Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200408 Hungary Austria Lichtenstein Switzerland France

SUNDAY 1 AUGUST 2004 – A glorious day.  Bev & Norm wake us up on their return from an early morning walk with Truus.  The sports week presentations are held and Bev proudly receives her certificate and T-shirt for winning the petanque.  It’s interesting that Steve & Norm don’t get a placing but the team they beat get 3rd.  On the other hand Steve wins the billiards even though he entered but never played a game (they got him muddled up with Ricky).  In the evening we are invited to join the Dutch people for an Indonesian meal.  I help Sandra to prepare the homemade peanut satay sauce to go with the turkey kebabs.  We are the only non-Dutch at the gathering but find it easy to chat as they all speak English.



MONDAY 2 AUGUST – By time we have gone around and said Goodbye to everyone it’s 9am.  The track to the main road is still very rutted but manageable.  Cut across country through farming land with fields full of beautiful sunflowers and lots of vineyards.  Watermelons must be grown here as we pass numerous roadside sellers.  Tesco really are popping up everywhere with a new one in Kiskunhallas where we do a big shop.  Follow the road along the south eastern shore of Lake Balaton.  Call in to the extremely touristy town of Siofok to show Bev & Norm Hungary’s answer to Blackpool.  You could be in any main resort with pavement shops and bars and a Miss Balaton contest in the offing.  The lakeside is beautiful with lots of people wading out into the lake to try and reach water deep enough to swim in.  Heading inland we reach Nemesbuk and the naturist campsite of Angela Farm.  We first visited in 2001 and Angela remembers us.  Our Dutch friends Henk and Klare are also visiting so we are really made welcome.  After our long journey in the heat the swimming pool is most welcome. 


1020 HUF pp (£2.70), 1377 HUF (£3.70) motorhome site


TUESDAY 3 AUGUST – A hot but cloudy start to the day prompts us to take up Henks offer of a lift into Heviz with the largest thermal lake in Europe, 900 HUF (£2.45) for a 3-hour ticket.  A pier leads into the middle of the lake and an arm of this houses rooms where you can get a massage and other therapies.  The lake can be accessed from within the pier where bathing pools have been sectioned off, from other jetties sticking in to the water of from the grassy banks.  It’s very busy but we manage to find a shady spot on the grass.  We’ve paid 300 HUF (80p) to rent some rubber rings for floating on the water.  The lake is deep even at the edges and at it’s deepest point goes down to 70 metres.  There’s a lifeguard sat in a boat in the middle.  The water is just the right temperature and we are soon floating around in amongst beautiful lotus flowers.  Our 3 hours pass quickly and we emerge smelling delightful, not.  Down a side street we find a kiosk selling the traditional Hungarian snack of “langos”, a type of battered pancake topped with ham, cheese and sour cream.  We’ve just placed our order when the heavens open up.  Fortunately the kiosk has provided a covered tent with tables and benches so we sip our beers whilst waiting for the food.  We suddenly remember that we have left the van with the roof vents and window open but there’s nothing we can do about it.  By the time we’ve finished our tasty meal it’s dry enough to explore the town.  Aimed predominantly at German tourists it again has lots of shops selling holiday clothing and souvenirs.  Henk picks us up and tells us the Germans in the next van saw our roof vents open and ran down to Henk to ask him to close them.  Henk & Klare join us for an evening meal and this ends up lasting all night as we have an hour between courses.   



WEDNESDAY 4 AUGUST – A lazy day at Angela Farm.  Join Henk & Klare for coffee and a chat in the evening.



THURSDAY 5 AUGUST – Heading north we first stop in Szombathely.  Parking is easy but the sights are average.  After lunch we continue to the tiny town of Koszeg finding a campsite down a side street a short walk from the centre.  It’s a very hot day but Bev & Norm take a walk late afternoon whilst we wait until evening.  We spot the ruins of a church in someone’s garden and as we are peering through the fence the homeowner comes out and invites us to inspect the Jewish synagogue.  It’s in a terrible state with a terminal case of woodworm but an interesting feature to the garden!  The medieval town has remains of the walls and entrance gates and a few painted burgher houses making it very nice to wander around.  The main church is very impressive with painted columns. 


