The Big Drive Back

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Departing Starigrad on the Friday morning, we expected our journey to take between seven and ten days. The first step was the long winding route back up Croatia’s coastline, in order to save on tolls, do a big Lidl shop, and find a place to change our remaining Kuna back into Euros.

As it happened, we managed all of that and driving 30km through Slovenia without having to purchase another 7-day vignette, and make a decent dent into Italy on the first day. We spent our first night at a free Aire beside a football ground in a small town and were up early in the morning to drive another 500km to Pisa, which was close enough to the route to see.

We found another free Aire in Pisa, just fifteen minutes walk from the tower, but were too done in to contemplate finding a piece o’ Pisa pizza, and were asleep by nine.

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Some random building we saw. Looks like it needed a bit of work.

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Italian non-toll routes are decidedly awful. The road surfaces are severely dilapidated to the point where we suspected we were doing damage to Scooby’s chassis. This tied with an intense rain and thunderstorm (which we had to pull over and wait out, unlike the local drivers who seemed content to speed through giant flowing rivers of rain as if there were no risk!), we decided that paying €35 in tolls was better than €300 to a garage when the wheels fell off.

Still, toll roads, smooth and quick as they are, get boring fast and although we eventually reached the French border a lot sooner than planned, we were then faced with more mountain passes to find the Aire we’d chosen. Said Aire, in the pretty town of Sospel, could be seen from the road in both directions, but there were no signs or obvious directions as to how to get to it, not what you want at the end of a long day. After about forty minutes, we spotted a tiny, nondescript unmapped ramp alongside the road that led us down to the Aire which, contradicting the information provided, turned out to be free!

We had to drive back down the mountain in the morning (always worse than the ascent) and had planned to take a look at St Tropez, Port Grimaud, and Sainte-Maxime on the way. All three turned out to be impossible to get to due to grid-locked late-season tourist traffic. Our impatience for queuing got the better of us and we persevered on to a campsite for the night for some much-needed hook-up and a shower outside of the van’s tiny bathroom.

P1010179The elusive Aire of Sospel

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We reached Cap d’Adge the next afternoon and stayed in an overpriced Aire near the port for the night, next to a British lady who seemed to be seeing the world on her own from an aged motorhome, which was awesome (she must’ve been at least 75). The plan was to camp near the border the next night, and tackle the stressful round-Barcelona route early in the morning.

However, we made such good time on the way down we decided to keep going and at around six-thirty, made it to Torredembarra, the same camp we’d used right back at the start. With only three weeks left before they close for the winter, we were as glad to see them as they were of the business, and we slept soundly for five nights back in a comfortably familiar place.

Eventually, as Andy’s birthday approached, we left bound for Oropesa del Mar, our other ‘second home’ camp, via Castellon where I could raid the giant Carrefour for functional non-space-filling gifts.

This was all back in September, so another two months have crept by with little to no movement. We’ve slept in the pitch nearest the sea, which has provided a lullaby to doze off to for all that time. Next, we move further south towards Portugal.