November 14, 2019 Nice FR

We have a friend who arrived in Paris a few days ago.  Ton and her have been keeping in touch and sharing some photos.  We thought they were going on to Savona from Paris, but last night she sent Ton a message saying they were going to Mice today.  Ton showed me the message and said do you think she means Nice?  A short phone call confirmed that she was heading our way and would arrive on a train about 1:15.  So our plans for today were set with a happy meeting of friends.

In the morning we took care of our last laundry for the trip, anything that gets dirty from this point is going home with us.  The weather was threatening all day but the rain held off in the morning.  As we were locking up François to head to the rail station a French couple walked up and hit me with a long and complex blast of French.  When he took a breath I told him that I was very sorry but I do not speak French.  They switched to English and we had a nice conversation about traveling both here and in the US.  

We arrived at the train station a few minutes before the train from Paris arrived and were able to meet our friends at the platform.  It was a nice surprise for them as our friend from Portland Boo had not told the other two couples she was traveling with that we were in Nice.  After saying hello to Moo, Nit, Jeap and Dit we headed off to their hotel.  

We love traveling.

After they checked in we were off to the promenade and old town for a bit of sight seeing and catching up.  They are on an extensive trip that started in Paris, they are heading on to Italy to catch a trans-Atlantic cruise to Brazil, after they arrive they are going to linger in South America for a couple of weeks.  Ton and I are a little jealous.

Ton and one of her very best friends from Oregon Boo.

Walking along the promenade and the old town of Nice was fun as we exchanged travel stories.  The promenade was empty as while it was not raining yet the wind was blowing hard and it was cold.  Despite this everyone was having a good time.  Ton and Boo were having a great time talking as they walked arm in arm thru town.  I think it was good for Ton to have a friend to talk to instead of me and in Thai instead of English.

After a few hours we realized that we had left the key to the gate for the campground in François.  The campground we are staying in is gated and they close the gate at 7pm, without the key we would not have access, so we left a little earlier than we wanted to, but this turned out to be a good thing.

As we were walking to the train station it started to rain.  The weather report today was pretty ominous actually with high winds and heavy rain called for.  It turns out while the wind and rain was delayed, when it hit, it hit with a vengeance.  When we got off the train in Villeneuve we were struck with a gust of wind of 20 plus miles per hour and heavy sideways rain, umbrellas were collapsing and people were actually staggering as they stepped off the train.  The walk back to François was in a ferocious rain and wind storm, with flashes of lightning to add to the fun.  By the time we arrived at François we were soaked to the skin, and now the bathroom is full of wet clothes.

November 13, 2019 Nice FR

Last night we were discussing what to do today, and as we often do when planning things we consulted the weather channel app.  It told us today was the last sunny day we should expect on this trip.  So we had to make a decision, we are positioned equidistant between Nice and Cannes so we had to decide which town would we spend our last sunny and relatively warm day on.  As with all of these type of decisions I left it up to Ton and went to sleep.  When I woke up in the morning she said Nice, and gave me an agenda.

We started off with our mile walk to the train station thru the massive condo’s.  This morning we discussed again the architectural merits of the buildings, and we both admitted that the buildings had grown on us.  Ton said she looked at her pictures last night and began to see some of the subtleties of the buildings that are hidden by their sheer size.  While we will not be purchasing a condo there anytime soon we can see ourselves living there if the opportunity arose.

The condos that have grown on both of us as we spend more time around them.

When we arrived at the train station we found a representative of SNCF (the French National Train Company) posting a notice on the still broken ticket machine.  He said that the construction near the station had cut the power to the machine, and to his office so he could not issue tickets.  We asked him what we should do, and he said just get on the train and if the conductor comes by tell him you got on here and they will sell you a ticket on the train.  I said what if we do not see a conductor, he said the ride is on us!  On the platform I told Ton that we should take a picture of the notice on the ticket machine just to be safe, a lady on the platform overheard us and asked in accented English what was going on.  We told her and she said she would go with Ton to take a picture also.  When she returned  I noticed she had a Johns Hopkins University sweater and it turns out she works in their Washington DC office and was also a visitor to France for a couple of weeks.  She was taking advantage of the good weather to head to Monaco for the day.

