilles Croix-de-Vie where we park by a lake.
Friday 15 June   More drizzle so we just look at Sables D’Olonne which we reckon would be good for parking and naturist beaches.  At La Rochelle we go to the special motorhome parking "Esplanade des Parks" then sit and watch it bucket down with rain.  It does eventually stop in the afternoon and brightens up.  Visited La Rochelle in March 1997 with David so Steve’s not fussed about another look so I go it alone.  In Place Verdun electric cars are for hire at 100F (£10.00) day or 60F (£6.00) half day which is a bargain when you consider there is no extra cost for fuel.  Electric scooters are 70F (£7.00) day and 40F (£4.00) half day and push bikes are free for the first 2 hours then 6F (60p) hour.  We’d like to hire an electric vehicle to explore nearby Isle de Re but although the cars will go 100km without topping up you are not allowed to take them there.  It’s a bit intimidating walking down the arcaded shopping area as in parts there are beggars on both sides and it’s like running the gauntlet.  Lots of BT flags in the harbour as the boats from the BT Global challenge are here for 10 days on the last leg of their world tour.  Hadn’t realised just how big La Rochelle was last time as we drove straight to the centre for a small stroll.  This time it seems much bigger when parked on the outskirts and it definitely is much busier at this time of year but still a pretty place to visit.  Fit it a short spell of sunbathing in the park before rain set in again in the evening.
Saturday 16 June  Between very heavy bursts of rain the sun does break through but it’s just not beach weather so we shelve our plans of lingering along the coast.  Blaye is an interesting spot just below where the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers merge into the Gironde to flow out into the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s a good view of the estuary from the big impressive citadel.  Following the river upstream we pass lots of vineyards and Chateau’s where they welcome motorhomes to park.  Bordeaux on the other hand proves very difficult for parking and we end up a long way from the centre.  Start the recommended walking tour and find the impressive Esplanade des Quinconces taken over by a gay parade.  It’s like walking onto a set from Priscilla Queen of the Desert with blokes strutting round in 12" high platform shoes wearing fishnet tights with G strings underneath topped off with outrageous make up and wigs.  In the bust department they are either well padded or well endowed and the same applies to the boys in skimpy shorts.  There’s a food and wine festival but it’s poorly attended due to the heavy rain storms we are still getting.  Bordeaux has a lovely setting on the banks of the river and some fine buildings including the Palace and the Theatre but somehow the weather does not inspire us to complete the full walk.  We now plan to follow the Garonne River and canals right across to the Mediterranean in search of sun.  Our first stopping point is at Cadillac just SE of Bordeaux where we are provided with a dump station, fresh water and free electricity.  Steve’s finds out that there is a fete here tomorrow so we could be tempted to stay.
Sunday 17 June   No sign of the heavy outbursts of rain stopping and listening to the radio it’s pretty widespread and affecting Le Mans and sporting events in England.  The "fete" consists of a fun run plus stalls in the square either selling things or promoting a healthy lifestyle. Find a launderette with 20F (£2.00) machines and do the heavy washing.  After lunch we check out the nearby "La Closiere" vineyard listed in the "Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux & Cadillac" wine guide.  They produce mainly sweet white wines which we are not too keen on.  Back in the village a Jazz Band is playing in the square but the planned concert in the church doesn’t materialise. 
Monday 18 June   Our journey follows the river but it’s often out of sight.  We also pass near the canal and this is where we stop for lunch.  The weather has picked up so just past Agen we turn off to the naturist club Deveze NR Gaudonville in the Midi/Pyranness region.  Recently taken over by a Dutch couple they have a low season 50% discount from September to June bringing the price for a site and 2 people to a reasonable 50F (£5).  It’s a lovely spot with 180 pitches, a lake for fishing, swimming and paddling pools plus a club house with entertainment including satellite TV.   An Englishman called Henry comes and introduces himself to us and we spend the evening at his motorhome drinking and chatting.
Tuesday 19 June  A scorcher of a day necessitating several cooling dips in the pool.  The British naturist caravan and camping group "Suntreckers" are holding a rally here this weekend and some start to arrive early.  Henry joins us for an evening BBQ after which he and Steve polish off not just the two bottles of wine but a bottle of whisky also.
