Saturday, 14 May 2016

Loupian - sooner than expected.

There are places that are ignored by most tourists simply because they are lovely but a bit out of the way, and other places that remain unvisited because they are a god forsaken hole. For example, on our way south we stayed at an aire at Lac St Pointe, on the edge of the Jura. It was lovely, but little known. So, we had hopes that the coast to the west of Marseille sheltering beneath the Chaine d' Estaque may be similarly unfrequented but lovely. My expectations were tempered by a sense that anywhere so close to Marseille was unlikely to be utterly gorgeous, and I muttered darkly that it might be like visiting French version of New Brighton.

The Chaine l' Estaque is an area of arid white limestone - it gives the landscape an almost chalk-like appearance

Why do wild flowers proliferate in arid conditions?

In fact this proved unfounded, and we discovered that the area was actually more like Presatyn, in so much as it consisted of a chain of sprawling campsites full of empty static caravans overlooked by gaunt rocky hills. We stopped for lunch, drove around the edge of huge empty seaside car parks all with height restrictions and decided - this is a god forsaken dump, let's drive on to Loupian where we know there is a pleasant municipal near a cycle track. 

OK, we are down here, but the road to Arles is up there... now what?
So that's what we did, taking in an an impromptu tour of the Petrochemical plants of the Etang de Berre, indulging in a brief scrap with the bus-trams of Nimes while meeting the needs of the many local car drivers whose lives are so tedious that they spice up their paltry existences by playing chicken with any larger vehicle bearing down upon them. What we planned as a short hop turned into an all day drive and we found ourselves on the motorway through Languedoc with signs to Toulouse and Barcelona, while in our heads we were still coming to terms with recently leaving Italy.

We have made the right decision. The municipal at Loupian is a pleasant wooded site with good facilities and nice big pitches, what is even better is that off-season the ACSI discount rate is just 13 euros per night. The site is next to a bike track that leads to the pretty old port of Meze, across the Etang de Thau from Sete. The village of Loupian itself is an ancient place with a Languedoc fortified Romaneque church on the outskirts. So it is a good place to rest for a few days before the long drive home. 

Municipal campsites... Vive la Republique!
nice big pitches

Makling friends with the neighbours - the Spaniel's father was an English champion apparently - 

great local bike tracks

Meze and the Etang de Thau

Yes, Pete - it's a quiche.....

view from wall - I am going to miss this...
The weather is sunshine and showers with a blustery breeze - good for doing stuff  rather than sitting about in the sun. As I was washing up yesterday evening I chatted to an English couple who had just arrived. It had tipped down  most of their way here and night-time temperatures in the Auvergne had been only a few degrees above zero. Next week further north looks better, so it made sense to stick around the Mediterranean for few more days then head home with shorter stops. 

Come rain or shine we do need to head off on Monday. I have mixed feelings about going home. There comes a point where travelling becomes your normal life, you have an expectation that each day will bring something new, variety becomes habitual. I am feeling a little weary though, and maybe you do need to be grounded from time to time, simply to assimilate the experiences. There's a great line in Joni Mitchell's song 'Hejira' about becoming 'porous with travel fever'. I think the phrase captures succinctly the effect that constant travel has psychologically; the sheer intensity of constantly changing location can  atomise your sense of self, and you lapse into a more ephemeral way of being. Keeping the blog should help, but in a sense, because it is written 'in the moment' so tends to be observational rather than reflective; it is a record of an ephemeral life, rather than a rationalisation of a journey. So right now I am conflicted, part of me knows I need to stop, part of me does not want to. However, the ferry is booked for the 25th, the van needs its MOT - the practiclities of life impose there own inexorable logic - homewards we go.

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