Ton’s itinerary for the day consisted of visiting the Central Market, an ice cream shop, and another walk on the Promenade Anglais.  The first stop was the central market where we poked thru the vegetable stalls and souvenir stands.  Our only purchase was a couple of nice local themed shopping bags.  We were drawn to a stall selling a dish called Socca which looked a lot like a dish we had eaten in Lucca that we really enjoyed and never learned the name of.  

Flowers for sale in the Market in Nice.

We were tempted but we had ice cream to eat so we set off to the ice cream shop.  We saw one branch of the shop and it was closed, but I told Ton not to worry as this was not the main one, and the main one would surely be open.  When we arrived there were several workers working cleaning the chairs and tables but they were not open.  I asked one of the workers when they were opening and he cheerfully replied “next year”!  It turns out they were cleaning up before their winter break.  So Ton’s luck with restaurants continues.

The special bicycle used to deliver Socca to the market.  The cover goes over the pan of Socca as it is driven from the restaurant to the market.

We were unfazed because this put Socca back on the table.  We found the restaurant that produces the Socca for the market on a back ally in the old town.  Inside there were three generations of the family working.  The father was ferrying giant platters of Socca on a specially made bicycle to the market, the son was doing the cooking and serving in the restaurant, and the grandson (who Ton spent the meal wondering why he was not in school) served the customers outside.  Socca is a simple dish made of chickpea flour, water and olive oil poured onto a large shallow pan and cooked in a wood fired oven.  Like the dish we had in Lucca earlier (called Cecina in Tuscany) it was absolutely delicious and cheap.

A pan of Socca going into the oven.

We spent the rest of the day wandering the old town and along the Promenade Anglais.  Ton really loved the Promenade and kept saying lets go just a bit further and we will stop.  At one point I sat in a chair and she went down on the beach and spent half an hour happily taking pictures in all directions.  

The beach and Promenade Anglais in Nice.

After we had walked about 10 miles we decided to head back to François and take it easy for the rest of the day.  It was a simple day but the kind of day that makes great memories.

An interesting statue in front of one of the grand hotels along the Promenade Anglais.

November 12, 2019 Nice FR

We finally had to reluctantly leave Italy behind.  We will talk more about our impressions of Italy later, but we both found it wonderful.  We had read a lot of negatives about Italy, and were prepared for a tougher experience than we had had in other places.  It turns out Italy was pretty easy to move around in and we did not experience anything that would cause us to discourage anyone from traveling there.  On the contrary we found Italy to be a wonderful country and we encourage anyone who is thinking of Europe to make sure they include Italy in the itinerary.

Arrivederci Italia.

We woke up to sunshine, so we made an early start towards Nice.  The drive over was uneventful but Nice made a bad first impression on us.  First the year round campground that we planned to stay at after much research to make sure it was open, was closed.  One warning if you are traveling in November call ahead and confirm that places that say they are open are really open.  Luckily because of our research  we had a second choice in mind and it was only 10 minutes away, and most importantly they are open year round as advertised.  The next negative to our first impression of Nice was at the train station.  We walked about a mile to the nearest station, which is a minor station.  In Italy every station no matter how small had someone working there, this one had a nice lobby with an information window, but it was closed with a sign saying they were open random hours during the week.  No problem we are serious travelers and can get tickets from any automatic machine.  The one thing that will stop intrepid travelers like us is if the only ticket machine at  the station is malfunctioning (actually completely dead, powered down).  So now we were stuck, our first temptation was to just get on the the next train and if we did run into a conductor tell him our tale, but not really speaking French this seemed risky and could end up costing us an awful lot.  At this point Ton saw an advertisement for an App the train company in France has where you can buy tickets on line so we tried that.  Surprisingly it worked, and armed with our app bought ticket on our phone we boarded the next train to Nice.  

As a quick editorial, one of the things we liked about Italy was the lack of automation, you bought tickets from people, who were able to answer questions, point you in the right direction and deliver a smile.  Maybe that is why even though things are rougher around the edges in Italy we enjoyed it so much, because we were dealing with people and not machines and apps.

The beach in Nice is this pea gravel and not sand, but it does not detract from people heading to the beach.  The gravel makes a really interesting sound as the waves recede.

