Back in France – Lake Annecy

27-08-18

Having had a great couple of days by Lake Geneva, it was time to move on and head back into France. We took a road that followed the south shoreline for quite some time and passed through some cute little towns, including Evian Les Bains. Famous for its spring and bottled water, Evian seemed like a lovely town with a gorgeous promenade and lots of pretty shops. Unfortunately we couldn’t find motorhome parking so had to push through and promise ourselves it would be a place we return to if possible.

Taking time to stock up on supplies at a supermarket, we passed through the border without even noticing and arrived at our next campsite in Annecy in the afternoon. Annecy is a gorgeous, alpine town sat on a stunning lake renowned for its clear and pure water. It has a beautiful medieval old centre with cobbled lanes, canals and pastel houses.

We woke up the next morning with a whole day to explore the area. It was really chilly and grey looking and for the first time on our European trip, we had to get the jumpers out. We hopped on our bikes and took the insanely steep lanes down to the town center. It was a real hive of activity with an arts and crafts market on one side of town and an antiques market on the other. I loved browsing the stalls that were selling all sorts of random curiosities but much to Gary’s relief we couldn’t fit any new items in the van.

The town has a wonderful old charm with period properties and traditional buildings but has embraced modern art, with installations dotted all around. We spotted at least five on the trail including a great metal cut out of the lake and all its tributaries. The town is clearly well looked after, with gorgeous flowers everywhere and pretty green spaces.

Despite being in France, Annecy has a real Swiss vibe to it which is reflected in the menus of many of the restaurants. We found a great alpine style restaurant and orders tartiflette which is a potato dish covered in onions, lardons and local cheese and a slow cooked pork casserole served with creamy polenta. These dishes were a huge leap away from the Mediterranean food and salads we’ve been eating in Italy but with the cold weather it felt comforting to have something a bit more hearty.

After lunch we hopped back on the bikes and took the shoreline cycle lane out of town. The lake is 42km in its circumference and can be tackled in a day by bike but we weren’t quite up for that. We planned to cycle 5km to the next town, but once we got there we continued on, incentivised by the stunning scenery. We ended up doing about 28km in total and loved it. The cycle lane was flat and wide and delivered gorgeous views of the stunning mountain ranges and glassy lake. We passed families out for walks, rock climbers, farmers harvesting and little fishing boats bobbing on the water. We found a huge field of cows, all of whom were sporting the classic Swiss cowbells which created a racket. I also dared Gary to see if the fence was electric….it was.

Once we returned to town with cold hands and windswept hair we decided that we had earned a cup of tea and fancy cake. I had my eye on a particularly fancy patisserie and we stocked up and took our goodies to the park to enjoy. Gary had a ‘Mont Blanc’ which consisted of layered meringue and raspberry coulis and mousse. I plumped for a mocha torte with hazelnut edging. Both were delicious and devoured in minutes. The sun finally decided to make an appearance just as we cycled back up to the campsite. We had a warm shower and made the most of the short-lived signal that we were receiving on the satellite and watched some good old British TV before bed. Another great day exploring.

“So your tellin me there’s a chance”

Apologies in advance as this one is a bit of a dull technical one.

For those that have been keeping up with the blog, you will know that the reason we ventured to Saint Tropez was to make good use of time whilst waiting for a replacement gas regulator. At last it had arrived from England to our old campsite in Antibes. Even though technically not part of our 6 month warranty Webbs sent one free of charge. Merci beaucoup Danny and Portia from Webbs. All we had to do was pick it up and spend 5 minutes fitting it right?

Picking it up went without a hitch. The mad receptionist at the Antibes campsite handed over the parcel and we drove off to Lidl so Emily could do a food shop and I could use the time to fit it. We needed to know if it worked so we could plan where we needed to stay that night. If it worked we could wild-camp off-grid. If it didn’t we had to choose a campsite with electric to power the fridge.

Original broken regulator

Replacement regulator

Opening up the box we see

Problem number 1:

It’s longer than the old one.

Problem 2:

I can hear something rattling inside, like a large ball bearing.

Oh the joys of taking your home on the road. It reminds me so much of working on yachts. So many things used to go wrong on boats and in remote parts of the world where the language barrier made everything so much harder to resolve. I guess my previous experience gave me the confidence to have a go at fixing anything. Even when at the start of the fix you have no idea what you’re doing and even with something potentially as dangerous as gas.

I plumbed in the new regulator easy enough. At least the connectors were the right size and I didn’t over tighten. The extra length made for a tight fit when closing the gas compartment door.