400 HUF pp (£1.10) + 200 HUF pp tax (55p), 1600 HUF (£4.40) van


FRIDAY 6 AUGUST – Sopron old town has lots of alley and courtyards where we enjoy wandering.  There are some interesting buildings and it’s all rather pleasant.  Drive into AUSTRIA and immediately find ourselves on a motorway for which we have no vignette.  Leave at the first exit but can’t buy one at the post office as it is closed for a 2 hour lunch.  Continue on a side road until we get one at a petrol station, Euro 7.60 (£5.30) for 10 days.  Back on the motorway we travel quickly to the outskirts of Vienna then crawl along in heavy traffic.  Across the Danube we easily find “Naturistenpark” at Lobau.  It’s a huge site with big sunbathing gardens but quite a long walk to the natural swimming lake in the woods.  Unfortunately only tents and lightweight caravans are allowed onto the site and we have to camp on the car park.  It’s rather noisy through the night as we are right by he road.


Euro 4.50 (£3) per person and per motorhome


SATURDAY 7 AUGUST – Bev & Norm want to stay in the city and have booked 3 nights at “Pension Dr Greissler” on Postgasse 14, Euro 90 (£56) per double room including breakfast.  Together we catch first the bus then the U Bahn to Stephensplatz.  (Tickets for any one journey using bus, tram underground and train combinations cost Euro 2 – £1.40 on the bus or Euro 1.50 – £1 from machines in advance).  The whole journey takes about 40 minutes and in the main square we head off in different directions.  St Stephens cathedral has a very fancy tiled roof is also nice inside.  We follow the Michelin guide walking tour around the centre of the old city and especially like the Jesuitenkirche and the Art Nouveau clock in Hoher Markt.  I need the loo in Hoher Markt and am happy to pay the 50c (35p) when I find myself in an old fashioned underground toilet.  A man sits in an office between the men’s and ladies and using a key he unlocks a cubicle door once you have paid.  The cubicles are made of wood with lots of frosted glass panels and all the brass and copper is finely polished.  Surprisingly we bump into Bev & Norm in the impressive Peterskirche whilst they are doing a walk in the opposite direction to us.  They report that their hotel is well located with a small but adequate room.  They have already booked for a concert tonight and may do one tomorrow as well.  We continue out towards Hofburg stopping to recharge our batteries with a Chinese buffet style lunch.  Hofburg was built during the reign of the Habsburgs between 1279 and 1918.  Today the President of the Republic lives here in apartments.  We are impressed by many of the magnificent buildings (mainly housing museums) and gardens.  It’s tiring wandering round in the hot sun and we’ve seen all we want to so head back arriving at 5pm just before a rain and thunderstorm.  Steve makes the most of it and dances round outside in the nude.  This seems to have the effect of stopping the rain so maybe we should do it more often.      



SUNDAY 8 AUGUST – We want to see a number of sights outside the central ring road so buy the Euro 5 (£3.50) 24-hour transport pass.  We saw an example of Hundertwasser’s work in New Zealand and really loved the flowing lines so head off to see what he has done for a low cost high-rise housing development in Vienna.  He uses lots of broken pieces of coloured tiles and mirrors, loggias, statues and colours in his work.  The building is fantastic as is the Kalke Village shopping centre opposite also built to is design.  Again I am happy to pay to use the toilets, as they are also of his design.  A few streets further on KunstHausWien is another of his buildings this time housing his artwork.  I am so impressed by it all I ask and am directed to another of his works on the outskirts of the city.  Connect with the number 1 tram that does a circle around the old centre and passes many of the interesting buildings.  On Sunday from 12-2 there is a free live jazz concert in the Rathausplatz.  In the same area are lots of food stalls selling specialties of many different countries so we pass a pleasant hour eating and drinking whilst enjoying the music.  Spittelau is where the other Hundertwasser building is and we are amazed to come out of the underground to be faced with a huge factory decked out in his style, brilliant.  Needing the toilet once again I am surprised to find that even the ones at the underground station are supervised and this time I find them decked with Christmas decorations and posters on every bit of wall space.  Reckon you could almost spend a day checking out the toilets in this city.  We’re now quite familiar with the trams, buses, and underground so getting to Schloss Schonbrunn is easy.  We think the front of the castle has been spoilt by the erection of a stage where they do horse shows.  Unfortunately most of the back of the building is hidden due to renovation work.  (This has been the case with many building throughout the city).  However the gardens are fantastic and from the “Gloriette” at the top of the hill we get a superb view of the gardens, castle, and most of the city.  Karlskirche in Karlsplatz is very impressive outside, having already wandered in and out of dozens of cathedrals we are reluctant to pay to see inside.  After a short walk through the pleasant Belvedere gardens we hop on a tram to Prater.  This is a big park near the city where locals go to chill out.  There’s a big wheel like the Millennium wheel in London but not for us in the heat of the afternoon.  We’re very footsore and weary so head back to camp to take a cooling shower.  Notice on the way back that the many rivers and lakes we pass are packed with people swimming or sunbathing on the banks. 



