Wednesday 5 June 2013

Back to the 80s

Wednesday 5 June 2013

We're parked in a large Aire in the town of Vallon Pont d'Arc, at the northern end of the Ardeche Gorge and only 3 miles from the famous Pont d'Arc, a 54m high arch spanning the gorge that the river itself has cut through the limestone.

We left the campsite after an early breakfast, having dropped and refilled liquids.  We didn't really enjoy the campsite life, it was too regimented and it felt like everyone was watching us, especially the weird caravan dwelllers!  Why do they all shout at each other across the site, instead of walking to each other to converse normally?  It's made us realise that we are more Aire and wild camping people, campsites being used once a week for longer showers, washing clothes and recharging electrical items.

It was another long drive today, but we plan to stay here for 2 nights, then keep our daily transits down to about 2 hours, as we slowly head clockwise.  If the middle of France is a clock face, then we're currently at about 5 o'clock.  The temperature gradually climbed as we headed south and peaked at about 83'F when we arrived at Vallon. On the journey we crossed a few mountain ranges, mainly on very long, hair-pin roads, with fabulous views.  We also saw a few mountains still capped with snow.

I was able to pay for this Aire with my credit card - €6 - which saved a trip into town to find somewhere to buy the Jeton tokens.  This made life a little easier.  I even used my card to pay for a German couple in exchange for Euros - see, I can get along with other nationalities!  On arrival we had a brew and then I decided to go for a bike ride, mainly to see how far it is to the Arch, but also to suss out the town, as we've decided to act like real holiday makers tonight and eat out.  Cycling in the hot sunshine was bliss and I was soon flying down the road that runs alongside the Gorge.  It's very touristy with loads of campsites, grockle shops & fast food joints, but the view more than makes up for this.  I carried on for about a mile past the Arch then turned and headed back into town.  Vallon is a lovely town with some old squares with bars and restaurants. We'll certainly find somewhere good to eat tonight.  After a couple of circuits of the one way system, I acted like a local and went down a one way street to get back to the Aire.  Cathy was reading, sat in the shade behind the motorhome.  I drank some water, had another brew, sorted out my bike and kit and then relaxed in the sun before getting ready to eat out.

It's been great getting back to the 80s - in degrees Fahrenheit!  Tomorrow we plan to walk to the beaches by the Arch and spend the day there, relaxing, perhaps swimming if the water's not too icy and maybe having a canoe trip.  When we left the Aire for dinner at 8pm the sun was still high and the temperature in the 80s. We walked up the hill and had a walk around the shops, looking for something for the Tacky Shack.  We came across a great, hippie, boho bar, lots of plants and fairy lights - Cathy loved it! See the photos below.  We decided to eat at a buzzy restaurant down a side street.  I had a starter of smoked salmon and foie gras - I'm sure if I had any sense of taste or smell it would have been wonderful. Cathy ordered Caillette Ardechoise, which was a local speciality of pork and herbs faggot.  I had a rare steak.  Both came with an aubergine salad and 'La Truffade' a local speciality of sliced potatoes fried in lard then mixed with some local gruyere-type cheese - sounds horrible but was delicious.  We accompanied this with a local Cabernet Merlot red.  Whilst eating this, Cathy was shat on from a bird at a great height - we should have bought a lotto ticket there and then!  We finished with Isle Flottante for C and a coffee for me.  Full and tired after a long day, we walked down in the warm evening air back to the motorhome.  It's very quiet and dark on the Aire; I think we'll sleep well tonight .  This is the life!

Pont d'Arc - Ardeche
Vallon Pont d'Arc Aire

Cathy's type of bar!

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