Well we have just returned from the South of France after a three week holiday in our motorhome. We didn’t tour much as we were heading for the Bay of St Tropez, more specifically Port Grimaud. The site we had booked, wasn’t new to us, in fact we had booked the same site as last year and even the same pitch! This isn’t as we’re lacking in imagination it was the fact that we had such a fantastic holiday last year, and still had loads of things that we wanted to do and places to go, the solution was simple! Come back next year: which is what we did. Camping Holiday Marina (http://holiday-marina.com) is a great five star French site in the heart of Port Grimaud, which itself is the middle town of three in the bay of St Tropez. To the West you have St Tropez itself and to the East you have St Maxime. Both similar distances by road at about six miles. Lyn my wife and I have a 32’ foot 2012 Sun Voyager RV with which we tow a Zodiac Medline III RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) which is about 27’ long when on the trailer. This is another reason that we don’t tend to do much touring “en route” but honestly the main reason is that as many others so that still work so get a “holiday” as opposed to being able to “Tour” once we are under way we prefer to get to the area that we are aiming for. In December we have booked a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander and will be “touring” Southern Spain then as we have no destination in mind, however: Lyn and I own a motorhome business called Van Bitz, and we left from work on the Wednesday night to drive to Dover to meet our mates Jeff and Susy ready for an early morning crossing the Thursday morning. We were delayed on the journey so didn’t arrive in Dover until well after Midnight. As the RV is dual fuel Petrol and LPG, Jeff had phoned us to say that the garage on the last roundabout as you enter Dover has LPG on a pump that we would easily be able to get onto with the Zodiac on the back and be able to drive out with out any shuffling around. By the time we’d put about 400 litres of petrol and LPG in is was closer to 01:00 so we pulled onto Marine Parade nice an quietly and went to bed. To be woken first thing in the morning by a Traffic Warden type person telling us that we’d have to move as trailers aren’t allowed to park on Marine Parade. She went on to tell me that “People pay a lot of money for these views” so you really should be more considerate! My thoughts went to the fact that out trailer was much smaller than our RV and the motorhomes that were parked all along the sea front, and that obviously, legally you cannot “buy” a view, by “hey” I’m on holiday, so live and let live and politely asked if she minded that she gave us ten minutes to get dressed and we’d move off! “I’ll be back in ten minutes, and if your still here, I’ll give you a ticket” was the friendly reply an off she waddled! So much for being nice and polite So, we pulled away and went to the dock, knowing that we’d have about three quarters of an hour in the queue so we could sort ourselves out there. Laughing to ourselves as we went as we watched her banging on Jeff and Susy’s RV door. They could sleep for England so out of pity to the Traffic Warden and as we didn’t want our best mates to get a ticket we rang them as drove past and told them about the “dragon” banging on their door. Once we landed in France we had an easy itinerary: It was Mid morning on the Thursday and we needed to be at Holiday Marina for 2:00PM on the Saturday morning. The reason that we had been given an arrival time by Holiday Marina wasn’t dictatorial, far from it, they were being extremely helpful. More of that shortly. So we had about 700 miles to cover, with about two days to do so. The first day we covered about 300 miles and then called it a day on a nice quiet Aire on the Rue Du Soliel I know that lots of people on the forums warn of doom and gloom and certain death if you stay on motorway services, I disagree. I have probably spoken, first hand, face to face with more people that have had their motorhomes broken into than anyone else in the Country, through my job. Many people come to Van Bitz, to discuss motorhome security once the horse has bolted. Most people in my experience, that have issues with robbery on motorways have either been victims of a scam, or have no or inadequate security installed. A good personal example was our trip last year. There was three of us travelling. Two of the three vehicles were obviously alarmed, lots of external flashing warning lights, security loops around the trailers international warning stickers etc and the third, a caravan with absolutely no security at all was robbed and the keys used to open and riffle their can. All this whilst the two adults and the two children inside the caravan slept through it! However, we find that the rest areas on the motorways are convenient, normally spacious, often have dump facilities and water available and are included in the cost of the road tolls. We parked up late afternoon side by side adjacent to a grassed area with picnic tables and benches and pulled out a small BBQ and enjoyed a few drinks and great steaks. Day two was equally uneventful other than noticing that more and more French motorway service stations have height barriers and tortuous high chicane type kerbs to enter the fuel stations. This isn’t a major problem to us, more an inconvenience to be honest, but still an unwelcome sight. Holding about 400 litres of fuel we have a good range, even with our poor fuel consumption. I say poor, actually we average about 10 MPG on LPG which costs around 70 pence a litre. So compared to diesel at around £1.40 a litre we are averaging around 20 MPG price for price. Amazingly