MONDAY 9 AUGUST – Make use of the on site automatic washing machine Euro 2.50 (£1.75) before heading off to the water.  Enjoy a cooling swim before returning to the shade by the van, as it is very hot.



TUESDAY 10 AUGUST – This time when we go swimming we go across the lake and explore the other side.  We are surprised to find another area huge area belonging to “Naturistenpark” for day visitors.  Bev & Norm arrive back early evening having had a wonderful time in Vienna.



WEDNESDAY 11 AUGUST – Reluctant to battle our way back out of Vienna the same way we came in we take a detour north and follow the course of the Danube River.  Once well clear of the city the road runs by the riverside and is very scenic.  At Melk we visit the famous monastery and abbey, Euro 6.80 (£4.80).  You can see lots of rooms with displays and we particularly like the library with gilt bound books.  The abbey itself is magnificent, in gothic style and very much over the top.  After following the river a bit further we join the motorway and head towards Salzburg.  There is a long section of roadwork’s and the initial sign shows a sad face and 16km to go.  As we progress through the roadworks the face gets happier and with 2km to go it breaks out into a huge grin.  Detour to Attelsee and find a basic campsite on the lakeside near Sell.  The water is cool but welcoming and the lake looks very pretty with the blue water off set by the rocky mountains peaks behind.


Euro 8 (£5.60) van, Euro 5 (£3.50) per person


THURSDAY 12 AUGUST – Attelsee merges into Mondsee and we park by the lake in the town of Mondsee.  In the main square the church was used to film Maria’s wedding in “The Sound of Music”.  There’s a funeral in progress and we see the mourners leave the church and follow the horse drawn hearse to the cemetery.  You can catch a bus into Salzburg (Euro 19.80 return, £14) so Bev and Norm head off to see the sights.  We stay behind and enjoy sunbathing and swimming in the lake.  You can’t park overnight by the lake but the tourist office have directed us to another car park where we find Sandra & Jim already parked up with their motorhome.  They now live in Salzburg but used to travel full time in their van so we have lots in common.  Bev & Norm return just in time for us to go over to watch the water-ski display.  They want to charge Euro 3 (£2.10) each so we move around the corner and sneak a view from the side.  We’re very glad we didn’t pay when we see the display is of poor quality and very short.  Walk around the town where the pavement restaurants are very busy.  Stumble upon a bar with a band playing in the street.  Steve & Norm head in to order drinks and have only been gone a few minutes when a strong wind gets up.  In no time at all there are billboards blowing down the street and glasses crashing from the tables.  When the band starts to pack up and locals put things away we realise that a storm is imminent.  Manage to drag Steve and Norm out of the bar before they place the order.  Steve runs back to the van and makes it just before the heavens open up.  We are not so fast and arrive back like drowned rats.  Shortly after the lights in the town all go out so we take the opportunity to all hop outside for a shower in the nude. 



FRIDAY 13 AUGUST – After a lot of wind and rain during the night we are not surprised to wake and find debris all over the car park.  A tree has come down nearby and worse still Norm’s trunks have blown away from where they were drying on the bumper and can’t be found.  A notice has been put on our windscreen very politely telling us that we shouldn’t be in that particular car park in a motorhome and must move by 9am (however they do suggest another car park where we could go).  Having been evicted we head off and into GERMANY to visit Hitler’s retreat “The Eagles Nest”.  The road climbs steeply above Berchesgarden and leads us to a car park.  From here we pay Euro 13.20 (£9.10) to be bussed up an even steeper road with stupendous views.  From the top car park we walk through a tunnel into the middle of the rock and then take a lift right up into the Eagles Nest building.  You can only visit a few rooms but there’s a lovely walk along the rocky peninsula with stunning views back towards Salzburg and down over Konigsee.  When we are ready to leave we find that the lift has broken.  There’s a steep track back down to the bus stop and we feel very sorry for the people who have to walk up as its bad enough going down.  Drive back into AUSTRIA with superb alpine scenery all the way.  In the village of Straub Bev & Norm find a typical Tyrolean guesthouse and take a room for the night whilst we camp on the car park.  We are in a valley and surrounded by mountains with the distant tinkling of cowbells.  



