Over the Med to Corsica

On the quayside at Toulon, waiting for the ferry to load we become listless in the oppressive heat of the evening. By 10.30pm we’re still not going anywhere, even though we’ve moved Heaven and Earth to find our way here, to check in and follow all the gabbled instructions. In the next lane there are motor bikes and some ageing bikers who provide some interest. We make tea and continue to wait. In the terminal building a counter is doing furious trade in croque monsieurs and baguettes and I push through the crowd to get 2 bottles of water for the night.

At last a stream of vehicles begins to come past in the opposite direction and foot passengers dragging wheelie cases stagger past looking exhausted. I wonder where they can go at 11pm?

We’re waved on, up the ramp and into the hold. Hooray! We clamber up the inevitable numerous flights of stairs to the passenger decks and flourish our cabin sticker at a crew member. There’s a long series of corridors like a Premier Inn then we’re at our door, although without a key. We’re rescued by a man wielding key cards and we’re in. The cabin is tiny but has two narrow beds, a window and a shower and toilet. Hooray again! We dump our overnight bags and head for any kind of bar we can find and everything is open and serving; the restaurant food looks good but it’s late and we’ve eaten. There’s a wait to get a drink but we do, then sink down into seats, grateful to be on board and on the way. The lights of Toulon slowly recede as we glide out of harbour into the dark.

The ship is busy. Families, couples, singles, dogs- all life is here, passing by, queuing up, bustling, but it all settles down and there’s nothing else to do except get a quick shower and turn in. In spite of my poor record of sleep on overnight ferries, this time I sleep as if drugged and wake to see it’s already 8.30am. There’s no rush because we won’t dock until 12.00midday. When we surface, heading for the bar’s ‘express breakfast’ [orange juice, croissant, coffee] it’s almost as if the bustling has continued throughout the night, with people and dogs everywhere.

This is a ferry with aspirations of cruise ship. On the top deck there’s a tiny pool surrounded by deck chairs, a pool bar serving drinks and snacks. A couple of islands pass by- Elba perhaps?

We wander around the side and I sit down next to an elderly French lady who is going to visit family. We enjoy a chat together, both of us proud grandparents.

Sure enough, as midday approaches, so does Corsica and we’re pulling into Porto Vecchio in stately fashion, turning down along a lengthy inlet, motor and sail boats racing past. Then we’re told to return to our vehicles. we drive off, making for a supermarket first before driving a few kilometres up the road and out of town to our first site, at ‘Baie de Voies’. Down a long track to a beach there are terraced pitches facing the sea. It’s a peaceful setting, small boats moored up and a roped off swimming area. We check in, park up, plug in and relax. It’s been a long old journey!…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

Onwards and Southwards

We opt to spend some of our rest day at Chatel de Neuvre looking at the small town [or perhaps it’s a village?]- either way it’s a one street place, some commerce along the road and houses off the side roads. We have a stiff climb up to the top of the town, which takes considerably longer than seeing the sights. There’s a small shop, a bar and a salon, though nowhere to get a meal. We wander down a side street and happen upon a 13th century mill down a farm track. It’s a magnificent, half timbered building but we can get nowhere near it as appointments must be made to view it. It’s a luscious irony that there’s nothing to see in Chatel except this…and we can’t see it.

We move on and our next night is an unremarkable one in a site in the Rhone Valley at Anneyron, although too far from either the town or the river for any exploration. Next morning’s drive starts with a beautiful journey following the mighty Rhone, a magnificent, wide river, decaying ruins of towers and castles dotting the hillsides on either side. there are swathes of vineyards like a sea of vines stretching away and terracing the hills. It’s Cote du Rhone country. I’m thrilled to see a sign to ‘Crozes Hermitage’ which used to be my favourite red wine when I could drink it.

The RN is scenic but progress is slow and we opt for the motorway to get us down to Avignon, not having clearly decided whether to stay or not. Once we’re approaching the city though, we decide to stop over, at a site we’ve stayed in before, La Bagatelle. It’s on an island in the Rhone and we only need to cross a bridge [not the bridge] to get into city. The site hasn’t changed a bit and is just as antiquated and confusing as it ever was. Once we’ve managed to locate our pitch we wait a bit to go sightseeing. The heat is fierce.

This visit I’m much more impressed with beautiful, elegant Avignon; its marble pavements, grand, creamy architecture, vast squares and stunning views. The Rhone provides a wonderful setting. We manage a creditable wander around before settling under a cafe sunshade in front of the huge papal palace, where we can people watch and sip a cold drink. Sunday is an excellent day to walk around. The gardens above the palace are shady and provide great views of the river and surrounding countryside.

In the morning it’s time to move on again- to a seaside site at Sanary-sur-Mer, typically Riviera and with a sweeping quayside of restaurants and bars- a poser’s delight. We walk down the steep hill to explore the town, where stallholders are setting up for a night market. There seem to be large numbers of slender, elegant, smartly dressed single ladies here, Husband’s suggestion being that they’ve ditched their rich husbands, mine that perhaps they were never married to begin with. Husband thinks perhaps he’ll become a gigolo and I tell him that then I can ditch him, too…

We have one day left before we must leave mainland France, the ferry departing from Toulon. We’re in close range and get there in an hour or so, locating an aire where we can park to look at the town. But it’s hot and hard work and Toulon is not such a tourist draw as we’d imagined, so much of this stifling day is spent in chairs in the shade of the van until we go across the road to a fast food cafe and get burgers- greasy but essential. We won’t be embarking until 11.00pm.

The port of departure is close but seems impossible to get to. We follow another motorhome and they seem as confused as ourselves, there being a dearth of signage. At last I spot a ferry sign which appears to point the way through a sunken car park and though unlikely this is actually the way to port check-in. I flash my downloaded boarding pass and somehow we’re in the ferry queue and in for a loooooong wait for them to load. Eventually we’re driving up the ramp and into the mouth of the ferry…PHEW!!

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook