We have just discovered the most expensive road in Europe. We join the motorway towards France at Ventimiglia, Italy. We take a toll ticket, we drive approx 100 yards around a bend to another toll booth and hand in the ticket, €6, “You are having a bloody laugh” didn’t reduce the cost so we just smiled, paid, and said “Arrive-bloody-derci”. Never, ever, will we complain about road tax in the UK, you can pay the same amount in some European countries in about two days.
Italy has been wonderful, the places we have seen have been beautiful, but if you have yet to tow a caravan abroad there are some distinct differences in Italy. Driving; right of way at roundabouts and junctions tends to go to the person who can get there first, so beware, if you are waiting to turn across a busy road, no-one will slow, or flash, to allow you to turn across the traffic, so beware, if you want to make any progress in Italy you must drive Italian style and just ‘go for it’. Parking; land seems to be at a premium in Italy, hence so many tunnels, when you go to the supermarket you are never sure if you are parking at the supermarket, the warehouse next door or somebodies private land, we always expected a clamp or ticket on our return with the groceries. Caravan Sites; let’s just say ‘cozy’, if you have room for the caravan awning and a car that’s a big bonus. If your caravan is 8ft wide only consider Italy if you are super competent/confident. We will return, because it’s worth it, but for now, we move to France and relax.
We have a ‘Zapper’ in France, our name for the Liber-T tag that we subscribed to two years ago. This tag gets us through all the toll booths, without queueing, at 30kph and we only get the bill one month after. Probably even more expensive than Italy but at least we are robbed by stealth and get to enjoy that ‘will it/won’t it’ moment as we approach the barrier and hope it will bleep and lift. Driving styles in France are similar to home, people anticipate the actions of others and generally allow you to filter or change lanes without problem, white vans drive like our white vans as do the boy racers, we feel quite at home driving in France.
Our destination is Pont du Gard and once again we adopt the turn up and see method as we approach Camping La Sousta. Yes, there is room, drive thru and find a pitch of your choice. Now this place is distinctly ‘Forest’, no one would ever describe this as straight rows of white boxes. Basically, you squeeze your caravan between any trees you can, in whatever direction you end up facing, no room for the awning here, but tree cover is dense so don’t need it. You see lots of partners walking ahead of car/caravans making sure low tree branches are not about to rip off TV aerials or worse. A trip to the toilet and I am in deep trauma, communal loos and showers, albeit you do have your own door, I can’t cope with that, I can barely cope with someone of the same sex in the next cubicle. The Boss, realising my anxiety, suggests we walk to Pont du Gard tonight and move on tomorrow, so we barely unpack or unload anything.
We set off for the famous Viaduct, near the entrance of the campsite we are approached and asked if we know the way by an American lady, we haven’t a clue and between the three of us make a best guess. We walk on, two minutes later a car draws up, “You wanna ride down to the entrance?” So now we have been abducted by a stranger in a strange land as ‘Sheila’, the American lady, heads us hopefully to Pont du Gard. The car park is €8, Sheila has no desire to be robbed and we had no money to be robbed of, we get out near the entrance, win, Sheila has to go all the way back and walk back down, oops, we feel guilty-ish.
The powers that be, ie the accountants, must have realised that people do not pay to see the viaduct so very cleverly have built a large ticket office with many signs saying pay before proceeding further. However, this is only to ‘go on’ the viaduct, all the other areas are free of charge, and frankly, we want to look at it, not from it. The Boss has wanted to see this place for years, it is an impressive feat of engineering, plus equally, the entire setting and backdrop is simply beautiful. There are some ‘outdoor evening event’ type preparations going on today but this did not impact our visit, it did later as we sat in the caravan with very loud French narration booming through the forest, imagine a French version of Richard Burton, War of the Worlds.
We take a million photos and take time to sit and absorb the peaceful setting, Sheila has finally arrived and we use her, yet again, so selfish, to take a photo of us, our arms were too short for a selfie including the viaduct. The poor woman had the misfortune of being our first English conversation in a long time so we probably ‘went on a bit’ before finally letting her go on her way. Walking back to the caravan we abort the idea of cooking and slope into the onsite Bistro for ‘takeaway’ Pizza that doubled up as evening meal and supper.
The Boss spent some time showing off his spinning the towel and swatting flies technique before bedtime, funny, I’m sure the buzzing after he stopped was the same as before he started.
We move tomorrow, no idea where, says he will look in the morning.
There’s a lot to be said for the French sites.
Saumur is nice.
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