SATURDAY 14 AUGUST – After rain through the night the clouds have descended into the valley obscuring some of our views.  It’s still a scenic journey verified by he number of tourist coaches coming in the opposite direction.  We try but give up on finding a car park in Innsbruck but do manage to drive past the Olympic ski jump.  After lunch by the River Inn just out of the city we continue on the motorway.  There’s an additional charge for using the Arlsberg tunnels, Euro 8.50 (£5.95) for up to 3.5 tons and much more if you are heavier.  We weigh over 5 tons but declared only 3.5 when buying the motorway pass and they want to verify this with our vehicle registration document.  Luckily for us the British form does not show the weight but when the supervisor is called over he spots the badge on the side of our truck saying E350 (the model of the engine) and assumes this to be the weight.  The pay section of the motorway takes us through a 14km tunnel and cuts out a high mountain pass.  Feldkirch is the last town before the Liechtenstein border and we stop for a break.  Walking in to the village we see a car park that will do us for overnight.  The town is very pleasant and we wander round together.  Have to laugh when Bev asks us if Geoff Net is a chain of Internet cafes?  What she has been seeing is “Geoffnet” the German word for “open”.  In the evening we go to a Mexican restaurant for their buffet, Euro 12 (£8.40).  Return to the van to be horrified to hear 3 different churches peeling their bells.



SUNDAY 15 AUGUST – The car park has been busy with comings and goings through the night, one of the church clocks chimes every quarter hour, and to cap it all we have had heavy rain bouncing on the roof.  Not the best of spots.  We completely give up trying to sleep when the church bells start for morning mass.  Before we get to Liechtenstein we buy our Swiss road vignette Euro 27 (£19).  At the border the guard begins to quiz us on the weight of the van as the pass we have bought is for up o 3.5 tons.  We pretend we can’t understand German and try showing him the E350 badge but he’s having none of it.  End up on the weighbridge where we clock up over 5 tons.  He says we have to pay a different type of road tax and the badge is useless.  Get a refund on the badge and then pay the heavy vehicle duty for 7 days at CHF 3.50 (£1.60) a day, which actually saves us money!  LIECHTENSTEIN is a very small country and we pass through it from top to bottom via the capital of Vaduz in about ½ hour.  Cross the River Rhine to get into SWITZERLAND.  CHF 2.20 = £1.  The motorway takes us through many tunnels until we reach the lakeside town of Lucerne.  By early afternoon we are on Lido Campsite.  After using the machines to wash the bedding Bev & Norm set out to walk to the town.  There are lots of British vans on the site and I wonder round trying to scrounge some English newspapers and end up chatting to a family from Perth Australia.  Gerard and Brigitte are from Mauritius but immigrated to Australia.  Steve and I set off to Lucerne after he has watched the Grand Prix.  It’s a really nice walk along the lake and the shores are packed with people either walking or sunbathing, as it’s a very hot afternoon.  The wooden bridges with paintings are wonderful and we also lake the painted houses and the lion monument carved into the cliff.  In the evening Brian and Charlee from Widnes join us for a chat.  He has built their motorhome himself and they want to know more about free camping.  We chat until after midnight.


CHF 7.70 (£3.50) pp + CHF 1.20 (£55p) pp tax + CHF 1.00 (£45p) pp high season

CHF 13.00 (£5.85) motorhome


MONDAY 16 AUGUST – Cut across country towards Bern.  We traverse the Emmental valley famous for cheese production.  There are lots of different types of houses and it’s a pleasant but very slow journey.  On the outskirts of Bern we park in the back streets of Scheyenholz and catch the tram, CHF 5 (£2.25) one way.  Arrive just in time to see the Zytgloggeturm chime the hour but it’s not spectacular.  However we all really like the arcaded streets with figures on many buildings, shops in the cellars and central fountains.  Check out the bears and they are in fine form swimming around and catching food.  Just make it back to the van before it pours down again.  Head south on the motorway and stop at “La Gruyere” service area, another cheese producing region.  Park amongst the lorries but walk back to take in the fine view over the lake and to admire the park full of painted cows sculptures.



