Leaving Diano Marina I took to the autostrada a few kilometres before Ventimiglia, and crossed into France, bypassing Monaco before returning to the normal coast road at Nice. The weather remained chilly and wet with a strong wind. The seaside towns that bustle in the summer were deserted.
The sun made an appearance as I reached Cannes. I stopped for lunch in a huge Géant Supermarket on the road to Frejus, it’s a popular stopover for motorhomes and somewhere I’ve stayed myself in the past. There were about twenty campers parked up on the far side of the carpark. Two police women on bicycles rode around talking with one or two campers and having a laugh, the police regularly patrol the parking area so no one over stays their welcome. While eating lunch I looked through my guide books for aires and camperstops and found one in Le Lavandou, about a hundred kilometres further on. I should have waited until I was a lot closer before turning on the GPS, but I didn’t, I should have known better. The GPS gave me directions but sent me over some very scenic, but twisty single track roads over the coastal cliffs. The views in places would have been beautiful if had not been so late in the afternoon as the sun sets early at this time of the year and I couldn’t get any decent photo’s. I arrived in Le Lavandou around 6 pm, tired but pleased with my progress. The aire was little more than a parking spot on the coast road, but good enough for a nights rest.
One of the great things about being back in France was the cost of fuel. In Italy I’d been paying €1.65 a litre for diesel, in France it was only €1.28, a big saving and one that certainly helps the budget.
I slept well, despite the rain drumming on the roof all night, waking at 7:45. It was cold inside the van as the temperature had dropped to 3ºC overnight. With the rain lashing down and feeling chilly I quickly made breakfast, washed, dressed and got going. France apparently was going to be having a few rough days weatherise so I didn’t want to hang around and decided to try and get to Narbonne. According to my guide books there is a motorhome aire at Narbonne Plage, about a 400 kilometre drive. Sticking to the normal roads rather than pay the exorbitant motorway tolls I made good time. The rain finally stopped and the sun came out although it was still cold. After stopping for lunch and to buy some groceries I set off once again but got held up in some major roadworks. By 5 pm I was still an hours drive away from Narbonne and thought about stopping somewhere along the way, but in the end decided to push on, which was a waste of time really as when I finally reached the aire it was closed. There were two French motorhomes parked near to the blocked entrance way, which looked like they were staying for the night so I joined them. It saved me paying the €11 to park up in the aire although I would have had electric hook-up as well. It was strange that the aire was closed as it is listed in all the guide books and from the descriptions given it sounded popular. It seems I’m rushing through France and heading south, which is true, but I have been this way many times before and have arranged to meet a friend in Malaga in a few days time who I haven’t seen for a couple of years and then to meet up with other friends who I will go to Morocco with in Algeciras.
The temperature plummeted over night hovering around 2°C. Whether it was the cold I’m not sure but I woke early with a thumping headache. Braving the cold I got up went for a pee, took a painkiller and went back to bed where I dozed until 8:15. Opening the blinds, it was despite the cold, a beautiful sunny morning, but the wind was horrendous, shaking the van from side to side like a dog with a stick. A quick wash, coffee and some cereal and I was ready to set off. I headed back towards Narbonne where I picked up the road to Perpignan, stopping only to top the diesel tank up. The traffic was light and having passed Perpignan I arrived at the Spanish border at midday where I stopped for an early lunch. The sun shone, but it was still cold as I entered Spain, the mountains in the distance were covered in fresh snow. I knew I’d crossed the border as there were the usual shops selling cheap perfumes, drinks and clothes, a few garages selling cheap fuel and a number of working girls wandering around trying to drum up some business with the large number of truck drivers in the parking areas. Prostitution is legal in Spain, even the local newspapers are full of advertisements offering “services”. Leaving the girls to the truck drivers I continued on towards Barcelona. Hopefully the sun will continue to shine and the temperature will go up over the next few days.
Again not wanting to use the toll roads and the fact that there are few safe places to free camp before Barcelona I made my way to a small town called Navarcles where there is a small Aire de camping-car. I stayed here once before, it’s quiet, with fresh water and a grey waste point. There is an electric hook-up box but it was, and still is padlocked, it’s not a problem though as I have good battery storage and the solar panel.
I went for a walk. There is a park area close by with a pond created from the river that runs through it. It was a pleasant walk and it was good to stretch the legs and take a few photo’s. Returning to the van I found a Dutch couple parked next to me, so there’s company tonight.
I thought about my friends from Rome, Godfredo & Gillian who had the passport problems and thought I’d send an SMS to see if there was any news. Within a couple of minutes Niki phoned to say Godfredo had got his new passport and would be leaving the following morning. They plan to spend a night with friends in Genoa, but it’s good news that they are on their way and we will be able to meet up in Algeciras to cross over to Morocco together. Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that Niki will fly out and join me for a month in the New Year.
Wow! the temperature dropped last night. This morning I was woken by the sound of running water and realised that it was coming from the motorhome. The combined heating and hot water boiler has a safety switch which, when the temperature drops to just above freezing point a valve opens to drain the boiler which prevents it from freezing up. A great feature, but I leave the main power switch for the water pump on all the time, when the safety switch popped this morning the boiler started to empty and the pump was trying fill it, result all the water in the tank got pumped out through the boiler onto the parking area. I quickly jumped out of bed to switch off the pump, but had lost all the water. Fortunately being on an aire there was a water tap so I refilled the tank, reset the boiler switch and switched on the heating to warm things up, a minor crisis, but all was well in the end.