Wednesday 20 June  Another cracking hot day.  We find a very small leak in one of the pipes from the gas tank and Henry tries to help out with some leak sealant.  This doesn’t work so we ask the campsite owner Lieuwe where there is a gas specialist and he says he can do it for us.  He dismantles the pipes and takes them off to his vice but they won’t go back on properly and the fridge/freezer are now rapidly defrosting.  We could move to a site with electric but by the time we think off that the stuff has thawed out anyway and Steve is getting pretty mad.  It’s getting late so we can do nothing more than sleep on it or not as is the case for Steve.
Thursday 21 June   Steve is up very early and takes the part back to Lieuwe who realises he has pieced it together wrongly and corrects his mistake.  It will now go back on but not quite in the correct position and still leaves us with a gas leak albeit perhaps a little smaller.  When we leave here we shall be off in search of a gas dealer.  Henry joins us for lunch and tea and as we both arrived with limited food supplies the meals become like "Ready Steady Cook".  Very appropriate as Henry Love is a professional chef and having previously cooked with Graham Kerr now has the honour of cooking with me!
Friday 22 June  Hot day.  More Suntreckers arrive.  Make the decision to stay on until Monday as on site they are having a lamb roast on Sunday and a "fete" tomorrow night.
Saturday 23 June  Having made the decision today we wake up to a cool cloudy day.  Fortunately the sun does break through later.  It’s owner Lieuwe’s 60th birthday today and early evening everyone gathers to celebrate with a local liquer "Flok" plus Muscadet wine, nibbles and quiche.  We meet fellow Brits Pauline & John and Paul with his French wife Evelyn.  Later there is a little ceremony where the old owners hand lighted torches to new owners Liewe & Alie for them to light the bonfire.  The ashes from the fire will be used tomorrow to roast the 3 lambs for the "Meshoui" BBQ.   Sangria and a flan style birthday cake are served in the clubhouse and music is played but as we are not into Dutch clog dancing we leave.
Sunday 24 June  By mid day everyone is gathered at long tables shaded by dozens of umbrellas.  The meal is a very long affair with big gaps between courses and ever flowing wine.  Actually not only are there big gaps between courses there are also gaps between the components of each course with the meat coming half an hour before the accompaniments.  Who cares as it leaves even more time for boozing.  At 80F (£8.00) a head they will be lucky to break even.  The majority of guests are French, British or Dutch and we all take it in turns to sing traditional songs.  We even all manage "Frere Jacque" as a round.  By 5.00pm those who are still capable of staggering make it to the pool to cool off and sober up – us included.  It becomes a very warm humid night with people falling into groups to chat.
Monday 25 June  Tear ourselves away from the site to continue towards the Mediterranean with a scenic journey offering fine views over the countryside and even better views once we climb up over the Pyrenees.  There’s a hot wind and we are driving with the windows down listening to the almost deafening noise of the cicadas.  At noon it’s 33C.  Emerge into Beziers where there is a bottleneck of traffic and a diversion which takes us right past the marina area where the Midi canal begins.  Arriving at Cap D’Agde we can see just how much more has been developed since we last visited in 1982.  There is an initial charge of 60F (£6.00) per vehicle into the naturist village whatever the duration of your visit.  The administration is horrendous and it takes ages to check onto the campsite.  We are issued with main gate and campsite gate passes and personal wrist bands.  The fees are reasonable with the low season price of 100F (£10.00) having only just risen to the high season 120F (£12) for 2 people on a pitch with electric.  It’s an enormous campsite with over 2500 pitches and it’s obvious why every other person is riding round on a bicycle.  We have a spot just behind the beach and near the main naturist village.   The beach is very busy and we do an initial recce on the village and check out the area where we previously had an apartment.  At 9.00pm the campsite are putting on a show but we are not over keen on the French singing accompanied by an accordion.  There is a bit more action in the main village where almost everyone dresses up for the evening.  Most people are wearing conventional clothes but others are dressed rather provocatively in leather and see thru’ gear but not in the numbers we were led to believe.
