The next main destination was a campsite in a gorge north-west of Antibes where we were meeting up with Marcello’s friends Mandy and Andy and their two daughters, but we decided to split up the journey and stop somewhere just over halfway. Having consulted the map and then possible campsites, we found a spot just past Lyon – seemingly the only campsite for miles. It was located in a village called Pélussin in a national park and the green hillside scenery was a nice taste of what lay ahead of us. Here, tipping our virtual hats to champagne, we enjoyed the Ruinart with some strawberries, followed by yet another fantastic camp meal of garlic prawns.
After taking advantage of the wifi the next morning, we continued our journey to the Grand Canyon du Verdon. Despite the journey being a tad tedious with a toll tunnel closing just as we reached it and parts being pretty slow going, it was certainly a rewarding one with views of the Alps all around us.
Despite our best intentions of arriving mid-afternoon, we finally hooked up with the Lee-Elliott’s around 7pm and after long-overdue greetings and new meetings set straight to firing up the braai. It was Mandy and Andy’s first camping trip with their girls Grace and Hannah, who settled into camping life with ease. It was certainly a nice setting for it, right in the valley and with a river flowing right next to us. And what better than toasting marshmallows over a fire with twigs you’ve searched out yourself.
Following a day of chilling around camp, catching up, reminiscing, and getting-to-know-yous, on our final day there we took a drive into the heart of the gorge to a beautiful blue lake. The water temperature was perfect – something that couldn’t be said for the river by the campsite – and we were enjoying being able to soak up the rays from that strange yellow thing in the sky that had been so elusive in England!
From here we continued down to Antibes to enjoy the hospitality of the Lee-Elliotts. They live in a lovely apartment with a big open terrace and communal swimming pool, so we were in for a treat. The next few days were very relaxing: catching up on the blog, photos and emails and the like; wandering around the old town; admiring the yachts in the marina (one of which Andy had been showing us pictures of the night before); messing around in the pool and playing with Grace and Hannah; and of course, eating good food, drinking nice wine and talking “kak” with Mandy and Andy. We also enjoyed a day at the beach, where Marcello and Andy kept themselves amused for hours with a ball and Frisbee – no Nintendo needed here!
On our final day in the area we took the train first to Monte Carlo and then back on ourselves to Cannes so that Karen, having not been to that part of the region before, could see a bit more of the Cote D’Azure and how the rich and famous roll. Monte Carlo in particular is extremely opulent as you can imagine. Although looking at some of the jewellery and watches in the windows of the shops in the main square is a great example of how money doesn’t buy you taste! We went for breakfast at the Cafe de Paris, but were very disappointed – at 60 euros you would expect something pretty good, but we could have had better at most local cafes. Also, we were tucked back in the restaurant so couldn’t people/car watch on the main terrace which is the main attraction (other than just to say you’ve been there). Learning point: skip the breakfast and opt for coffee or cocktails on the terrace and do your research into what else to do beyond the main square. It was nice just to have a wander and get a feel for both places though. And for Karen it was a chance to finally see where all the partners from Mills & Reeve went each March to get drunk, sorry network, with clients at MIPIM in Cannes!
And here ends the French part of our journey. Next stop Italy and to see another of Marcello’s friends Chris and his family near Lake Como. We can’t thank Mandy and Andy enough for their hospitality. It’s been great for Marcello to catch up with them after so long and laugh about days gone by and for Karen to meet them. As for Grace and Hannah; what lovely kids! We’ve certainly enjoyed swimming and diving/belly-flopping with them, playing I-spy, laughing at their stories and sayings and particularly the puppet show they put on for us all just before we said goodbye! We’ll miss you all.