Austria to Spain – Part 3: France


This morning we left Sanremo in Italy and drove along the coast into France. The first town of France – Menton is very pitoresque with a sandy bay and the village on the hill next to it.

Menton – France

Next, we passed Monte Carlo on the hills above the town of the rich and famous.

Snapshot of Monte Carlo

From there we drove along the coast: lots of traffic which annoyed us more and more, apartment blocks everywhere, no parking without height control at 1,90 m. We got grumpy and regretted the decision not to take the route via the Verdon canyon.  After Cannes, it finally got better when we reached the Esterel Massif. We found a spot for a late lunch brake and the beautiful red rocks and natural landscape made us content again.

Esterel Massif
Esterel Massif
After Cannes the route was much nicer

We decided to drive on past St. Tropez, where we chose the caravan parking at the beach of Ramatuelle. (43.211628, 6.662228) One of the beach restaurants was open, but there was a bad smell at the beach and also the parking. It smelled like a rotting whale or at least sea weed, but we didn’t see anything.

The next day we took the hike along the coast to the west, until we reached a path up to the lighthouse and then walked back along the road which took us 2,5 h.

Rocky path along the coast
Beautiful lavender

Afterwards, we left and drove in direction of the Camargue. The route was very nice, the landscape beautiful.

Nice route through a valley

In Marseille the navigation took us through town and suddenly we were in front of a city tunnel with 3,20m hight restriction. We managed to avoid it by driving a circle through small streets until we reached our route again.

We had to drive north now towards Arles as there is the last or first bridge over the Rhône, depending how you look at it.

Rhône at Arles

We reach Saint Maries de la Mer and chose the caravan parking to the east of town. The first part was on tarmac just behind the beach, but separated by rocks and the promenade from the sea. From your caravan you won’t see the sea but everybody can look into your car. But there is a much nicer area to park, if you go on over the gravel road and then turn left (3.456916, 4.443342).
It was part of the camping next door and now is an official caravan parking with grass, bushes and lots of space. We even could watch the flamingos in the wetland next to us!

Caravan parking with view over the Camargue wetland and the flamingos

We walked along the beach into town and had a look around.

Main street of St. Maries de la Mer
St. Maries de la Mer
St. Maries de la Mer
It was nice and sunny and we enjoyed strolling around until we stopped for a snack.
nice assortment of cheese
The next morning we went flamingo hunting. But mostly we were hunted by billions of mosquitos.
So maybe the early morning was not the best time to walk into the Camargue, but we saw so many birds and the landscape was beautiful – on one side the sea with sandy beaches, on the other side the lakes of the Camargue with so many Flamingos and other birds.
Grey Heron
Excursions on horseback are offered everywhere in town

Afterwards we walked into town again as it was market day. We bought vegetables and some sweet treats.

Spices on the market

Our next destination was Aigues-Mortes, the city from which Louis IX departed twice for the crusades. It was not difficult to imagine the knights and their entourage walking the streets of this town. It looks just as you imagine a medieval town would look like.

Aigues-Mortes with the Tower of Constance
Entrance from P2 – the official caravan parking

There is a parking for caravans directly at the city wall, very convenient (43.565184, 4.196217).
That the city is surrounded by meadows gives the impression, that nothing has changed since the time of the crusades.

One of the city gates
At the central square of Aigues-Mortes
Nice restaurant at Aigues-Mortes

We enjoyed our lunch at the city square before we drove on to Carcassonne. This was the first! time we used a highway with toll fee on this trip. It saved us 1 hours of driving and we decide it was worth it. We passed many places which would also be worth a visit for sure, but we had to be in Spain until the end of this week, so we needed to make some kilometres.

At Carcassonne, we chose the parking for buses and caravans not far from the entrance of La Cité, the medieval citadel of Carcassonne (43.205350, 2.374006). We enjoyed a relaxed night at the big parking and the next morning we were one of the firsts to visit the town within this striking walls and towers. The outer wall is 1,5 kilometres long and was built after 1230 within 15 years.

Outer Ward
Outer Wall
Chateau Comtal
Nice square
Église Saint Nazaire

We read, that this parking costs 20,- Euros a day, but when we left it was
just 8 Euros. Probably the night was free, what a nice surprise! We
drove to the south and found a spot where we had a great view back to Carcassonne.

Carcassonne from the distance

Our next destination was Ille sur Têt with its fascinating rocks. We took an inland route as we wanted to travel slowly again.
On our route was one of the Cathar castles of this region, so we followed the signs for the castle of Puilaurens. The sign “2,9m height” stopped us a moment until we read the subtitle: on the right side of the road. For sure we can drive on the left and it was no problem at all. The street is steep, but there is a nice parking before you get to the entrance (42.803013, 2.294116).

Castle of Puilaurens
getting closer
Inside the castle

We enjoyed the nice weather and spent a relaxing time exploring the castle.

Finally we drove on to Ille sur Têt. The route was beautiful and we arrive from the hills behind the sandstone formation. (Caravan parking at the Organs: 42.681486, 2.622753)

The Organs of Ille sur Têt in front of the Pyrenees
Erosion formed this fascinating monument
and as times goes by these columns will vanish

We didn’t like the parking there, the horse stable next to it smelled a bit, so we made our way to the coast. At Port Vendres, we got the last spot at the caravan parking next to the harbour (42.517607, 3.113656).

Port Vendres – caravan parking
Port Vendres in the evening

We strolled into town and had a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the harbour.

This was our last night in France, tomorrow we will cross the border to Spain!

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