Nice is much larger than I envisioned, somehow I had an overgrown Monaco in mind and not the big metropolis we found ourselves in.  But it is beautiful and the waterfront esplanade is one of the best we have ever seen anywhere in the world.  It is truly magnificent and I can see how you could fall in love with a city that goes out of it’s way to embrace the sea in the way Nice does.

The extensive waterfront esplanade of Nice, the best one we have seen in our travels.

We ended up walking more today than any day on this trip, just about exactly 10 miles. We climbed up to an overlook on one side of the city and waterfront and were rewarded with some fantastic views of both Nice, and the Alps in the background.  

City view of Nice, with Italian style Duomo in the center.

When we arrived back to our broken home train station of Villeneuve-Loubet I told Ton I thought there was a better route home.  When we were walking to the train station in the morning we had spotted three very large and striking condominium towers.  We both find them striking but neither one of us will own up to liking them.  We walked thru them on the way back and found a giant marina behind them, so they are catering to a very upscale clientele.  It was sunset and the sky and the views over the Mediterranean were eye catching.  From one beach we were able to look at the sea, and turn and look at the Alps with the pink light of the setting sun highlighting the snow caps.  It was worth the diversion for a great sunset.

The striking condos and upper middle class yachts.

October 9, 2019 Toulon FR

There really is not much to talk about today.  We needed to be in Toulon at 3:30 pm to catch our ferry to Sicily, so there was no time for exploring.  We spent the morning poking around the campground taking care of cleaning, dumping tanks, and filling tanks.  At 11:30 we took off for Toulon looking to fill François up, and maybe do a quick shop for some of our favorite French things before we depart for Italy.

Everything was going to plan until it was time to get fuel.  Periodically our American credit cards are refused at French fuel dispensers.  There is no rhyme or reason about when it will happen, but it happened today.  In the past we were able to overcome this by using a debit card we travel with for emergencies, but today they even refused that. So we were stuck on a tour of fuel stations of Toulon until we found one with a human being who could process our credit cards.  Five stations later we finally found a station with an attendant and filled up François.

François and Ron waiting to board the ferry to Sicily.

When we parked in the line for the ferry I noticed the camper van in front of us had Thai writing on it. I went up to ask the French couple about why, but it turns out they had bought the van used and did not even know the strange writing was Thai, they just liked the way it looks!

It is the largest ferry we have been on and is almost like a mini-cruise ship, complete with bars and multiple restaurants.  So after settling in we went up top to watch our departure from Toulon on the way to Trapani Italy.

October 8, 2019 St. Tropez FR

Today François stayed in place while we visited the neighboring city of St. Tropez.  It was a short bus ride to St. Tropez, but it was a change from middle class to uber rich.  Port Grimaud is a pretty city on the same bay as St. Tropez, but while prosperous it features 40 foot boats and nice condos.  5km’s away St.Tropez features 100 foot plus yachts, and helicopters scurrying over carrying their owners to their estates.

We can see why St. Tropez is such a hit with the jet setters as the climate and the setting is spectacular.  The water in the bay is crystal clear and generally calm.  It became one of the “it” places in the world largely because of Brigitte Bardot in the 1960’s.  Several of her famous movies were filmed in this area and put St. Tropez on the map.  It is a pretty little town with lots of restaurants and high end shops lining the waterfront.  There are a lot of people walking up and down the harbor gawking at the yachts.  The actual uber rich were out of site or blending in with the crowds.

The harbor in St. Tropez with some of the smaller yachts.

Ton had two things she wanted to accomplish;  she wanted to visit the road named after one of her favorite authors Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, and to take a picture of a statue of Brigitte that is in town.  After we walked thru the town we headed out to find the road dedicated to Antoine. He was Ton’s favorite author when she was studying French.  The Little Prince is his most famous work.  Antoine was a true renaissance man as in addition to being a great writer he was also an early aviator and explorer.  It is located next to the old fort on the hill above town and had a great view of the town and the bay.  We both find that we find small connections to our youth by exploring these towns and it adds some fun to the trip.

The signpost for Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, with a holder for his fans to leave flowers.

After our walk around town and up to the fort we were hungry.  Ton had two restaurants on her list, but one had gone out of business, and the other was closed, and as we were running out of time for lunch we popped into a Thai restaurant.  This was our first Thai restaurant in Europe and we left a little disappointed.

Where we should have had lunch.