I turned on the gas and tested for leaks by palming soapy bubbles over each connector. No leaks. Good. The sweat was dripping from my forehead and not just because of the intense midday sun. I jumped inside and switched the fridge to gas. Red Light. Dam. That means it can’t light and there is no gas flow. I tried the gas hob. Nothing. Not a whiff. WTF. Such disappointment.

Have they sent a duff one? Have I fitted it wrongly? Stay calm. Think basics. What is the easiest thing that could be wrong? The reset button. “YES! You’re a genius”. I pressed the reset button and tried again. Nothing. “You’re an idiot”. 30 minutes had passed on this 5 minute job. I was hot, frustrated and out of ideas. Only one thing for it. Read the manual. Or RTFM as it’s known in the man trade (google it). I know most of the women out there are saying “What! Why didn’t you read that first?”. Fellas, I will leave it to you to explain.

Reading the manual it mentioned something about the crash sensor should always be verticle. I had already spoken to Webbs about this as the unit was fitted horizontally on the roof of the gas box by the builders. It was a bit of a red herring but it did give me an idea. Maybe if I disconnected the regulator from the van but kept it connected to the gas bottle I could position it vertically and press reset and hear if gas comes out. That would isolate any issues upsteam of the regulator and allow to instantly verify gas flow after each test.

As I moved the regulator around from horizontal to vertical I could hear the ball bearing inside moving and couldn’t help but think it was some how responsible. With the regulator in a verticle position, the gas bottle open, sending high pressure propane to one side of the regulator and the other side open, I pressed the green reset button. A tiny whiff of gas came out of the open end and then nothing. My mind flipped to the line from dumb and dumber “So you’re telling me there’s a chance”. However small the posibility, I knew that if I mess around with positioning, speed of button press, speed of button release I had a chance to get it to work.

20 minutes later I discovered the knack. I’m not sure whether the angle of the regulator mattered but I pressed the reset button slowly over three seconds and released it over three seconds the ball bearing rattled until it didn’t and gas started to flow from the regulator outlet. At last. I turned the gas off at the bottle and plumbed it all in with the relevant checks and turned in the fridge once more. Green light. Result. Turned on the gas hob. Fire. Result. Turned on the water heater. Hot water. Job done. Easiest 1 hour “5 minute job” I have ever done.

Knock knock. “I’m home, oh great it works then, good job, as I have lots of yummy food for the fridge. Was it was it easy to fit?”

“Read the blog sweetie, I’m gassed ;-)”

Sainte Maxime, the Patron Saint of Thunder?

We woke to an ominous sky for our last day in the St Tropez area. We decided to enjoy a lazy morning and watch Love Island. Yes we are both obsessed. We finally managed to finish the 1st series. No, we can’t even remember who won but it’s fascinating entertainment.

By the afternoon things didn’t look much better with the sky but we were getting cabin fever so we decided to brave it, pack our cagoules and cycle the 3km to Sainte Maxime. It sits across the gulf from Saint Tropez and I would hazzard a guess that a large proportion of the worlds fanciest and most expensive yachts have anchored off its shores.
Sainte Maxime seemed to be a more family orientated town and recent developments include a new cultural centre built with a cinema and activities for both children and adults. The new road from Le Muy to Sainte Maxime has made the whole area more accessible and it is increasingly attractive as a holiday destination. The largest source of revenue for Sainte Maxime is the summer tourist industry but the city is very much alive all year round with approximately 14,000 local residents. Property is being built along the coastline and restaurants and bars with music are springing up everywhere. However, the town retains its local traditions and there are several festivals throughout the year in celebration of its history.

Unfortunatley for us about 5 minutes after we arrived the heavens opened, the sky lit up and thunder rumbled so loud it shook the shop windows. We ran into a post office to send some postcards to our parents (let us know when you get them please) and then waited under a facade for the storm to fizzle out.

After about 20 mins the rain had subsided enough for us to at least wander around and find somewhere to have a warm drink. We settled upon Maison Du Chocolat as I really felt like a hot chocolate and Emily needed a cake. Yes needed.

Feeling refreshed and realising the rain was not going to stop we dragged ourselves out of the Chocolate shop and wandered the town in our very stylish get up – we really embodied the South of France chic.

Who would have thought that we would find an Artisan Boulangerie with yet more iresistable sweet stuff that we needed. We reasoned (fooled ourselves) that we must try the local speciality of tarte tropezienne.

