Gorging on Southern France …. 16/5/16

Having spent 7 1/2 months in Portugal and Spain we finally crossed back over into France on Monday where we decided to stop at Narbonne. My track record this year has fallen at the third hurdle as Keith took the border this time…. I won’t let him weasel his way in and take any more!

Crossing the border in the Anderson world means changing languages …. Always a bit of a struggle for the first few days with a bit of tension when I lack in patience and Keith lacks in French vocabulary but things are starting to settle down a little now ๐Ÿ™‚

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Narbonne (9 euro inc elec. GPS n43,18011 e3,092292) is a nice sized town with a nice French market centralised on a river…. The only real downside is that it has mosquitos – although I guess we can’t hold that against it forever ๐Ÿ˜ฆ There is definitely something about a good French market that you don’t get anywhere else, the quality of the produce is exceptional with everything from fresh fish through to delicate French pastries with a handful of lovely little cafe/bar/restaurants which as we only found out after we left Narbonne shout your order to the butchers opposite when you place it …. Couldn’t be fresher ๐Ÿ™‚

Oddly, we were watching Spanish Masterchef on Wednesday night – yes, I know that it fairly odd in itself – but the contestants went to do one of their ‘trials’ in Narbonne at the apparently famous ‘Grand Buffet’ and whilst there, they visited the market. If we are in the area again we will definitely do a bit of a detour to visit the buffet as the quality and variety of the food looked incredible….. I could definitely eat my weight in smoked salmon and then again in chocolate eclairs – main courses are over-rated in my world ๐Ÿ™‚

The rain was still hovering above, but thankfully it held off enough for us to explore Narbonne without waterproofs on Tuesday, although Monday afternoons visit to the Orange shop was definitely in the full gear. Wednesday however brightened up in the morning for our journey to Montpellier where the skies opened for a proper downpour …. Thankfully it only lasted the 15/20 minutes whilst we were eating our lunch and although we set off to explore wearing full waterproofs we soon stripped off as the humidity set in and the sun tried to come out.

We couldn’t find anywhere close enough to stay to Montpellier, so decided to just park and explore in an afternoon and from our whistle stop tour it is worth a visit. It is an elegant French city with a big university so you get the nice mix between style, architecture and a bit of shabby chic thrown in – lots of interesting looking restaurants, bars and cafes. The afternoon wasn’t really enough to do it justice, but it certainly gave us a good enough taste to enjoy it and possibly come back one day.

We continued our journey towards Avignon, stopping for the night at a little Marina in Bellegard (GPS n43,74422 e4,51890) where the sun came out just in time for dinner, but thankfully it also came back in the morning after a fairly wet night.

Neither Keith nor I knew much about Avignon before we looked at stopping here but what an incredible place. We stopped at a campsite (Camping du pont D’Avignon 15 euros inc. with ACSI GPS n43 37’19.88 e4 48’10.82) which is on an island in the middle of the Rhone between Avignon and Villeneuve les Avignon. The campsite itself looks onto the Pont …

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As we were back on a campsite and the weather has started to brighten up – Not sure whether I am saying this to convince myself or someone else, but it is getting better, I think that Spring may have possibly arrived in the South of France finally ๐Ÿ™‚

A little pieces of interesting history about Avignon as I don’t want to bore you too much …

In 1309 Pope Clement V moved the Papacy from Rome to Avignon and from that point until 1377 seven successive popes resided at the Papal Palais in Avignon….making Avignon the capital of the Medieval Western world. This explains why there is such an incredibly magnificent cathedral here.
The Papal control of Avignon persisted until 1791 during the French Revolution when it became part of France.

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Avignon is a small town inside a large city, it contains lots of beautiful architecture, every street appears to have a theatre in it and there are more patisseries and glacรฉries to last you a year. For a large city it is incredibly tranquil with lots of enormous trees coming out of every courtyard and garden, not to mention the surrounding countryside along the Rhone – definitely a place to visit.

After a bit of thought on our next steps as we are planning to get to Tain L’Hermitage (where we are hopefully going to be doing a bit of fruit picking) next Friday/Saturday, we decided to bite the bullet and despite it being a holiday weekend (Whit-Sunday and Monday apparently), we headed into the Ardeche, stopping at Camping de L’Ardeche (13 euros with ACSI GPS n44 23’50 e4 23’1 in Vallon Pont D’Arc)…. Not sure what is happening as this will be at least four nights in a row at a campsite …. Practically unheard of for us, but we have had some lovely Bar B Q’s over the last few days …. Steak, Sausages, Mackerel, Roti and let’s not forget the crepes ๐Ÿ™‚

Vallon Pont D’Arc as a town is a bit of a tourist trap unfortunately, but I guess it is to be expected when you are surrounded by lots of natural beauty – Gorges, Caves and countryside …. Mixed in with lots of activities.

We decided to do a circular walk yesterday, extending it a little to take in the Pont D’Arc which certainly had its fair of visitors for the day. ย A good 22km / 5 hr walk and the weather was perfect – blue skies, 22 degrees with a good breeze.

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