The final stop for the day was to be a statue to Brigitte Bardot, but after walking the streets looking for it (including seeing several French restaurants that only added to our disappointment with lunch), we came to the statue of Brigitte and had a good laugh.  When we first got off the bus we walked thru a little square with a cute statue of a women nude, and Ton took several pictures of it as she really liked it.  It turns out this was the famous Brigitte statue that we were looking for.  Brigitte while long retired still lives in St. Tropez.

The statue of Brigitte Bardot who helped put St. Tropez on the map.

Since we were next to the bus station we headed back to the campground for a light dinner and a walk along the beach at sunset.

St. Tropez is full of art galleries. Some of the artists looked quite talented.

October 7, 2019 Port Grimaud FR

Another day of big driving, and me being clueless.  We wanted to get down somewhere near Toulon as our ferry to Sicily leaves from there on October 9.  Ton thought hanging around near the rich at Saint Tropez would be fun.  Port Grimaud is only about 10 km’s from Saint Tropez and would let people of our economic stature hang around; so that was the target.

Before the trip I thought we needed an oil change as my research indicated that the oil was due to be changed at 45,000 km’s.  I had planned to have the oil changed when we got the new tires for François but I had a conversation with someone who managed a fleet of vehicles like François who said that oil change was 50.000 km’s so I decided to hold off until we returned from Italy.  It turns out my research was right and about halfway to Port Grimaud we got a flashing red oil can on the dash of François.  In my experience anything on the dash that is red and related to oil needs immediate attention.  We pulled into the first rest area on the autoroute  and I checked the oil.  It was low, but not out so I added a liter and expected the light to go out.  It did not so as I drove south Ton began looking for a Fiat dealer or mechanic and she came up with one.  Well after about a 40 minute detour we came to the location of the Fiat mechanic according to Google, and it was a brand new KFC.  Since all of the dealers who could deal with François were on lunch break anyway I took the time to do some more research and it turns out that the flashing red oil can indicates the need to change the oil and not a problem with the oil, so we decided to carry on with our trip and find a place to change the oil when we get to Italy.

Sunset at the beach for our campground.  Saint Tropez is across the bay.

So after a little drama, we are now in a very large campground next to the Mediterranean Sea, and looking forward to heading into Saint Tropez tomorrow to see how the 1% live.  

November 14, 2019 Nice FR

We have a friend who arrived in Paris a few days ago.  Ton and her have been keeping in touch and sharing some photos.  We thought they were going on to Savona from Paris, but last night she sent Ton a message saying they were going to Mice today.  Ton showed me the message and said do you think she means Nice?  A short phone call confirmed that she was heading our way and would arrive on a train about 1:15.  So our plans for today were set with a happy meeting of friends.

In the morning we took care of our last laundry for the trip, anything that gets dirty from this point is going home with us.  The weather was threatening all day but the rain held off in the morning.  As we were locking up François to head to the rail station a French couple walked up and hit me with a long and complex blast of French.  When he took a breath I told him that I was very sorry but I do not speak French.  They switched to English and we had a nice conversation about traveling both here and in the US.  

We arrived at the train station a few minutes before the train from Paris arrived and were able to meet our friends at the platform.  It was a nice surprise for them as our friend from Portland Boo had not told the other two couples she was traveling with that we were in Nice.  After saying hello to Moo, Nit, Jeap and Dit we headed off to their hotels.  

We love traveling.

After they checked in we headed off to the promenade and old town for a bit of sight seeing and catching up.  They are on an extensive trip that started in Paris, they are heading on to Italy to catch a trans-Atlantic cruise to Brazil, after they arrive they are going to linger in South America for a couple of weeks.  Ton and I are a little jealous.

Ton and one of her very best friends from Oregon Boo.

Walking along the promenade and the old town of Nice was fun as we exchanged travel stories.  The promenade was empty as while it was not raining yet the wind was blowing hard and it was cold.  Despite this everyone was having a good time.  Ton and Boo were having a great time talking as they walked arm in arm thru town.  I think it was good for Ton to have a friend to talk to instead of me and in Thai instead of English.

After a few hours we realized that we had left the key to the gate for the campground in François.  The campground we are staying in is gated and they close the gate at 7pm, without the key we would not have access, so we left a little earlier than we wanted to, but this turned out to be a good thing.

