Blogday Sunday and it’s hammering it down, along with thunder and lightning as well as we sit in Buster on the coast at Finale Ligure. We have been here before, the previous time staying on the campsite up the road, not spotting this €10 aire until too late. So, obviously this time we knew where to head, and given the time of year (later in the season) we hoped it would be emptier than in the August. With the windscreen wipers at full pelt and after a very sharp right hand turn (well executed by me!!) we could see that even though there was a queue of vans leaving, the site was still rammed. The entrance to the aire was very tricky with only one passage in and out, so we pulled over to let the four vans get out and on with their journeys, before quickly taking poll position into the parking and aiming at the first spot we could see.
We put on our raincoats, up with the golf umbrella and had a quick inspection to see if there were any more suitable spots before making ourselves completely at home. None to be had and none likely as the many motorhomes all sat windows steaming up gazing at each other. We were both very wet after our little preamble and gave up on any idea of lunch out, as we mopped ourselves down. It was then we realised that the Matalan rug, carpets and sink area in Buster seemed a little bit wetter than they should have been, quite a lot in fact. Oh dear, big rookie error-we had driven the 60 odd kilometres with the kitchen ceiling window open in the heavy thunderous rain. Thankfully, there was no damage done to the mossie blind that was still pulled across, and David managed to give that a good clean as a result. Now, not to attribute blame, but I was captain for today’s flight and obviously the cabin crew had not none his full checks as we prepared for take-off. Still we share all our mistakes equally, and we both got on with the drying out -quietly.
Moving on, and that’s what we have done again this week, saying goodbye to France and hello again to Italy. Our exit out of France was interesting as we left our lovely St Tropez campsite on the Wednesday, having done much cycling and taking in around the lovely area on this coastline, including a very mountainous cycle to a beautiful ville called Gassin.
We were hoping to treat ourselves to a lunch up there, but the small beautiful town overlooking the bay of St Tropez had other ideas for us with set menu’s starting at €35 and nothing on those menus that really appealed to either of us. So back down the hill for the both of us, with David achieving speeds of just under the road limit, while I screeched down behind him with my brakes smoking and the soles of my trainers hanging off!.
What to say about the coastline from St Trops (as it’s affectionately known by us regulars) along the Cote d’Azur. The palm shaded promenade at Cannes was just as lovely to drive along as I daresay to walk, and thankfully we weren’t then seduced by the bars and restaurants for our second morning coffee, nor by the famous boulevard La Croisette.
The drive continued to be as lovely as we ignored the screaming sat-nav, and stuck to the coast road, making our way to Antibes for that evenings sleep-over. By the time we had got to Antibes the scenery had changed as we neared the city sprawl, and were thankful when we got to the campsite, just outside Nice. We weren’t as thankful for the price, as there was no ACSI discount here, location being the king.
Nice, appealed a lot to us, with its unique historical heritage, apparently some free museums and of course the charming Old Town. But after parking Buster up and having a walk through the nearby marina and colossal private housing estate, whilst having an early evening drink, we realised in retrospect we could afford St Trops, but probably not Nice and nor did we want to take the C word risk in this momentous city. So again, like a few other places we have put Nice on the ‘To Do’ List. David made the drive out the next morning, after a lovely steak dinner, cooked outside on the BBQ watched over with eagerness by a very large Alsatian dog in our French next door neighbours van. His eyes never left our steak and mine never left watching him, as if it came to a fight over the steak, it would have been a close contest between a hungry dog and a hungry David.
Some of the Riveria’s most spectular scenery is on this stretch of coastline between Nice and Monaco, as is most of the wealth in France, along with oversea investment as well. The density of the villas as they fought their way further and further up the cliffs and hillside to get that perfect view, became almost obscene, and we both asked ourselves where do the normal work-a-day people live around here. Miles away, judging by the number of scooters and mopeds ducking in and out of the fast-super cars.
