Monthly Archives: September 2018

Visited Sète – 29 September 2018

There is a regular bus service connecting Balaruc-les-Bains to Sète (ligne 10) that takes about 20 minutes.  We have some vague recollection of visiting the more local campsite in our tenting days, but gasped at the crammed in nature of the ptiches and drove back out again.  Where we are now is a much better place for visiting Sète.

Sète is a nice place which is really a bit of an island connecting the Mediterranean with the Étang de Thau via a number of canals.  It is a sort of a great big Martigues with lots more to see and do.  Some sort of plan is needed when visiting here, since it is a fairly big (and hilly) town to go for a random stomp around.

Old building by one of the canals

You can park your boar and grab a bite

Balaruc-les-Bains – 28 September 2018

There is a Friday morning market here so we wandered off for a look.  French markets can be great, rubbish, excellent or average, and this was one of the better ones.

Busy, big Friday morning market

We would have bought some roast chicken, but we have plenty of food following yesterday’s visit to the local supermarket:

Dinner tonight, it seems to be some sort of tuna pie

The tuna pie was actually very nice – a bit like a giant spicy fish samosa.

Meanwhile the locals treat their feet to a bit of therapy:

Locals looking after their feet

And we find a feathered friend that is not a seagull:

Is it a heron? It is not a seagull

Argelès-sur-Mer to Balaruc-les-Bains – 27 September 2018

No point moving west (not enough time for Spain) or north (just been there) so we are moving east along the south coast.  While looking on the internet for supermarkets on the way to Frontignan Plage we found a couple of municipal sites in Balaruc-les-Bains.  Having been turned away from the discount card campsite in Frontignan Plage twice before in previous years, we went for Baraluc-les-Bains.

The Carrefour off the D600 is huge and had lots of nice looking fish, so we bought some.  We also bought some wine because we liked the label and bottle:

Big bad wolf

On inspecting the till receipt later, it turned out to have cost 15 Euros.  Oops.

For the first time ever, we appear to be not just the only British on a campsite, but also the only people who are not French. What’s more, this place is almost full, even at the end of September. We wandered off and found the other municipal site in town, which is even more packed.

The town itself is pleasant and relaxed being much less tourist orientated than Argelès-sur-Mer.  It is on the Étang de Thau, same as Mèze where we stopped on our three month trip last year.  Both this campsite and town are nicer.


Locals out enjoying themselves

Visited Banyuls-sur-Mer – 26 September 2018

Got on the bus to Banyuls-sur-Mer to see what that place is all about.  It is all about wine, boats, and some French sculptor called Aristide Maillol.  The boats are understandable as we are by the sea, but we are not familiar with the wines of this part of Roussillon and have never heard of Maillol.  There are caves all over town and on the roads in, but there is no point in tasting it if you can’t carry a case back on the bus, and individual bottles in town seemed expensive.  We didn’t sign up with France Passion this year, but this seems like a good place for a few France Passion stopovers in the future.

As for Maillol, he seems to have been a chap with some talent, specialising in nude women.  Here is the fellow:

Aristide Maillol

And an example of his work, of which there are a few dotted around the town:

By Aristide Maillol

Sculptors and wine apart, Banyuls-sur-Mer is a pleasant but not particularly interesting place.  There is an aquarium but that is about it.

Boat getting tossed about in Banyuls-sur-Mer bay

Why didn’t it park up here?

It really was a bit choppy out there

Finally, the Hotel de Ville has a French, Catalan and European look to it with its flags:

Hotel de Ville – Banyuls-sur-Mer

Maybe this is why brexit is so expensive?  They will need to remove one of the yellow stars from all those blue flags that are flying everywhere.   Writing this, it appears the NFU, long time haters of the Common Agricultural Policy, are now running scared of a no-deal brexit.

Meanwhile, back in Argelès-sur-Mer, an evening stroll reveals that it has pretty much shut down for the year.  There are still a few places open to eat and drink, but not a lot.

The fountains are different colours at night

Still some nightlife going on

Visited Port-Vendres – 25 September 2018

After a windy and grey yesterday, which we spent wandering around the shops, the sun has come out again. We got the bus into Collioure with a view to getting on the tourist train, which goes to Fort Saint Elme and Port-Vendres. Once again the tourist train was packed, with poor tourists packed in like sardines. We wandered the streets for a while, before getting the bus to Port-Vendres.

Pretty street in Collioure

Some colourful boats in Collioure

A scrawny bird by the beach

Port-Vendres is much more of a working port, known for its seafood.  It is still an attractive place to wander around, with bars and places to eat, but not a great deal for the tourist to do.

Street in Port-Vendres

Boat with Catalan markings

Add a chimney and recast as the Vital Spark

This is supposed to be our last night here but we still have about two weeks before needing to think about heading back north.  We have never been to Banyuls-sur-Mer so we might check that out, either by moving to the campsite or getting the bus.