As we were walking to the train station it started to rain.  The weather report today was pretty ominous actually with high winds and heavy rain called for.  It turns out while the wind and rain was delayed when it hit, it hit with a vengeance.  When we got off the train in Villeneuve we were hit with a gust of wind of 20 plus miles per hour and heavy sideways rain, umbrellas were collapsing and people were actually staggering as they stepped off the train.  The walk back to François was in a ferocious rain and wind storm, with flashes of lightning to add to the fun.  By the time we arrived at François we were soaked to the skin, and now the bathroom is full of wet clothes.

November 13 2019 Nice FR

Last night we were discussing what to do today, and as we often do when planning things we consulted the weather channel app.  It told us today was the last sunny day we should expect on this trip.  So we had to make a decision, we are positioned equidistant between Nice and Cannes so we had to decide which town would we spend our last sunny and relatively warm day on.  As with all of these type of decisions I left it up to Ton and went to sleep.  When I woke up in the morning she said Nice, and gave me an agenda.

We started off with our mile walk to the train station thru the massive condo’s.  This morning we discussed again the architectural merits of the buildings, and we both admitted that the buildings had grown on us.  Ton said she looked at her pictures last night and began to see some of the subtleties of the buildings that are hidden by their sheer size.  While we will not be purchasing a condo there anytime soon we can see ourselves living there if the opportunity arose.

The condos that have grown on both of us as we spend more time around them.

When we arrived at the train station we found a representative of SNCF (the French National Train Company) posting a notice on the still broken ticket machine.  He said that the construction near the station had cut the power to the machine, and to his office so he could not issue tickets.  We asked him what we should do, and he said just get on the train and if the conductor comes by tell him you got on here and they will sell you a ticket on the train.  I said what if we do not see a conductor, he said the ride is on us!  On the platform I told Ton that we should take a picture of the notice on the ticket machine just to be safe, a lady on the platform overheard us and asked in accented English what was going on.  We told her and she said she would go with Ton to take a picture also.  When she returned  I noticed she had a Johns Hopkins University sweater and it turns out she works in their Washington DC office and was also a visitor to France for a couple of weeks.  She was taking advantage of the good weather to head to Monaco for the day.

Ton’s itinerary for the day consisted of visiting the Central Market, an ice cream shop, and another walk on the Promenade Anglais.  The first stop was the central market where we poked thru the vegetable stalls and souvenir stands.  Our only purchase was a couple of nice local themed shopping bags.  We were drawn to a stall selling a dish called Socca which looked a lot like a dish we had eaten in Lucca that we really enjoyed and never learned the name of.  

Flowers for sale in the Market in Nice.

We were tempted but we had ice cream to eat so we set off to the ice cream shop.  We saw one branch of the shop and it was closed, but I told Ton not to worry as this was not the main one, and the main one would surely be open.  When we arrived there were several workers working cleaning the chairs and tables but they were not open.  I asked one of the workers when they were opening and he cheerfully replied “next year”!  It turns out they were cleaning up before their winter break.  So Ton’s luck with restaurants continues.

The special bicycle used to deliver Socca to the market.  The cover goes over the pan of Socca as it is driven from the restaurant to the market.

We were unfazed because this put Socca back on the table.  We found the restaurant that produces the Socca for the market on a back ally in the old town.  Inside there were three generations of the family working.  The father was ferrying giant platters of Socca on a specially made bicycle to the market, the son was doing the cooking and serving in the restaurant, and the grandson (who Ton spent the meal wondering why he was not in school) served the customers outside.  Socca is a simple dish made of chickpea flour, water and olive oil poured onto a large shallow pan and cooked in a wood fired oven.  Like the dish we had in Lucca earlier (called Cecina in Tuscany) it was absolutely delicious and cheap.

A pan of Socca going into the oven.

We spent the rest fo the day wandering the old town and along the Promenaid Anglais.  Ton really loved the Promenade and kept saying lets go just a bit further and we will stop.  At one point I sat in a chair and she went down on the beach and spent half an hour happily taking pictures in all directions.    

The beach and Promenade Anglais in Nice.

After we had walked about 10 miles we decided to head back to François and take it easy for the rest of the day.  It was a simple day but the kind of day that makes great memories.

An interesting statue in front of one of the grand hotels along the Promenade Anglais.