Tuesday 26 June  A hot day just perfect for the beach.  We have never seen so many people on a naturist beach and when we walk along we realise it extends way beyond the specified boundaries and continues past the next campsite which is not naturist but where everyone with beach front pitches is.  Reckon you could spot people of all ages, nationalities and shapes and sizes here and once we return I find it difficult to read my book as it is much more interesting to watch the people strolling past.  Return for a brief spell to have lunch in the van then it’s back to the beach where a welcome ice cream stall makes it’s way along the shore.  We realise the night life here starts late so after a snooze we set out just before 10.00pm.  Although still in the minority there are many more people dressed in a risquי fashion.  For some old and fat people the expression mutton dressed as lamb would not be adequate and they look far better with absolutely nothing on at all.  Many boutiques sell the fetish style outfits and I reckon the sun and wine have gone to people’s heads as there cannot be any other place (apart from the bedroom) where they would be seen dressed like that.  A group of people are advertising the shops by doing an on going fashion parade with men dressed in transparent dungarees or leather gear and girls wearing tight clothes with huge chunks missing, an assortment of leather straps or what looks like underwear.  Think it’s supposed to be erotic but it just makes us laugh.  Shame I haven’t got my basque with me and Steve might look cute in a pair of skimpy tight black leather shorts – I don’t think.  Returning to the campsite we see a woman in a bar who initially appears to be dressed but is actually covered in tattoos – yuk  Fortunately on the campsite people seem much more conservative.  Here weather permitting you could easily stay for a week and never dress as the village is now very well equiped with shops including butchers, fishmongers, green grocers, souvenier shops, newsagents, off licences, jewellers and of course fetish wear shops.  And if you nedd them there’s also a bank, post office, hairdressers, petrol station, take aways, restaurants and marina services all of which can be visited in the nude.
Wednesday 27 June  A cloudy morning so we walk around the naturist village but find the internal Post Office can’t offer what we need.  Dress to walk out of the campsite to the main Post Office and pick up 1/2 kilo of mussels on the way back.  Mamage a few hours on the beach in the afternoon and conclude that this is still a nice place to visit.
Thursday 28 June  Beyond Nimes we enter the Provence region with fields coloured by lavender.  Le Vallon Des Oiseaux is a naturist camp site in the Luberon Park at the head of a valley.  Kay & Brian whom we met in New Zealand are working here for a couple of months and by chance are the first people we see on arrival.  Owner Jan soon has us on a super pitch at the top of the hill with fine views over the site and valley and a small swimming pool and terrace right beside us.  120F (£12.00) for 2 people on a site plus 16F (£1.60) 4 amp electric and 25% discount in April and October.  Jan the owner is Dutch hence almost all the guests are Dutch with 1 Belgian, 2 Brits and 2 French.  By the main farmhouse and reception/bar area is a fabulous full size swimming pool with one side which spills like a waterfall down into a toddlers pool.  Manage to fit in a few chats with Brian and Kay between their workload and by visiting the bar in the evening.
Friday 29 June  A scorching hot day which makes us glad of our hill top pitch with a breeze.  Early afternoon game of boules with Kay & Brian and some serious swimming in the big pool for me.  Finally get a reply about our mobile phone and we will not be able to send text messages until 1st August but at least we can already receive them. 
Saturday 30 June  Journey towards the Gorge du Verdon where our first glimpse is of the crystal clear green waters of Lac D’Esparron De Verdon.  On the edge of the lake there is a naturist site "Verdon Provence" with access to the lake for nude swimming.  69F (£6.90) 2 people on a site low season, 83F (£8.30) high plus 15F (£1.50) electric.  The German owner tells us he is short of visitors as they lost a lot of trees this year and there are fewer shady sites available.  For the first time in 40 years they had snow in the winter and not just a sprinkling but over 1 metre.  This was too much for the fragile trees and many lost branches but others were uprooted.  We are still sun worshippers and are happy for a sunny spot.  The air is scented with the pine trees which makes for a pleasant if somewhat long and steep clamber down the sides of the gorge to the lake.  The water is a fabulous colour of green and extremely inviting.  Between lots of cooling dips we manage to find a wide enough ledge on the shore for sunbathing.  Upon leaving Steve starts to warn me of some slippery stones but immediately over balances to tumble into the water but with enough time to throw his shoes ashore and grab hold of his sunglasses.  10 out of 10 for reactions but rather less for style. 

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