Oh my they were good. Like little fluffy clouds made of cream. I wish I didn’t have such a sweet tooth. With our bellies full of sugar we peddled extra fast along the empty cycle path back to Harvey for some more Love Island. Losers…

The Gulf of St Tropez

14-07-18

We spent the majority of the morning trying to locate a local mechanic, gas engineer or motorhome specialist who could confirm the problem with the gas system and order us a new regulator. Knowing that we are on the road for the next four months we needed to get it sorted. This proved much more difficult than we thought and we found ourselves in many awkward phone calls with broken French and poor google translate assistance. We even tried calling some ship chandlers that specialise in sorting issues for yachts in the hope that they’d have some ideas.

We called our motorhome dealer from back home first thing and when they got back to us they were great. After a chat with their engineer we were confident that it was definitely the regulator that had gone and given that we’d only had the van for six weeks, they offered to replace it as a goodwill gesture. They had one in stock and sent it via DPD to us. We were told this would take up to four business days and we had a weekend in between. The prospect of hanging around for another week in the same place felt like a bit of a waste, so our spirits were lifted when the campsite owner in Biot agreed to hold on to our delivery until we came back. We decided to head east along the coast for a bit then pick up the new regulator when it arrived.

We plumped for a campsite called Les Mures in the heart of the gulf of St Tropez. On first impressions it was a complete contrast to our previous place. Way more contemporary, immaculate facilities and beautiful landscaped gardens. It is sat right on a sandy beach with incredible views across the bay.

Following the stress of the van issues we needed a bit of a release and we’ve had an awesome few days exploring our new surroundings. On Friday we used the cycle lane to visit Port Grimaud located 3km along the bay. It’s a charming little port village that can only be accessed by foot or boat so it feels really peaceful. It’s called the little Venice of France because of the many canals weaving their way throughout the town. All the houses are painted in terracottas, creams and dusky pinks, and some feature wrought iron balconies. There are little Venetian-style bridges crossing the waterways, linking the different ‘streets’ and boutiques and restaurants on the waterfront.

We wandered through the little streets and gawped at the amazing boats in the harbour whilst we ate lunch.

On the Saturday we got up and out earlier to visit the market at St Tropez. Based on the beautiful Place des Lices, the market is a mix of fresh produce, crafts and fashion. There is definitely a St Tropez style and this is reflected in the gorgeous sun hats, white linen dresses and straw beach bags on sale. The whole place is immaculately presented and all the people are effortlessly chic.

It feels like a place to be seen, with cafes and restaurants lining the harbour and luxury boutiques rubbing shoulders with art galleries. The small town is packed with tourists in the day, all wanting a slice of St Tropez life and admiring the huge yachts at Vieux Port. It’s a completely different world, with butlers, private chefs, helicopters on the boats and Rolls Royce transfers to exclusive beach clubs.

Behind the gloss and glam there is a lovely core to St Tropez which was a simple fishing village before the likes of Brigette Bardot arrived in the 50’s and set the scene. We wandered up to a beautiful viewpoint and looked down upon the sun drenched, terracotta town and out towards the Mediterranean. In the afternoon we cycled on to Pampelonne beach which is about 4km along the coast from the town.

The road that we turned off onto was stunning, with vineyards on one side and fields of golden corn on the other. It made for a pleasant cycle away from the hustle and bustle.

The beach is 5km long and host to a string of celebrity studded beach clubs and bars – or so we hear. We ended up in the much less exclusive public section which was equally as beautiful. We sunbathed for a couple of hours before finding a bar that was showing England’s final match against Belgium. We were the only two Brits amongst 30 Belgium fans so losing was pretty grim.

We cycled back in the late afternoon sun, savouring the wonderful scenery. The cycle lane that hugs the coast is great because the main road is super busy and hectic. That said, the French are very respectful of cyclists, much more so than in the UK.

We got back with sore bottoms and hungry bellies. We watched the Bastille day fireworks from the van before falling asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

The Beautiful Cote D’Azur and Motorhome Woes

11-07-18

We’ve had a great couple of days exploring the French Riviera. On our first full day we put our bikes to good use, cycling to nearby Antibes. We used the main road which was pretty hectic and not particularly enjoyable but it was only for a short period of time before we dropped down into the port area.

