When you take the autoroutes and toll roads you bypass many interesting places. We prefer to do things the quiet way, taking the small roads to explore villages and towns, but then of course you have to find your way out of them.
And in the right direction.
As we approached the Mediterranean my partner's navigation went slightly awry and having entered the village of Montner we came out of it on a very narrow lane. There was no place to turn round and it was leading us up into the hills.
We carried on and almost at the top we found the perfect place to stop for the night.
Around us was a panorama of hills and fields in which row upon row of grape vines stretched down to distant villages. It was a touch ironic that we did not have a bottle of wine on board, however we enjoyed a meal prepared in the campervan and after the sun set dined by candle light under a sky filled with bright stars.
The next day it was warm and sunny and the aroma of wild herb drifted up as we walked through the long grass. All these things were part of the magic of our little place on the mountain above Montner.
We carried on, taking our time travelling through sleepy villages with a picture book feel to them. We went into St Clar a small ancient hilltop town and found an Aire (free place, ) with a campervan parked in it. We stopped there and had an early afternoon snooze. It was really hot with 46 degrees centigrade on the windscreen thermometer. Perhaps, we thought, moving through the air would be cooler so we selected a target on the map and drove on. We didn’t need to drive far because at Castera Verduzan, a mere 7 kilometres away we spotted a large lake with a beach and lots of people swimming. The blue lady was drawn to it like a magnet and we dived in. The water was lovely and so welcome.
We carried on using small roads, taking our time and being amazed by the views. Our campervan climbed hills and with ease and took us through sleepy villages. One of the campsites sites that we could use the ACSI camping card was at Aignan.
It turned out to be a winner. It was well landscaped with emplacements surrounded by hedges giving privacy and it had a swimming pool.
It seemed to be popular with both Dutch and English. It was pleasant to be able to chat again with other motor caravan folk and hear about their experiences and get tips on what to see.
On their advice we visted the country town of Lupiac where D’Artagnan was born.
It had a very large square surrounded by impressive ancient buildings and was like a film-set for a Three Musketeers production brought to life.
It was mid June and the café ‘Au Colombier Rouge’ was just opening up for business. A bust of D’Artagnan looked down as the owner, Cathy Duclas, seated us at a table overlooking a rose garden. She told us that it would be much busier when all the villagers dress up for the D’Artagnan festival in August.
It turns out that he was not just a fictional character but a real person who rose to the rank of Captain-lieutenant in the prestigious French Muskateers.
Our visit ended when we crossed the border into Spain and sailed out of Santandar, on board The Pont-Avon from the Brittany Ferries’ Terminal.
The varied architecture of the apartment buildings drifted away behind us and teenagers called and waved to us a from sightseeing boat. Our final view of the town was of the city beach. It was well used by sunbathers and swimmers and contrasted with the almost deserted long strand of sand on the other side of the bay.
It was a sight that encourage us to return and explore it and find out what may lay beyond the headlands.
Sitting on the sun deck I could understand the appeal for the fellow passengers who had travelled out and back without vehicles to enjoy a two day mini cruise.
The downside being that they only have a couple of hours ashore in Spain.
For those exploring with campervans and caravans, not only is there the saving in fuel and time on the journey but there is onboard entertainment and comfortable cabins with showers ensure you arrive rested and ready for your adventure.
If you want to swim in the low season plan for September rather than May.
By then the water will have warmed up.
'VINE VINE EVERYWHERE
AND NOT A DROP TO DRINK'
Under a sky filled with bright stars and amid the grapes we dined by candlelight
It was a touch ironic that we did not have a bottle of wine.
Brittany Ferries http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
The Camping Card ACSI http://www.campingcard.com
available in UK from,