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South of France

July 2000


We were off on our Summer holidays to Provence and the Bay of St. Tropez in France. 
We had hired an apartment in Provence at Pont Royal and a house in St. Tropez at Les Restanques through Eurovillages. We would be traveling in our new car, 'Monty', a Fiat Multipla purchased solely for the purpose of our driving holidays in Europe!

We would be stopping overnight in Chalon Sur Soane as the drive down to the south is long and tedious for one driver. We saw lots of these fields of sunflowers along the way. Not surprising really as we were driving towards the Olive Oil capital of France. Chalon proved to be good for an overnight stop but not as interesting as the town of Beaune, where we previously stopped.

We felt a bit like these sheep on the way down the motorway. It seemed like half of Europe was going south with us. Every petrol station and restaurant was packed solid and when we did eventually pull up we had to sit on the grass verge and eat lunch amid the fumes of the motorway. Ah well, the joys of driving holidays!

Our first site in Provence was an amazing place. It was in a town called Mallemort which is very close to Salon de Provence, home to Nostradamus during the 16th century. There is a museum  dedicated to him. Another famous 'son of Salon' is shown here. Adam Craponne, civil engineer! Well that's one mystery solved. 

The holiday village was set on the fringes of a beautiful golf course designed by my favourite Spaniard, Severiano Ballesteros, and laid out like a typical French village, complete with areas for 'boules', the national pastime for most people in this part of the world!

There was a village square with restaurants where you could eat 'al fresco', a small shop which was rather expensive, two huge swimming areas,  a water-slide, tennis courts and other recreational areas including a large lake. It really was magnificent.

Jazka would be flying into Marseilles during the week and meeting us here. The apartment was nice but on the small side, especially the twins room. I think the bunk beds were for children with shorter legs! This is the view from the balcony.

Provence is a lovely area with old towns in abundance. There is also lots of history here, especially around the town of Avignon, a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its 'Palace de Papes' and bridge sung in the nursery rhyme.........'sur la Pont d' Avignon. This bridge ends in the middle of the Rhone river!

You may well ask yourself why a town in France should have a 'Palace for the Popes'. Well, in the 14th century, due to some nasty religious arguments, Avignon replaced Rome as the capital of the Catholic Church. The Pope had to have somewhere to live so the Palais des Papes was built. The interior of this castle was once decorated with paintings, tapestries, and furniture but now only some frescoes remain. Two of the popes are buried in the Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral there.

There were lots of old shops and buildings near to the place where we were staying but we mostly went to the 'hypermarche' to buy our food as they have everything you could want there, they take most types of plastic, and they usually speak English. As I was the only one with any French at all that was useful!

We had a great week there and then travelled down to the bay of St Tropez to our next destination which was also a Eurovillage site. Here we had rented a house which was very spacious and very beautiful with a substantial garden in which to play boules. Here are Jazka and Ben doing just that! 

They had fun!

Ben loves to play 'boules'.

Juggling is another advantage when playing boules, but watch out for your toes if you drop them........ouch!

Robyn thinks its all good fun.....

The swimming pool was very close to our accommodation and only used by a few houses . It overlooked a large lake and was very peaceful. We took advantage of the fact that we were so close and swam every day.

Here is the backdrop.........just perfect.

This view was just off to the left of the pool. We took this picture from the tennis courts while waiting for Ben to finish his lessons.

This view of the pond area shows how big the lily pads were. They certainly grew well in the south and attracted lots pf frogs. I wonder how many ended up as entrees?
Cooked in Garlic butter they are scrummy! Its no wonder the French regard them as a delicacy. Much nicer than snails.


It really was a beautiful spot. There were lots of walks around the site itself and you never felt as if it was peak season until you ventured down to the main road that leads to St. Tropez, but then you knew alright!
Just wish we could have done more of this, but compared to the Caribbean, sunsets here were a poor imitation.

 

 

Sometimes we would be entertained by Jazka...............

 

 


But mostly we sat around and relaxed.

Robyn is amazed at Jazka's energy!

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Most evenings we ate on the patio but there were restaurants on the complex. We preferred to sit together, eat and relax. Sometimes Jazka, Dan, Robyn and Ben would all go off to watch the 'shows' put on by the 'animateurs', but I took the opportunity to go to bed early and read. This was my type of holiday, sun, simple food and as much peace as possible.............which is not always easy on a family vacation!

 

This was a working holiday for Dan, whose motto must be 'have laptop will travel' by now!

The town of St. Tropez was reached by car or boat. One day Jazka and Dan decided that a boat trip would be nice so off they went in search of fun and adventure. We had heard that George Clooney was visiting so there was a good possibility of 'star watching' while they were there.

St. Tropez is still a fishing village although the rich and famous seem to have taken it over somewhat. Behind the facade of the waterfront cafes and designer shops the old town can still be found. It seems to have a very diverse nature; not so glitzy and slick as Cannes and Nice as far as 'seaside' resorts go, but more rustic in nature.

The ferry ride took them past lots of fishing boats and 'gin palaces' like the one shown here..........they look more like floating houses that boats, but the rich and famous certainly love them that's for sure.

Dan said there was a lot of 'activity' around this boat so perhaps someone rich and famous was on board...who knows!


This is probably a better view of the harbour from the town. It really is only a fishing village that has grown up very quickly. There are loads of designer shops there but Jazka said it felt like you were being 'ripped off', even when buying postcards. Everyone seemed to be people watching or posing!

On another occasion we all walked down to the local harbour of Port Grimaud. We found that the traffic was so bad along the bay of St. Tropez that it was quicker to walk and once you got away from the traffic fumes it was quite pleasant. At the bottom of the road where the accommodation was we found a small vineyard.


The grapes were still quite small but there were thousands of them. The French farmers usually belong to some kind of co-operative society, especially if they only have a 'small-holding'. This means that at harvest time they can all use the same wine press for a fraction of the cost of installing their own. What would we do without wine I wondered as we looked lovingly at these grapes.

The local town was very pretty, full of French charm, French people and French restaurants which suited us fine. Especially when those restaurants offered an 'International Menu'. As you can imagine, the adults ate the local delicacies and the twins ate Italian!

Being a harbour it also had its fair share of sailing boats.

It also had a town square and market. This picture shows the town hall. All in all it was a nice place to wander around, especially when you got bored of swimming, sunning, eating, reading, playing tennis and boules and relaxing!

Ben never got fed up with swimming!


We all had a great time in France but the traffic was pretty fierce all the way down and all the way back. It is a very long drive so a lot of the tourists from G.B. flew down to Nice and then hired a car, which is probably smart. However, we got to see a lot of the country by 'touring' so we were happy. On the way back we took the scenic route through the mountains via Grenoble. This did add time to our journey as the route was very twisty, but it was different! 
Vive la France

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