Friday, 13 September 2013

Port Grimaud, Monaco and St Tropez... again...

After leaving Moto camping Dordogne at around 5pm we decided to drive till we were tired. We'd told David and Paul that we'd get there in 4 days, arriving mid-week on Wednesday.

Well the van engine ran alot better that evening. I think the cooler air helped the diesel so we drove until 11ish, stopping to find a place to stop for the night just after seeing Carcassonne all lit up from afar. The sat nav said that within an hours drive we could be in Montpellier and it was decided that we would wildcamp down on the beach and enjoy the sea the next day.

We had parked up to numerous other vans that seem to congregate on the spit of sand called Grand Travers and the next day I woke up needing the toilet quite desperately. Whilst I was doing my thing I smelt a faint smell of smoke but put it down to someone having a cigarette somewhere. Jumping back in to bed I could hear a peculiar noise like someone walking through the trees next to us on the sand dunes. The noise continued and I stuck my head out of the roof vent to investigate. The smell was stronger and I saw a haze in the air.

Fire plane
It was a fire. About 50 metres away in the bush by the sand dunes. We immediately packed up ready to move. The land around here was so dry and the wind was relatively strong. We were worried it would spread quickly towards us. Other van occupants were quickly packing up and we moved down the beach 100 metres and watched as the fire got bigger and bigger, seeing flames licking the tops of the trees.

Over the next hour and a half we watched as the fire brigade arrived in their trucks and a small plane circled over head before sounding a siren and dumping water on to the brush. It took the emergency services all morning to satisfactorily put the fire out and we took up our position on the beach after an eventful morning.

It was hot. Very hot. Much hotter than in the Dordogne and we had to take shelter in the van during the hottest part of the day. We knew that David and Paul were only 150 miles away and took the excuse of driving to get some wind through the van. 
Monaco by Motorbike!

4 hours later and we were driving through Grimaud and in to the aire which was conveniently located just outside Prairies de la Mar, the campsite the boys were staying in and the same campsite Kerry and I met my Dad at a few months ago.

A quick walk around the big site didn't shed any light as to their camping spot but we were determined to find them without giving away our location. It was Monday evening and we weren't due to meet them until Wednesday.  Another surprise!

Of course we found them sat in the beachside bar. I crept up behind them and asked "So does that wheel bearing job come with a warantee" to which they both laughed and turned around to welcome us. The evening was gorgeous with the setting sun illuminating the sky over the sea in purples and pinks.

David and Paul had planned a ride out on their bikes to Monaco the next day. Having one extra helmet they offered for one of us to go with them. Not being able to settle the decision amongst ourselves some straws were sought from the bar and I pulled the longest of the three.

We left the campsite around midday the next day and skirted north on the coast road, me riding pilion on Paul's Suzuki TS1000. I cant proclaim to it being the comfiest bike to sit on but I was appreciative of the opportunity to ride with the boys. As we pulled in to Monaco the Suzuki started to smell and feel very hot so I swapped over to Daves BMW and we blatted round as much of the Monaco Formula 1 race track as we could including through the world renound tunnel. All whilst dodging Ferrari's, Porsche's and other expensive cars all displaying their principality of Monaco number plates.

The sheer wealth of the place is only evident when you're there. The number and size of the boats was incredible. All of them were much larger than my 2 bedroom flat and most were the size of 6 story mansions!
Deciding against getting a €200 euro cheese sandwich we headed back to Port Grimaud and the girls for a spot of BBQd burgers and sausages until dark.

After a nice long sleep we all reconveined at the port around midday for an afternoon on the water. Dave has held a boating license for as long as I can remember, even having his own little vessel named "Boogie Nights" in Brighton Marina. So after a short orientation of our floating palace we were set loose in the Gulfe of St Tropez. Picking up speed and getting the boat planing above the water for 10 minutes until we slowed down and entered the port of St Tropez.

It was an especially novel way of viewing the world famous mooring. Posh and expensive cars lined the dock as tanned, balding 50+ somethings swanned around with an ungarish, more stately air about them. Here in the world of French wealth it seems less is more. Except for the size of your boat!

We shot over the bay with extra speed this time as I joined Paul up on the bow of the boat (the front) and our combined weight helped the boat get up out of and on to the waves. We headed for a lagoon the boat rental guy told us about. We dropped anchor in a patch of beautifully crystal clear water and had a lark about, diving for the bottom, drinking the beers and eating the sandwiches we'd brought along.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I feel very privileged David was there to take us out. I couldn't thank him enough but tried to make up for it with a dinner of chili con carne and rice.

After the meal we said our fairwells. The boys were headed through Italy and in to Switzerland the next day...

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