I seemed to have left the rain behind and although cold the sun shone from a blue sky. By lunchtime the temperature had risen into double figures, the sun shining through the motorhome windows made it feel quite summery.
I made my way to Peniscola on the coast, 250 kilometres southwest. I remembered a camperstop someone had given me details of some time ago and thought it would be worth a try. It’s a place called Camping La Volta, a motorhome only campsite. When I arrived the gate was closed with a sign saying ring the bell. There was no bell but a small hand set with a yellow button saying push, so I did, the gate opened and in I went in to be met by a huge Spanish guy who asked if I wanted electric hook-up, I said yes and he pointed me to a spot by the outer fence. He stood behind me directing me until I was parked in a straight line and close to the fence. I’d just switched off the engine when he tapped on the window, he wanted me to move over a little, which I did, but having switched the engine off for a second time he asked me to move over some more. It felt like a game of musical motorhomes without the music, I was not amused. Eventually I was parked in accordance with his instructions and hooked-up to the electric. My parking attendant said I should go to the reception to check in walking with me to show the way. The reception was locked so he took me into the bar where another man said he was having something to eat and could I come back in an hour! Man number two asked man number one if he had my registration number, he hadn’t and I offered to write it down for him, but that was no good, he had to write it down himself so walked back to the van with me, all very strange, but eventually I was settled in. The wind was still blowing like a banshie, the van rocking from side to side; at least I had electric so the heating was on, no more boiler problems.
I slept well having been rocked to sleep by the wind and woke around 7:30. I read for awhile, enjoying coffee and biscuits in bed, at least I wasn’t freezing like yesterday morning. I had a lovely hot shower then breakfast, before calling Niki on Skype, it’s her birthday today. Mid morning Rudi called me and we chatted for awhile, although the line was bad, perhaps a weak signal. We have arranged to meet up in the Malaga area at the end of the week, which will be nice, it will also be close to when Gillian & Godfredo arrive so we can cross to Morocco together at the beginning of December. Although I went for a short walk I spent most of the day on the computer, the wind still blowing hard making it uncomfortable to sit outside. While walking across the campsite I saw a “CampingGas” two burner hob for sale outside a Dutch motorhome. It looked almost brand new and came with a wind protector, they were asking €25, but in the end took €20. It will be good for cooking outside in Morocco where I can use a gas bottle rather than my main chassis mounted gas tank, which is difficult to get refilled in Morocco.
Close by me is another English registered motorhome, another Rapido. I offered them a couple of books I’d finished and took one from them. The man’s name was also Alan, both he and his wife were friendly. They had just sold a house in France and were taking a break before returning to the UK. They lent me a DVD to watch, a film I haven’t seen before which will make a nice change. Actually it didn’t turn out that way, the film was a black comedy about a gang boss and two of his henchmen. There was more swearing in the film than normal language or so it seemed, not my sort of film at all.
The following day was much better as the sun shone from a blue sky with no clouds, out of the sun it was a bit chilly still, but my best day so far since leaving Rome. Being such a nice day I took the opportunity to give the van a good wash, it really needed it after all the rain I’ve driven through over the past week. I checked the oil and water and did a few small bits and pieces while I was at it.
Theres been quite a lot of movement on the site today with people leaving and others arriving, it’s a popular place. After lunch I sat out and read for awhile, then walking over to the facilities block I noticed an Iveco campervan which I recognised, it was Ron & Avy who I met two years ago in Portugal, small world really. We sat and chatted for a couple of hours until the sun dropped and it turned chilly again. It was great to see them. They plan to stay in Spain for awhile, possibly meeting up with some friends for Christmas.
I woke to a glorious morning, blue sky, lots of sun and birds singing. Only the wind felt chilly in the shade. I wallowed in the campsite shower enjoying endless hot water which made me feel good as I packed away and prepared to leave. I went to say goodbye to Ron & Avy, but they weren’t there so I left a message on their camper. Having paid my bill, the lady in reception said she would come over and open the locked electric box so I could disconnect my cable. After waiting 10 minutes I walked back to the office where the lady was deep in conversation with somebody on the phone, I waited patiently until she had finished, but having put the phone down she just sat there. I asked if she was coming to open the box, ‘sorry’ she said I’d forgotten about it, even though it was only 10 minutes before. She slowly got up, came outside, locked the office door, jumped onto an electric buggy and drove off towards where I was parked, I stood waiting again as she started talking to another camper. Eventually everything was in order and I left the La Volta camperstop to continue southwards to Valencia and Alicante. Keeping to the main auto via, the A7, I made good time. Having left late it was getting onto 4 pm by the time I reached the outskirts of Alicante and I decided to stop in La Marina for the night. La Marina is a small town on the coast with a large parking area where in the off season motorhomes can park up. Many people spend weeks there which is strange as it is only a carpark. Okay I know the seafront is only a short distance away, but spending weeks camping in a carpark is not my idea of fun. When I arrived there were two German or Dutch couples with their tables and chairs set out in the middle of the carpark, wine glasses full and deep in conversation. At least it’s a quiet stopover for me for the night. I take a walk to the beach 100 metres away, it’s deserted. The sea is quite rough due to the winds that have picked up again. There is a small bar/restaurant open, but has only two customers who sit wrapped up in thick jackets. Walking back over the small sand dunes there are two people exercising their dogs. A woman throws a ball which her Alsatian runs after having a good time, the other, a man has a large light brown dog wearing a neckerchief, the man offers the dog a drink of water from a plastic container but the dog shies away and just wants to play.
It starts to rain around 8 pm, the sky is an angry dark grey, it looks like there could be a storm brewing.
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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