From Burgundy to the South of France
From Beaune we headed directly south toward Aix-en-Provence with the idea of maybe meeting up with our friends again when they got there. As it turned out, that really wasn’t in the cards but we still stayed in the area just in case. Our first destination was a small village called Orange.
As camping sites were becoming more and more limited we were scouring the area looking at the possible options and Shani discovered the Orange municipal campground was still open this late in the season. Unbeknownst to us, and according to Wikipedia – “Orange of two thousand years ago was a miniature Rome, complete with many of the public buildings that would have been familiar to a citizen of the Roman Empire, except that the scale of the buildings had been reduced – a smaller theater to accommodate a smaller population, for example.” The city was founded in 35 BC but the location was a Celtic settlement from at least 105 BC! It was quite serendipitous for us to land in this little village.
We were enamored with this little village and would definitely go back and spend some more time. While we were there we wandered the ancient streets and did a little site seeing of the Roman ruins. There is a very impressive arch but what Orange is most known for is its Roman theater. This is considered one of the most impressive Roman theaters still left in Europe. It has been restored and along with the Triumphal Arch of Orange is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were quite impressed, not only with the site but with the whole village. Do go if you get the chance.
Leaving Orange, we may or may not have rubbed the rig up against a shrubbery that lined the very narrow road to the freeway. Ok, we did. Or more accurately, I did. I’m sure it will all buff out! A valuable lesson was learned that day (learned again that is; I might be a slow learner). When in doubt just stop, or at least slow down a bit. I keep learning this lesson. Remember “Gently, but with great enthusiasm!”? But really, it will all buff out. I did a little research and they make specific cleaning and polishing compounds for just this type of thing. Every RV and caravan we see has some tree and bush marks. It really is inevitable given the narrow roads and pitches (sites in the campgrounds) and the proliferation of trees for shade and pitch boundary lines. We had already taken on a bit of tree scuff from our mission to get into La Croix du Vieux Pont. Oh well, c’est la vie!
As much as we did enjoy Orange moving south and eventually hitting Portugal was our primary objective and so we pointed the rig to St Maries de la Mer. This is a very different part of the south of France. Notably, there is quite a bit of marshland and tons of horse farms that specialize in white horses. So many white horses! It’s a pretty dramatic shift in landscapes, that’s for sure! We were quite psyched to get to the ocean again. The camping in St Maries de la Mer was at a quite large campground called Camping le Clos Du Rhône but very enjoyable and only a few meters from the sea. A theme for this leg of the journey – we could have stayed longer here as well!
The proper part of town was a bit from the camping and accessed by a well lit and easy to walk ocean side pathway. One of the evenings we booted up for the 3km walk, found a few places open and had a nice evening of tapas and local wine. One could see the draw of this place in peak season, though I imagine like a lot of these places, the chaos would wear on you quite quickly. According to Wikipedia its 2012 population was 2,495, though it can swell to 500,000 during the summer holidays! Still, we had a lovely stay in this unique part of France.
Alas, time was not on our side and we needed to keep the momentum headed south if we weren’t going to meet up with Tory and Susie again. So off we went to another mega resort called Le Floride Camping Village. This place was just one of the mega resorts in this section on the south of France. Located next to a small sea side resort town it was again just meters from the water.
Getting there was a bit of a challenge in the final stretch due to closed off roads. However, traversing a parking lot, going down a one way street and one three point reversing turn later and we finally found our destination. During our time there, the little town was mostly boarded up, prepping for maybe a Christmas market or doing some renovations for next season. We did find the bakery open and surprisingly enough they had some local white wine at an incredibly affordable price. Sipping local white wine on the beach, does it get any better?
One of the interesting options that Le Floride Camping Village offers is pitches with private bathrooms. For a couple of extra Euros a day you can have a private toilet/shower building as part of your pitch. I know this isn’t going to sound like much, but oh my what a luxury! We had to go for it. Our RV has its own facilities of course but we have opted to use the campground facilities and preserve our resources in most situations. At this stage of the game, getting used to shared bathrooms and showers with a hoard of strangers (in their bathrobes) is still a pretty new and odd experience and the idea of unlimited hot water and privacy is well worth a couple of Euros. In a lot of the campgrounds the showers are timed push button, and require a re-press every 10 to 30 seconds to keep the water flowing but not so in the private showers! So nice and worth every Eurocent.
The closest real market to Le Floride Camping Village was about 6km from the camping village along a bike path and the ocean. We still haven’t nailed down the Sebastian on a bike routine and our basket is just shy of doing the job properly (spoiler alert: we buy another one and I still get nervous about using it). As I am the forager I took off on a mission on my bike, leaving Shani and Sebastian to bask in the sun and enjoy the sand on their toes.
I worry about things like getting the bike stolen and having to walk back to the camping car laden with groceries. It is silly, I know. I can’t help myself. I don’t know what these neighborhoods are like. I’m not a very accomplished bike-chainer-upper and we have a pretty flimsy lock so I can’t help but worry about it. One thing going for us though – I don’t think my granny bike is of much interest to would be thieves and roustabouts. So, mission accomplished. No one took the bike and we were all provisioned up and ready to head into Andorra and then into Spain.
Stay tuned for our one day adventure in Andorra and then our whirlwind tour of Spain and eventually the southern tip of Portugal.