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Bugs, Boats and Beachside

The Billetts hit the beach!

Wow, blog #13 (hopefully nothing relevant about that!) and you find us beachside, in the Bay of St Tropez and a first for me, blogging outside! That's not for want of trying in other places, but this time it is too warm to be inside (I know that will garner no sympathy having read stories of thunderstorms and torrential rain for the bank holiday back home!)

Anyway, we rounded of the last blog back in Vaison with Mum and Paul for the last day. Once the blog posting was done, the washing dried and banking business done, we hit the pool for the final time, only to be rained off fairly swiftly! We had also agreed for Sunday to be pizza night at Chez Billett and no rain was going to stop that! We added the sides back to the awning and got stuck in! The practice runs had paid off, and we put out a fairly decent stack of pizzas to round off our time together.

Monday morning was thankfully dry, but with the downpour of the previous evening, we had a fair bit of drying out to do as we packed up. Once all the jobs were done, we said a final farewell to Mum and Paul who had decided to stay on in Vaison for a few more days. Once out of the campsite we had an expensive morning filling the van with food and fuel to see us on our way. Our plan was to head south and for the Cote D'Azur while it was still fairly quiet (hopefully!). It was a fair drive south, so we decided to split the journey and headed for a free Aire in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. This one was set quietly in the car park of a vineyard but as it was (another) bank holiday, nothing was open. After such a busy week we were happy just to spend a bit of time chilling in the van and planning our next few moves. As a result of the food shop we were able to enjoy a stunning chilli and cider for dinner.

Tuesday we woke to very rainy skies, but undeterred we headed for the coast. On route we spotted a motorhome accessories shop and decided to call in. Now this is where things get a bit exciting or practical depending on your point of view! As keen readers will know, my main stress of being away is around getting laundry done and dry while moving on a fair bit. Being the engineer he is, Jase is really good at creating washing lines, but having spent time with Mum and Paul, I had really coveted their rotary washing line which was extremely light weight & packed down small. Having made the decision before we left Vaison to leave one of our outdoor cookers behind (how many do you really need anyway?!), I was really hoping I could fill the void with a lovely line. Well, the washing gods were in my favour this morning, not only did they have the exact 2.5kg line, it was also 1/2 price! So the deal was done, one new washing line purchased and I am pleased to say it has changed our travelling lives already! Having somewhere so easy to hang things out means I can do more hand washing, which will mean the line will pay for itself in about 6 washes (the average machine wash is around €5-6 time).

We also decided to invest in the France Passion scheme - for €30 you get access to around 2,000 sites where you can stay for free. Generally these are farm or vineyard type stays with limited spaces & pitch time, but in exchange for showing some interest in their local produce you can stay. There is no obligation to buy, but the idea of staying on a farm and having produce available is pretty appealing. Hopefully this will help balance the books now we are heading towards the expensive months.

Our next destination for a brief visit was Frejus which was a place my Dad stayed with his family when he was about 12. For those who don't know, my paternal grandparents were pretty keen travellers, and back in the 1960's were amongst the few to travel with their car on the Bristol Freighter (plane) across to France. For this trip he said they travelled down in their Ford Popular complete with scouting tent! Now it wasn't the nicest of days, but still enable me to grab a few pictures for him to show my Grandma who remembers that trip well. I think it's fair to say at least half of my travelling bug has come from that side of the family!


Our final destination for the day was a pay Aire at Ramatuelle which was beachside. At €11 a night, it wasn't the cheapest we've found, but with direct access to the beach and service facilities it wasn't too bad. After lunch (tip for future travellers, nearly all the coast road laybys do not allow campers at all, even for a brief stop), we headed for an explore along the beach. Fair to say that with less than appealing weather, but moreover the amount of detritus along the beach it made for fairly grim viewing. We watched the recent Blue Planet 2 like many others, and heard the horror stories of the plastic problem. Probably like most of you, thinking it was somewhere else's problem. Turns out it's not. There was plastic everywhere, and most of it clearly from the sea. Truly shocking and depressing. I don't know what the answer to this will be, and it was a question we did put to L'Occitane when we visited last week, there just doesn't seem to be a viable answer at the moment. One thing is for sure, we all need to do what we can to reduce plastic and maybe ask more questions about what actually happens when we think we are recycling things. Made me wonder.


Wednesday dawned and was a much sunnier affair, although after a very broken night's sleep being hounded by the local midge population! The Aire ticket was for a 24hr period, so with a good few hours left we decided to head off for a cliff walk, or rock scramble as it turned out several times! Simply stunning views all the way along the coast and with the sun shining you can really see why this is called the Cote D'Azur.


After a quick pack up we headed back up the coast & managed to find a nice layby for a spot of lunch. We'd decided that with the weather set fair, and with the Aire being almost the price of a campsite we would head for a site beach side at Grimaud in the bay of St Tropez. The site we picked is part of the ACSI scheme so we are looking at €20 per night but with everything we need. They do have actual beachside pitches but they are more expensive (and think of the sand!), so we headed for a lovely pitch part way up the site, fairly close to the underpass to the beach. After setting up the van, we headed to the beach for our first dip - bliss! Initially not overly warm, but once you get in it is fine. The views stretch around the bay and to St Tropez in the distance. Once back at the van, and able to indulge in as much camping activity as we wanted to (this is frowned upon in many Aires) we got the washing line up for its maiden use. I must also note at this point that I had my finest shower since we left home. It isn't quite the 5/5 I noted a few weeks ago, as it loses 1 point for being non-adjustable. However, with 2 hooks and 2 shelves, it brings it back to a very strong 4.5/5! A nice way to mark our 10 weeks away point.