Argelès-sur-Mer – 23 September 2018

The local classic car nuts are having a day out on the promenade today, with some interesting vehicles of mostly the sixties and seventies on show.

A trio of Simcas, from around 1960 give or take a few years

Simcas were common sights on UK roads in the seventies, before the whole marque was swallowed up by Chrysler along with the the UK Rootes group.

A Citroen SM – these cars seem to be following me around so this must be a sign

Peugeot 404 – looks like a Morris Oxford from the back

Just looked on the internet – both this and the Oxford and its badge engineered variants were styled by Pininfarnina.

Lovely Panhard complete with nodding tiger

Is it a Barried Yogu?

In fact it is one of the more interesting cars here, made by an outfit called Autobianchi and based on a modified Fiat 128 chassis that was later used in the Fiat 127, and later the Yugo as well.  So it is a bit of a Yugo.  Maybe not quite:

Go-faster version

Surprisingly, none of the locals seemed interested in this

Another Simca

Yet another Simca

Before this turns into a classic car website, we need to get back to more familiar territory.  Here we have a plastic cow on top of a bar:

At last – a farmyard animal

Foix to Argelès-sur-Mer – 22 September 2018

The D117 east out of Foix is great.  We were heading in the general direction of Perpignan and the sat-nav was telling us to go on the motorway, as it was faster although 50km longer.  The map suggested the D117 to be the better route, so we went with that, hoping it would be better than the horrid D704 of a few posts ago.  Smart move.

The route started off reasonably fast with gentle bends through picturesque rural villages. Lavelanet and Bélesta are both places worth a return to, with the former having a campsite, and plenty of aires on this section of the route.

Things got a bit more challenging between Bélesta and Quillan, with bendy bits and climbs and some great scenery. The descent after Quillan was amazing, with the road cutting through the cliffs and offering spectacular views. The only downside was the lack of places to stop to get photos. But here are some anyway, and one courtesy of Google Maps.

Some cows and the chateau somewhere in the distance

D117 After the scary bits

Still in Cather country

Parked up on D117


Finally, Argelès-sur-Mer

Clarkson et al ought to get the the D117 on their best driving roads – it was pretty good, even in a lumbering old motorhome.

Foix – 21 September 2018

Jumped on the  regular bus  outside of the campsite to get into town, quickly realising that this was a better idea than walking.  Not a ridiculous walk, but not a particularly pleasant one through the outskirts of town.  The Friday market was on when we got there – not the best market we have been to but not the worst either.

Friday Market, Foix

The  town is entirely pleasant with the historic area near the more modern part.  The old streets are pretty, with half-timbered buildings and bars dotted around.

Historic street in Foix

Château de Foix

Having made the not inconsiderable climb the the gates of the Château, it seemed pointless to pay money just to climb even higher for a view and not much else.  The guides books have not too much to say about this place, though it obviously has historical significance with one of the Simon de Montforts causing trouble, but the locals need to try a bit harder to put Foix on the tourist map, and there are signs that they are doing so.  As it is, it is an entirely pleasant place but not really worth the diversion, and nowhere to go next.  Unless there is something great about the places along the D117, but we will find that out tomorrow. Maybe.

L’Ariège, alongside the D117, out of town

Cahors to Foix – 20 September 2018

Yesterday was very hot and oppressing, to the visit to the old town of Cahors will have to wait for another trip.  On the way out of town we noticed a motorhome aire on the road to the A20 south which seemed to be much better located than the campsite for visiting the town.  Unfortunately, we need to add the All the Aires book to forgot list for this trip, so we didn’t know it existed.  Off we went to Foix:

This was a pleasant, stress-free drive. The Boise de Dourre motorway aire has an unusually pleasant motorhome service point, so we got rid of all the nasty stuff and topped up with fuel. The campsite in Foix is easy to find with assorted shopping across the road.

Cahors – 18 September 2018

The campsite is a bit further from the old town than we thought, looking at the location on the internet.  However, the park and ride is about twenty minutes walk away, where a free bus propels you into the town.  Cahors is a very nice place, and without a doubt one of the nicest cities we have visited in France.  It feels safe with a very pleasant vibe.  Obviously, every tourist heads for the Pont Valentré on arrival, as did we.

Fountain in Parc Philippe-Gaubert

Pont Valentré

According to The Devil, the chap responsible for building this thing sold his sold his soul to get help with the construction.  The Devil got fed up with the fellow trying to get out of the deal, and kept removing bricks to ensure the thing was never completed.

It’s The Devil, but does he look that scary?

This is more like it, we’ll have a case of that please, if The Devil doesn’t have a problem with it

It is in the thirties here, so after a couple of hours wandering around this fine city we are off for a rest.  Huge thunderstorms while updating this led to limited internet and loss of TV.  We will examine the old town tomorrow.