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Published: July 16th 2013
After 20 days and 8 stops we left Spain for the South coast of France, the landscape changed gradually as we drove north, hills became greener and the vegetation more varied, with the Pyrenees to our left we crossed the border to la Perthus and made for our first stop, just south of Perpignan, in Argeles-sur-Mer.
Argeles-sur-Mer is quite a busy little resort town with a lovely beach and plenty of campsites to choose from. There is a wide promenade/park that stretches the length of the beach and which displays a kind of outdoor exhibition of marine photography on large boards placed all the way along, so as you walk towards the little port you can admire some gorgeous photos of Mediterranean sea life. Across the port you can see clusters of red roofs set in amongst rolling green hills: the towns of Collioure and Port Vendres. The Cote Vermeille (the area from Angeles-sur-Mer down to the Spanish border) run a bus around the coast towns, which only costs 1 Euro, no matter which part of the route your journey may be. We took the bus to Collioure for a nose around and found a real little gem! A rocky
harbour enclosed by an ancient fortress wall, little shops selling lavender, anchovies, olive oils and posh scented soaps, spill down the hill towards the water’s edge. More recently the town attracted artists (Picasso and Matisse, the ones I recognise!) and the gorgeous colours of the bay, the boats, the surrounding hills and villages still inspire: as you walk the streets of the town, you’ll find art galleries dotted amongst the shops, offering paintings, sculpture and photos of local scenes. Everywhere in the town there are cafes and restaurants selling the regions own version of sangria, made with Banyuls wine, a fortified sweet wine which is produced in Collioure, it would have been rude not to try it! It was pretty good!
Way back (or so it seems now), at the end of April, as we travelled towards the Loire Valley we stayed on a farm for the night, having found the detail on a website that encourages holiday makers to visit local farms and appreciate the produce: Bienvenue-a-la-Ferme, the stay is usually free but you are expected to spend a bit of money in the farm shop if they have one. With our journey east to plan, we had
another look on the site to see if there was any farm stops on our route along the south coast. We were lucky to find a farm called Domaine Gilphine, in a little town called Theziers that produced fruit, wine and olive oil. Beneath the large stone farm house was a ‘cave’, or cellar, where a little shop was set up, we were invited to taste some wine before buying (always a pleasure!) and were given as much time as we liked to browse the produce on sale with absolutely no pressure to buy. Needless to say we bought a couple of bottles of wine anyway, well; we needed something to go with dinner.
We woke at around 6am as the farm workers assembled for a day in the vineyards and orchards; there was an early morning mist that promised another hot day. After nodding off for a couple more hours, we finally organised ourselves for the drive to our next site in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This had been totally unplanned until the previous day or so, when we realised how close we were to the famous vineyards and really couldn’t just drive past without stopping (the desire to stop there
had more to do with the Only Fools and Horses connotations than the actual wine). The campsite was within walking distance to the town and we spent the day walking the streets, climbing up to the chateau and yes, sampling some of the wine. In the North and North Eastern part of the region the grapes are grown in soil covered by small round rocks, remnants of Alpine glaciers that have been smoothed over thousands of years by the Rhone River. These rocks retain heat during the day and release it during the night which helps the grapes ripen, they also help to keep the moisture in the soil in the dry and windy climate. The result is really tasty and only something we buy as a treat… but I can’t help the image of Derrick Trotter popping in to mind every time we say the words (Steve can do the accent, without even trying!).
After visiting some really lovely places along the south coast and Provence, our destination: Antibes, was a bit of an anti-climax to be honest, the expensive boats in the harbour excluded, but our drive to Antibes from Chateauneuf-du-Pape was fantastic! We followed Route Napoleon,
which travels through fields full of lavender before it climbs up in to the Alps. The roads twist and turn, full of hairpin bends and inclines our van could only manage in the lowest gears! A shallow, pebbly river runs along the roadside for part of the way, the water clear and sparkly in the sun. If you don’t fancy the drive, it’s possible to take a train: Train des Pignes (the pinecone train), which takes its name from the pinecones that used to be used to help start the trains steam engine. The train runs from Nice to Digne-les-Bains and its 151 km of track follows these mountains and rivers, the journey takes around 3 hours, what a fantastic way to taken in the scenery!
Tot: 2.46s; Tpl: 0.08s; cc: 12; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0537s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 5;
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