The Retirees return to Europe – Sanary Sur Mer – France

Our Lyon stay has ended, and we are now headed to Sanary sur Mer via Avignon and Toulon on the TGV train. This time we made sure we were on time and in place to board the first-class carriage. We changed trains at Avignon and left the train at Toulon. The scenery has certainly changed from the green hills of Switzerland to the Mediterranean rugged mountains and dry looking plant life. In Toulon we made the decision to complete our journey by Uber. This was without doubt the correct decision. To catch another train then a cab would have been crazy and on arrival at the address given to us by my cousin Terri both the Uber driver and us were unable to identify the apartment.

Whilst Kerry stood in the shade with our luggage, I made investigations to see if we had a home. I saw a woman standing by her car and tentatively asked “Parley vous Anglais” to which she replied, “Of course I am English”. What a relief. This is Karen who asks who I was looking for and I answered No46 – there is no number 46. Then through a series of questions we determine that Karen is the next-door neighbour to our apartment No 60 (the street numbers have been changed by the Council) and she was expecting Terri and Mick for lunch. I introduced myself as Terri’s cousin and explain Terri had invited us to stay. Karen had been expecting them for lunch but it was clear they were not going to be there any time soon so she asked us in for lunch. And that was how it was – lunch served whilst we waited for Mick and Terri. Valerie the French cleaner was still next-door in our apartment cleaning so when she finished we moved our luggage in and waited. Despite assurances that the drive from Marseille would only take an hour all factors worked against Mick and Terri delaying their arrival. Below are photos of the apartment.

Photos of the apartment – the annex where we stayed, our washing, the kitchen, the dining room, the lounge with two bedrooms on the floor above and the back yard

After a night’s rest we walked down to the village past the swimming bay, past the restaurant where our daughter married in 2007, toward the waterfront and the fishing port. There is a market on, and the place is crowded (really crowded) – even the old Roman tower is occupied. There are several Pointus in the harbour – the traditional fishing boat for Provence. The market is hectic and full of tourists – its their summer holiday.

Its around 10.00am the weather is hot and humid and with the sun setting around 8.30pm we don’t feel like eating anything at this early hour, so we struggle through the crowd past leather-craft shops, clothing, swimwear, footwear, underwear, candles and perfumes, the vegetables, the fish mongers, the butchers, the Boulanger, the Charcuterie, and of course we run into our daughter Carly, husband Vincent, and our grandsons William and Mathis amongst the thousands in the square. We expected that we would cross paths in Sanary but the sheer coincidence that my cousin Terri would be holidaying in Sanary causing us to visit Sanary at that time is amazing. Some time earlier Mick and Terri had lived in Sanary whilst Mick performed building miracles at the apartment so this holiday was a bit of payback to Mick and Terri by Mick’s sister whose husband owns the proeprty and both of whom are presnetly living in Melbourne Australia – in those circumstances it all makes sense.

After a few hours fighting the crowds and fighting for the shady spots, we give up and wander up the hill towards home. Mick has a gammy hip and needs a redo on the hip replacement, so he needs a break half way home (its about 1.1 kilometres all the way home most of it up hill). His favourite halfway mark is PB Cafe where he and Terri enjoy a beer. Who are we to break a tradition. An Aperol spritz for Kerry and 3 beers one each for Terri, Mick and me. The first beer goes down quickly and we order a second whilst Kerry sips on slowly so by the time the second beer is finished its time to move on.

By the time we arrive home and enjoy a lunch in air-conditioned comfort it’s time for a nap. Then with evening slowly arriving we adjourn to the garden and catch up on everything that happened since we last met in 2014, the progress with the new house at St Leger, kids, family and retirement.

Sanary-sur-Mer was once a fishing village, and its neighbours Cannes and San Tropez took the limelight. Whilst they still attract the celebrities Sanary attracts the tourist and the fisherman now catch tourists. It has beaches in cosy bays, long sunny days in summer and lots and lots of cafes. Nearby in the hills behind Sanary are medieval walled villages (now enclosed tourist shopping villages) like Le Chatelet, other beach resorts like Bandol and Cassis and we would do it all.

Karen our next door neighbour invited the four of us for dinner which we enjoyed in her garden along with a variety of French wines. We went swimming with the grandkids and their parents in the bay, we visited Le Chatelet, Cassis and Bandol, caught up with Mimi our son-in-law’s mother and her partner Jonathan for a very pleasant dinner by the bay at Bandol, had a thank you dinner for Karen at Bardot’s Restaurant overlooking the bay and assisted Mick to carry out maintenance on the plumbing at the accommodation. The accommodation is owned by Graham partner of Margaret sister of Mick. Mick and Terri have lived in rural southwest France for the last 23 years and Mick has made their living renovating old French cottages and converting farm sheds to holiday lets (“gites”) so when he arranged a visit to catch up with us of course the plumbing starts to play up and he ends up calling in a specialist after we found tree roots in the pipes. After a traumatic 3 days of dealing with flooding showers and blocked toilets relief came in the form of an emergency plumber with a “worm” which ground out the tree roots.

This has been our rest and relaxation from the stress and activity of our trip thus far. We even visited Castorama (incidentally Mick tells me it is owned by a UK chain), France’s version of Bunnings our Australian DIY giant to obtain some glue which Mick says from experience is the bees knees if you want to make something stick permanently. My photos follow with a brief description of what is depicted.