this really doesn’t change much when we tow the boat. All up the boat weighs about 2000Kg’s and the difference in fuel consumption according to the on board computer goes from 7.9 to 7.2 (Remember that these figures are “American Gallons so you need to divide by six and multiply by eight to get imperial gallons) So, a negligible difference when being towed by the RV, yet my normal tow car is a Toyota Land Cruiser V8 which averages on a run about 30 MPG yet drops to about 22 when towing. So the term “gas guzzler” regarding RV isn’t really fair. As I mentioned earlier, we had organised with the staff at the site that we would be met at the rear gated entrance to the site to avoid trying to wend our way through the very pretty main entrance, which whilst is very well laid out, doesn’t lend itself to nearly 60’ off RV and Boat. In additional they had helpfully had made provision to meet us with a four wheel drive, with front and rear tow bars to unhook the boat from the RV and park it in the car park adjacent to our pitch to allow us to unpack the boat, inflate the tubes and get it ready to launch the next morning. So within a couple of hours of arriving the RV was on our pitch, the awning was out, as were the tables and chairs, BBQ, and sun loungers, and we were back on holiday! The owners of Holday-Marina are English and many of the staff are multi lingual. Whilst I dislike the English habit (some) of simply talking English loudly and slowly as if the recipient if stupid, being able to make more complex arrangements or asking technical questions in English does make life easier. The restaurant on the site is open to non residents and is excellent with daily specials, so we were very happy to have a quiet night an wander down to the bar and restaurant that first evening having had a couple of days travelling. The roads and paths are all block paved, with LED lighting set into the stones and tasteful lighting in employed to highlight all the trees and shrubs that line the way. If you wish to sit outside the restaurant the tables and chairs are on a raised decked area over looking the river and pontoons where the boats are moored, in the knowledge, having been to the area before, that the sea and the water town that is Port Grimaud is just around the bend in the river. We stayed on the site for some three weeks, and saw people of many Countries come and go, and enjoyed a friendly site that wasn’t noisy yet wasn’t dead and dull. Driving around the Bay of St Tropez is a waste of time, as the traffic is atrocious. Having said that if you’re a car lover you’ll see the best of the very super cars in the world. Bugatti Veyron’s, Lamborghini’s Ferrari’s Aston Martin’s and top end Porches are two a penny lol But they all have one thing in common, they get stuck in traffic jams as easily as all the other cars. Luckily there is a fantastic cycle path network, which means that you can cycle from St Tropez, around to Port Grimaud along to St Maxime and beyond, without the need to cycle on the road for 99% of the trip. Mainly the cycle paths follow the coast line so the views are incredible, as are the numerous beaches that you can stop off at to swim if the 35* becomes too much for you to cope with. Invariably these little beaches have bars and restaurants on so the excuse to stop can be a long cold beer and shade, not the plethora of thong wearing topless women! Having the RIB on a mooring on the campsite it did mean that we could take ourselves off for the day and if we didn’t fancy visiting the local towns and harbours we could simply load the ice box up with cold beers and wines, grab a couple of baguettes and some cheese and ham and take ourselves off to a quiet beach or rocky outcrop to snorkel, swim and laze in the sun, kept cool by regular swims and the wonderful, hair dryer warm South of France sea breeze. The site has a small and surprising well stocked shop, but a five minute bike ride, along the cycle track is a huge Casino Hyper market and shopping mall. This meant that those nights that we didn’t want to eat out, or hadn’t had a big lunch we could easily cycle along to the supermarket and select dinner! I never understand why we live on an island and that our fish consumption is so poor! The fish counter at the supermarket in Port Grimaud is massive, absolutely massive and the fish is so well priced. A kilo of Crevettes of a size that you would seldom see in the UK, and if you did you’d pay five or six pounds of half a dozen, were 12 Euro a kilo! There can be few things nicer than sat around table, with friends, a bowl of super prawns, fresh bread, cold wine and a selection of dips, as the sun goes down and the temperature drops to a pleasant warm from white heat as the moon shows it face. Prices in bars and restaurants in St Tropez can be eye wateringly expensive, “if” you let it. For example, there is a white linen’d restaurant just opened on the harbour. The Plat Du Jour offers a selection of Entrée’s mains and deserts for about thirty Euro (£24) which for a three course meal, sat on a waterfront on one of the most exclusive and expensive harbours in the World, doesn’t seem to me to be expensive. However at ten Euro a beer you can quickly ramp up the bill, especially when your hot and thirsty. Sticking to the house wines, red, white and Rose can keep the costs in check Alternatively, to be honest we preferred to seek the shade of the streets and squares set back from the actual harbour where there were less people, more space, more choice, and lower prices, and as I say: shade lol James (our son) arrived with his partner Kate and their son (our six month old Grandson Harrison) in their Winnebago so that was a welcome interlude and they all enjoyed in exploring the area by boat, and Harrison