Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phase 2 of our shake down trip has taken us from just north of the Spanish border to just south of the Swiss’!

Having spent a fabulous week with an old school friend [Mike King] of mine [who I haven’t seen for 40 years!] we headed off to see some friends that we met more recently on our travels in Australia [Paul and Carol Godwin].

We spoiled ourselves with a week (or so) at the beach…lovely walks each day, a fantastic bakery and fruit and veg. shop…what more could we want!! We moved on because there was a kite surfing tournament and the camp site closed!!

We moved along the coast a bit and were amazed to discover walled cities, as this was the extent of the Roman Empire nearly a thousand years ago. They were formidable fortresses, thick walls 20ft high with slits in for the arrows to fly out of, towers at intervals to strengthen the structure and make rooms to accommodate the guards, and we think they must have poured hot liquids through the holes above the gates!! What a welcome!! Aigues Mortes was spectacular as we were able to camp right beside the river, overlooking the walls.

We then visited the Camargue. Having seen pictures of the wild part of this area in books we were a little disappointed to find that it was all very commercialised. However we spent a very happy few days looking at the birds [in a bird park a bit like Slimbridge where the birds are free to come and go].We were especially impressed with the flocks of flamingos and the coypu.

Arles was our next port of call. Another very old city with a Roman amphitheatre as well as high walls, very,very narrow streets, and right on the Rhone. A lovely place, if a bit touristy, but not a great place if there are 3 thunderstorms meeting overhead and you discover there is a hole in the roof!!! It had a great Saturday market, lots of fruit, veg, cheese and handicrafts. There was a great band playing very catchy tunes to amuse us all.

Further on was the Pont du Gard.

Built by the Romans to transport water about 20ks, it is an amazing piece of engineering. We spent a very happy afternoon there and explored it all. Great, as you will see from the photo.

Avignon next. We had to see the bridge…we didn’t sing!! The town itself is another walled town..narrow streets,with a very impressive papal palace.

We thought we would like a bit of a challenge, so drove up a mountain 1909m high!! The road was steep and twisty, and the driving was made harder by quantities of bikes!! Maybe they were practising for the Tour de France, but there were literally hundreds of them. Some seemed to be enjoying the experience, but for most it seemed like an endurance test. The road was good, but steep, and when we got to the top it was freezing cold, with the wind whistling, though that did ensure that it was clear! The downward trail had some scary hairpin bends, though it was nice not to hear the engine struggling!!

We spent a great evening at low altitude; met some very entertaining Americans who have been to South America and know a couple that we met, there, and beside the Arctic ocean!! What a small world! Then we followed a ‘green route’ on our map [green = scenic] and found ourselves in spectacular country, with mountains on all sides, glorious valleys and even windier roads! We actually had to shunt to get round one series of corners…good job we couldn’t see the bottom from there!!!! We met a herd of sheep and goats [with bells round their necks] going to their summer pasture, and there was a lot of fun with the shepherds about needing money for a photo! Judging by the trail left behind them, they must have walked about 10 ks!!

Now we are about to cross into Switzerland, to see some other travelling friends who now have children and live in Bern and Zurich….should be fun!! Then on into Germany…hard life isn’t it!!?

All for now, until next time…..
Mike and Liz

1 comment:

Paul Goodwin said...

Loved the van, lovely to see you again, made me want to get a van and go travelling...Paul & Carol