TUESDAY 17 AUGUST – We are now in the French-speaking region of Switzerland.  On Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) we drive to Montreux and brave the rain to look at the Freddie Mercury statue.  By the time we have reached Vevey it has stopped raining and we park up to visit the market and the Charlie Chaplin statue on the foreshore.  Make use of the park and ride in Lausanne, CHF 11.50 (£5.25) including 4 transport tickets.  The city is built up a steep hill and to reduce the amount of uphill walking we start at the top.  The steps down from the cathedral are attractive being made of wood and roofed over.  At the bottom of the hill is the lakeside town of Ouchy and we stroll along and end up at the Olympic museum.  Make it back to the van just before another downpour.  In the evening Steve, Bev & Norm head off to a free jazz concert.  They return just after another downpour and report that although the band was excellent they didn’t play anything recognisable.



WEDNESDAY 18 AUGUST – We have to move off by 8am so stop in the motorway services to have breakfast.  Geneva is a nightmare.  The “Park & ride” sites are either badly or not signposted some are even underground.  End up driving right through the centre but we do get a good view of the huge water jet as we cross the head of the lake.  Pass on to FRANCE then have the same problem in Annecy.  The place is heaving with people and the motorhome parking spot cram jam full.  Pull up down a side street to have lunch and minutes later the Police arrive on bikes and tell us we can’t park there.  They are very polite and say that once we have finished eating we must go to the other motorhome park on the opposite side of the lake where there are more spaces.  Following 3 other motorhomes to the other site doesn’t fill us with hope so we are not surprised to find this one also full.  Give up and head down to Aix-les-Bains where we enjoy the lakeside drive.  Pay to use the motorway in order to drive through a tunnel rather than over the mountain, Euro 2.40 (£1.65).  Lake Aiguebellette has been recommended to us.  It’s in the middle of nowhere and we are expecting it to be nice and quiet – wrong.  Although we do park on the southern corner the place is again full of families enjoying their summer holiday.  The water is lovely and it’s nice sunbathing on the beach.  Manage an overnight stay on the car park.



THURSDAY 19 AUGUST – Continue towards Lyon on the toll motorway emerging from another tunnel to flatter terrain, toll Euro 11.70 (£8.20).  Roman built Vienne is on the banks of the River Rhone.  We walk the town checking out the Roman ruins.  Bev & Norm are most impressed with the amphitheatre built in to the hillside.  Again we are hit by heavy bursts of rain.  Following the Rhone south the weather eventually brightens up and we see the temperature climb to 37C.  Find a nice free parking spot on the banks of the Rhone near the port of Viviers.  After our evening meal I join Bev & Norm for a wander up to the town.  It’s a pleasant surprise to find a very old village tucked away with steep narrow cobbled streets and lots of covered passages.  Not a tourist in sight but evidence of people still living in the quaint houses.  It’s so hot when we get back that we take a cooling dip in the river.  By the time we go to bed the weather has changed dramatically and we get a terrific thunder and lightening storm with heavy rain.



FRIDAY 20 AUGUST – Wake to lovely sunshine enhancing our view of the river with a fisherman beside us.  Park easily in Orange by the Arc de Triomphe.  We retrace our steps from a previous visit whilst Bev & Norm set out to see all the Roman remains.  Further on in Avignon we check on to Camping Bagatelle on an island opposite the old walled town.  Bev & Norm explore during the afternoon whilst we make use of the complimentary tickets for the swimming pool next door.  In the evening we set out to find one of the Internet café’s in Avignon and end up walking around most of the old town until we find one that is open.  Not a problem as we see lots of interesting sights and everything looks lovely floodlit. 


Euro 19.80 (£13.90)


SATURDAY 21 AUGUST – Near Martigues we make our way out to the coast passing lots of good beach side free camping spots.  By late morning we are parked up at the naturist beach Pointe de Bonnieu.  Unfortunately it is very windy but with the van angled against it we find it warm enough to sit out.  Since we visited in 1997 they have made a few amendments including a toilet block and a ladder to make access to the water easier.  Due to the wind the waves are crashing onto the rocky shore.  Steve’s intended paddle becomes a good soaking and Norm gets cut getting out after his swim.      



SUNDAY 22 AUGUST – The wind has dropped to a pleasant breeze and the car park fills with hundreds of visitors.  The water is much calmer, Steve goes snorkelling, and we all take a dip.  There are no fees for using the site so once the crowds have left we patronise Ronnie’s café and eat out. 