seemed to be very content to swim in the Mediterranean sea (a lot warmer that the English Channel) As James and Kate made a detour to Port Grimaud en route from Roses in Spain to Calais, we were delighted to see them, But James was starting back at work a week sooner than Lyn and I were (some one has to do the Malvern show after all LOL) However, after they left there us, there was a worrying event. They wanted to call into City D Europe before getting the ferry, but as they arrived in the early evening, dusk had fallen. There were literally hundreds of immigrants, milling around the car parks, blatantly inspecting cars, vans and lorries for gain entry. To be fair there were Police and Security guards trying to keep a lid on the situation, but as the people milling around were black and wearing dark clothes, mainly hoodies, when a police car drove up, the hoods went up and the immigrants simply melted into the dark. Deciding that there really wasn’t anything that they needed from the shop that much, they decided to forgo the shopping trip and go straight to the port. That was fine, except that they had to run the gauntlet of the approach roads being lined with black guys wearing hoodies lining the approach road to the port walking out into the road, forcing vehicles to slow and stop, whilst access was attempted in or under lorries and vans! When they rang and told us about this and to be careful on the way home, we did discuss that as we were using our holiday to journey to the South of France, why having crossed Africa to get to Europe, would they leave the South of France Italy and Spain to continue their journey to get to the UK if, as we are told we are not a “soft touch” regarding benefits and assistance? All too soon our holiday ran out of holiday time and we had to start thinking about getting the boat out of the water, get it packed up, and make tracks North. We left Holiday Marina about 6:30 PM and got onto the A8 about an hour later after a slow crawl along the seafront road to St Maxime. The weather was stunning when we left, but the coast and headed up over the mountains to get to the A8 we drove into clouds and a storm wasn’t long after coming. I do love driving home from a holiday through the monsoon like storms that France can provide. I don’t know if it is the though of the rain cleaning all the dust off of the van, the sudden cooling it provides or the feeling of being cocooned in the van whilst a storm rages, whichever it is I do enjoy it. On the way South Lyn and I enjoyed listening to Michael Caine’s autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood so I settled down to resume listening to Michael speak to me on a “one on one” basis. I know that I supply and install “toys” for motorhomes, but I do so love technology! In the RV I have a Pioneer DAB radio which has twin camera inputs for the Waeco twin lens camera installed, this works really well for me as I can see the tow ball for hitching up easily and checking “en route” whilst still allowing me to see “down the road” over the boat when driving, however, that was the “reason” for installing it all, but as an aside it has audio Bluetooth, which I had never used before and never thought that I would need or want. But as soon as I started driving my iPhone connected to my Pioneer unit and Michael was ready to continue his chat with me, at the very sentence I had shut him up as we approached St Maxime three weeks previously. Brilliant Lost in my chat with Michael, and presumably due to being very chilled out after a great relaxing holiday I was very happy sat at the wheel and Lyn nodded off, I just kept driving and the miles seemed to melt away. Having been through the Peage at Lyon on a Saturday in the past I had a mind that if we could clear Lyon at night, it would be a great way to avoid potentially hours of stationary traffic, so as the miles melted the idea of keeping going until we had put Lyon behind us when from a thought to a definite plan. Lyn woke up and was worried that I was tired and I assured her (with a joke yawn) that I was fine and having been replenished with Peanut M&M’s from the freezer, and a couple more cans of Coke Zero, I was good for a few more miles and Lyn was sat determined to stay awake! So ten minutes later Lyn is asleep so I can much my frozen M&M’s without Lyn puffing up her cheeks and pulling her “your getting so fat! face” We arrived at the Peage and was amazed (I don’t know why!) how busy that they are even overnight, but quickly went through and carried on until we were about 60 K from Dijon. So we made really good time that first night. We are normally charged as class three at the peage when they’re manned and cop for class four on automatic machines. I have argued into the machine before using the “get assistance” button, but my ability to argue in French is limited and results in me saying “pas un camping-car est de classe trois pas classe quatre” over and over until I realise that they’ve buggered off anyway. Once I tried to refuse to move, but quickly realised that I was wasting my own time and that in true French fashion, they were happy to watch me waste my holiday. Besides, I have lost my own moral argument as a little bit of me thinks that we are 32’ long and we are towing a boat, we have 10 wheels on the ground so perhaps Class 4 is reasonable. Besides the difference between the two isn’t as much as some would imagine. I wish that they would make the lanes between the kiosks a little wider though lol The next morning we didn’t rise to early as we had covered nearly half the distance, and didn’t have to be at Calais until 3:30 PM the following day so we decided that we’d clear Paris and then stop, BBQ a couple of steaks and open a bottle of wine. The Truck