19th October 2016. Carro, France.

We were rather surprised to discover it is still dark at 7 a.m. in fact we were so surprised that we checked the time on our phones to see whether the alarm was broken!  I’ve been getting up around 7.45 but I leave the blinds closed so Darren can carry on sleeping so I had no idea what it was like outside.

We were leaving as quietly as we could but as Darren drove over the bit of road they’d dug up the rack holding the spare wheel got knocked off again and started dragging along the ground making an horrendous racket!

Unfortunately  Darren had to carry on driving a little way so he could pull over away from the entrance then he had to walk back to collect the wheel (all in the dark with his head torch on!).  As he was laying under the van, reattaching the rack, a lorry arrived with road repairing materials on it and parked in the entrance.  It was 7.30 a.m. so we were VERY lucky we left before 8 a.m. as the lady had suggested!

It’s strange as we drove out the lane seemed a lot wider than it had last night!  We drove on to the next village Gémenos, it sounded like a lovely place to visit and it also had an aire in the village centre.

I think our SAT NAV must REALLY hate us!  It sent us on a ridiculous route.  As we travelled down some extremely narrow streets in Gémenos, we complained bitterly about why aires have to be situated up such tiny lanes.

We had to turn into a very tight entrance to a lane on a sharp bend, drive up a steep hill and make a sharp left into another very tight hair pin bend.  It got worse and worse from there as Darren negotiated a narrow road made tighter by the cars parked on the roadside until we finally came to a dog leg into what looked like a car park!  As Darren squeezed through the gap between the buildings he nearly made it but something on the roof of the van caught some overhanging scaffolding and there was a loud scraping sound which was so noisy it caused a passer-by to spin round to look.

The SAT NAV told us we were near the main road and we really didn’t want to go back the way we’d come so we carried on following it.  We were a bit surprised to see a man standing in front of the corner of a wall as we tried to drive through, we don’t know whether he was just being awkward but as we drove past him we discovered that we’d driven into a cul-de-sac!   The ‘road’ to the main road was in fact a metre wide set of steps!  Darren is amazing, he didn’t lose his cool he did a 1 million point turn (during which time the man walked past and down the steps with his wife and child!)

We retraced our route back along the road and decided that we could get back to the main road if we turned left even though the SAT NAV wanted us to go back to the steps.  We were really cheesed off by the time we got back to the main road, it was the road that the SAT NAV had taken us off originally, the question is WHY?  We drove to the town square which was full of cars, could see no way of getting into the aire so we followed the road out of the town from hell.

We’d been discussing whether we should go to Carro after we’d been to Gemenos as we were up so early so we decided that we’d go there after all, and so began our next saga!  Some days you should take the hint and just stay in bed!

We had no intention of going anywhere near Marseilles but our SAT NAV had different ideas and we ended up doing yet another horrendous journey  through the city.  The worst part was when we came to the tunnel which had a height limit of 3.2 metres Darren informed me that our van was 3.1 metres, NO PROBLEM (Later I noticed the sticker I’d put by the steering wheel; says 3.2m, perfect!)  I was feeling rather tense as we drove down into it but we got through and carried on out of the graffiti covered city.

We were very happy when we got to the outskirts of Carro, it looked lovely and the harbour we were hoping to stay at was beautiful the only problem was that we couldn’t get the barrier to the aire to open.  We were just considering leaving when a lady walked up and told us that the barrier was broken but we could drive in through the exit.  We took her kind advice and did just that.

We found a pitch overlooking the bay, the view was stunning, there was a lighthouse in the distance, a stone monument beside us and a huge expanse of vivid blue water flowing round the rocks and into the little bay, it looked like paradise on earth, but as with most of the beautiful places we’ve been to there was one thing spoiling it, as Darren opened the door to step out the wind nearly took the door off its hinges!  It was a baking hot day but the constant wind meant you needed your coat on and warm clothes.

Darren blew across the car park to see where everything was while I made breakfast and he started chatting to the lady and her husband who were called Indi and Tim.  Indi said when she saw us trying to get in at the barrier she had been trying to work out how to tell us in French that it was broken and was relieved to see that we had a UK number plate.

After we’d put our Autumn clothes on we wandered down into the village (we were pleased to see that it wasn’t as windy down there) where we stopped for lunch at a little restaurant where I practised my French on the waitress who spoke very good English.

Darren chose Plat de jour;  les pieds et paquets Marsailles from the menu, he read somewhere that if you can’t decide what to have choose the most unusual thing on the menu and that certainly sounded unusual.  We were a bit confused when I told him that I thought pieds meant feet and paquets meant parcels.  It turned out that it was lambs feet with little parcels of fat wrapped round some stuffing in a gravy, yummy!  I’m glad I just had goats cheese in a crepe, it was gorgeous.

We wandered down to the beautiful beach for a paddle and very quickly discovered that it was sheltered from the wind and therefore nice and toasty, we were feeling decidedly over dressed as the 3 other people on the beach were wearing swimming costumes.  Pretty soon we were dripping with sweat.  The bay looked like the perfect place to go snorkelling, we really must try to be a bit more organised before we leave the van and pack for all eventualities!

As we were putting our shoes back on a man who had been sunbathing started chatting to us.  He told us he and his French wife had just bought a house in the village and we learned that the heavy wind was the mistral which I’d heard my Mum mention in a family story and have now experienced myself.  Lars was an Economist and Anthropologist from Sweden and as you can imagine very interesting to talk to, I love hearing about peoples lives, I’m always amazed at the experiences they’ve had, although our conversation included many things including BREXIT.   We chatted for ages before we decided we were all baking.  Lars decided to go in for a swim and sweltering we wandered back up to the van to get changed into some summer clothes making plans to go for a walk to the lighthouse tomorrow, as suggested by Indi earlier, and take our snorkle and fins with us.

When we arrived back at the site Tim walked across to tell us that the barrier had been fixed and we’d now need a ticket to get out, that explained why a man from the site was at the barrier on his quad bike buying a ticket but put us in a dilemma, how were we going to get out?   Tim asked whether we’d like to meet for a drink at their van in the evening and just as we were accepting the lovely offer Darren saw someone waving from the other side of the site, it was Alex.  He and Kathryn had arrived a few minutes earlier so we arranged for Tim and Indi to come over to our van in the evening instead and we popped over to see whether Alex and Kathryn would like to come over too.

We had a coffee with Kathryn and Alex and a nice long chat (this trip has been wonderful, we’ve met so many lovely people through it and we’re no longer feeling like Billy No Mates!) then dashed back to the van to clear up and make space before everyone arrived.

We had a great evening chatting and we eventually decided it was time to stop at 1 a.m. because Tim and Indi were leaving in the morning.

I thought we’d sleep very well but the mistral blew all night and the van rocked far worse than it has before, it was like being on a boat in a stormy sea.  My question is how on earth does Darren manage to sleep whatever the conditions?  I wish I had that ability!

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