Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our Summer Holiday

I was sorting out some photos when I thought I would do a blog of our summer hols.

It was coming to the end of July when we realised we hadn't made any plans for our summer holiday and decided on the spur of the moment to take the children to the South of France where Domenico and I lived for 2 years and then on to Spain. As accomodation gets rather pricey for four of us we took the plunge and bought a cheap camper van off Ebay in the UK. We were really lucky and dealt with a lovely honest chap from Surrey. As this was the first time we had ever tried campervanning we had no idea what to expect, though we liked the thought of being free to go where ever we wanted.


Domenico flew to London to pick up 'Steve' (the camper) and prepared to travel down France ( a 1st for him without me to navigate!) and DJ and I piled the car full of bedding, clothes and kitchen stuff to meet up with him in Nice. All went well, DJ and I arrived on time and met up with Angelo (Domenico's brother who lives in Nice) and we were all to meet up with Domenico in a restaurant that evening. It was there we got the SOS text- 'Help I've run out of petrol, I'm in the french Alps (God knows what he was doing there as I told him to stick to the autostrada), 30km from Nice, beside a river near such and such town!!' Well I knew it was too good to be true. From what we were told the area where he stopped was treacherous mountain roads, so we were tossing with the idea of just leaving him as he did have a bed and kitchen facilities! In the end we decided to go and save him as we thought he wasn't too far away. Thats when the fun really started. We arrived at the gas station to get some petrol for the camper but when I put the car key in the boot to open it, the key snapped and Domenico had the spare on his key ring. The car was stuck at the petrol pumps blocking everyone as the power steering had locked and which ever position we pushed the car it left no room. In the end the nice chap at the gas station let us use his car to try and track down Domenico in the mountains and retrieve the spare key. It was all to no avail as he had no reception on his phone, and he wasn't where we thought he would be,so we arrived back at 5am in the morning and called a tow truck to take the car away. At 8am in the morning I got a call from Domenico saying he had arrived in Nice, after finding petrol nearby.It was such a relief and we went to retrieve the car from the towing people, who actually kindly let us keep the car there for a few weeks while we travelled in the Camper.

The first couple of days we stayed around Nice and Villfranche, before heading to St Raphael along the most amazing red rocked Esteral coast road with crystal clear waters.

Villefranche



The Esteral Coastline

Sunset Port St Raphael

We quickly learnt that we were better off staying away from the big towns as there was no where to park the Camper and we didn't want to stay in campsites which were just so overcrowded.
It was
really nice being back in France and didn't take too long before my french came back, it was a bit of a cocktail for the first few days though.The french are certainly a lot more respectful than the Italians and were very polite. It was nice to experience great customer service again which is pretty much non existent in Rome.

Liana arrived 5 days later by train and we made a quick detour back to Nice to pick her up. We quickly told her the camper rules, as with such a small space this was important, it didn't help matters that she bought just about everything with her!

We did the next stint on the autostrada until we came to Montpellier then headed cross country to the coast, through the Camargue region where the wild horses roam and then on to Cap D'agde.I remember this resort town from when I went on holiday as a young girl, though now it was not very nice, a bit run down and tacky, so we only stopped off one night.

The next day we headed to Spain by the coast road, it was really stunning though hair raising driving along the cliff roads, my toes and fingers were so sore afterwards with keeping them clenched. It was funny arriving in Spain as we were all mute when we went to get supplies from the supermarket. Even Domenico who knows some Spanish couldn't get the words out, so we were speaking italian and adding an 's' onto the end of each word hoping it would sound right.Little did we know that the grammar is totally different to Italian.

Whilst driving through the spanish villages we came across several 'hole in the wall' Fire roasted chicken joints. The chicken was absolutely irrisistable, stuffed with lemon, garlic and rosemary. The queues outside proved the popularity with the locals.

Fire Roasted Chickens

Barcelona was our next stop, an amazing lively city which really functions well and is so easy to walk around, with so much to see and do. Unfortunately it was not very camper friendly and we only stayed one night as we were broken into.The bloody thieves took off with my laptop (which I had hidden), our soap and beach bag, leaving behind Liana's Ipod and the mobile phones. I was so peeved off as I lost so many photos which I hadn't backed up.We would really like to return in the winter to see more of the city and will definetely fly next time.


The next day we headed to Sitges, this we later found out is Spains main Gay resort, a gorgeous town and beachfront, lots of quaint streets and funky cafes/ restaurants as well as LOTS of gays.DJ and Liana went out one night and DJ couldn't get over how happy everyone was, though after a while he said he started to feel a bit uncomfortable.When we arrived in Sitges we had to sit out the biggest storm which went on throughout the night, I have never experienced gales like it, really frightening, though the next day the waves were awesome.

Sitges Beachfront
Sitges


Liana & DJ and the amazing waves
We spent about a week in Spain before heading back along the French coast stopping in St Tropez for a few days.This place is oozing wealth, and is extremely expensive, so we avoided the main town. The port was full of boats bigger than the buildings, we could just stand and drool. We found a beach area about 2km long just outside, made up of private and public areas,and a lovely camping area just for campervans right on the beach.

This old dear was parading up and down with just a piece of string around her bum, I think she thought she was still 20 not 80 .
Beignets sur la plage
This pooch was loving the sea
Liana & DJ St Tropez
The Port St Tropez
The rest of the hols were spent back near Nice and Monte Carlo and we showed Liana and DJ the areas we lived and where we worked (the same staff are still working there after 20 years).

Nice

End of our holiday,Domenico & I sur la Promenade Des Anglais
About 5000km later we arrived back in Rome after a fabulous adventure and have decided that campervanning is a great way to travel. We are hoping that the next trip will be to Morroco though next time we will put the camper on the ferry over to Spain.

4 comments:

  1. looks like you had a great time--love the photos! sorry that your camper was broken into! what a mess! we've considered renting a camper before, but we never follow through and do it. looks like it would be fun.

    -Jackie

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  2. We've been talking about doing that for ages! Did you ever think about hiring out your camper?

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  3. Nicki, yep we have thought about renting it out, though we have to drive back to the UK first as the MOT is due (any excuse for a trip!)and I also think Domenico wants to connect it LPG gas as we found running it on petrol really expensive.
    I will let you know if and when we do start renting it out. The good thing is it is left hand drive too as it was originally from Germany.

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  4. Beautiful pictures!!! Well, except the older lady on the beach....

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