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 pass Monte Carlo on the hills above the rich and famous.

Snapshot of Monte Carlo

From there we drive along the coast: lots of traffic which annoys me more and more, appartment blocks everywhere, no parking without height control at 1,90 m. I get grumpy and regret my decision not to take the route via the Verdon canyon.  After Cannes it finally gets better when we reach the Esterel Massif. We find a spot for a late lunch brake and the beautiful red rocks and natural landscape make me content again.

Esterel Massif

Esterel Massif

After Cannes the route is much nicer

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

 The next day we take the hike along the coast to the west, until we reach the path up to the lighthouse and then walk back on the street which takes us 2,5 h.

Rocky path along the coast

Beautiful Lavender

Afterwards we leave and drive in direction of the Camargue. The route is very nice, the landscape beautiful.

Nice route through a valley

In Marseille the Navigation takes us through town and suddenly we are in front of a city tunnel with 3,20m hight. We manage to avoid it by driving a circle through small streets until we reach our route again.

We drive  north now towards Arles as there is the last or first bridge over the Rhône depending on where you start.

Rhône at Arles

We reach Saint Maries de la Mer and choose the caravan parking to the east. The first part is on tarmac just behind the beach but seperated through rocks and the promenade. From your caravan you won’t see the sea but everybody can look into your car. But there is a much nicer part 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 part of the official caravan parking with grass, bushes and lots of space. We can even  look over at the flamingos in the wetland next to us!

Caravan parking with view over the Camargue wetland and the flamingos

We walk along the beach into town and have a look around.

Main street of St. Maries de la Mer

St. Maries de la Mer

St. Maries de la Mer
It is nice and sunny and we enjoy strolling around until we stop for a snack.
nice assortment of cheese
The next morning we go Flamingo hunting. But mostly we are 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 is 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.
Gray Heron

Excursions on horseback are offered everywhere in town

Afterwards we walk into town again as it is market day. We buy vegetables and some sweet treats.

Spices on the market

Our next destination is Aigues-Mortes, the city from which Louis IX  departed for the Crusades twice. And it’s not dificult to imagine the knights and their entourage walking the streets of this town. It looks just as you imagine a medieval town.


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 enjoy our lunch at the city square before we drive on to Carcassonne. This is the FIRST time we use a highway with toll fee. It saves us 1 hours of driving and we decide it is worth it. We pass many places which are also worth a visit for sure but we have to be in Spain until the end of this week, so we need to make some kilometres.

We choose the parking for buses and caravans not far from the entrance of La Cité, the medival citadel of Carcassonne (43.205350, 2.374006). We enjoy a relaxed night at the big parking and the next morning we are under the first 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

 I read that this parking costs 20,- Euros a day, but when we leave it is
just 8 Euros. I think the night was free, what a nice surprise. We
drive to the south and find a spot where we have a great view back.

Carcassonne from the distance

Our next destination is Ille sur Têt with its fascinating rocks. We choose an inland route as we want to travel slowly again.
On our way is one of the cathar castles of this region so we follow the sign for the castle of Puilaurens. The sign “2,9m height” stops 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 is 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 enjoy the nice weather and spend a relaxing time at the castle.

Finally we drive on to Ille sur Têt. The route is 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 fanish

We don’t like the parking there, the horse stable next to it smells a bit, so we drive on to the coast. At Port Vendres we get 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 stroll into town and have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants in the harbour.

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

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