Monday, 1 June 2009

Wednesday 27th May 2009 – Monday 1st June 2009

Les Pinedes, La Colle-sur-Loop (ACSI2009-1262) N43.68171 E7.08328

A combination of the time we spent exploring the narrow streets of old Albenga, plus the lack of a cycle track on the rather busy road from there to Allasio, meant that yesterday we did not make it to Allasio as planned. So today, we decided we would drive the coast road on our way back to France, although the estimated journey time was 3.5 hours on this route, rather than 1.45hours on the motorway.

It is well worth the extra time, since you pass along a beautiful coast line with magnificent views. The resorts you pass through Allasio, San Remo etc are mostly relics of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s tourist boom, but none the less pretty for that.

It would have been wise to rejoin the motorway before Nice, since this a bit of a nightmare to negotiate, particularly in a campervan, but when did I ever take the easy option?

Once in France, we stopped at the first supermarket we came to, to replenish supplies. The difference between shopping in France and Italy is really noticeable, with the French supermarkets having a far better range of products available. This is particularly noticeable with fresh fruit and vegetables, where the range available and quality in France far outshines that available in Italy, in our experience.

We arrive at La Pinedes, to find we have caught up with a couple of GB caravanners who we last saw at Lake Trasimeno. Unusually compared to the sites we have visited thus far, this site appears to be “little England”, with about 50% of the people in our area from the UK (although to be fair, four of them it turns out are Welsh).

Once we are set up, I set out on the bike to explore and find the church, my usual first task. Although the village (and church) are only 1.5miles away, I quickly discover this is not (casual) bike riding country. The 1.5 miles to the village is almost all up a reasonably steep hill, OK coming back of course.

I investigate the cost of hiring a car, to allow us to explore, but at 102Euro for 2 days, we decide to hang fire and see how we get on with the bus. So on Saturday, we walk into the village (Colle sur Loop), and go to the Tourist Information Office, get a bus timetable.

We are told, that for 1Euro we can ride the bus to Vence, and that within a three hour period from purchasing our ticket, we can get on and off the bus, without having to buy another ticket.

Armed with our timetable off we go. We arrive at Vence, no problem, the old quarter is quaint and beautiful, and there is a market on, so between this and taking photographs there is enough to keep Kathleen occupied for a while. Then we decide to get on the bus back towards Colle sur Loop, but get off at St Paul de Vence. First problem, the bus driver will not accept our ticket, even although it is in the 3 hour time frame. Not really a problem, it is only 1Euro each, so we buy new tickets (reasoning that perhaps the three hour period, is in only one direction of travel). St Paul is a beautiful medieval village, perched on the top of a hill. It is rather touristy, but is wonderfully preserved. Once we have had enough of that, we head back for the bus. Same problem, driver will not accept our ticket although it is in the 3 hour timeframe. So we buy another ticket. Still a lot cheaper that hiring a car (6euro vs 102Euro), but someone has their wires crossed, either tourist information are giving out the wrong information, or no one has told the bus drivers!

We return to Colle sur Loup, with the intention of eating at a very nice pizza place we had spotted earlier. It is closed!, so we wander along to the restaurant/bar beside the bank, which appears to be the most popular place in the village, and is open. We have the “plat du jour” (steak in pepper sauce, with chips and salad), and a half litre of Rose. Kathleen does not like mayonnaise or salad dressing in any form (a regular problem), so attempted to explain to the waitress than she did not want dressing on her salad. In the event she got the steak minus the pepper sauce, and salad with dressing. Clearly we need to swot up on the French! It was very nice however (at least mine was!).

During my checking of mass times, I had determined (according to my O level French – Failed), that there was no mass at any of the churches in the region, and that instead, there was a “synod” to be held in Nice, to celebrate Pentecost. There was even a request for people with spare seats in their car to offer transport to those who needed it. The same notice was present in the churches at Vence, and St Paul de Vence.

My word was not taken for this, so, Sunday morning, we walked into the village, in time for mass at 11am, only to find I was right. I retired to the bar, while Kathleen held her own private mass in the church. The sermon was of course delightfully short.

The trip to the bar was interesting as well as refreshing. The waitress had dyed orange hair and was dressed in a purple 1920’s style tasselled mini dress, and 6” high heels, this at 11:00 on a Sunday morning, maybe she had not changed from the night before.

It is probably worth mentioning the young lady who serves in the boulangerie in the village, she wears to most revealing outfits, typically, a mini-mini skirt, high heels and a diaphanous see through blouse. Consumption of bread in Colle-sur-loup by the male population is apparently ten times the national average, I wonder why?

Disaster strikes, this is terrible, we may have to go home immediately!, Kathleen’s hair drier has broken down.

I suspect it is a broken wire, where the wire emerges from the body of the drier, but it is held together with tamper proof screws, so I cannot get it apart.

It is a holiday here (Pentecost) on Monday 1st June, even our favourite little bar in Colle-sur-loup is closed. But undaunted we risk a bus ride to Vence where there is a Le Clerc. We buy a replacement hair drier, 24Euro, pretty much the same as it would have been at home, so all is well again.

On our return journey, we meet a very elderly English couple waiting at the bus stop, they live in Jersey, but the lady recognises our accents, and informs us she was born in Darlington, he is a Prince Philip look alike, and tells us his family have lived in Jersey for at least 500 years.

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