Peage made a big difference and we made good progress to the coast, but
were frustrated trying to find no open campgrounds again. Eventually, we
found a helpful tourist office with the right information. It was the
2nd we tried; the first being very helpful but not having a clue. It was
dark when we found the site, but it was run by a very helpful Dutch man who's been
in France for 40 years.
The site was very well equipped, with one
of its smaller bathrooms even being heated morning and evening. The van
and its clan heaved a sigh of relief and Mike broke out the small tent
to clear some of the gear for a more comfortable night's sleep. We spent
the next 2 days either feeding ourselves some more healthy meals (soup
made from our French grandad's garden), pasta etc., and I commenced
washing everything in sight. Everyone was bathed or showered, Eli even
went voluntarily to the shower after trying out the pool that looked so
enticing that he asked to jump in in his wetsuit. The gasps and cries
out of him as he surfaced indicated its temperature as he made a hurried
exit to the shower. A big wash of clothes was easily accommodated in the
site's machines. We relaxed and opened our first bottle of French wine.
The second night is really freezing, although we are
all warm enough in our sleeping bags and blankets. In the morning we are at least able to make our own tea to warm us up in the morning
as the Dutch man sells gaz.
The sun was slower to rise today and there were occasional drizzly
showers by afternoon, so we packed once again and I sat and phoned our
Italian WWOOFer hosts and discovered they had been getting nervous about
our whereabouts as they thought they might be bringing the olive harvest forward due to
the onset of winter cold to next Wed or Thu. We decided to try and get
there as soon as possible to allow a little adjustment for the busy
The children have really enjoyed the break. There was a little
playground and they spent both days in it, playing for hours and hours.
The time outdoors had the same effect as the summer spent in the van
had, leaving them starving and tired at night, Still they make not
objections to setting off again in the van they seem to like their own
wee space and familiar seats.
While Suzie drives,
I copy the camera pictures and type my entries. Suzie then
dictates her entries to me. Haven't yet wanted to be back in touch so
our first few entries will all be uploaded at once.
We drove a lot on motorway (A7 to A8) towards Marseilles. Pale orange
tile roofs, white dry earth with low plants,
Took us a few minutes to figure out the pay petrol stations.
You fill up, then you get back in your car and merge and queue with
other cars to a paystation.
After shopping we told the kids we'd go somewhere for a picnic soon. A
tourist office gave us a campground pamphlet which had one that was open
all year and allowed pets. When we finally got there, lots of crying and
upset, and everyone was ready to unload, but they were shut. Suzie spoke
to someone else who pulled up but they knew nothing, so we drove back to LaLonde, which looked like a very upmarket
place, and Suzie went into another tourist office while I did a loop with the camper. They found and
rang one which was open, dogs okay this time of year, so we headed
Directions were a bit confusing and we almost turned back but then
saw the turn and finally got to Manjastre near Bormes les Mimosas. Very nice Dutch/French man; said we
could take any site (most were free) and advised we avoid trees. The
evening was so cold and windy, I had been thinking trees would provide
good shelter, but he said it was to avoid the shade during the day so
we'd get the most of the sun. Hard to imagine when we were shivering,
but Suzie and the kids scouted out the most open place and we set up
camp, pulling the small tent off the roof so we could throw stuff into
it to make it easier. It was very fresh and the night was clear - you
could see the stars coming out - so I decided to sleep out in the tent;
Eli joined me. He stayed in the tent reading by flashlight while I
stayed in the camper for a little while, when I went to bed he was
asleep with the flashlight still on. The night was freezing but I pulled
the top of my mummy sleeping bag shut and was warm.
The next morning Eli and I woke up - he saw me peep out of the tiny
gap in my sleeping bag and asked me "how do you breathe in there?" I
heard the little guys screaming in the camper next to us, so I knew it
was about time to start moving. It was actually darker and colder
outside the tent than it looked from the inside; turns out it was only a
bit after 6am and it was COLD! We froze our hands sorting things out for
breakfast and I made cups of hot chocolate and tea. Suzie acted like a
reptile and waited for warmth before she would come out of the van. I called out the position
of the sun , starting from the top of the mountain behind us and slowly
crept down towards the site. Eventually we got a little warmth and began
to thaw out. Our host gave me direction to the local shops and I took
the bike through vineyards and lovely small local roads that paralleled
the main roads.
By now the day was warm, when I returned we did some food prep
outside, had olives, bread and cheese and opened our first bottle of
wine, which although cold, was excellent.
Later today Eli jump into the freezing pool with wetsuit! The kids
played really well all day in the playground, all got washed, we had our
first meals cooked (linguini, soup from man's veg), clothes washed, and
first day brief home schooling.