Photos – Le Chatelet looking over the wall, in the streets, Mick wishing he was home, hotel de ville, the church and its stained-glass window, a suit of armour and lunch with a fantastic view.

We decided to take a trip to Cassis west toward Marseille to see what we could see. Cassis is another fishing village turned holiday destination on the Cote d’Azur. Arriving in Cassis by car may have been a mistake as everyone else in Cassis had their car out that day and we found ourselves parking some distance away from the centre. After making our way into the centre of Cassis where the cove is lined with cafes Kerry noticed that one of the tour operators was offering a boat ride along the coast so we took another boat ride – yes another boat ride but the surrounding hills made it dramatic.

Photos – Cassis, the beach, the harbour, the cliffs, the coves and the beaches. I had to wonder how the locals accessed some of these coves with sheer rock surrounding them and can only be by boat.

That night we had our thank you dinner for Karen at Bardot’s. The sun did not set till 8.30pm which meant people were swimming and strolling on the beach (yes topless swim suits for women and men are popular) well into the evening and the breeze did not settle until the sun dipped below the horizon when the restaurants became lively.

Our time here has slipped by very quickly and it is time to leave Sanary sur Mer and cousin Terri and Mick. I think we have convinced them to return to Australia again and we might see them early next year. We have also got the travel bug and need to investigate what further travel we want to do before it is beyond us.

Karen is returning to the UK today also, so we bum a ride in her Fiat 500 two door. A little bit squeezy. We fill the car up with our luggage and chuff off to Marseille airport. On the way we are stopped by three Gendarmes who want to know who is in the car and continually have their hands on their weapons. But they are not looking for us this time and send us on our way with a cheery “Bon voyage” but their hands never leave their weapons.

Karen is a careful driver a bit different to Mick but perhaps doing 80kph on the 110kph freeway was a little too conservative. The car is hot even with the driver’s window down and the a/c belting out. So, it is a relief for me in the back to pry myself out at Marseille airport. Marseille Airport is not a bustling giant of an airport and is easily navigated. It has two terminals – 1 & 2 with 1 being a modern open hall with a nice restaurant for passengers to prepare for their flight. Of course, we are flying Ryanair – so it is rough old terminal 2 for us. Nevertheless, the flight leaves on time – with our luggage we hope. One and a half hours from now we will be in the midlands of the UK again and hopefully so will our luggage.

The Retirees return to Italy – On board the SS Costa Diadema – Marseilles and Barcelona

Sailing along the Gulf of Genoa and the Ligurian Coast, past the Principality of Monaco, Nice, Cannes and Sanry sur Mer, our next port of call is Marseilles. Daylight saving starts tonight so we find ourselves waking at 8.20am to see “Marseille” out the starboard window.  I spot an island with a fort and a church with a tower on a hill. But this is Sunday a day of rest for us too. So, we spend the day on ship in the spa having an ice cream and finishing with massages and a movie. We set sail with the next stop Barcelona.

Arriving at Barcelona, we find ourselves caught out by the time change for daylight saving. We rush to have breakfast to ensure we are on board the first coach to the city centre. The coach drops us near the World Trade Centre and we see the Red Bus nearby. We are not sure what we want to do in Barcelona and we decide that with grey skies and sprinkling rain we should catch the bus. One thing we have learned about Barcelona is that it is spread widely so the bus trip took a long time to get anywhere.

The first sight we see is the cable car tower at Port Voll which connects with Mont Juic. We board the Red Bus which climbs up Mont Juic past Anella Olimpica which is a renovated building converted into a stadium for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Further along we encounter the Arenas de Barcelona (the former bull fight ring) now a shopping centre. It had to be raised to fit the new use. This was on the way to the stadium for FC Barcelona.

The bus returned to Port Voll with over 4,000 moorings and some rather decent boats. From there we visited La Barceloneta and the main beach of the town. Unfortunately, the day had not improved and wind and rain now swept the beach. My goal was to see Sagrada Familia the most popular of Barcelona’s works by the famous architect Gaudi. We changed from the red west line to the green east line to see the Familia but it was not to be. In fact, it is so popular that you have to purchase tickets to visit. By the time, we got there the tickets had sold out until the following day. So, we strolled around the Familia and I was able to take a few pictures even though it was still under renovation/repair.

We found a warm bar across the road and ordered a paella. We made the decision to abandon the bus and try our hand at the Metro to visit the old part of the town. After investigating the available lines at the nearby Metro, we decided on the purple line to Paral-el. Once we arrived at the station we found it is situated on the Avenue Paral-el and very close to the cable car tower where we started our trip. We were still not in the old town so we headed to the wharves and took a left-hand turn to Avenue la Rambla and into the heart of the old town. On the way, we passed a reminder of Barcelona’s industrial history, and a reminder of it is medieval past. The old town was drab and although it had its fair share of old churches, medieval bridges, and Roman relics, it did not capture our interest. The sky had lost its cloudiness and the warmth of the sun could be felt and appreciated but it did not last long. We stopped at a small bar and enjoyed a fruit smoothie each and decided to head back to the ship. Our excitement was so great that we left without paying which I remembered when we were halfway back to our collection point causing us to retrace our steps pay our bill and start again. Tomorrow is Mallorca and Palma de Mallorca.