We stayed near the village of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc at the head of the Ardèche Gorge, created by the River Ardèche cutting a dramatic canyon through the limestone. Vallon was the centre for camping, kayaking and cycling and the surrounding area was mainly vineyards and lavender fields.
We found a popular bar restaurant in the village, called Le Chelsea where we had supper. It was 1.5 km from the camp site and a welcome walk after two courses and a pichet of local red wine.
The weather forecast was poor so and we decided to leave the Ardèche after a couple of days and head towards home. The drive up out of the valley was spectacular with hairpin bends climbing through the craggy limestone cliffs. Unfortunately it was raining so no photographs.
We spent one night north of Dijon at a fuel station and another night in Calais at Cité d’Europe before catching Eurotunnel to Folkestone.
We were revisiting San Remo, a busy seaside resort on the Italian Riviera. Our camp site was 4 km from the town centre and we cycled into town on a cycle track that had been converted from the disused coastal railway line. The cycle track was 35 km long and provided lovely views of the ocean along its way.
The town had a busy fishing port and marina and we spent an hour or so looking at the boats before disappearing into a fish restaurant on the quay for lunch.
We travelled through Umbria and Perugia and on into Tuscany, stopping for a couple of days at Pisa, on the banks of the River Arno which flowed on into the Ligurian Sea a few miles to the west. Our camp site was a twenty minute walk from the old town centre, rich with its ancient palaces, churches and squares. In the Piazza del Duomo stood the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral and Baptistry with its freestanding bell tower, famous for its unintended tilt. The buildings were constructed of marble and stone and were completed over 600 years ago. They were a breathtaking sight in the spring sunshine.
Our campsite was called Torre Pendente Camping. Our Italian is not good and I wondered aloud what it meant. Torre? Tower? Pendente? Several seconds of deep thinking before the light dawned and I realised it meant “Leaning”. Perhaps the brain isn’t as agile as it once was!
As we drove out of Pisa heading north, the Apuan Alps provided a stunning background in the morning sunshine as we continued along the Ligurian coast towards San Remo.
Our visit to Alba Adriatica would not have been complete without making the twenty minute drive from the Abruzzo region and into the neighbouring region of Marche, where three generations of the D’Angelo family ran a business producing wine on 50 hectares of rolling hills, supplying their wines to the restaurants and hotels in and around Rome. We bought red and rosé wine in 3 litre boxes for less than £1.80 per litre. Then Tony spotted a huge bottle of their 2013 vintage red wine on display in their office and persuaded them to sell that too.
Alba was a seaside resort on the east coast of Italy, lying between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea where you could be walking on the beach one morning and an hour later you could be on the ski slopes.
Jacqui and Sergio had a garden flat in a quiet road not far from the sea front. Their little apartment, in a block of four, had a patio and garden, surrounded by a thick hedge. On the far side of the hedge were parking bays, one for each resident and that was where we parked our camper. Sergio rigged up an electric cable that wormed its way out of their window, across the garden path and through the hedge to provide us with a power supply.
On Easter Sunday we drove west into the snowy Apennines and on into the green Sabine Hills – once famous for its beautiful women and the story of the Roman army under Emperor Romulus attacking the local villages and abducting the young women to become wives for the Roman soldiers. There were several old masters depicting “The Rape Of The Sabine Women” although history questions whether the women were raped or just invited to become solders’ wives. I wonder what you think?
Last year disaster struck the area with a series of violent earthquakes, reducing building to rubble and destroying roads and bridges. We passed by on a recently repaired main road from where we could see villages with semi collapsed buildings next to piles of rubble as well as whole hillsides that had slid down and had blocked the main road. We saw the prefabricated homes now housing the surviving population who remained in the area tending their animals and growing produce as best they could.
The restaurant where we had lunch was packed with large family groups – pre booking was essential. Each place was set with a generous plate of cold meats and cheese, served with red cabbage in local olive oil, plus a steaming dish of savoury chopped offal. There were jugs of red and white wine and bread. Then followed two dishes of home made pasta followed by the meat course, a choice of various roasted meats and sausages – we chose a dish of baby goat but I also bravely tried tripe cooked Roman style. After dessert of crepes and ice cream we had coffee and tasters of their home made liqueurs. It was quite late when we finally left the restaurant although we weren’t the last to leave by a mile.