Italy to France, Dieppe. Driving back to UK

Published: July 21st 2015
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Monday 13thJuly Isolabona to La Colle sur Loup 64 miles

It was time to start making our way home so we left Italy and drove across the border at Ventimiglia and stayed on the coast road taking in Menton before reaching Monaco. We had planned to stop and have a wander around but it turned into a drive through as there was no parking anywhere!! Still we did see quite a bit and got to take the Van on part of the Grand Prix Circuit and through the famous Monaco tunnel, as well as around the harbour ! Plenty of Super-yachts to be seen!! Difficult to find your way out of Monaco and we ended up on an underground tunnel system including roadways with signposts, roundabouts etc., so we got out of that as quick as we could!!

Stayed on the coast road and drove out to St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat where we hoped to find some parking – no luck!! Stopped for lunch in a layby overlooking Nice and decided it was too hot, too busy, and lack of parking to do any sightseeing, so we eventually found our way towards St Paul de Vence and decided to just drive to the campsite where we got stung for 44.30 euros!! (ACSI Les Pinedes page 450 (2704)

Tuesday 14th July La Colle sur Loup to Castellane 82 miles

Our first stop was St Paul de Vence – it wasn’t 100%!s(MISSING)uccessful as its another tourist hotspot with nine coaches of Japanese tourists already there when we arrived at 9.30am, and it took us ages to find the Campervan Park. When we did find it, it looked quite isolated and when a white van arrived and just stayed there until we left, We got quite spooked about leaving the Van unattended in case it got broken into again!

However, we had a pleasant enough walk around St Paul , which also has a lot of modern art shops and statues, and the Van was ok when we returned! We were also going to stop at Tourettes-sur-Loup but again, parking was a problem. There was a Carpark out of town but there was someone just sat in a car there….so we gave it a miss and just had a drive through!!

Onto Pont du Loup and le Bar-sur-Loup when Chris decided (I knew he would!!) that we ought to drive up to Gourdon – a little village perched right on top of a Mountain l!! Drove up through the gorge with its tunnels, overhanging rocks, cascades and waterfalls, rock houses and had a little wander around Gourdon. It didn’t take very long as its tiny! We would have looked at the terraced Castle Gardens but unfortunately they were shut!

Onwards towards Grasse, where I had visions of fields of lavender and sunflowers – wrong! Grasse is still in the mountains and we had to drive up even further (I think we eventually reached 1136 metres on the 3rd Pass!) along the 1815 Route of Napoleon.

Spotted a Car Boot sale somewhere driving along the top of the mountain plain, so had a wander around to see if we could find any bargains! Got a citronella candle holder for 1 euro!!

Stopped at Castellane, a pretty tourist town dominated by a massive crag with a church perched on top. As they have fireworks here this evening at 22.00, we decided to stay at the campsite that is right in the town!

Walked the 200 yards back into town from the campsite and walked up to the Chapel of Notra-Dame du Roc, sat 600ft above the village! It only took us about 25mins to get up there and we had some lovely views of the town and watched the sunset over the mountains. Back down again and a quick drink in the square and listened to the band (they were pretty bad!!) Walked over to the bridge at 21.45 and waited for the fireworks, along with everyone else! The fireworks were actually quite impressive and the French continued dancing in the square to more awful music, way past 1.00am, completely oblivious to all the raging fires that the fireworks had set off on the Roc! (Camping Frederic Mistral)

Wednesday 15th July Castellane to Rosanes 105 miles

We had choices today! Should we drive the Grand Canyon of Vernon or look for some lavender fields! We didn’t really have loads of time so we stuck with the lavender fields and carried on along Napoleons Route (N85) Saw loads of field of sunflowers and what we thought was lavender fields behind, but on closer inspection it turned out that it was apple trees with a lavender coloured net over them!! Had a lunch stop at Sisteron that looks like a nice town to explore (next time!) and then decided to take the D30 to Orpierre as it was on a lavender route! Saw a few fields of lavender (nothing too spectacular though) and carried on up over the Col de Reychasset at 1052 metres – not too scary even though it was a single track road!! Went through the pretty village of St-Andre-de-Rosans with all its hollyhocked houses before camping at Rosans. Had a walk up to the village (not a lot there!!) and then down to a couple of lavender fields that we had spotted (Camping Municipal Sainte Catherine)

Thursday 16th July Rosans to St Didier-sous-Aubenas 94 miles

After another walk up to the village to see if Tourist Info was open (it wasn’t! Shuts Thurs & Sun!) and after buying a bagette for our lunch, we set off on the D94 through the Gorges of May. Quite small but nice scenery until we got to Nyons! A Thursday market here had devoured the whole town and all the small streets and squares had umberella’d stalls. Lovely atmosphere and nice place to walk about – it even had a 13thC Roman Bridge.