Antibes is really beautiful spot and has enchanted the likes of Graham Greene and Picasso, who featured the town in many of his paintings. It boasts small sandy coves and a pretty town ringed by medieval walls, encasing boutiques and fancy restaurants. It also has a huge harbour with mega flash boats. There is a super yacht dock which hosts the massive, luxury boats which was fascinating to gawp at. These yachts were huge, lined up one by one in an immaculate parade. It was a hive of activity behind the security gate with deckhands polishing the brightwork, butlers whizzing back and forth and hostesses grabbing supplies.

Strolling around the dock brought back plenty of memories for Gary from his sailing days but it is nice to experience these towns under our own steam without having to work at the same time.

We walked into town, window shopping and people watching. Antibes has a really lovely vibe. It’s pretty laid back and has art installations around the sea front and cute independent food trucks like this juice bar.

We cycled around the headland to the next town called Juan Les Pins which was the home to F Scott Fitzgerald. This had a completely different feel to Antibes and not quite as classy. Dare I say more Brits abroad? There were more bars and shops and a long beach that was absolutely crammed with sunbathers. We were so hot from the cycle and the sea looked so inviting that we stopped for a quick dip in the refreshing water. On our way back we discovered a cycle lane that took us away from the noisy traffic and hugged the coastline the whole way which was much more enjoyable.

The next day we planned to go to Nice on the train. We had a fairly frustrating morning after attempting to use the campsite’s washing machine which took an hour and barely got our clothes wet. I put it in for another load and an hour later it had failed to clean the clothes or wash the powder out so we had to hand wash everything. We eventually made it to the station to find that that the next train wasn’t for an hour and then it ran 15mins late.

We got into Nice later than we’d have like but we had a great time to make up for it. We walked from the station, through the contemporary shopping area to the old town via an awesome set of fountains. They went off every 30mins to music and kids would go mad, running in and out of the fountains and getting absolutely soaked. There was also a lovely set of public gardens with gorgeous plants providing splashes of colour.

The old city is a warren of lanes and tight backstreets filled with shops and cafes. At every turn is a small square or pretty church or market. We found a cute place to eat lunch on the Cours Saleya which hosts a daily flower market in the morning. Disappointingly we missed the market but there was plenty of people watching on offer as tourists, street entertainers and locals buzzed around.

We walked off our lunch hiking up the Colline du Chateau hill for views across the bay. Nice has a huge amount to offer for a city break with good restaurants, a lovely cafe culture and a long stretch of beach just minutes from a historic and vibrant old town. They were setting up for their annual jazz festival which looked awesome.

Rather annoyingly we got back to find a problem with the gas flow on the van. We’d experienced a few niggles over the past couple of days with the gas failing on the fridge when we turned the hot water heater on or the the hob. Gary seemed to be able to fix it with a bit of jiggery pokery on the regulator or by switching our gas tanks but it was now officially dead. After testing both tanks with the BBQ we couldn’t diagnose an issue with them so could only assume that we weren’t getting any circulation because of the regulator. Whilst in a campsite this isn’t much of an issue because we are plugged into the mains and can use electricity to power the fridge, heat the water and use the facilities but it poses a problem when on the road or staying in Aires. We have no gas for cooking on the hob or heating water or powering the fridge which means we are at the mercy of expensive campsites until we can get it fixed.

Moving on to the French Riviera

08-07-18

We enjoyed our afternoon in Castellane which was hugely enhanced by a delicious lunch and England’s victory over Sweden in the World Cup quarter final. We had to leave the Aire in Castellane by midday which gave us just enough time to tackle the hike up Le Roc which soars 180 meters above the town. It’s a big limestone mountain that dominates everything below it and overshadowed the Aire in which we’d stayed. We stopped by the boulangerie on the way up for croissant sustenance and embarked upon the ascent. Having a shower before hand was totally futile because we were sweating profusely within minutes. The sun was incredibly strong, even in the early morning but we made good progress, passing small religious markers as we went up. The view from the top was stunning and the little chapel was very sweet. We could see the bright aqua blue of the river Verdon dissect the gorge and Castellane resembled a toy-town below. We were surrounded on all sides by mountains and greenery and the air felt fresh.

We made our way back down the scrabbly path, feeling pleased with ourselves with our accomplishment. One last quick stroll around town before we packed up Harvey and got back on the road. We were finally heading south to the Cote D’Azure. Having experienced such amazing weather recently, I was looking forward to spending some time on the beach and we plumped for a camp site in Biot. It took us a good hour to weave and wind our way out of the Alpes-du-Haute Provence which remained hilly throughout. There were so many motorbikes on the road with riders enjoying the thrills of the hairpin bends and beautiful views. Some of these guys drove way too fast and with poor road discipline, often edging out of their lane or taking blind corners way too wide which would cause us to break or swerve and had my heart racing.

