After almost two and a half months off the road it felt good to be setting off on a journey. Still recovering from an operation it wasn’t the start of new adventures but a week long round trip to Spain from Italy. In January after being involved in a motorway pile-up I left almost everything in my wreaked camper van with friends living a little north of Barcelona and flew back to Rome. I was keen to get my things back and feeling good in myself, although I still have to take things easy, I decided to make the round trip.
I left Rome early afternoon and made my way towards the west coast where I picked up the SS1, Via Aurelia, one of the original Roman roads, which follows the Italian coast all the way to France. TC, my new (secondhand) Mercedes Sprinter camper van was a joy to drive clocking up the kilometres easily. By 6pm I was about an hour south of Livorno and decided to stop for the night. I found a motorhome sosta a few kilometres inland and settled down for the night. The sosta was a good choice and I enjoyed a quiet night.
I had no definite plan, I thought I would just take each day as it came and see where I ended up each night. On the road by 9am in glorious sunshine I set off, rejoining the SS1. Once again the kilometres seemed to fly by and by lunchtime I was bypassing Genoa passing through what seemed like hundreds of tunnels. The sky had clouded over and for awhile it looked like rain, but as I approached Ventimiglia close to the French border the clouds disappeared and the sun came out, it was a glorious afternoon. Once in France I wanted to avoid the expensive toll roads so made my way along the coast through Nice and Antibes. I joined the DN7 road north of Frejus, a road that leaves the coast and heads inland before winding its way through a beautiful woodland valley. I remembered an aire in Frejus I’d stopped at on a couple of previous occasions, deciding it would be a good place to spend the night. Unfortunately when I arrived it was full, but I managed to park 50 metres away on the side of the road, not the best place to be, but free and okay for a night.
After a good nights sleep I woke to an overcast sky, it was to be a day of changeable weather. With very little in TC I decided to push on to my friends as quickly as possible. Once I’d picked up all my stuff I could relax a little and take a more leisurely drive back to Rome. Just before 9am I rejoined the DN7 and continued southwards. Avoiding the toll roads I drove along the route national’s passing through countryside that if the weather had been better would have been worth stopping to photograph, unfortunately the grey skies and light drizzle didn’t lend itself to photo opportunities. Late afternoon I crossed into Spain, passing through a border town catering for the tourists and the like with cheap booze, fags and all the usual tourist tat. I could have reached my destination but decided to stop for the night about 50 kilometres away. According to my GPS there was a camperstop at a sports centre, but when I arrived it was a piece of waste ground with a sign saying municipal parking, I was the only one there, despite the fact that the guidebook had said that it was a site for 100 campers! still it was good enough for night and free, which is always a good thing, right.
I slept well on my piece of waste ground and woke to a bright sunny, mild morning. In no particular rush I set off a little after 9am and after stopping for some bits and pieces from Lidl’s arrived at my friends at 10:30. Unfortunately no one was at home, Theresa had had to go into Barcelona and wouldn’t be back until around 6pm so I had a good few hours to kill. I drove north along the coast for a few kilometres until I reached Arenas de Mar. Seeing lots of cars parked close to the beach, but on the other side of a railway line I looked for a way to get there. Near the port I found a bridge which I crossed and drove through the port area to the carpark, which wasn’t as full as it appeared. I found a super spot and parked up for the day, made a super salad lunch and enjoyed the sunshine, which I’ve been missing over the past couple of months. Theresa called me around 5pm to say she was back home so without delay I made my back to her place. It was good to see her again, Rudi though was away in Morocco trying to sell some property. Theresa helped me gather up all my things and we piled it into TC, there was a lot, but it only took half an hour, so not so bad. It was to be a flying visit and I said my goodbyes and hit the road again. As my waste ground overnight stop was only about 70 kilometres away it seemed a good idea to return there for the night. After a bit of a tidy up to give me room to move I cooked dinner and had an early night.
Morning dawned bright and sunny once again, a good day to be on the road. I followed the coast eastwards thinking I might find a good spot to stay, but all the aires and campsites were full and expensive. Being on a budget I always try to find a wild camping spot but most of the parking spots had no camping signs and I wasn’t going to pay to be packed into an overcrowded aire or campsite so decided to head inland a little. In the end I found a great little stopover alongside the Canal de Rhone, quiet, peaceful and best of all free.
I’m still getting used to TC and when I stopped found that the fridge was not getting cold. It has a compressor fridge and with no solar panels and charging my computer and phone the trickle charge from the alternator into the leisure batteries was just not enough. My first priority will be to get solar panels fitted and install a battery to battery charger which should overcome the problem and give me a trouble free future.
Continuing along mainly DN7 I passed through sleepy towns and villages. It always amazes me that you can pass through any number of small towns and villages in France and never see anybody. Keen to get the batteries charged up I decided on a motorhome campsite for the night and to get the most from the stop arrived just before 2pm at one called Aire Camping Car Chez Marcel in La Gaillarde run by a man called Jackie! For €15 I got a nice sized pitch, electric and all other facilities including hot showers, a bonus. As soon as I had hooked up the electric the fridge started working again. I spent the afternoon relaxing in the sunshine enjoying a beer while I charged everything up. It was pleasant sitting in the sun until nearly 7pm when it started to feel a little chilly.
After a good nights sleep and a lovely hot shower I picked up the DN7 once again. The road took me back through the woodland valley I’d enjoyed on my outward journey, unfortunately the grey overcast sky didn’t lend itself to photo’s. For a change I then headed directly to the coast which I followed through Cannes and then Nice. In Cannes I passed the super yacht’s and huge boats moored up in the harbour, the playthings of the rich. There was an exercise being carried out by the police, fire, ambulance and anti terrorist squad’s. It seemed to be a simulated car bomb and hostage situation with what seemed like hundreds of personnel involved, a sure sign of the times. Further along, in fact all the way along to Nice, there were people out exercising, toning up and generally trying to look good. The truth be told though, there were a huge number of fat, overweight, old and frumpy looking individuals dressed in brightly coloured, skin tight lycra or baggy tracksuits making fools of themselves, with one or two exceptions. I stopped for lunch just north of Nice before continuing on to the Italian border.
Having crossed into Italy the SS1 took me south along the coast. I reached the resort town of Diana Marina around 5pm and remembered a sosta I stayed at a couple of times called the Oasis Park. I pulled in and asked the price foe a night and was shocked when they told me it would be €20 for the night. The last time I’d stopped it cost only €10 and I said as much. The reply was it was a holiday weekend, in fact the only official holiday is Monday 25th, but they said in Italy it’s called a “Ponte” which I knew, it means most Italians take the Friday off and make it a long weekend. It still didn’t make sense to me as it was only Thursday! Anyway I left and a few kilometres further down the road in Andora I noticed some campers parked up in a parking area a few hundred metres from the main road, I went to investigate, sure enough they were several campers who would be staying the night and it was free, I joined them and had a quite and relaxing evening.
From Andora I just kept to the SS1 and after a long day’s drive reached Montalto Di Castro, a place I know well and where there are two free camping spots. I choose the spot in the woods, it was quite busy but I found a good place amongst the many Italians out for the holiday weekend and settled down. I reached Rome the following morning after what seemed like a week of not stop driving, I’d driven around 3400 kilometres in the week, TC performed beautifully, but I’m looking forward to a rest.
It seems I've been travelling all my life. For the past eight years I've been following a simple, nomadic lifestyle full time touring in a camper van and meeting with other like minded travellers.
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