Time to drag ourselves away from our beach, helped along by the cold grey morning - we have no desire for a last-minute swim. Again, we are following yet another wine growing area & there are vines clinging to every hillside surface, & degustation (wine tasting) stops everywhere. Then we reach the flatlands -miles of long sandy beaches, lots of beachy resort towns & untold traffic. We decide to head on to Narbonne where we used to be able to free camp beside the canal right in town. Well that is no longer possible, so we head out to a pay Aire at the marina in Eruissan.
On our evening stroll, we decide to climb up to the castle. The gate is still open so we follow some other people in. Lovely views, but on heading back out find the extremely tall gate locked. The young guy climbs over, & the older guy struggles over. I am having a meltdown! Fortunately, a local tells us about the switch to open the gate. Phew! John had threatened to leave me there all night if I wouldn’t climb over.
A slower start this morning to do our washing. Finally head north on back roads. Lots of little towns have free camping, so we finally decide to stop at Belmont-Sur-Rance. A pretty little place, despite being a bit rundown. Wake to a drizzly cold day. Nothing for it but to carry on through more extremely hilly countryside until we reach the very amazing Millau Bridge. Even though we have been here before we stop for yet more photos. Then on to drive the Gorges du Tarn, and yes, we have been here before, but it doesn’t disappoint. Glorious drive – but incredibly narrow & winding. Heaps of rocky tunnels & at one point a massive traffic jam. When we can find a carpark, we stop & explore. I have found a free Aire on my map in the town of Florac at the end of the gorge, so we head there. Oh bum! It is full. We sit on the handicapped spot to decide what to do. Yay, a motorhome pulls out & I race over to save our spot.
Again, another cold morning. We check our maps & decide on our route. We will head towards Grenoble to see friends, so decide to go via Orange & then through the lavender region. Fingers crossed they won’t have harvested yet! Orange is small enough, & untouristy enough for us to drive right in & park on the street. Here there is an amazing Roman theatre to explore. We wander around listening to its history through earphones – all pretty amazing stuff. Then find the Arc d’Triumph before heading out of town. We set the GPS on to Sault, which is in the lavender area. Pretty drive, but alas all the lavender has been harvested a month ago. Overnight in the Aire at Sault, before heading north.
Our best stop today is at Sisteron, beside the Durance River, where there is a castle/fortress right on top of the rocky peak overlooking the valley in both directions. Of course, it is the hottest part of the day when we trudge to the top. Views are magic, & the castle pretty amazing.
Finally stop for the night beside another motorhome in a carpark in the very tiny town of Corps. Amazingly there is a great restaurant in town to celebrate my birthday. They even play Happy Birthday on the old music machine & put a spouting firework on my dessert!
Finally, we reach Chris & Suzy’s amazing tower home in Allevard. And boy is it great to stay with them for 2 nights. We even go out with them to a Vivaldi Concert (yes John comes too!!) and we love their new swimming pool. But all good things come to an end (Thank you so much Chris & Suzy). Our next plan is to find a workshop in Torino, Italy. After all the parts we needed in Spain came from Italy so we figure there will be plenty of workshops.
So, more mountains – we stick to the toll roads. And golly that tunnel between France & Spain costs an arm & a leg! (57.60 Euros). Finally, on to Torino, camping outside the city so that we can arrive early in the morning. But how depressing. All the workshops are closed until next week here & in Milan. So, we will head on to Germany tomorrow. This involves lots of driving & lots of countries. Before we know it, we are cruising through the glorious countryside of Switzerland, then the tiny country of Liechtenstein, slip through side streets in Austria to avoid paying for a vignette for the motorway and finally in to Germany. By 7pm we reach Munich & by7.30 the workshop John has located online. Amazingly Max is still here & says they will look at it tomorrow. We camp in the yard. Fingers crossed everyone.
All is good, the water pipes are all tightened & checked & we head off all excited – we are going to Romania. It will be a bit rushed, but it feels good to be finally on the road again (properly I mean). After 100km John checks all is OK. Oh no! Problem still not sorted & it is Friday afternoon. We will have to cancel Romania & simply meander around Germany & get back to the workshop Monday.
And that is what we do all weekend. Meander & explore this little part of Germany. Although we do pop over the border to Austria to fill up with diesel as it is so much cheaper there. Let’s see – what are the highlights! Exploring cute towns – Pfarrkirchen with its pastel coloured town square, Neumart-Sankt-Veil with its gated entrance & tiny Massing where we find a Camping Platz. Then of course heading out to eat delicious German snitzels at a local pub and swimming in a lake on a hot afternoon. But the very best highlight is happening upon Volkfest Dorfen – a great festival involving locals in full costume with awesome Oom-pah bands parading right through town. And of course, the whole thing ends up at a huge beer hall. Looks like Octoberfest come early.
Monday back to the workshop. They are really busy, but finally John & Max by pass the engine heat exchanger. The next morning, we will go for a long test drive. There is a BMW museum just north of Munich, so we go there. It is awesome. The buildings are impressive, but GR2 is parked on the street & our time is running out, so we do our longish drive & head back to the workshop. All is good. GR2 is all OK and John is smiling again. We have only over a week left before our flights home, so Romania will wait for another trip. After a lot of thought we remember there is an Overlanders Expo on in the weekend in Northern Germany – why not go to that. So, we head there via the Czech Republic. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but we don’t like repeating roads if we can avoid it.
The first night we stop at the first free Camping Platz that we find just off the motorway. Then over the mountains to The Czech Republic. We will not repeat our visits to Cesky Krumlov & Prague as we often find second visits don’t live up to our memories. So, we head directly north cutting through Plzen (famous as the home of Pilsener Beer). Find a parking area right near the old town & set out to explore. It is really lovely, & totally free of tourists. Our kind of place. Do our usual trek up the church tower – it gives such a great overview of the city. And of course, we stop & explore a few amazing old buildings. But before we know it we are over the border & to another Camping Platz at Pobershau.
We are now driving through the old Eastern Germany. We explored here quite a few years ago, so pick out a different route. This time we stop & visit Chemnitz – not such a big city, so easy to park on the inner ring. A lot of it was bombed in the war, so there is only a few old buildings in the lovely plaza. Then on to the huge city of Leipzig. I have found a motorhome parking area on our maps very close to the city so we head there. Park & discover it is a tad pricey- should have stuck to street parking – but at least we are free to explore for as long as we like, and it really is a very lovely city. But time to move on. We are due at AMR Globetrotters tomorrow. So, a bit of Autobarn driving to complete our day.
Friday sees us driving the rest of the way to Amelinghausen on the back roads for the rally. Actually, for a German rally it is rather chaotic. Vehicles are camped all over the place, & tucked everywhere in the bush. I think the chief idea is to show off your vehicle or gawp at the other vehicles. In the evening, there are slide show presentations at 8pm 10pm & midnight (of course we cannot understand the commentary!!) And we meet lots of lovely people.
Finally, on Sunday we head out and head slowly south, stopping to explore so many lovely towns. Germany is full to overflowing with them. A night beside the river at Nienburg, another at a carpark in the very lovely town of Goslar (we love the streets full of half-timbered houses with surrounding walls, and enjoy watching the Glockenspiel), then pretty little Wirsburg and finally to Hipolstein where our lovely German friends, Ingrid & Konrad (nicknamed the naked policeman) who we met in Greece in 2005. Konrad organised a shed for us to store GR2. It is lovely to spend some time with them before our long flight home. Thank you, Konrad & Ingrid, for everything.
More to come next year.