As we boarded the ferry in Bastia this morning, I had the words of Simon and Garfunkel singing in my brain, ‘Homeward Bound’. This really feels like the last leg of a very long journey around Europe.
We don’t seem to be having much luck with ferries of late. We were pulled up by a ‘job’s worth’ check in man, clipboard and tape measure in hand, saying that our van was 6cm higher than we had paid for. When we had boarded the Iceland ferry, we had been told that we had declared ourselves to be too tall, and that Californias were in the lowest category. So, since then, all over Europe, that is what we have entered on our booking form, without a single question. Catching the same Corsica ferry company from Italy, we were just waved on. But this guy was on a mission. I challenged him to actually measure Oscar, and informed him that for 10 months we had been entering car parks with his height limit. We even showed him the handbook. But no, he was having none of it. He, the little Frenchman, knew best. I did mutter to Howard that this is exactly the reason that Britain had voted to leave the EU! For fear of not being allowed on the ferry, we paid up the extra – but I am still kicking myself for giving into the man. Just as we drove on, he pulled up another van – clearly this is what makes him feel important. Of course, when we drove onto the ferry, we could have stacked 2 Oscars on top of each other, the ceiling height was so tall. We explained to the lady who came to check that our gas was turned off, and she just rolled her eyes, as if to say, ‘Oh! He’s off on that one again!’ She implied that we should have just driven on without paying, but we’re both too cowardly to do so.
Once on board, the crossing was uneventful. Apart, that is, from the mosquitos. Howard and I couldn’t believe that where we were sitting by the window, we were being buzzed by the pesky things. A couple of times we clapped our hands together, to try to catch them. The whole ferry seemed to turn round to stare at us. By an hour in, I already had three new bites on my legs. We have decided that we are positively the tastiest beings ever, since no-one else ever seems to be bothered by them. If I had known that it would be a problem, I would have taken ‘zappy bat’ onboard with us.
We arrived back on the French Mainland in Nice just after lunchtime. We were swiftly off the ferry, and away. Since it was only 11 miles along the coast from Nice, we decided to take the corniche road to Monaco. It had seemed a good plan, and we had hoped to stop for a drink or late lunch. However, we hadn’t factored in on it being the weekend of the Monaco Boat Show. The drive along the corniche was lovely, if a little frantic for poor Howard, with the turquoise blue mediterranean below us, and a profusion of palms and pines along the route. When we arrived in Monaco, however, the whole of the waterfront was cordoned off for people with boat show tickets. Consequently, all I could do was to hop out of the van quickly and grab a couple of snaps, before being swept along by the traffic. There was absolutely nowhere to park, with all the waterfront parking taken with tents, so in the end, we just gave up, and continued on along the coast. At Menton, we headed inland, and within minutes were climbing up steep roads into the mountains. We passed a road sign saying ‘Route des Grandes Alps’, and then we were suddenly in the most stunning alpine scenery.
The campsite we had chosen for the night was not far as the crow flies, but it took at least forty minutes to get there. We stopped off just before the campsite at the gorgeous little town of Sospel, with it’s 13th century stone arched bridge across the river, and picturesque buildings. There has been a settlement here since the 5th century, and the old toll bridge used to serve as an important staging post on the royal road between Nice and Turin. We picked up a few groceries, and then sat in the cafe by the bridge and de-fused after our stressful drive through the Cote d’Azur. We recounted the huge yachts we had seen and the profusion of high end cars like Maseratis. Fine, if that’s what rocks your boat – but give us Oscar anyday!
We eventually arrived at our very rural campsite, due to close tomorrow for the season. On arrival, it was just ourselves and a couple camping at the far corner. All very quiet – until half an hour ago, when a group of ten motorcyclists arrived. Now lots of loud revving and chatter. As Howard says, ‘Even Hell’s Angels need a day out in the countryside!”