One thing we have learned is that the French Riviera is not particularly motorhome-friendly. In the towns there is nowhere to park. Plenty of car parks but all with height restrictions so no good for Gertie. We’ve tried asking at tourist infomation centres and they send you to marinas or small parking places where there’s space for about 3 vans and all spaces are occupied by bloody cars. Speed bumps everywhere – and every speed bump even when taken very slowly means the entire contents of the van jump. God help you next time you open the fridge. Very narrow roads, even when following the ‘main’ routes through the town. Darned satnav doesn’t understand Gertie is fat, and once we had to reverse back up a narrow street. Not very relaxing driving. Ignatius is a hero – I could never do it!
But anyway, we have managed to see quite a bit of this part of the coast, although we have not been able to stop and explore all the towns we might have liked to.
Thursday 13th April
We gave up on trying to look round St Raphael owing to lack of parking, and instead drove the coast road from our last campsite near St Raphael. Some impressive scenery. We spotted a good layby just off this road which was suitable for wild-camping, and made a note of it. Headed on to near Cannes then looped back and drove an inland mountain road which was very beautiful. We parked near the top of a col and walked up through forest to the top of a small mountain. And then looped back round to the camping spot we’d already checked out, for a very peaceful night almost alone – which is difficult to manage on this very built-up coastline! This is the only section not built on, and that, I think, is only because they can’t build here.
While in the overnight spot, a Ferrari parked beside us for a while. That’s the type of vehicle you should drive in this terrain, said Ignatius, not a 3.5 ton campervan!
Friday 14th April
Wonderful coffee stop at a beachside restaurant we’d spotted yesterday (but had been unable to find parking then). A sleek black MacClaren passed us (pipping the Ferrari). We’d intended stopping in Cannes but could not find anywhere to park, again, so pushed on to a campsite just outside Antibes, and were set up there in time for lunch.
Spent the afternoon cycling around the Cap d’Antibes, and the evening relaxing at the campsite.
Saturday 15th April
We’d decided to spend 2 nights at the campsite so we could explore Antibes properly. It seems to be one of the few towns with a campsite in easy reach of the town centre. So we cycled into town, explored a fort, then the Picasso museum and cathedral, then a covered market, and then the twisty lanes of the old town. A very enjoyable day. An E-type Jaguar passed us while we sat outside our lunchtime restaurant, pipping both Ferrari and MacClaren in my mind. OK that’s enough about the swanky cars around here. I realise I am in danger of losing our readers.
Our German neighbours in the campsite cycled into Nice today (bit far for me) but came back by train with only one bike, the other one having been stolen and the lock cut through. Bit off-putting.
A few technical issues back at the campsite – the Mifi box would only pick up 3G and was very slow, the satellite dish was struggling to pick up Astra 2 so we decided to watch a DVD then discovered the DVD player in the TV wouldn’t work. Thankfully my laptop has a DVD player so we used that and watched an episode of Game of Thrones (series 5, episode 1, so please no spoilers from episodes beyond that!)
Sunday 16th April
Happy Easter! Lovely Ignatius gave me a Green & Black’s easter egg, which somehow he’d hidden in the van for the last 2 weeks. I gave him nothing. Well, maybe a thank you kiss!
Bit of a frustrating day today. We left the lovely Antibes campsite and headed east on the coast road to Nice. Nowhere to park, so we drove the Promenade des Anglais (scene of the horrific terror attack last year) and headed on towards Monaco, hoping to find a layby to pull into for a lunch stop. Not a single layby. Drove through Monaco (mostly tunnels) and popped out the other side. Still nowhere to stop. And then there was the Italian border, and still no parking places. We began searching on Google maps for campsites, found one but it was full, then parked illegally by the beach to have a much-needed and very late lunch stop.
We have ended up in a campervan aire (well they are called sosta di camper here) in Santo Stefano al Mare, which is east of San Remo. It’s right by the sea which is nice. Actually we found parking in San Remo, and stopped for a while, but too dear to stay overnight there. I guess because it is Easter there is a lot of traffic and the aire is full (we got the last space!)
So now I’m sitting looking out over the sea and watching a stream of cruise liners heading across to the French resorts. The Med looks almost as busy as the roads. In happy news, the Mifi seems to work a lot quicker here than in France, and the satellite dish for the moment has picked up Astra 2 so we should be able to see the finale of Homeland tonight…
The plan is to spend about a week or so driving down the west coast of Italy, get to Sicily, and then slow the pace right down… Looking forward to that after all the time spent driving today. The distance wasn’t great but progress was slow all day and frustrating with the lack of parking. Hoping too that once the Easter weekend is over the traffic will calm down a bit.