Wednesday, 26 May 2010

19th May - 24th May 2010

Port Grimaud – Les Prairies de La Mer – ACSI2010-1523

We have been here a couple of times before, on the plus side, it is right on the beach, it is an easy cycle to the Supermarket, and to Saint Maxime (where there is a church for Kathleen). But it is a very big site, and since our last visit even more of it has been given over to static caravans and chalets. Not a place I would like to be in the season when it is busy, but at this time of year it is OK.

The weather at least seems to be on our side, it is sunny and actually hot, not just warm.

Bryan and Joan, have both had colds, now it is our turn. We dose ourselves with a French cold remedy called Fervex. It did the trick for Bryan and Joan, so hopefully it will fix us too.

Wednesday morning, and I have clearly spoken too soon. It is pouring with rain. It lasts until about 11:00, and then clears and the sun comes out. Everything begins to dry out rapidly, so everyone is smiling again.

We cycle to show Bryan and Joan where the Geant Supermarket is (1.5miles away), along a good cycle track.

Thursday morning arrives, bright sunshine, as you would expect in the South of France. We cycle to Saint Maxime. It is an easy 4 miles along an excellent cycle track.

Saint Maxime is a beautiful little place, much nicer than the more famous St Tropez (in my humble opinion).

The church times are checked, so that Joan and Kathleen can come to mass here on Sunday, assuming the church in Port Grimaud is not open (as is usually the case out of season).

We stop off for a drink and watch the world go by, before cycling back.

I stop to take a couple of photographs, confident I will catch them up. But as I pedal after them, I get a puncture. I have a spare inner tube and puncture outfit of course, but they are back at the van. Kathleen and I do not have our mobile phones with us. Obviously I would be a failure as a boy scout. I have no choice but to walk the remaining three miles, pushing my bike. I assume one of the party (like my loving wife), will notice that I am missing, and come back to see where I am. But no one appears, until I am about a mile from the campsite, at which point Bryan rides to the rescue. It is not worth fixing the puncture at this point, so I give him my van keys so that Kathleen can get into the van, and walk the remaining mile.

After our return, our English neighbours, Bob and Gina, decide they will cycle to St Maxime. Unfortunately on the return trip, Gina falls off her bicycle and scrapes her knee and arm. No serious harm, but some nasty grazes. Kathleen, who does not normally have so much as a sticking plaster to hand, excels herself and provides a sterile dressing.

Bryan and I, fix my puncture, which turns out to be a nail which has holed the tube in two places.

From her sunbed, Kathleen offers to provide the evening meal (Spaghetti Bolognaise), for everyone. This translates as her lying in the sun for the rest of the afternoon, whilst I prepare ingredients, and cook the pasta, Kathleen does the finishing (and of course all important) touches, to produce a meal praised by all present.

Friday, boosted by the trip to St Maxime, and armed with a map borrowed from Bob and Gina, we set off for St Tropez. There is a cycle track for the whole distance now, and it is a pleasant ride along a virtually flat route.

We wander the harbour, with it’s collection of expensive boats and yachts.

There are also a couple of cruise ships at anchor, just offshore, with their (mainly American) passengers “doing” St Tropez.

We have been to St Tropez before, but on that occasion it was market day, and very crowded. Today it is much more pleasant, and we are able to wander the side streets easily, taking the odd photograph as we go.

Eventually we retire to a café for a beer, but then decide we will have lunch there. The meal is pretty good value, with a main course and sweet, plus coffee for 15Euro each, not bad, considering we are in “trendy” St Tropez.

In the course of the meal we meet a couple of Americans off the cruise ship in the harbour. He is a New York Attorney, it made us realise why the world hates Americans. His wife was bearable.

Suitably fortified we cycle back, making an 11 mile round trip.

Saturday brings the need for a full hairdressing exercise, including, selection of suitable venue for washing, wash, blow dry, straighten, cut fringe, look in mirror, fiddle a bit more etc etc.

The afternoon is spent in a stroll around Port Grimaud, and the inevitable beer. Port Grimaud is a sort of fake Cote d’Azure fishing village. It was built as a holiday centre come marina in the 1970’s.

It was built to mimic the style of a “real” fishing village, and it has been very well done, but of course it is just not real. The harbour/marina I am sure has never actually seen a fishing boat, being filled with expensive yachts and power cruisers. So is a sort of Milton Keynes of Cote d’Azure fishing villages.

The plan is to have a quiet evening, with not too much to drink, since we have probably been overdoing the alcohol intake recently.

But as with all well laid plans, it unravels, and we spend the evening with Bryan, Joan, Bob and Gina, drinking red wine, chatting and sampling Jeana’s home made sponge cake (very nice too). She owns up to the fact that it is out of a packet, but she still had to put it in the oven, which I suppose counts as home made. Also to be fair to Gina, she is a none drinker, although she is tempted into a glass of Joans Croatian Pear Liqueur.

Sunday, so of course Kathleen and Joan “must” go to Mass.

We all cycle to St Maxime, the ladies do their religious duty, whilst Bryan and I check out the restaurants and then sit and watch the world go by.

We have lunch at a pleasant little restaurant, and then lie on the beach, before cycling back to the campsite.

Monday, another beautiful, sunny day.

Kathleen exhibits another of her many talents by cutting my hair, which has become quite shaggy in the five or six or is it seven weeks we have been away from home.

Bryan and Joan opt to take the “Petite Train” to Grimaud village. This is a small tractor, made to look like a train, which pulls along a number of trailers (carriages), it takes a leisurely 50 minutes to get to Grimaud village, about five miles inland.

When we cycled to St Tropez, I noticed a turn off the cycle track to a place called Ramatuelle. We have been told the route there is hilly, but my preference is to have a go at cycling there (and back of course).

Kathleen and I set off. It is initially easy going, along the cycle track to St Tropez, but shortly after we take the turn off to Ramatuelle, the route begins to climb steadily.

It turns out to be 1.5 miles of flat cycling, followed by 5 miles up an increasingly steep hill.

We manage to maintain a steady ten miles an hour up the hill, for the first three miles, but as it becomes ever steeper, we are reduced to just over 5 miles an hour.

At the top is a beautifully preserved, hilltop medieval village (Ramatuelle).

There is also a “defibrillateur” machine attached to the wall, beside the fountain, indicating that some people have not survived the climb without serious ill effects!

We do a (walking) circuit of the village, including the church, of course.

Since Kathleen has been such an intrepid cyclist, with not a word of complaint as she slogged her way up hill for 5 miles, I treat her to a glass of Rose, in a rather smart pavement café/restaurant. You may think one glass of rose is a bit mean, but at 7Euro (£6.40), per glass, it was as much as I could afford!

The hair not looking as good as it might, after our sweaty cycle ride, is what she is saying here!

My original plan had been to go down hill on the otherside of Ramatuelle to the beach, cycle along the coast to St Tropez, then along the cycle track back to Port Grimaud.

But we do not have a map with us, and it is a guess on my part that it is actually possible to get along the coast from Ramatuelle to St Tropez. Kathleen is not willing to trust my guess, if it means having to peddle up yet another hill. Oh ye of little faith.

We return the way we came, which means 5 miles of coasting down hill, reaching 24 miles an hour without even peddling!

In the evening, despite a gruelling day of cycling, Kathleen rustles up a superb meal. She calls it “Pork and Apple Surprise”, on the basis that it is as big a surprise to her as to everyone else that it turned out so well.

The late evening is spent in drinking copious amounts of red wine, and chatting with Joan, Bryan, Bob and Gina.

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