A long overdue update……
After our short stay in Germany and our dash to the sun and warmth of southern France we had arrived at Gruissan and a warm welcome from old friends David and Anne.
For those not fortunate to have been to Gruissan a short description might explain why we keep returning.
This ancient village is situated about 7 miles east of Narbonne on the edge of the sea. It is surrounded by a low lying landscape of étang’s, marshes and canals and has always been a fishing village. A large sandbank, now built on and accessed via a long causeway, almost cuts it off from the sea and creates a large calm lagoon. Some years ago a huge marina was constructed beside the old village and is now mooring for many hundreds of boats as well as apartments, restaurants, bars and shops.
There is an Aire de Camping-Car across the causeway and beside the enormous beach but our favourite is situated between the lagoon and the marina. Gentle and calm blue sea on one side, masts and rigging on the other. It is a large and very popular aire which always seems to have a good, laid back atmosphere.Called the Aire of the Four Winds (Aire des Quatre Vents) (GPS 43.10417º 3.09964º) it has the reputation, as the name would imply, of being very windy as cooler air rushes down from the nearby Pyrenees mountains to the south and the Massif Central to the north. This time however we just had gentle breezes off the sea to keep the temperatures comfortable for us northern Europeans.
We stayed for two glorious weeks and spent lazy days alternating between sun and shade, having lunches under the awning, then snoozing for much of the afternoon before a BBQ supper.
During an evening walk around the marina we bumped into another couple we had met and befriended several years before at Gruissan. Graham and Kath are very experienced motorhomers and we hadn’t seen or heard of them since our first meeting. It was great to see them again and as they also knew David and Anne we were forming our own little Brit community in our corner of the aire.
David and Anne are super keen cyclists and kindly invited me to join them on a few rides. Riding around that area is bliss. Warm weather, mostly flat countryside and cycle paths everywhere make it an absolute pleasure to go for a fairly gentle and sociable bimble without worrying about traffic. David did persuade me to accompany him up into the Montagne de la Clape though. ‘Mountain’ sounds impressive and scary when riding a bike but these are really just rocky, pine covered hills which lie behind Gruissan. David is one of those strange cyclists that actually enjoy climbing hills (Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are others that come to mind) whereas I will definitely avoid them if at all possible. Still, what I might lack in leg power I can make up with electric power so why not have a go. Even with my battery assistance, when we reached the top and stopped, I was puffing like a knackered old steam engine while David showed no signs of the steep climb.
Note to self: Must get fitter.
After two weeks we moved a short way inland to Homps, (GPS 43.26885º 2.71742º) a small village on the Canal du Midi. It’s another place we have been several times before and we always like the view across the canal to the traditional buildings and roofscapes of the village.
This time it was really hot though and without that cooling sea breeze we found it a bit too hot to be comfortable.
With the weather still looking good we left the Med and started a very slow plod north towards home.
Driving up the A75, probably my favourite road anywhere, we climbed up into the hills heading towards Millau. Just before the famous viaduct we turned west and down into the valley of the River Tarn before climbing back up and on to yet another favourite place.
Lac de Pareloup ( GPS 44.20027º 2.77601º)is a huge man made lake situated some 2,500 ft up in lovely countryside. The Aire de Camping-Car has been formed from the previous Municipal Campsite and still has electric hook-up and water on the pitches. The only real difference is that entry is by credit card operated barrier so there are no staff on site.
Due to the altitude the weather can be changeable and sometimes chilly, this time it was perfect. Despite it being a weekend the aire was not at all crowded but there was lots of activity to watch on the water. On Sunday the local sailing clubs were racing and we counted almost 100 boats out on the lake. The mass of white sails against the deep blue of the water was a beautiful sight under a cloudless sky.
After four lovely days by the Lac we headed across the hills to rejoin the A75 and then north to the hilltop village of Montpeyroux, just south of Clermont-Ferrand.
The free aire (GPS 45.62493º 3.20109º) is part of the general parking for the village but there are water and dump facilities available. Water requires a jetton (token) from the Marie or Tourist Office.
After a stroll around the village we had a peaceful supper watching the light fade across the hills and the distant lights of villages below start to twinkle in the dark. It is a very pleasant and convenient place to stop for the night.
North again the next day and on to another favourite at Sancoins. The canal side aire (GPS 46.83404º 2.91575º) seems to become more popular every time we go there and this time, although we arrived in time for a late lunch, there was only one spot left on the canal bank.
After three nights it was north again to La Mailleraye and another three nights by the Seine before our return home.
It had been six glorious weeks and just over 2,000 miles. Apart from a couple of tiny showers, which weren’t enough to even dampen the ground, the weather had been perfect. We had met lovely people and had perhaps the best holiday ever……………..until the next time.