Other than the odd, small village this region was remote and beautifully unspoilt. Eventually the mountains gave way and the road opened out to reveal views of the sea on the horizon. As we made our final descent down the mother of all mountains, we could see the town of Grasse in front of us and Cannes beyond that.

We arrived at the campsite around 3.30pm and it felt like a place that time had forgot. Woefully dated and pretty empty but it was situated minutes from the beach, just 4km from Antibes and right opposite the train station. We had plenty of space but we were sharing it with mozzies and giant creepy crawlies. What’s more is that it’s the most expensive campsite yet, but we’ve come to expect that everything is spendy in the South of France. We were only planning to stay for 3 nights so used it as a convenient base. We dumped our stuff and headed straight to the beach for a relaxing couple of hours in the late afternoon sun. The beach was busy and there was a lovely atmosphere with families enjoying themselves. It’s a pebble beach with a steep drop off which made for an equally uncomfortable and hilarious walk into the sea. Once I’d scrambled out myself I sat watching all the other poor sods battle with the crashing waves and pebbles that gave way under their feet. The techniques varied hugely with some people opting for an all fours crawl and others adopting the bottom shuffle – all equally great to watch.

We went back to the campsite feeling pretty knackered and enjoyed a refreshing shower before making dinner in the van and getting an early night, in preparation for further adventures on the coast.

The journey or the destination? The Gorges du Verdon

We thought Provence was all olive groves, vineyards, Mediterranean pine forests and lavender fields. However the region, whose name is often shortened to Provence, is actually known as Provence – Alpes – Côte d’Azur. Or, in English, Provence Alps and the Riviera. Moving east from Avignon, or north from Nice, one soon gets into hill country and very soon after that into the limestone massifs of the Alpine foothills. The land is arid and in places barren; but though the climate here is generally dry, this is an area crossed by rivers flowing down from the snowy peaks of the Alps. Over millions of years, they have carved deep valleys in the limestone, none of them longer and deeper than that of the Verdon.
From its source near the Italian Border, the Verdon runs south as far as Castellane. While much of the valley is spectacular, it in is the section between Castellane and Manosque that the river has carved its impressive canyon known as the
The Gorges du Verdon.

There are those who come for the spectacular road trip round the edge of the gorge just like us ; there are those who come to enjoy some of the exhilarating hiking trails in and around the gorge.

Then there are some who come to admire the bird life – vultures, eagles and other birds of prey. Finally, there are those who come to enjoy the experience of paddling up the bottom end of the gorge in a canoe or a kayak or a pedal boat.

Our route required Harvey to dig deep into his power reserves as we climbed higher and higher above Lac Sainte Croix. All of the way up I was eyeing every bend working out how I would take it if I were on my motorbike. The drive was exhilarating even in Harvey our 3.5 tonne Motorhome. I resolved to come back one day and ride this route on VEM (Triumph Street Triple R)

After two hours of breathtaking scenery, hairpin bends and exhilarating driving, we were happy and content to arrive at our destination for the night, Castellane.

The Lavender Route in Provence

08-07-18

We left Aix-en-Provence by 11.00am and headed East towards the Vaucluse area. I was so looking forward to going to the Provence region, my excitement based mostly around the food and produce from there. I had visions of rolling farmland, sun-filled fields of corn and long lazy lunches with chilled rose.

As it happens we were visiting at the perfect time to see the lavender fields in bloom. They come into full flower at the end of June/beginning of July and are harvested at the end of July. Each town has a lavender festival to mark the date of harvest. It was more of a happy coincidence than a master plan but timing is everything and we were happy to have lucked out with this one.

We were headed for another France-Passion stop in Valensole. We drove almost the whole journey with no glimpse at all of lavender and I started to get a little nervous that we had misjudged how grand of an occasion this actually was.

It was only in the last ten minutes that fields of pure purple unfolded before us. It was so much more impressive than I’d imagined, with row upon row of neatly planted lavender bursting with colour and fragrance. The France Passion stop was on a lavender farm on the outskirts of town and with the hosts no where to be seen, we plumped for a perfect spot overlooking fields. We jumped straight on the bikes to retrace the route we’d just made in the van and get some pictures.

There were a few coach tours out and about but we mostly had the roads to ourselves and it was like something out of a painting. It was so picturesque to cycle from field to field and stroll through the blooms. There was a constant low-level hum from the bees that were busily working away and hives dotted along the borders.

