Provence, Cotes D’Azur and the Alpes-Maritimes

On June 1st we headed over towards Orange in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur.  I choose Orange as back in the eighties The Cure played there and in my early teens I video recorded the filmed concert from the TV.  I still have the VHS tape somewhere and I remember playing it many times watching Robert Smith and co drudge through their set against a magnificent back drop as the concert’s venue for the ‘The Cure in Orange’ was the roman Theatre Antique.  There were not any parking opportunities in Orange centre so we stayed at vine yard Chateau Maucoil in near by Chateauneuf de Pape (free) and biked it to the city.  Once at Orange we were disappointed to find out that the theatre had an entrance fee and therefore due to the ‘tours’ rules we were unable to go inside (we have only paid 2 entrance fees so far – the Alhambra and for the cathedral in Palencia on my birthday).  However, whilst wondering around the town we found a path that’s intention is to lead to the botanic gardens which sit on a hill side over looking the town.  It also rises behind the Theatre Antique so we chanced our luck in the hope I could see the concert’s back drop in the flesh.   Sure enough, after a small scramble, you can get an amazing view of the Roman theatre and I enjoyed waving at the paying visitors that were inside from our high view point.

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Backdrop to ‘The Cure in Orange’, Theatre Antique.

Unfortunately, the shop at the vineyard we stayed at was closed as they were preparing for a massive party at the weekend (thanks for letting us stay though Monsieur) and therefore we could not buy any wine on our door step.  A short bike ride away at Domaine Millieres where we were taught an interesting fact – wines with the name Pays de Vaucluse can be very similar to the famed Chateauxneuf du Pape whose quality comes from the stones that are in the soil which keep latent heat in during the night.  Their CNDP was priced at 22 Euros a bottle yet their Pays de Vaucluse was 6, however the field where the grapes came from is only 300 metres away from their CNDP field and has the same stones!  We can confirm that, when combined with a frozen ‘hache parmentier’, the French equivalent to cottage pie (!), the poor man’s CNDP is very good.

Enroute to Saint Tropez we stopped off at the non-flowing Fontaine de Vaucluse, classic Villeneuve D’Avignon, drove through the impressive centre of Marseille and stayed a night (free) in mountain town Genames.

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On the Cotes d’Azur coastal road heading towards St. Tropez

The aire lies about 2 Km from the centre of St. Tropez and we stayed around the local area leaving the centre until the next day.  Whilst talking to fellow motorhomers Danish ‘Bo’ and German ‘Andre’ we learnt that the bars and restaurants on the port front were very expensive.  Bo regaled his horror story of paying 19 euro for a beer and 9 euros for a fanta to the shock of all of us.

St. Tropez is how it is described and we definitely saw how the other half live.  We also cheated the expensive bars as we supped on individual plastic cups of wine pre-purchased at a near by Spar sitting right in front of the yachts.

The next stop was European hotspot Nice where we managed to park for free about 5 Km outside of the city in the suburb St. Laurant du Var.  Unfortunately, there was a rail strike over the weekend and therefore we had to catch a slow bus into the city for Saturday evening drinks.  The city is stunning and was really buzzing with locals and tourists sitting outside all the cafes and restaurants in the historic centre.  We got a little carried away, even though it was pouring down with rain, and missed the last normal bus home so then we had to rely on the night bus service.  Using typical ‘Matt’ logic, if we were going to use the night bus then we may as well stay out much later and therefore we headed back into the centre for a pizza and more wine!!

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Drinks menu at ‘Distillerie Ideal’, Nice.  If all else fails, just go for the grog!

From Nice we drove through Monaco.  Following the signs for Monte Carlo we managed to hit a section of the Formula One grand prix circuit.  Using all my driving efforts I think we averaged about 28 Kph through the bends, including the iconic hairpin.

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Approaching Monte Carlo’s F1 hair pin

For our last few nights in France we choose Sospell in the Alpes-Maritime, a picturesque small town in the mountains close to the Italian border.  We can’t believe how quick this French part of the trip has passed.  In total we have only spent 16 days (21st May to 6th June) here and now, when I write this, I can’t understand why we did not spend more time.  We have enjoyed every single stop over here (my favourite being the Gard region) and we have met some great people along the way.  It seems now that we may have missed some possible wonderful places to spend some time in (Nimes, Marseille, Tourlon, Aix, Cannes etc) but we are desperate to tour as much as Italy as possible.  The reasoning for this is that we are much more likely to return to the south of France in the future than Italy, furthermore we are planning, if time allows us, to touch Slovenia and this was not on the original tour plan.  So, for now, it is ‘au revoir’ France, yet again you have not disappointed.

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Our last place in France for a while, Sospel in the Alps.

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