Monday 14th – Monday 21st March
The next week passed in a bit of a blur. Suffice to say that I was on a bit of a virtual ‘come down’ after having such an amazing time in Barcelona. Not being that good at any form of prolonged drinking or late nights, after a few days of feeling a bit ropey, I eventually succumbed to the inevitable throat infection and bug. Needless to say the ensue-ing sore throat and achy back combined with generally feeling sorry for myself, did slightly marred our ‘re-venue’ back into France. This, along with a rather dramatic shift in the weather, has made my diary entry for this week look rather anaemic in comparison to my exultations of the week before.
I therefore have decided to focus upon the highlights, the first of which was our being reunited with Brian and Wendy after their weekend to England. We spent a great night with them catching up in the campsite bar and hearing all their stories. Matt, having learnt from his previous mistakes did not even attempt to keep up with Brian (who can pretty much drink anyone in living history under the table) and instead attempted to pace himself accordingly, whilst Wendy and I took it even more gently.
On Wednesday we readied Heidi and left the Sitges campsite (after having completed a complete laundry man-u-mission). I had found during my birthday catch up with my lovely friend Claire, that to my delight, another lovely friend of ours Debs was living in Sitges… I had known that she was somewhere vaguely in the area, but being quite crap at geography… had been happily surprised when I found out she was just around the corner from the campsite and even more happily surprised when she whats’apped to say that she was free that afternoon for a cup of tea and catch up.
Matt, not relishing the prospect being a gooseberry, dropped me off up the road from Deb’s house after extracting the promise of a pick up time and location and headed off to explore Sitges. It was so amazing to ring a doorbell and greeted by an elated Debs and her beautiful one year old rescued Alsatian puppy Indie. The bizarre thing is after ages of not seeing one another, Debs and I spent the next two hours chatting away as if it had been no time at all and were only interrupted by the occasional unexpected fart from Indie (who looked far to elegant and lady-like) much to our amusement. The time went far, far too quickly and we were still deep in conversation when Debs dropped me off at a nearby round about. Needless to say I have vowed that when we go back to Spain (as I am fully intending to do) Matt and I will make sure we get to spend some proper time with Debs and Zeb and their two lovely kids (and of course the beautiful Indie!).
Feeling slightly mournful after having to say my rather premature farewell, Matt and I headed Roses to a rather remote aire. In fact it was more of a cross between lay-by and a dead end than an aire. Surrounded by fields and a motorway, our only solace was a herd of goats, rather large sheep dogs and their friendly looking shepherd which seemed to make the place feel more appealing. After eventually managing to tune out the rain and lull ourselves to sleep, Matt suddenly awoke on high alert after hearing the sound of a lone van approaching Heidi. Like guard dog on patrol, he swiftly leaped over to the window and tweaked the side blind down an inch to assess the situation. The van definitely seemed rather suspect. Firstly it was a small tradesman style van that had decided to randomly park up in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. Secondly it sat there for what seemed like forever, lights off, engine running about 15meters from Heidi as if concealing stocking clad bandits waiting to pounce. Eventually after about 40mins of avid stakeout, the headlights went on and we glimpsed some movement in the back. Seeing the spark of a lighter we felt slightly relieved, realising that it was most probably some kind of shift worker or tradesman hauling up for a sneaking post-shift joint, but even so, we weren’t taking any chances (not as far as our Heidi was concerned) so we continued our steak-out of the van. Sometime after midnight, after about an hour and a half of constant vigil, our steak-out was finally over. The van driver obviously finished whatever he or she was doing and had at last decided to head home, much to our relief.
The next day was a decidedly rainy one as we wound our way around many switch backs of the Costa Brava and crossed the French border. Despite the impressive views the experience was somewhat marred by the dreary grey that seemed to pervade the damp rainy landscape. On entering France we encountered many more switch backs and numerous earthy ‘vigne’ filled hillsides as we made our way down to the little coastal town of Coillioure (one of the recommendations from Francoise, my adventurous French Aunty, who has done more travelling in one year than me and Matt combined). Once in Coillioure, the colourful buildings and picturesque harbour provided a brief rest-bite from the otherwise gloomy day. We spent an hour or so exploring the town before heading to Port-La-Nouvelle, our destination for the night.
Since entering France things had gotten a bit stressful, due to the fact that the moment we crossed the border the driving style had changed from the laid back Spanish style to super-aggressive, tail-gaiting French style and with it, like chain of dominos, had followed Matt’s mood and then mine. When we finally landed at our destination, an aire in a supermarket carpark with supposed parking spaces for motorhomes Matt, still rather heated and unable to locate the parking spaces, parked us temporarily by the Motorhome service point and then headed into the supermarket to unwind leaving me in charge of Heidi.
After a few minutes the flaw in this plan emerged in the form of two french motorhomes wanting to use the service point. Luckily I was able to muster fluent enough french to appease the new arrivals and explain that I couldn’t move Heidi as my husband (who must be lost) had the keys whilst casting agitated glances towards the supermarket. By the time Matt finally came back, beers and chocolate in hand I had got the back-story of both the man and the lady motor-homers, who’s individual motorhomes were their permanent abodes and who seemed to hook up every now and then (not quite sure in what context). Realising that we were looking for a place to park for the night they directed us towards the nearest aire just a few hundred meters away and waved us on our way.
The aire was not quite the picturesque location that we had been used to in Spain, being pretty much a field next to a motorway with a stagnant stream running through which appeared to be home to a couple of ducks and the odd rat. But we were so tired, we really didn’t care and quickly settled down for the night.
The next day we drove down to La Grande Motte on the ‘Petit Camargue’ en route to the real thing and after a few false starts (in the form of none-accessible, out-of-season beach side aires) found ourselves in a rather strange seaside resort. After all the driving we had done, the lack of walking, lack of sleep and my germ filled condition, my back was really hurting, and so rather than drive around to attempt more free/beach side aires, Matt took one look at me and decided to pay the €13 euros to stay in the nearest paid aire in the town.
That day I spent most of the day in bed feeling sorry for myself, with just a brief walk through some rather odd, nautically themed, 1980s, beachside estates to stretch my back, before retiring back to the campsite for our second night of unbroken sleep.
By this time we were both feeling rather disillusioned with France, which so far had been much less picturesque and far more expensive than we had anticipated. After a brief recap and review of the situation we realised our mistake… we had been attempting the coastline rather than exploring in-land as we had done in Spain. After all, beaches equal tourists which equal tacky shops, ugly built up resorts and paying triple for everything (when the resorts were open that is, which nothing seemed to be as it was out of season). Enthused by this epiphany we revised our plan, we would find free aire a little way in land for the night, pay a quick trip to the main part of the Camargue tomorrow before heading to greener pastures.
That night Matt found us a free aire in the prettier (if not a little run down) town of St Gilles where we parked Heidi by the side of the canal next to her river-faring equivalents. After a good walk around the town, we started to feel much happier as it was beginning to feel a bit more like the France we know and love and we started to look forward to the week ahead.