November 12 2019 Nice FR

We finally had to reluctantly leave Italy behind.  We will talk more about our impressions of Italy later, but we both found it wonderful.  We had read a lot of negatives about Italy, and were prepared for a tougher experience than we had had in other places.  It turns out Italy was pretty easy to move around in and we did not experience anything that would cause us to discourage anyone from traveling there.  On the contrary we found Italy to be a wonderful country and we encourage anyone who is thinking of Europe to make sure they include Italy in the itinerary.

Arrivederci Italia.

We woke up to sunshine, so we made an early start towards Nice.  The drive over was uneventful but Nice made a bad first impression on us.  First the year round campground that we planned to stay at after much research to make sure it was open, was closed.  One warning if you are traveling in November call ahead and confirm that places that say they are open are really open.  Luckily because of our research  we had a second choice in mind and it was only 10 minutes away, and most importantly they are open year round as advertised.  The next negative to our first impression of Nice was at the train station.  We walked about a mile to the nearest station, which is a minor station.  In Italy every station no matter how small had someone working there, this one had a nice lobby with an information window, but it was closed with a sign saying they were open random hours during the week.  No problem we are serious travelers and can get tickets from any automatic machine.  The one thing that will stop intrepid travelers like us is if the only ticket machine at  the station is malfunctioning (actually completely dead, powered down).  So now we were stuck, our first temptation was to just get on the the next train and if we did run into a conductor tell him our tale, but not really speaking French this seemed risky and could end up costing us an awful lot.  At this point Ton saw an advertisement for an App the train company in France has where you can buy tickets on line so we tried that.  Surprisingly it worked, and armed with our app bought ticket on our phone we boarded the next train to Nice.  

As a quick editorial, one of the things we liked about Italy was the lack of automation, you bought tickets from people, who were able to answer questions, point you in the right direction and deliver a smile.  Maybe that is why even though things are rougher around the edges in Italy we enjoyed it so much, because we were dealing with people and not machines and apps.

The beach in Nice is this pea gravel and not sand, but it does not detract from people heading to the beach.  The gravel makes a really interesting sound as the waves recede.

Nice is much larger than I envisioned, somehow I had an overgrown Monaco in mind and not the big metropolis we found ourselves in.  But it is beautiful and the waterfront esplanade is one of the best we have ever seen anywhere in the world.  It is truly magnificent and I can see how you could fall in love with a city that goes out of its way to embrace the sea in the way Nice does.

The extensive waterfront esplanade of Nice, the best one we have seen in our travels.

We ended up walking more today than any day on this trip, just about exactly 10 miles. We climbed up to an overlook on one side of the city and waterfront and were rewarded with some fantastic views of both Nice, and the Alps in the background.  

City view of Nice, with Italian style Duomo in the center.

When we arrived back to our broken home train station of Villeneuve-Loubet I told Ton I thought there was a better route home.  When we were walking to the train station in the morning we had spotted three very large and striking condominium towers.  We both find them striking but neither one of us will own up to liking them.  We walked thru them on the way back and found a giant marina behind them, so they are catering to a very upscale clientele.  It was sunset and the sky and the views over the Mediterranean were eye catching.  From one beach we were able to look at the sea, and turn and look at the Alps with the pink light of the setting sun highlighting the snow caps.  It was worth the diversion for a great sunset.

The striking condos and upper middle class yachts.


October 9 2019 Toulon FR

There really is not much to talk about today.  We needed to be in Toulon at 3:30 pm to catch our ferry to Sicily, so there was no time for exploring.  We spent the morning poking around the campground taking care of cleaning, dumping tanks, and filling tanks.  At 11:30 we took off for Toulon looking to fill François up, and maybe do a quick shop for some of our favorite French things before we depart for Italy.

Everything was going to plan until it was time to get fuel.  Periodically our American credit cards are refused at French fuel dispensers.  There is no rhyme or reason about when it will happen, but it happened today.  In the past we were able to overcome this by using a debit card we travel with for emergencies, but today they even refused that. So we were stuck on a tour of fuel stations of Toulon until we found one with a human being who could process our credit cards.  Five stations later we finally found a station with an attendant and filled up François.

François and Ron waiting to board the ferry to Sicily.

