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Europe 2018 Week 4

FRANCE | Wednesday, 10 October 2018 | Views [43]

Day 22 - Tuesday 25 September

Marzabotto to Florence to Marzabotto

Ready to leave @8:20am after picking up our bread we had ordered the day before at the camp shop and trying in vain to contact Linda's crew on Facebook. Plan was to drive to Sesto Fiorentino train station on the outskirts of Florence, take the train into the city then visit Pitti Palace and the 110 acre Boboli Gardens behind it.

The drive was marked by many tunnels, many bridges, much roadworks, a few usual navigation errors and bad Italian drivers. The drivers never use indicators and drive very close behind you, even when they do not want to pass. When they do pass they cut back into your lane very close in front of you. They take no notice of speed limits, especially around roadworks and tailgate to push you to go faster. Not impressed.

The train into Florence, however, was modern, smooth & quiet. Was impressed.

About 10am, we walked from the station to the Pitti Palace along the river and joined the ticket queue. About 40 minutes later we were walking around the 'gardens'. Not many flowering plants but many avenues of trees and many steps. The inside of the palace was full of paintings, sculptures and very impressive wall and ceiling decor you would expect in a palace. Very different to the fairly unimaginative and not very well maintained exterior. Lots of rooms, all different, most with pictures ranging in size from small to huge.

Left the palace about 3:30 after a drink in the cafe. Went over the Ponte Vecchio then through the city centre this time along many tourist crowded pedestrian only streets, back to the station. Got back to camp about 5:30. Had lunch that we had taken with us but did not get the chance to eat.

Day 23 - Wednesday 26 September

Marzabotto to Turin

Left ~8.20 , drove through some tunnels for some distance then most of landscape from then was freeway across flat countryside with not much of interest to look at until we approached Turin, with a backdrop of mountains. The terrain became more hilly and forested and we reached camp just outside of La Cassa village ~12.50 after only a couple of wrong turns.

At the gate intercom we were greeted in Italian but she asked to wait. After some time, two men walked up the road, one who could speak some English who ushered us in to reception and Louisa who was in charge. We decided French was the best way to go so we managed to get through check in OK. The normal English speaking managers, who were Dutch, had gone to Holland for a while.

Settled into our bungalow overlooking the pool and main building. Very pleased. After lunch and a walk around the camp until the nearest supermarket opened at 3.30, we then drove the 10 minutes to the small village of Fiano to stock up.

There were a few other people staying at the camp, all very well tanned. Very nice pool area, jacuzzi, sauna, 2 tennis courts, volleyball court, table tennis, restaurant, large hall, all well maintained but no camp shop. No problem, we had all we needed.

We ate in that night, Linda cooking.

Day 24 - Thursday 27 September

The sky has been blue all day and there has been no wind but it has been a bit cool, just below 20, but warm in the sun. Today was for catching up on blogs. I worked out how to create HTML files using Word that contain thumbnails of jpg's that display in full screen when you click on them. I spent all afternoon creating pages with hyperlinks to the blogs I have been writing. All that effort achieved about 60% of week one! .. lots of photos from two cameras and two phones with page format design and hyperlinks. Tried out the pool .. cold!

A stroll around camp before dinner. Each quarter hour a chime or two reaches us from one of the nearby church bell towers. The camp is very quiet although there were a dozen people lying around the pool all day. I get the impression, though, that in the summer there are big crowds of people. Not much English is spoken here so we kept to ourselves mostly. After finding out about Risotto from Carla & Harrie at the last camp site, Linda now has rice back on the menu. Damn.

Day 25 - Friday 28 September

Turin to Forcalquier

Sorted our rubbish into vetroe, plastica, carta & indifferenziata bins and waited for someone to come to reception. After a while, I walked down to the residence of Gianfranco & Louisa and met Louisa about to take her little dog for a walk. Gianfranco was there and explained Louisa will come up to reception & check us out. 20 minutes later, Louisa turned up, (after her dog walk) and we settled the bill.

Left about 9.20 for an expected trip of about 4 driving hours. Heading towards the French border over the Alps, we first went through many tunnels along a couple of tollways while mountains grew around us. The scenery became breathtaking, one magnificent vista leading to another while the road became windy (curvy, not blowy) as we climbed higher eventually to the Alpine ski village of Montgenevre where the border with France is. From there we descended long valleys with more magnificent scenery until the mountains slowly shrank to big hills. We stopped at a small lake at La Roche-de-Rame for a rest with about half the driving to go. This was a beautiful place. We walked around it, watching the abundant fish from every bank and taking many photos, some with the mountains reflecting in the water.