navi system linked into the Pioneer told us of a traffic delay on the route and suggested that Paris and the Peripherique would be a quicker route. Normally despite selling this equipment I refuse to accept any detours or alternative routes once I am underway. Whether this is the rebellious “luddite” in me or the fact that I am driving near sixty foot of RV and Boat, with the RV as near to the maximum legal width as allowed, I’m not sure However, as we had made great time the previous night, and I do love Paris I took the executive decision to accept the new route. Lyn was spending a penny at the time so was unaware of this discussion between myself and a woman called “Julie” that lives inside my navigation system! That was fine until Lyn realised that we were heading towards Paris and that this was wrong! I forgot temporarily that I had accepted an alternative route and, this left Lyn grabbing for the French maps until I told her about the detour. I’d like to say that accepting the detour around Paris was a mistake, but with the Navi system checking the traffic situation and taking into account the historic traffic situation the system had worked out that going around Paris on a Saturday afternoon wasn’t as slow as the heavy traffic on the original route. We stopped on another Aire with about 120 miles to Calais, and we again, sat on grass at a bench and this one even had a pergola type cover over the bench! As we were feeling the chill so far North, we decided that a meal, a couple of beers and then curl up on the settee with film on Sky would be a perfect end to the day. Whilst on TV we have a twin LNB R4 Trackvision unit, with a Sky plus box, with front and bedroom TV’s mirrored on an HDMI booster/splitter. Last year in Port Grimaud we were unable to receive English TV on Astra 2 This year, due to the changes that took place in, finally being finished in February, the situation has improved. We could get BBC (s) ITV (s) Channel Fours and Five (plus derivatives) above Lyon but lost them South of Lyon, but we retained all of our subscription channels from Sky, So we had Sky Movies, Sky Sports etc plus the majority of entertainment channels. Not that we watched much TV on site to be honest, but on lazy mornings it’s nice to have the news on in the background whilst making coffee and toast. So we made it back, and to be honest felt as we drove away from Dover that the initial impression that out Continental visitors get from the dirty, mucky, rubbish strewn, jarring, pot holed, wheel rutted mess that we call the M20 must be a shock. At least it isn’t as much as a shock than that of our motorway service areas! Signs tell us that tiredness kills, take a break, give way to signs telling us that if we stop more than two hours we have to pay £20 or face an £80 fine! Anyone coming to the UK having been used to the Aire system in France is in for a very unpleasant shock! So, we had an uneventful trip there and back, we thoroughly enjoyed the area, the camp site is simply one of the best sites I have stayed on, but that is my opinion. There is a pool, but not a complex, I no longer have younger children so am not looking to amuse them “on site” if you have then you may prefer a site actually on a beach. As it was, a couple of times we fancied a couple of hours on the beach it is about five minutes on a bike (on a cycle path) from the site to the beach. What would I have changed? Well to be truthful we had a bit of trouble with the boat, which was costly to resolve quickly, but was well worth it not to loose too much of our holiday. I am sure that people who are retired will look at a three week holiday as perhaps not worth it, but as all people reading this that “do” work, they’ll know that wasting time on holiday is to be avoided if possible. So I would rather that the engine didn’t throw a wobbly, but to be honest other than that, I may have drunk a little less, and eaten a little less but I wouldn’t or couldn’t actually think of anything that I would want changed. I have started making a list of things that I am taking off the RV that I will not take next year! We (Lyn) has come to the conclusion that we (I) take far to much crap (her words to describe my cherished equipment) I must agree a bit. I took my small BBQ for pulling out at Aires, my “proper” BBQ for the site. An electric “Hotrock” pirade type system, and my favourite Camping gas “Rotisserie” along with a stainless steel smoker! I didn’t use the electric “Hotrock” pirade type system, and my favourite Camping gas “Rotisserie” or the stainless steel smoker! So you could say that was a waste of time. Again my wife did! We took our diving equipment, but didn’t use it, we snorkelled instead, and last year we only dived twice so it is a lot of kit to drag all the way down, not to be used. Two good idea’s were to freeze some decent Sirloin steaks in individual freezer bags along with Chicken breasts, and then when travelling we simply took one of each out of the freezer in the morning ready to BBQ that evening. In the past we have taken meat to see us through the first few days, only to throw it away as we, changed our minds or eat at restaurant’s en route and after a few days in the fridge it gets ignored in favour of exciting French foods (initially) It's a bit like cheese. we love trying all the of the cheese's when we go abroad and then after a couple of weeks we really fancy cheddar! The other revelation was Doom Bar! A Cornish Ale that I love in the Winter, but tend not to drink in the Summer. Doom Bar straight from the fridge in the heat is amazingly refreshing! Perhaps this is why, as Lyn pointed out it does say served chilled on the label! Oh yes, and I finally decided that I do like red wine with ice in it when it's really hot!