Decided we would stay on the lavender route and did a slight detour to Visan but it wasn’t until we got to Valreas that we started seeing a lot of lavender fields. Unfortunately I think we were about a week too late as they were just cutting one of the last fields of lavender! Lovely smell permeating, especially between Grignan and Donzere!! Should have stopped at Grignon as it looked quite a spectacular chateau or castle on top of a hill, but it was too hot to sight see!

Drove on across the Rhone and stopped at a campsite adjoining the Ardeche at St Didier-sous-Aubenas. Unfortunately we are next to the busy road so we have to listen to the lorries thundering by and not the river! And between 19.00 and 23.00 we were also ‘treated’ to four hours of Country and Western music…loud!! ( Le Chantalou)

Friday 17th July St-Didier-sous-Aubenas to Chassignolles 105 miles

A leisurely start to the day – Chris had a swim and rescued a baby mouse that was on its last legs in the middle of the pool! Fortunately it survived! Climbed up over the Col de la Chavade to 1266 metres, and then went across the great sweeping plains across the middle of France. Carried on along the N88 before cutting across to Allegre (medieval festival this weekend !!), La Chaise-Dieu and arriving at Chassignolles early afternoon…..just as a few spots of rain fell!! No wine festival though – one of the highlights of the trip……unfortunately the weekend has been changed to 25th - 27th July !! ….. then we had a thunderstorm and watched the rain pouring down for an hour or so!

Hoping to recreate the wine festival this evening at the restaurant and sleep in a bed for the first time in nearly 7 weeks !! (Auberge, Chassignolles)

Saturday 18th July Chassignolles

Massive thunderstorm last night with continuous lightening for over an hour kept us awake and then the bells going off at 7.00am ensured we didn’t have too much sleep! There were 2 x 7 bells, then 3 x 3 bells followed by 50 bells!! So many bells for such a small village – only 80 people actually live there!! It was ok though as we were having a lazy day hanging around the Auberge and catching up with some washing! Went with Peter down to Brioude market where we picked up supplies and then had a very nice lunch made by Matt. Did some ironing (!!) and watched the hail storm during the afternoon and when the sun came out again, went down to the lake (about 5kms away) and had a walk around. A lovely relaxing evening and meal and catch up! ( Square, Chassignolles)

Sunday 19th July Chassignolles to Mehun-sur-Yevre 184 miles

A fine start to the day, but it soon clouded over. Had a lovely breakfast with everyone, including Henry and Rachel who had arrived at midnight yesterday. Reluctantly said our goodbyes to everyone, before starting the final leg of our journey home. Left about 11.45 and after eventually finding access onto the A45 Motorway, went up to Clermont Ferrand and came off at exit 12.1 heading towards Montlucon on the D2144. There were a few straight roads but it was a bit bendy and went up over a few small mountains (past Gorges de la Souile) and then headed towards Bourges. (With hindsight I think it may have been better to stick to our normal route towards Moulin and passing Blet?!) Got as far as Mehun sur-Yevre and stopped there for the night as there was a campsite directly on the main road – D2076.

Had a little wander round the town in the evening which turned out to be a little gem! The remains of an old chateau where King Charles VII was pronounced King in 1422 (I think!) surrounded by water gardens created by the River Yevre. Lots of little bridges, and ponds and a very pleasant place to wander around. (Camping Municipal, Mehun Sur Yevre)

Monday 20th July Mehun-Sur-Yevre to Dieppe 238 miles

A cloudy day with some very interesting skies! Just a driving day up through Vierzon, then the D2020 to Orleans, stopping for coffee at a private chateau at la Ferte Saint-Aubin. Straight through the centre of Orleans and then on the tried and tested free motorway route Chartres, Dreux, Evereux, Rouen, Dieppe ready for the ferry home tomorrow lunchtime (Aire, Dieppe)

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