Buongiorno Italia….. 22/3/15

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After a quick run in the morning and a mad rush to send numerous emails to ensure that we were as up to date as possible before losing internet connection for a few days, we finally said our goodbyes to Emma, Paul, Ozzie and Roo (the dogs) just before mid-day and fled the country……

After entering France, we passed through Fitou (if I was going to choose a French wine it would be a Fitou) – which I never knew was in this area of France (to be fair I hadn’t really thought about it much), but was surprised that the ‘village’ itself was so small.  However, we managed to make it through the area without stopping at a single vinyard … an accomplishment in itself as there were field after field of vine.

We stopped for the night on an Aire (which would have been better described as a station car park) by the beach about 6km outside Séte.  It apparently should have cost 10 euros a night, but no-one came round to collect any money, so it was free 🙂 The location was idyllic if you ignored the mosquitoes which were the size of the average household fly and the trains that ran every ten minutes or so, slowing down to possibly every half an hour over night…. the van didn’t rock each time a train passed, but it was definitely the main line going across the south of France – my mum will remember the one that kept her awake all week when we spent a school holiday in Nice when I was younger 🙂

Despite the mixed feelings about the car park, we did like the fact that there was a bicycle path on our doorstep that appeared to run for miles, so not knowing what tomorrow was going to bring, we both fought off the mosquitoes and went for a run before we moved on.

Séte is very industrial and is home to a massive port, however the town itself is built on canals and it looked like it would have been interesting to explore further.  However, with Italy in mind we kept our focus and passed through even more vinyard … although I wasn’t quite so anxious this time as it was mostly rosé until we arrived at Les Arcs sur Argens.

Once again, we had selected a free Aire (yesterday should have been free in my mind as I didn’t quite read all the details and missed the price…oops) and this one was supposedly attached to a vinyard.  The Aire was a bit grotty and neglected and it looked like a number of the French motorhomes lived there rather than were passing through, they were however all friendly.  It suited the purpose for a stop over as there was also a Hypermarket just down the road enabling us to stock up before we crossed over into the unknown land of Italy…. we also managed to get all the things that are more difficult to buy in Spain and Portugal …. i.e. good jam, barley and taramaslata ….. not forgetting fulfilling the need for a bit of brie and camembert indulgence!

We bought ‘Fattore Amico’ which is the Italian equivalent of ‘France Passion’ containing 500+ farms and restaurants that in theory we should be able to stay at and sample local produce in Italy, so as we didn’t want to cross into Italy and arrive too late on our first day we decided to stay one more night in France stopping at St Laurent du Var just outside Nice….obviously we glanced over towards the sea whilst passing through Cannes to choose an appropriate boat, but decided that they were all lacking in that er…. je ne sais quoi 🙂

The Aire in St Laurent du Var was again free and suited the purpose enabling us to get on the road at a reasonable time in the morning – ok, not really that reasonable, but when you take into consideration the run/exercise, shower, porridge, making sarnies, etc 11am is pretty good isn’t it?

After a busy 20km through to the other side of Nice we wiggled our way through the slightly more mountainous part of the French Riviera, dodging the parked cars, into Monaco and then as quickly back out again, until we crossed the Italian border….. I can’t believe that we have now crossed 7 borders and somehow each time Keith has been driving??? He seems to have it rigged despite us driving on alternate days.  The journey was a very pretty, but a high stress journey due to the route the sat nav took us, we made it in one piece though, so won’t complain.

We had planned to stay on a farm near Diano Castello but as we were passing through SanRemo got distracted by seeing an Aire (10 euros per 24 hours) by the stadium and decided to do a U Turn and stop for the night… or two.  It was very tranquil except for the waves that broke about ten meters behind us and there is a cycle path that runs for roughly 24km passing in front of the Stadium, into SanRemo and along the coast, so a nice traffic free walk into town.

The town itself is split into two, a newer modern plush part with the casino and the older walled town that is made up of rabbit warren alleyways climbing up the side of the hill – all in all an interesting place.

For research purposes (obviously), we stopped for a glass of wine and a beer and despite being given a large basket of crisps and a bowl of nuts to go with our 100ml of wine and 125ml of beer, we were a little taken a back by the 8 euro price tag.  As we can’t be sure whether it is just because we are on the Italian Riviera (although in a more local cafe), we will obviously need to continue the research as we progress through the country 🙂   We were however more pleasantly surprised when the sun finally came out on Sunday afternoon and we had our first Ice Cream of the year costing 2 euros for three flavours …. yum.  We may just have to switch wine for ice cream 🙂

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