Fuel taken care of we headed over to the ferry.  It is the largest ferry we have been on and is almost like a mini-cruise ship, complete with bars and multiple restaurants.  So after settling in we went up top to watch our departure from Toulon on the way to Trapani Italy.

October 8, 2019 St. Tropez

Today François stayed in place while we visited the neighboring city of St. Tropez.  It was a short bus ride to St. Tropez, but it was a change from middle class to uber rich.  Port Grimaud is a pretty city on the same bay as St. Tropez, but while prosperous it features 40 foot boats and nice condos.  5km’s away St.Tropez features 100 foot plus yachts, and helicopters scurrying over carrying their owners to their estates.

We can see why St. Tropez is such a hit with the jet setters as the climate and the setting is spectacular.  The water in the bay is crystal clear and generally calm.  It became one of the “it” places in the world largely because of Brigitte Bardot in the 1960’s.  Several of her famous movies were filmed in this area and put St. Tropez on the map.  It is a pretty little town with lots of restaurants and high end shops lining the waterfront.  There are a lot of people walking up and down the harbor gawking at the yachts.  The actual uber rich were out of site or blending in with the crowds.

The harbor in St. Tropez with some of the smaller yachts.

Ton had two things she wanted to accomplish;  she wanted to visit the road named after one of her favorite authors Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, and to take a picture of a statue of Brigitte that is in town.  After we walked thru the town we headed out to find the road dedicated to Antoine. He was Ton’s favorite author when she was studying French.  The Little Prince is his most famous work.  Antoine was a true renaissance man as in addition to being a great writer he was also an early aviator and explorer.  It is located next to the old fort on the hill above town and had a great view of the town and the bay.  We both find that we find small connections to our youth by exploring these towns and it adds some fun to the trip.

The signpost for Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, with a holder for his fans to leave flowers.

After our walk around town and up to the fort we were hungry.  Ton had two restaurants on her list, but one had gone out of business, and the other was closed, and as we were running out of time for lunch we popped into a Thai restaurant.  This was our first Thai restaurant in Europe and we left a little disappointed.

Where we should have had lunch.

The final stop for the day was to be a statue to Brigitte Bardot, but after walking the streets looking for it (including seeing several French restaurants that only added to our disappointment with lunch), we came to the statue of Brigitte and had a good laugh.  When we first got off the bus we walked thru a little square with a cute statue of a women nude, and Ton took several pictures of it as she really liked it.  It turns out this was the famous Brigitte statue that we were looking for.  Brigitte while long retired still lives in St. Tropez.

The statue of Brigitte Bardot who helped put St. Tropez on the map.

Since we were next to the bus station we headed back to the campground for a light dinner and a walk along the beach at sunset.

St. Tropez is full of art galleries. Some of the artists looked quite talented.


October 7, 2019 Port Grimaud

Another day of big driving, and me being clueless.  We wanted to get down somewhere near Toulon as our ferry to Sicily leaves from there on October 9.  Ton thought hanging around near the rich at Saint Tropez would be fun.  Port Grimaud is only about 10 km’s from Saint Tropez and would let people of our economic stature hang around; so that was the target.

Before the trip I thought we needed an oil change as my research indicated that the oil was due to be changed at 45,000 km’s.  I had planned to have the oil changed when we got the new tires for François but I had a conversation with someone who managed a fleet of vehicles like François who said that oil change was 50.000 km’s so I decided to hold off until we returned from Italy.  It turns out my research was right and about halfway to Port Grimaud we got a flashing red oil can on the dash of François.  In my experience anything on the dash that is red and related to oil needs immediate attention.  We pulled into the first rest area on the autoroute  and I checked the oil.  It was low, but not out so I added a couple of liters and expected the light to go out.  It did not so as I drove south Ton began looking for a Fiat dealer or mechanic and she came up with one.  Well after about a 40 minute detour we came to the location of the Fiat mechanic according to Google, and it was a brand new KFC.  Since all of the dealers who could deal with François were on lunch break anyway I took the time to do some more research and it turns out that the flashing red oil can indicates the need to change the oil and not a problem with the oil, so we decided to carry on with our trip and find a place to change the oil when we get to Italy.

Sunset at the beach for our campground.  Saint Tropez is across the bay.

So after a little drama, we are now in a very large campground next to the Mediterranean Sea, and looking forward to heading into Saint Tropez tomorrow to see how the 1% live.