Being Wednesday I did take a brief look at the numbers, and thanks to writing a few of last week's expenses into the rainy day fund, we are about €17 under for the week.

Thursday was a another lovely morning, and after breakfast outside (more camping activity!) we headed out on the bikes to St Tropez. The main coast road that runs to St Tropez is very busy most of the time, and at peak season it is one long traffic jam. Luckily, they have installed a lovely cycle path which runs along the side, which although noisy is far and away a safer place to be. The only issue we had was the final 100metres or so as the signs just stopped! Cue a short spin around the one way system! Anyway, back on track we wandered around St Tropez trying to work out who really had money and who's bags were fakes! I learnt a lesson here after seeing a lady wanting to get back on her super yacht - they all have chains across, so that us "normos" don't wander on thinking they are show yachts - anyway, she stood there, shopping in hand, clearly entirely unable to unclip the chain herself, instead waiting until her deckhand, walked down the gangway, unclipped it, stood out of her way to let her pass. Fair enough you might think, but to not even acknowledge or say thank you was beyond rude. If that's what having money turns you into, you can keep it!


During our wander around the harbour we did see some really amazing vessels, but both decided that Bluebird built in 1938 from London was our personal favourite.


On our way back up the cycle track we met a couple who were cycling on a recumbent tandem complete with solar panels to generate some battery assistance. They had a flat and were clearly struggling with their small pump. The lady was English so we offered up our pump and also any assistance we could from our van which wasn't more than a few hundred metres away. As is usually the way with cycling chat, we asked them if they were going far - China was the answer, but in a fairly relaxed timescale of 4months! One way or another, they got their tyre sorted, and we headed back to the van, finding ourselves realising that however intrepid you think you are, there is always someone with a more batty plan than yours! Once back at the van, we hit the beach for a nice read & dip in the crystal clear waters. Bliss


Friday and Saturday we slipped into a bit of a routine, both being lovely sunny days so cycled the other direction up the coast road for about 15km to a lovely look out point and back again, then spending the afternoons on the beach & in the sea. Both days we've seen huge cruise ships & tail sailing boats in dock at St Tropez.


And so to today, Sunday. It's a lovely day once again, although windier. I'm loving my blog position, and Jase is doing to routine maintenance on the bikes. We'll probably hit the beach again for one last dip before we head slightly north again. We've got a few days to look around the Gorges Du Verdon and then back towards Valence ready for the Criterium du Dauphine next weekend.


To the questions, this week I have two, the first coming from my brother-in-law Mike - what chance encounters/meetings have we had on this trip. Well, that's a slightly tricky one to answer as being surrounded by Dutch and Germans most of the time, we do have a bit of a language barrier to overcome. However, we did meet a couple of Spanish lads while we were in Vaison who were working on a fruit farm. Cue Jase channelling his Spanish to find out they were from Andalucía where there is no work, and there were here all summer to earn money. After a bit of toing and froing they basically offered us an entire punnet of strawberries! Think they were sick of the sight of them!

The other chance meeting which was way more pivotal, I would go back 7 years to when we were in Belgium for a single speed event, and had decided to have a quick look at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic race. We were wandering up the hill, looking for a nice spot to watch when we spotted a GB registered Hymer van covered in Sky flags. Having not seen many Brits, we stopped for a chat with who turned out to be Rusty and Kay Morris. We chatted for a good while about all things biking, before realising they lived less than 6miles from our front door! Following that meeting, we hooked up via Facebook and a real friendship began. To cut a long story short, aside our family and very close friends, these two have been hugely supportive of the whole Jexit idea, and without them, their encouragement and pointers, the whole things wouldn't have been as easy as it has been. So thanks both, you've played a large part in this, and I just hope some of our tricks, like revolutionising your morning toast to van cappuccinos, goes some way to thanking you!

The second question comes from my sister and relates to shopping! What can I not get or is not as good in France? This is a tricky one. We've found that the larger supermarkets have most things we do, but the main issue is the price. As most of you know, we are big fans of Mexican food, and although Old El Paso does exist, it comes with a huge price! I would say another thing that can be tricky is decent "normal" bread. My teeth struggle with the lovely baguettes a bit, so finding something softer is a bit tricky! That said, and although the French do a great line in soft cheese, finding a good hard cheese is fairly tricky, especially one that actually grates! In the main though it just comes down to the all important price, and how much you want something to remind you of home!

So that's all the news for this week, and I think the beach is calling me.

Stay safe all, til next time


Posted by One streetaway 05:31 Archived in France Tagged wine st cycling travelling tropez westfalia

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Lovely stories made me chuckle once or twice, glad it's all working out especially now you have the washing line! Love and miss you xxxx

by Lyndaginger

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