MONDAY 23 AUGUST – Retrace our steps and shop at Carrefour.  Use the ferry Euro 4 (£2.80) to cross the River Rhone to Salin de Giraud.  Just south of here we stop at the lookout area over the saltpans, a rather attractive pink colour.  Follow the road to the end past lakes with flamingos.  At the coast we see lots of caravans parked up.  A sign directs us to the left for 1km to the naturist beach.  We drive along the beach where fortunately the sand is compacted and damp.  The whole area is full of caravans with the occasional motorhome and tent.  There must be about 1000 vans along the 2km naturist stretch.  It’s blowing a gale but with Charlie acting as a windbreak we manage to sit out.  The sea is pleasantly warm though a bit rough.  Walking through the “site” we notice many of the old caravans are here long term and have flagpoles and fences to mark their territory, some are almost covered by sand dunes.  Other funny sights include Santa up a pole, an “Olympic village” section, a wooden ranch with horses, and a sort of chapel. 



TUESDAY 24 AUGUST – After a stormy and rainy night we awake to more wind and rain.  Decide to move before we get bogged in.  Driving out we see certain sections of the “road” being sand blasted.  In the village of Salin de Giraud we make good use of the motorhome service station.  Cutting across the Carmargue we see the famous black bulls and lots of wild horses.  Stop at Aigues Mortes for Bev & Norm to look around the walled town.  At Palavas Les Flots they have special overnight motorhome parking by the canal at Euro 10 (£7) including use of the showers and toilets.  We take a spot beside the water then set out to explore the area.  It’s very touristy with a “Noddy” train and lots of shops selling souvenirs, a bit like an up market Blackpool.  Crash out on the beach for a while then return and take our evening meal at Charlie’s waterside restaurant.



WEDNESDAY 25 AUGUST – Continue west along the coast noticing about 100 motorhomes free camped behind the beach between Sete and Marseillen.  We head to Cap D’Agde to visit the naturist village.  Checking in is a bit of a farce.  First we park and go to the main office.  They want to see our INF (International Naturist Federation) cards and say they will hold one of them whilst we check onto the campsite and return with a contract.  Set off in the van but get stopped at the main gate as we don’t have a pass and can’t get one of those until we are checked in to the campsite!  The guard says we must walk to the campsite so we park up.  Steve, Norm, and Bev set out but the man at the pedestrian gate won’t let them through.  They return to the main office where someone accompanies them and clears things with the security man.  Returning with the contract they then have to buy a main gate pass for a one off payment of Euro 9 (£5.60) and pay the campsite fees.  They also get 4 wristbands plus another gate pass for the campsite entrance.  Reckon it would be easier to get into Fort Knox.  Steve has asked for a site near to the beach but unfortunately the one we have been allocated is directly opposite the toilet block and at the side of a main thoroughfare to the beach.  Knowing the site was full last night I guess we should be glad to have got anything.  The beach is beautiful, just as we remember from our previous visits.  Stroll along towards Marseillan but this time there are no naturists to be seen on the front row of the adjoining campsite.  Enjoy a typical French lunch of baguette, pate, cheese, and wine on the beach.  After all the trouble getting in to the village we are surprised to find that we don’t need our wristbands as there is no security to stop anyone from gaining access via the beach entrances.  In the evening we view the sights at the main village.  It has become fashionable for a number of people to dress up in leather, chains and provocative gear at night and it’s entertaining to sit in a bar watching the parade go past whilst stifling our giggles and giving them marks out of ten.   


Euro 24 (£16.80) site for 2 including electricity, Euro 8 (£5.60) each extra person


THURSDAY 26 AUGUST – Enjoy a bit of a lie in.  It’s a bit too windy for us to sunbathe on the beach.  In the afternoon Steve & I walk along the beach and up in to the village.  We are just commenting on some stuff in a shop window when a man next to us pipes up in English.  He’s here on his own and a bit lonely so invites us for a drink.  Paul comes from Doncaster and we enjoy chatting to him so ask him to join us for an evening meal.  After our evening meal together we set out later to explore the village and notice many more people dressed up in “interesting” outfits.  What’s even stranger is that Paul gets asked to leave a bar for being unclothed!



