Thursday, 5 November 2015

Change of Plan - route 2

After a peaceful overnight stop parked in a walnut orchard, followed by hasty scrambling through maps, guide books & where-to-stop books, our route was radically changed.  Instead of heading south from Grenoble, and the Route de Napoleon, we would skirt mountains and head, via the auto route to Valence then head south, aiming for Vaison-La-Romaine.

Getting back onto the motorway was a bit of a nasty, there were major roads works & road closures in Varces which was somewhat grisly, narrow roads, no diversion signs & a sat-nav that was having a serious breakdown as we tried to locate the way out!

Eventually, success, autoroute rejoined, dirty water emptied at an amazing motorway aires at a service station near Valences, so amazing in fact a photo was required showing the automatic water spray in actions.

The scenery was pretty dramatic, lots of rivers & towns with the name Roman in them.  Soaring peaks & wooded slopes.

The evening stop was to be the aires de camping cars at Vaison.  Lovely drive through the vineyards passing imposing wine Châteaux.   The scenery just kept getting better, if that was possible, however, once at our destination, the aires was full, no room.  Plan 2B.  Get out the Caravan Club continental sites handbook.  Not being one to ring & pre-book, it was a case of seeing where we could get in that was nice as in nice nice with good access for motorhomes.   The eventual resting place was Camping de l'Aguette, a rather pleasant wooded site in a rural location close to the bastide village of Faucon.

The choice was a good one, if l say so myself, the staff were pleasant, the facilities good, there was free wifi & finally it was central to visiting the site of the area.

We stayed here long enough to explore the region's historic sites.  The Roman city of Vaison-la-Romaine, Mont Ventoux were just breathtaking.

The countryside was awe-inspiring,  jagged peaks, fields of lavender, vineyards, picturesque hill top villages, pine forests and wonderful foodie food.

The tourist season was almost over in the area, so everywhere was fairly quiet, locals chatty & even the odd American seemed to have time to chat over a glass of pastis.

The weather during our stay was warm & dry, except for the day we drove into Orange to explore the Roman Amphitheatre which was seriously wet with huge puddles everywhere.   Thankfully, l always travel with wellingtons & an Aussie stockman's coat, so l was OK Jack!  Did feel sorry for those tourists who had not even got an umbrella.

One of the highlights was the trip to the summit of Mont Ventoux, a scenic drive through  the world famous lavender fields of Provence followed by a steep climb up, up through forests then out onto the white stone upper slopes & peak.  It was amazing to watch keen cyclists straining muscles & fighting exhaustion to reach the summit, equally amazing was the sight of motorhomes driving the route.

We had planned to continue our stay by heading down to the Mediterranean, however, by the time it came to leave, the site closed at the end of September,  the weather was starting to look decidedly 'iffy'.  Time for Plan 3 - head home.

So, with much reluctance on my part, we said 'goodbye' to our new found Dutch friends, hooked the car onto the motorhome & began the drive home.

We followed the route of previous trips, straight up the A7, overnight stop at Beaune overlooking the vineyards, where, incidentally, we were charged extra for our car, then off again next day with an overnight stop at Chalon-en-Champagne.  We rather like Chalon, the site is a municipal one, its has crap facilities, but it is well laid out, has hard standing plus the added advantage of a local chap who comes round every evening selling his own honey which is delicious.

From Chalon it is an easy drive straight through to Belgium & Zeebrugge via Lille which is always busy.  

We enjoyed the trip as this was an area of France that l hadn't visited before.  I loved the food shops & markets, the lovely fruity fragrances seeping through narrow streets coming from the open doors of parfumeries & then finally there was the wonderfully delicious Cotes de Rhone wine.

All in all, this is an area l would very much like to return to, especially as the wine has now all be drunk & the stock of l'occitane desperately needs topping up at French prices! 

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