A visit to Carcassone on the way to Narbonne

Looking for a site around Carcassone we were struggling to find somewhere that was still open at this time of year.  So we decided to just visit on the way to the coast – we’d found a site at Narbonne that was open, les Floralys.

What we neglected to do was to decide on where to park when we got there!  So we ended up following the signs for ‘La Cite’ before taking a wrong turn and ending up on a dead-end outside a school.  There was plentiful parking available so we stopped there!  Much to the amusement of the school children milling around.  (What we discovered when we left, after having to get the van turned round and the car re-hooked up, was that if we HAD carried on around the roundabout there was an actual parking area right there!!)

Anyway we unhooked the car and went off in search of parking closer to ‘La Cite’.  We drove around and around the narrow one way system looking – any on-street parking is covered by permits it would appear, but we eventually found a car park by the river where we parked for free.  From here it was about a 10 minute walk up to the medieval city.

Entrance to the city and it’s outer walls is free, but once inside you will pay to visit the castle, school museum and any other attractions of interest.  The streets are delightful and the church (see main photo) is beautiful.  There are the usual souvenir shops in abundance and many, many eateries.  There is also, apparently, a haunted house.  Close to the castle.

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From between the walls at Carcassone
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Carcassone. Look closely – there’s a photo-bomber in there!
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Square in Carcasson

Back to the van for a quick bacon butty (cue more curious stares from the school kids…!) and then we were back on the road headed for Narbonne.

At this point it was lucky that I’m in the habit of following our route with the map as our Aguri tried to take us down a road that didn’t exist and I realised we were heading away from our destination, so we took over with the 2 phones on Google maps until the Aguri eventually caught up with us.

We chose to stay 2 nights, but it turned out we had little choice anyway as we were affected by the mass protests on fuel duty across the whole of France.  We couldn’t even get to the supermarket for milk 😦  And it didn’t stop raining, pretty much, the whole time we were there.

When we couldn’t get to the shop we headed in the opposite direction, towards the sea.  At the first roundabout we came too I said ‘we need to go right’, but Calv said ‘I want to go that way’ – up into the mountains!    So we did, to see some stunning scenery as we wended our way up, and then back down, the mountain road.

Back at the roundabout we took the road towards Gruissan and Narbonne Plage.  We spotted flamingoes out in the lake and a castle up on the hill – so we had to go have a look didn’t we?

Parking up we found our way through the narrow streets to the church and the steps behind leading up to the castle.  At first we thought it was closed, but a quick push of the gate and we were in.  There’s not much to see but there are wonderful views from the top.  Whilst there the wind picked up and the rain didn’t let up, so we headed to an open bar for a quick drink.  This particular bar was a sports bar that actually had a betting office on-site!

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Looking out over Gruissane
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The umbrella stayed the right way round for once!
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Gruissane Castle
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The castle tower, Gruissane

On the way back to the site we managed to get milk in the garage as we headed out of Gruissane.  We did look to see if the protestors had abandoned their post underneath the bridge, but they hadn’t.  They had when we popped out a little later though, but all the shops were shut – we’re not entirely sure that they bothered opening to be fair.

The protestors stopped us from driving in to see Narbonne, and the rain stopped us from cycling, so unfortunately we missed out.

The protestors were still out on Sunday when we left for Spain.  We thought at first that they wouldn’t be as they weren’t at 10am, but they soon started appearing.  We were held up for about 20 mins whilst trying to get out of Narbonne (tyres burning and everything), and then again around Perpignan – this time for over an hour 😦

Everything seemed to go smoothly after this; even the tolls weren’t overly expensive.  It’s best to take the toll road from Perpignan into Spain as otherwise you have to deal with very mountainous terrain – the total cost in tolls from Perpignan to Figueres was 11.50 Euros and it took a whole hour off our journey time!

At this point we started noticing the floods on either side of the roads, whole fields under water.  Then about 10 miles away from our site we were barred from taking our required road by a police blockade – that’s all you get though, no diversion or anything!  So we had to stop and re-calculate a route, which we did, only to be stopped again.  This time the police directed us around the floods, which made for a very interesting 10 minutes or so 🙂  We’d already changed our destination by now as we thought we couldn’t get to l’Estartit, and we were very relieved to pitch up for the night.  Ready to head the 10 miles to l’Estartit in the morning.

 

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Toulouse -a French city worth a visit

Leaving Tours we decided that we would have a couple of overnighters on the way south, which meant we stayed at a site, de Montreal, a little south of Limoges.  A lovely little site set out of the way on a lake in St Germaine-les-belles.  We had chosen to take the toll road from Tours to Poitiers, which we regretted as it came at a cost of over 35 Euros!

The next night was spent in another lovely site, de Bois-Redon, in a village outside of Caussade called Septfond.  We then headed down towards Toulouse where we had decided to stay for 2 nights (overnighters are all very well, but, for us, 2 in a row is more than enough!)

Having rocked up just outside of Toulouse we decided that we really should make the effort to go into the city.

We were staying at Les Violettes, a campsite just south of the city (and very close to the Canal du Midi) and managed to find out that we could use a park and ride at Ramonville, about 4 miles away, to get on the metro taking us straight into the heart of the city.