FRIDAY 27 AUGUST – Bev & Norms 38th wedding anniversary so I’ve played postman and delivered a card to their tent.  The weather is perfect and we spend the morning on the beach doing the obligatory stroll from one end to the other.  There seem to be more people promenading than lying sunbathing.  For lunch Bev & Norm treat us all to salmon, prawns and champagne.  We return the compliment by treating them to an evening meal at “Le Mississippi” village restaurant directly behind the beach.  It’s a beautiful setting to watch the sunset whilst Steve & Bev enjoy their 1 kilo servings of mussels with chips.  Norm & I have unusual pizzas on a crepe base. 



SATURDAY 28 AUGUST – Morning on the beach with a last visit late afternoon when the place is jam-packed with bodies.  Reckon most people here stay out until the early hours and don’t emerge until lunchtime.



SUNDAY 29 AUGUST – Head inland to Carcassonne.  The citadel is very impressive with double walls and loads of turreted towers.  Motorhome parking is steep at Euro 10 (£7) but at least you can stay overnight.  We’ve visited before but join Bev & Norm for a walk inside the Citadel where we have a 3 course traditional lunch.  Late afternoon we walk down towards the modern town and get a fantastic view back up to the fortress.  The car park attendant leaves just before 8pm and many people must know this as motorhomes and cars pile in.  We take a walk out to see the citadel floodlit and to amble through the streets that are now much quieter as most people have just come to dine.  End up having a very noisy night as the people return to their cars in dribs and drabs making a lot of noise.



MONDAY 30 AUGUST – Grandson Daniel’s 7th birthday and when we phone him up we get a full report on his birthday outing to a theme park yesterday.  Stop for lunch at a rest area with a motorway service centre adjoining.  Within the complex is a free movie extolling the virtues of the “Pics du Midi” which can be visited by cable car.  Continue to Lourdes and easily park.  It’s famous for the 18 visions seen by Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.  Pilgrims flock here to pray in the cave where the Virgin Mary was sighted and to bathe in the waters hoping for a miracle cure to ailments.  The area is now a huge tourist trap.  It all begins in the approach streets where tacky souvenirs are sold by the thousand.  Across the bridge we reach the main esplanade, which runs parallel to the bunker style underground “Basilique Souterraine St-Pie X”, a bleak cave like structure that can hold 20,000 people.  Above ground and centre stage is the huge and impressive 3 tiered “Basilique du Rosaire”.  Below and behind this the people queue to walk into the famous grotto.  After passing through many light a candle to leave amongst thousands in a purpose made area.  Disabled people are ferried round in antiquated blue carriages hand towed by carers, rather like Asian rickshaws.  After passing through the grotto and lighting their candle they are taken to an area where priests talk to them individually.  At 5pm a huge procession makes for the underground church for a service.  We walk the “Way of the cross” that takes us 1 ½ km up a hill lined with the Stations of the Cross depicted in life-size gilt statues.  Return to the van and find that Bev & Norm have booked themselves into a guesthouse with a twin en-suite room for just Euro 20 (£14). 



TUESDAY 31 AUGUST – Meet Bev & Norm at the bath area for when it opens at 9am.  There are long queues as people have been waiting since 7am.  We were only going to have a go out of curiosity so decide not to wait.  However we do talk to a helper who explains the procedure.  Firstly men and women are segregated.  You listen to sermons whilst waiting your turn to be escorted behind the scenes.  For women you first strip down to bra and pants.  In the next room you are given a gown and remove the bra.  Further on you shed your pants before heading into the pool, (men at this point are given a loin cloth).  Finally you remove the gown and immerse yourself in an individual pool with a helper to bathe you.  At each stage prayers are to be said with a big lot at the end.  Reckon we have done the right thing by not following it up.  Lunch stop at Pau where we check out the castle and the view of the Pyrenees but it’s too cloudy for us to see much.  Join the motorway to save time and then end up stopping at one of the rest areas where they have a display about Jacques who founded the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella.  The motorway toll is Euro 5.20 (£3.65) and this works out at about 10c (7p) a km so not cheap.  Drive through Biarritz admiring the many lovely buildings and find the motorhome parking by Milady beach.  Euro 6 (£4.20) a night with electricity but the meter is broken.  Walk back towards the main centre.  The Atlantic Ocean is pounding the shore and surfers take advantage.  Pass lots of interesting rock formations and walk out to a peninsula with fine views in both directions.  At the main town beach many people are caught out when a huge wave covers the sands.  We’ve never seen a beach clear so quickly.  In the evening Bev & Norm walk back in to take advantage of a free music concert at one of the churches.



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