About ten minutes from our destination, we stopped at a supermarket in Forcalquier for stocks. At the camp, charming Helen greeted us with a French sounding hello. She was expecting us Australians and spoke very good English, she even understood my jokes. The info pamphlet she gave me had a British flag and GB on it. I asked if she had an Australian one and she saw the humour in that.

The large grounds are on the side of a hill with not many trees. Our cabin was up the top with a magnificent view of the other side of the valley. The cabin was very modern and fully equipped, except for a TV, which is not something we really wanted.

After a late lunch at about 4.30, Linda did some washing and I did this blogging. Under a cloudless sky, the sun was hot on our front balcony. Helen had said this warm weather is expected to continue for two weeks. We consider ourselves blessed with continuing fine weather.

Day 26 - Saturday 29th September

Small animal scampering over the cabin roof woke us up before dawn, probably from trees overhanging cabin.

Photographed the sun on the opposite side of the valley as it came down the slope.

Back in France, now, and the mugs are full size again. Had to use two cups for a cuppa in Italy, Croatia, Austria and Switzerland.

Reconnoitred the camp after a late breakfast. (Linda did not want to get out of bed until it was warm.) Bought a 1 day 'wee fee' (wi fi) for each of our phones. Yesterday my Visa card was not accepted at the supermarket, had to pay cash. Checked my account to see if I had the balance I expected. Fortunately it was there. Must have been just a fussy EFTPOS machine.

From our front porch, blue sky and sunshine and not even a breeze accompanied the contemplation of the panoramic view of the other side of the valley.

Spent the day resting, blogging, resting internet tasks in the restaurant area near reception, resting and some eating. Arranged at reception for early departure tomorrow .. 8:00am.

Day 27 - Sunday 30th September

Forcalquier to Barjac

Left at 8:10am with me expected travel time of 3 hours. No freeways or tollways today. Travelled under overcast skies through picturesque undulating French countryside and towns. Took a few wrong turns in Avignon but otherwise very pleasant driving. Arrived at our camp near Barjac at 11:10 on schedule, checked in and checked out our cabin. This one was a bit bigger with sleeping for four. The camp is again on a hillside but covers a large area. We walked down towards the river inspecting the facilities on the way, found out where to park the car the next time we go down, then trudged back up for some lunch.

After some of Linda's 'hocus pocus' of tuna, egg and tomato, we took the narrow walking path around a forested valley to the ruins of old chateau. The sky, now, had few clouds, the temperature was ideal for walking and most of the path was shaded. At the chateau, a walking party joined us who had walk from 35km away, and still going. After lots of photos, we had showers back at the cabin before going down to the pool, in the car this time. Linda was adamant that she was not going into the pool until she found one of them was enclosed and warmed to a temperature of her liking.

The shop opened at 5pm so we drove down to that for some provisions (chocolate croissants) then back for cuppa and dinner.

During our travels there have been very few insects annoy us and very few windows have had fly screens. The only mosquitos we have come across have bitten only Linda and not me, so that's alright. Same at this camp.

Day 28 - Monday 1st August

Barjac to Marseillan-Plage

The usual pre departure is to clean the bugs off the windscreen that did not give way to us the previous day. That done, and after breakfast and cleaning the cabin, we drove down to the river and walked upstream on the path beside the river and on the gravelly river bed, taking photos before the sun came up over the high ridge. Checked out ~ 9:15 and went looking for a cash dispenser in the nearest village, Barjac. Directions were given from a friendly local and cash was dispensed. After a wander about the winding alleys for a while, we headed on to find one of the grottes in the area. The first one was closed but second one was not only open, it was spectacular, the 'Grand Site de l'Aven d'Orgnac. We perused the museum of neolithic history for about 45 minutes before taking the 11:15 tour into the cave. Tours in English finished for the year at the end of September. This being 1st October, we missed out by a day. With the French guide we descended first 50 metres by steps into the first large chamber, the one that contained the original hole in its ceiling through which the original explorer descended in 1935. We descended 121 metres surrounded by a vast range of types and sizes of stalectites and stalicmites with a finale of a light and sound show at the bottom. To get back up? Take one of the two lifts, of course.

After a couple of sandwiches and the essential hots chocolates, we set the GPS's for our next destination, 3 hours drive to the Mediterranean coast. Another pleasant country drive through small villages and a few large towns. We always seem to make the wrong turns in big towns.

Stopped at a Supermarche for provisions for the next 3 days, a tank of gazole and drove the last 20 minutes to the camp. The first half of the day was fine mild weather but this afternoon it was fine, very windy weather. Settled into the cabin, (bed on the mezzanine in this one), then walked around the camp and back along the beach before dinner in the cabin.

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