We decided to cycle down into the town of Valensole which is tiny but beautiful.

It’s basically a shrine to lavender, with every single item on sale either fragrance, flavoured or infused with the stuff!

We wandered around the pretty streets and found a nice cat to fuss over before a hefty, up-hill cycle back to Harvey. We had dinner and then watched the sun go down on the field we overlooked, not believing that this was another freebie.

The next day we moved on to another France-Passion site a few kilometres south on the Lac du Sainte Croix. We cruised through more beautiful scenery before arriving at yet another lavender farm. This place was more commercial and our host welcomed us to our spot which was in a gorgeous field behind the farm shop amongst olive trees and a vegetable patch.

Making great use of the bikes, we cycled through more amazing fields of lavender, this time flanked by rows of sunflowers. The richness of the purple contrasting with the sunburst yellow of the sunflowers was amazing.

We spent ages marvelling at the colours and taking photos before moving on. Just at this point a bee flew up my dress and promptly stung me right on the rump. Not knowing what it was but feeling a sharp pain I dropped my bag and pulled my dress right up, revealing way too much to the drivers passing by and found the sting. Thankfully it wasn’t too painful and considering the sheer number of bees that would fly into us as we were cycling, getting just one sting seemed ok.

From a viewpoint we could see the lake in all its glory.

It’s 11km long by 2km wide and is a stunning blue green colour. We freewheeled all the way down to the town, picking up speed on the steep descent and swerving into the hairpin turns. I was clinging on for dear life, wearing the rubber on my brakes, whilst Gary hurtled off into the distance.

Unfortunately we were too late to enjoy a fancy lunch at one of the terrace restaurants overlooking the lake, so we settled for a panini on the beach.

We sunbathed, snoozed and swam in the lake which was fresh and clear.

We wanted to wait for the fierce sun to calm before mustering the energy to climb back up the hill but even at 6pm it was incredibly hot.

We definitely earned our BBQ that night and we enjoyed it with a glass of wine from the France passion stop in Uzes. It’s such a great venture and so far all the stops have really delivered. We bought some handmade soap and lavender infused biscuits from our hosts and enjoyed them with tea in the evening, watching other guests play pétanque in the light of the setting sun.

Aix-en-Provence

For those who don’t already know, take a guess as to how to pronounce “Aix”. I would love to hear my Mum’s guess. Maybe some of you thought as I did it was a three sylable “aey-eye-ex”. As it turns out the correct way is much simpler and cooler, you simply have to say “X-en-Provence”.

Using our Camperstop App we found a random overnighter about 2km out of “X”.

The entrance looked promising.

However that was next door. This was our place.

Upon arrival at the correct place I was greeted by a very friendly Frenchman in the skimpiest of skimps. Emily actually guffawed at how ludicrous they were. Monsieur Smuggler showed me our pitch and gave me some useful information about the site and where to get the bus into X. Although super basic the pitch was side on to the most beautiful example of a wild flower border. Eat your heart out June and Mon x.

We sorted Harvey out with his awning, floor matt and chairs and headed for the bus into X. The bus was about a 5 minute walk down a steep hill to Pont L’arc. Mr Smuggler told us to take bus number 10 but as it happens bus 51 turned up first and an old man told us in French to jump on for centre ville. If this was a year ago we would have ignored him and waited for bus 10. Now we kinda just go with the flow and trust random strangers and know it will work out. Indeed, number 51 took us the 2km uphill to the bus station right in the middle of this pocket of left-bank Parisian chic.

X is all class: its leafy boulevards and public squares are lined with 17th- and 18th-century mansions, punctuated by gurgling moss-covered fountains. Haughty stone lions guard its grandest avenue, cafe-laced cours Mirabeau, where fashionable Aixois pose on polished pavement terraces, sipping espresso.

We spent an hour wandering the streets for the perfect place to have some lunch and people watch.

Who can resist a little bit of lemon drizzle cake or a coffee macaron?

We walked off all those calories through narrow polished stone streets from cool squares to the amazing cathedral.

We also needed to catch up on some blog writing as we have been traveling so much it has been hard to keep up. It wasn’t hard to find a suitable place to have a beer and knuckle down.

We even managed to find our French names up in writing.

And for Emily. Strictly speaking it should have been Le Porcelet.

After hard day being a tourist we were tempted by the onsite pool.

But decided it looked more like a swingers hangout so opted to binge watch “Love Island” on the free WiFi.