We’re here: N43.70599 E6.50707. It’s a free aire (€3 token for the services but we don’t need ’em), a lovely little picnic place in a bend in the road a hundred meters or so from Comps-Sur-Artuby in Provence, France. The village is a timeless little place; there’s a sign up next to the fountain saying it was the only source of drinking water up until 1951. Without clues like the steady flow of Renaults, you’d struggle to know which decade (maybe even century) you were in. The sun’s streaming down on us and our friendly Dutch and French motorhoming neighbours.
The weather is: we woke up in our car park kipping spot to find the sky cloud free. Blue sky = sun = solar panel generating = get stuff charging. We got up and charged up the iPad for a bit. A few clouds have appeared in the day, but we didn’t notice as we were too busy looking downwards.
Today started with the Riez market. For once we got to it before it started to shut; indeed a few stalls were still opening up! We’ve seen a few French village markets now, and we love them. The atmosphere is welcoming and slow-paced, perhaps partly aided by the steady flow of wine at the cured meat and cheese stalls. Even at 9am, the wine was sat alongside the cheese, staring accusingly as if to say “come on you stiff Brits, it’s gone 8:30am, time for a glass of Beaujolais, non?” !
Our budget being what it is, and with Dave’s cupboards already stuff full and flinging stuff at us whenever we open them, we avoid the immaculate fruit and veg stalls, the olives, picked octopus and roast chicken. We can’t resist the lavender honey; as soon as we’re back in Dave it’s cracked open. Should it taste like lavender smells? We don’t know, it just taste like honey, but it lovely never-the-less.
Turning off the iPad charger, we set course for the Gorges Du Verdon – the Grand Canyon of France. The guidebooks rant about it, Wikipedia says it’s “one of the most beautiful canyons in Europe”. We’re excited. You can drive along either the north or south sides of it, and both roads are supposed to be switchback-loaded vertigo-inducing sweaty-palmed strips of tarmac. We go for the southern one – it’s a yellow on our map, while the northern one descends all the way down to white. White is the lowest of the low, just above dirt track. We don’t want any of that in our big old Dave.
So, next thing we know we’re on the white road. Satnav has turned on us again. We had stopped off at the surreal man-made turquoise lake at the entrance to the gorges (Lac de Sainte-Croix), gotten all entranced by the sight of it and the adjacent mass of rock punching its way skywards, and taken a wrong turn. I man up, wipe some of the sweat off my mitts to get a better grip on the wheel and we second gear our way up along the canyon edge, stopping every now and again to let our tail past. Much waving and hazard flashing seems to indicate they’re relieved at not being stuck behind our 10mph machine for the next 20km.
The road itself defies description. At least my vocab doesn’t stretch to it. Come and have a go. We found ourselves stopping every km or so and peering down into the depths, getting the heebygeebies and driving on a bit more. 10km later we discovered the northern road suddenly becomes one-way, and it’s not our way. Having no choice we about turned and, not wanting to miss out, back-tracked 30km to do the south side. More road madness. It’s not dangerous, a bit narrow sometimes, but the fact someone chose to build these roads (and not just one but two of them) is testament to either man’s engineering prowess, or our incredible vanity. We’re not bothered which it is, we had a cracking time.
Having done both sides of the canyon, I’ve got a spiking pain in my back from hauling Dave about. We drive into the little village we’re parked in now, spotted the blue aire sign and dived in. The French chap in front of us helpfully translated the sign for me, which is in French, into French. Fortunately I understood what he was on about: it’s free here.
Tomorrow we’re off down to the coast to meet up with Jules, Phil and the Glambulance for a BBQ and no doubt a beer or two. They’ve scouted out a beach campsite and sent us the GPS co-ordinates. After that we’ll turn Dave Alpswards and make a mountain assault on Italy. Go Dave, go.