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FRANCE          DIARY  3

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Diary 1 2 3

From Diary 2 and Andorra, Spain and Portugal. I now reach the southern coast of France.

23/4. Well, I start in the Pyrenees. The lower parts are quite fertile and farmed in some degree. Then I reach Parque National régional des Pyrénées Catalanes which is in the foothills, and made up by steep mountainsides, overgrown with cork oaks and alike.

Where it opens up a bit, numerous flowers are covering the side of the road. I stop several times, when I see something real pretty, or a unfamiliar plant. Here are some large white heater bushes, lavender, thyme and much more.

The road cuts though several smaller villages, and some houses scattered over the hills. It is an old road, and I admire the work that have gone into making the bridges. The light is not good, and I fare from get the photos I wanted. But it is a great drive.

From here, I head out to the sea again, and a bit back towards the Spanish border to find Collioure. On the way, I pass a rather fancy newer city, but drive straight through. Outside, some farmers are growing artichokes. I have passed some fields before, but not close enough for me to be sure of the species.

Then I reach Collioure. The town as such is not that interesting, but the surprisingly small royal chateau is a nice building. The walls home some lizards and flowering plants. Geraniums and - a lot others. Within the mould, an almost botanical collection of cacti and succulents are found. A giant Aloe is flowering nicely.

I do some loops around the palace, and enjoy the views over the harbour. Then I walk a bit around town, but it really don't have much to offer me. My next camp is around 200 kilometres away, east along the coast, but I choose the wrong one on the GPS. I end up well over 200 kilometres up in the Pyrenees again, close to Andorra! I did feel it was wrong, but it was a lovely drive, possible through Parque National régional des Pyrénées Catalanes, in another area. I passes a giant fortification along a big lake, but I've seen enough for one day.

The camp is outside the little, and rundown village of Fonpédrouse. I start gluing the GT sign on the car, just for fun. Then I work for quite some time, before a nice man want money. It is drizzling, and it is almost mud! Must be pollen from the conifers.  Parque National régional des Pyrénées Catalanes and Collioure

24/4. I wake up to a real dirty car, due to the drizzle during the night. I clean the windows like every morning, and star the third tour down through the mountains to the coast - and I enjoy it again.

I reach the sea, and follows it, although I rarely see it. Vine fields, on the other hand, is plentiful. Most farms have several houses out in front of the charming buildings.

I reach Aigues Mortes, a walled city in the marshes. And the wall is really amassing. The houses within less impressive, but still worth a walk. I zigzag through, and get out on the other side, at the vine fields and canals. I walk way out to get a picture of the southern wall, but end up with two: It is too long!

Back in town, I head for the western wall, and the marshes outside. As always, marshes are actually hard to explore, but I get an idea. Back in town, I look at some of the specialised shops, found in-between the many restaurants, cafés and bars. One sell the work of a glass artist, making massive things like a coffee table, with colourful fish in the glass. A candy store is like no other: Real castle like, with the candy in barrows.

On the way out of the town, outside the walls, I see a bit of canal life. Then it is through more vine land, but also marshes. One area is dominated by yellow iris - a lot of them! Then I reach the beach town of Saintes Maries de la Mer.

People are actually swimming in the sea, and laying on the perfect sandy beach. Well, most sits in the restaurants and bars, but they are almost at the sea. It is not a real old town, but it does have its charm. I see the squares, shops and a flee market. Some have done a lot of work to make their houses attractive.

On the way through the giant marsh area, I see a small group of flamingos in a lake. But the most numerous beast is horses. Here are hundreds of them, saddled up and waiting for someone to hire them. I get into the coastal plain, and the landscape changes all the time. Pines, vine, wheat, and then low limestone mountains.

In them, I find the ancient fortress town of Les Baux de Provence. It is another tourist trap, but is have preserved its charm for sure. And the shops are quite interesting. One sell 20 centimetre guitars and alike, and there have really been put some work into them. One sell French Nougat, some colourful painted clay figures and a lot of women's dresses. I do most of the town, and head back to the coast.

It is a long drive towards Saint Tropez, and a small error at a roundabout make it 100 kilometres longer - by toll road. 20 kilometres before the planned camp near Saint Tropez, I see Camping Bertram, and why not? It is cosy, cheap and here. Again, I am puzzled about how cold it get in the evenings. Wi-Fi is outside the office, and even before it get dark, I freezes.

Aigues Mortes, Saintes Maries de la Mer and Les Baux de Provence.

25/4. I get a bit of a late start, as I have to wait for someone to turn on the heater for my shower. Then I head down the southern coast, passing numerous nurseries on the way. Every since Portugal, I have seen thousands of old olive trees, that have been shifted around. Here, they have a lot, and I'm amassed how little soil they can get away with.

I reach Saint Tropez. I have nothing in particular I want to see, just the town in general. I park next to the harbour, and start here. Here are huge yachts, but also small dinghies. It is a nice city, and the harrow alleys behind the harbour have some rather expensive shops. One alley further back, it is old and pretty much undisturbed. I do several loops, but I have more planned for the day.

I follow the coastal road, and this one is right at the beach, most of the time. Some of the houses are great and well looking, while others are more like neglected farm huts. At one point, the road head inland, and make a shortcut through some forest dressed mountains. It is the coastal Alps, and they look pretty.

I reach Saint Paul de Vence, which is yet another ancient village on a hill top. But this is defiantly one of the better ones. It have been "discovered", and here are numerous restaurants. The major part of the other shops are selling high-end original art. I really enjoy this village and its old houses, and do more rounds.

Next on the route is Nice, and I intend to find out, if it is nice. Well, from what I see: NO! Lots of jammed traffic, road works, building constructions and alike. There must be an nice old part, but I failed to find it. Nothing else to do, but continuing exploring the southern coast.

The road head into some coastal limestone mountains, and the round pines, the blue ocean and the the classic houses make a great scenery. More and more cars are Royces - most with Monaco plates. Then I reach the Monaco border, and leave France for a period. I will pass through a bit on my way to Italy, but only for transport.

France have been a way better experience as I had hoped for. The nature and the old cities have been great, and I might even return one day. I have driven a total of 3572 kilometres in France, taken 2305 photos and spend €525 in the 10 days.

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3