At a cost of 6.10 Euros each we were in the city within an hour of leaving the site – even though both car parks were full when we arrived.  Just a little tip here – it is worth waiting at the barriers as people do come and go and the barriers will go up when there are a few spaces available; we waited about 10 minutes and then we were in!

Ramonville is the end of 1 of the 2 metro lines that serve the city, and you change after about 11 stops (at Jean-Jaures) to go to Capitole, which is a good place to start your visit.

This is where you will find the Tourist Information centre (in a rather impressive building), and where you can then head down to see the Hotel de Ville (a much more impressive building – mostly hidden by the preparations for an event whilst we were there, sadly).

Toulouse & Arround (1)

Here we sat and had a drink before wandering aimlessly along the narrow streets (buying nougat along the way), before finding Continue reading “Toulouse -a French city worth a visit”

Discovering Chateau de Chenonceoux and Amboise nearby

We moved on towards Tours after leaving la Ferte-Vidame.  This route was chosen after much deliberation regarding our route – resulting with us eventually, and reluctantly, deciding to abandon our plan to cross the Millau Viaduct (boooo….); mainly due to the seeming lack of campsites open for us on that route 😦

Having decided on Tours, I thought that we might actually stay for 3 nights, having seen a weather forecast suggesting full sun and a high of 21C on Monday.  Sadly it turns out that there are several towns called Tours in France, and my app had decided to provide me with information for a different one, rather than the main town of Tours located in the Loire Valley.  So we just stayed for 2 nights after all.

We could have hopped on the cycle path and ridden into Tours to visit the old city (about 4 miles away, with the cycle path passing within about 50m from the site – albeit across a busy road); but we didn’t…

Instead we used our 1 full day there to visit the Chateau de Chenonceaux.  There are so many chateaux to choose from to visit; we chose this one as it actually spans the river Cher.  It turns out that it is actually a Unesco World Heritage Site.

We paid 14 Euros each to visit the castle and gardens – other attractions within the grounds include a maze, wine cellar (caves), gourmet restaurant, tea-room, self-service restaurant, 16th century farm with carriage musuem and donkeys 🙂

But the main draw is without doubt the castle itself, where many rooms are open to the public.  One of the interesting facts we learned was that Continue reading “Discovering Chateau de Chenonceoux and Amboise nearby”

1st few days into France/Spain 2018/19 – Brighton-Newhaven-Dieppe-La Ferte Vidame :)

6th November was the day we left home for our next adventure.  We said our goodbyes and waved to the house, with barely a backward glance.. except we had to go straight back before we made it to the motorway as Calv had left his phone behind…!!

1st stop Brighton for an overnight at the Caravan Club site situated just inland from the marina.  We had a bite to eat in the marina; a first ever visit to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and later in the afternoon (although it felt like the evening by the time we came home (by which I mean ‘van’) at about 6.30pm, as it was so dark), we headed into town to visit the Pavilion and the ice skating rink.

We drove around for a while trying to find somewhere to park for less than £10 for 2 hours; on the seafront you will pay £6 for 2 hours closer to Palace Pier, but we parked nearer to West Pier where we paid ‘only’ £4.20 for 2 hours.

I’m glad we did though, as it was just a 15 minute walk back to the Pavilion which looked perfect all lit up for the ice-skating.  We didn’t partake (we didn’t want to risk either of us breaking a leg before going away!) but it was great fun to watch.  (We have no idea who these lads are in Calv’s photo – but they seem very happy with themselves!!!

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Our ferry was leaving Newhaven at 11.30am so we didn’t have to get up too early – we just headed off about 9.30am and were at the port by 10.15am – so in plenty of time for our crossing.  It was a bit rough out there, but I managed to ignore it!!  Until we headed out of the safety of the harbour that is…  See videos below for a small taster of what we experienced! Continue reading “1st few days into France/Spain 2018/19 – Brighton-Newhaven-Dieppe-La Ferte Vidame :)”

My France and Spain winter 2018/2019 trip

Follow me on my trip ‘France and Spain winter 2018/2019’ at https://www.polarsteps.com/turnrightoutofportsmouth/990685-france-and-spain-winter-2018-2019

Starting to prepare and get excited for our next trip. This will be recorded as we move on Polarsteps so if you follow us you won’t need to wait until I get round you writing up my blog to see where we are 😊

See also our reviews for each site we stopped at on the way.

What we learned about France in the summer of 2016

• The French love a roundabout – possibly even more than the Brits
• Signage often stops just when you need it most..
• There is a lot of free parking in France and lots of parking spaces
o  Except in Cannes – you have to drive right through Cannes and walk back about a        mile to get free parking
o And Monaco – lots of underground parking areas, not free, but not as expensive as we were expecting either Continue reading “What we learned about France in the summer of 2016”

Day 38 – The Last Post

A fitting title for this, my last post, as we spent our last day visiting the D-Day beaches in Normandy.  So also a very sobering day.  After all, if it wasn’t for such sacrifices we probably wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve just done for almost 6 weeks.

As we drove through Bayeux on our way to Point du Hoc we noticed signs for the British Cemetery but decided to keep going and visit at the end of the day.  Little did we realise that it would be another 10 hours before we started heading back to the van, and we would be a long way from Bayeux by then! Continue reading “Day 38 – The Last Post”