Friday, 18 May 2018

Spring flowers, campsite shenanigans, archaeological mornings, beachy afternoons.

This is our third night at Camping Ras l' Bol, a simple, but nice spot next to the Golfo de Valinco. Olmeto Plage could be described as a small resort, but really it is little more than a ribbon of villas and low rise apartments next to a narrow beach. It has a nearby small Spa supermarket and a row of shops including a boulangerie. It's ideal - close to stretches of empty, unfrequented beaches, but with enough shops to keep us supplied for a few days without driving the van to Propriano.

A simple site among pines

The unfrequented beach acroos the road from the site
On our first day we pedalled along the coast to Porto Pollo, another small tourist development with a marina and a couple of cafés. The view across the Golfe de Valinco is spectacular, the pale stone houses of Propriano across the bay bright against a backdrop of dark mountains wreathed in cloud. The rocks in the small cove here are a mixture of close grained rosy granite and coarser igneous rocks flecked with white marble. 

This pleased Gill, as did the flower filled roadsides. We stopped frequently to take photos in the hope of identifying the plants later in our Mediterranean flower guide.

I was right in the previous post, I did need to stop, I feel less rattled, calmer than a few days ago. I can see why some fellow travellers opt to hop across Europe in smaller steps. Perhaps having a fairly well researched plan at the outset, like we do, creates a pressure to 'arrive', whereas simply wandering about would be more relaxing. Do we have to pre-book ferries, couldn't we simply roll-up at Toulon on spec? Could I ever become that laid back? Somehow I doubt it.

As for Ras l' Bol site itself, the shower block is a bit utilitarian with concrete floor, lines of cubicles under a pantiled roof, otherwise open to the elements. This presupposes a warm climate, which is not always the case in Spring. The pitches themselves are shaded by pines, with smaller trees recently planted in between. The upside is that it is great for bird watching, the sparrows are very tame and entertaining. Wood pigeons serenade you to sleep and provide an alarm call at daybreak. The only problem with the tree cover is it makes manoeuvring a 7m van around the site a tad tricky. Still, given the proximity of a nice beach, a local supermarket and interesting places to cycle, Camping Ras l' Bol is a good place to stay for a few days.

Lovelly wooded site - a few low branch hazards however.

Why we do this....
The Sardinian cheese man! - a bit expensive, but delicious.

The site attracts a mixture of people, hikers and cycle tourers in tents, youngish couples in campers, the usual grey-haired retirees in their gleaming white lump-sums on wheels, and at the moment, half a dozen Harley Davidson enthusiasts who rumble off early and roar back late. A couple of the camping chalets are occupied by a group of German girls, students maybe, who introduce a more youthful vibe to the place. We prefer places with a lively mix. I might even be persuaded to extend a welcome to Herr Lautmonoton, the most voluble of four Austrians parked next to us. HE TALKS VERY LOUDLY IN A STEADY MONOTONE FROM MORNING TO NIGHT. IT IS VERY TIRESOME!

A seemingly peacerful scene - if you ignore the German commentary...

This morning we cycled to a nearby village in the hills called Filatosa. In itself a beautiful, but unremarkable place, but it is next to one of the most significant pre-historic sites in the Western Mediterranean.

The road to Filitosa leads off towards the mountains - this is why we have ebikes..
designed for the arthritic but adventurous
The glorious valley of Filitosa

The valley has been occupied since around 6000BC. The remains however date from the later Neolithic period, a series of burial chambers and standing stones erected by the same pan European culture responsible for Carnac and Avebury. What makes the stones at Filitosa unique is the fact that they are humanised with faces, helmets and daggers carved into the rock.

The most famous menhir has been removed for safekeeping - this is a concrete replica.

It is a matter of conjecture if these carvings were the work of the people who erected the stones, or later additions by Bronze Age invaders who arrived around 1700BC.

The meaning of the stones remains mysterious

the  symbolism of others is more obvious...
Aside from the remains themselves, the site itself is beautiful, at this time of year particularly when  is covered in flowers.

Gill has a knack of giving me wonderful books. Last Christmas she bought me Cyprien Broodbank's 'The Making of the Middle Sea', a fascinating history of the Mediterranean from earliest times to the beginning of the Classical Age, around 500BC. I think it has enabled me to better contextualise places like Filitosa, seeing them as part of a continuum of settlement, invasion and resettlement stretching across millennia. For me these ancient sites are just as interesting as the more famous and spectacular Graeco-Roman remains.

Filitosa means 'place of ferns', everyone I think needs to 'know where their fern is'.

Pete - in his 'happy place'.
Through the Filitosa site had a small Brasserie with an inexpensive lunch menu we decided to eat back at the van. Afterwards we took a walk along the beach. It was more or less deserted. An empty, unfrequented shore by the Mediterranean is a rare thing, a moment to savour.

So we returned at sunset, three of the Frauleins from the site had turned out too. 

One of the sunset watching Frauleins
They asked Gill to take a group photo. They were affable and good humoured. When you consider the positive action taken in response to #Metoo and campaigns for gun control following mass shootings in American schools then I think we are seeing a feisty and progressive generation of young women developing. It gives me hope, even as news of another gun outrage in Santa Fe is filtering through on-line.

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