With Covid updates coming into us everyday from all countries and media, we were slightly worried that we might have an issue crossing into Italy and the Italian border town of Ventimiglia-crowned with a 12th century cathedral-unvisited by us, as we were there for the Friday market. The border crossing was completely uneventful, other than a zig-zag through a small blockade watched over by two armed soldiers, but otherwise nothing. Quite surprising really, as the southern coast of France is a Covid red spot and this weekly market is besieged by the French. After, a prowl around the market on the Friday, and the disappointment of not finding what we had in mind to buy (thankfully) neither David or I could understand having driven through the enormous wealthy French Riveria, who these French bargain hunters could be, because the tout in the market was exactly that. So we guess it does prove that somewhere on that Nice- Monaco run there are a horde of everyday people, just like us. Having said that, I did see someone who looked remarkably like Rod Stewart thumbing his way through the €1 clothes section!.
After leaving the delights of the market, we spent a lovely few hours up the valley at a serene medieval town called Dolceaqua, that apparently had once inspired Monet with its restored castle and ancient hump backed stone bridge. Here we had second coffee, but could find none of the different type of focaccia’s that are famed on this Ligurian coast.
The weather at this stage was still absolutely scorching and we were hoping for a camp site with shade on the coast at San Lorenzo, but there was no room at the inn, and so we headed back to an aire we had spotted a bit earlier on and managed to get parked up there, backing in diagonally against the wall, while all the prime side facing sea slots were taken. Our fridge was in the full sun, but we had no option, so rather than take our usual amble to any nearby civilisation and Aperol Spritz, we opened all the windows, doors etc in a hope to cool the van down. Our patience paid off as we both languished in the heat on the settee’s, we heard and saw a side facing sea view van pull out. With good British restraint, we waited to see if any of the other diagonal facing vans might pop in there. Two minutes was enough of a wait in our view and we quickly reversed out of one slot and into the prime slot, where the fridge was happily out of full sun light and so were we, and yeah a wonderful view of the sea. At that point we decided that it was Aperol Spritz and beer time and walked the short distance into the delightful seaside town of Santo Stefano, where the service and the Aperitivo were equally as good.
Having moaned about the wealth of the French Riveria, one of the attractions of this spot was the Italian equivalent of Monte Carlo-San Remo. Our guide book giving it rave reviews with a lovely historic old town as well as a seaside grandeur, plus the hope of a more affordable lunch option. Parking in San Remo was not an option, but the added attraction of its smaller seaside neighbours was the 25 mile bike, plus walking track that follows the course of a former railway line. It was on this on the Saturday, that we cycled off to San Remo, happy not be dicing with the road traffic. Of course, as ever you do have to contend with the Lycra brigade, who speed trial along it, making small children and aging electric cyclists, practising their no hands cycling leap out of the way.
Having ‘saved’ €15 on overnight parking fees, we were more than determined to lunch out and carefully investigated the three options we had. The first and probably the dearest, had no room for us. The second, had a lovely menu, but no lunch time meal deal, but the last Cuvea, meet all our requirements. Certainly not in the swisher part of town, but it was filled with locals and had an excellent meal deal. For David there was no other starter option then the soup of the day- his favourite, minestrone. For me as a starter, ravioli cooked in butter and sage. Our main courses bore some resemblance, well at least the sauce soaked potatoes did, with David’s chicken being tomato based and my sword fish, stewed with olives. A more than adequate bottle of Pinot Grigio came with the deal, plus water and coffee. David added to the €20 per head spend with another firm favourite -tiramisu, making the grand total for a super 2/3 course lunch with wine €45. Given the parking saving, €30 in creative budgeting terms. Plus, as the rain had started in the early evening when we got back, no drinks spend that evening- an excellent budget day.
As we left the lovely Aire this morning in the then gentle trickle of rain, after the night storms we noticed our Austrian motorhome neighbours from Ventimiglia, and I was especially grateful to be moving on, as I would have no dingle dangle view from him to put me off my breakfast the next day. So many people don’t seem to realise that black out windows are only no show one way!!
The rain continues to pour down here, and we really are hoping for a let up, as the pee-pee poo pot is full and Buster desperately needs some water, or it’ll be a wet wipe wash for us tonight.
Ah, the joys of motorhoming- we love it xx