October 2019

At the end of September we left Lake Garda to drive in one day to Villeneuve-Loubet near Nice. It was a nice drive through the Italian countryside until we got to Genova, where our exit was blocked. So we had a not very scenic drive through the port area before managing to find our way to the highway leading to Nice. This highway hugged the coastline and was a series of tunnels and very high viaducts.

Villeneuve-Loubet lies between Nice and Antibes. We had stayed here two years ago when we returned to Australia together and it was relaxing to be back and know where to find things.

We were met by some friends from England, Sam and Andy and parked up next to each other at Camping Hippodrome. It was wonderful to catch up with them for the third time, having previously met them at Peniscola in Spain and then in Jarnac. They have a terrific Laika motorhome and a motorbike, so they were off every day touring the area, as they hadn’t been to many of the places before.

We love Villeneuve-Loubet for its suburban vibe. While there are tourists in the marinas to be sure, it is more of a family home type of place. The camping ground is one of the few open all year and is nearby a huge supermarket, the Casino Geant so shopping is easy. The area has everything including hairdressers, post office, banks, physios, vets etc all within easy walking distance.

We also love Villeneuve-Loubet because of its location. It’s a 12km ride along the promenade bicycle path to Nice and a 9km ride on a bicycle path to Antibes. The train goes to Monaco and all points in between every 20 minutes and you can catch a bus to Cannes.

This coastline seems to be full of marinas, so Michael is in heaven, walking around and commenting on all the boats.

It didn’t take long to get settled in and to visit Nice to check out the promenade, Old Town, shops and port. We also didn’t take long to visit Le Frog restaurant where they do Michael’s favourite, escargot.

The weather was lovely for the first three weeks of our stay, warm and sunny. We did lots of walking and bike riding along the promenade and hanging about the beach and near the pool, even if the water was a bit too cool for a swim. We also had many lovely shared meals with Sam and Andy – bbq, confit of duck, salmon and roast lamb being some of the items on the menu.

We had an unplanned visit from Tim Geddes of Geddes Wines in McLaren Vale. He had been doing a vintage in Chateauneuf de Pape and was coming to Nice to meet his wife Amanda who was flying in from Australia. He decided to come a little early, so we booked him into the hotel on our campsite for a couple of nights. It was great to see another friend from Adelaide! Michael and Tim rode the bikes into Antibes for a day of  visiting the marina and old town’s bars and restaurants. Just look at the bright blue sky in the photographs! We had a few late nights and some nice wines.

When Amanda arrived we all went to Le Frog for dinner and had a great time. Unfortunately riding home wasn’t so much fun as Michael’s bike ran out of battery and he had to pedal hard into the wind to get home.

We found out soon after that Tim’s 2018 Seldom Inn Grenache won Best Grenache at the Melbourne Wine Show.

On another day we went to Monaco on the train with Sam and Andy, taking Grubie as well. We walked around the town and checked out the Casino and Café de Paris. The buildings around the Casino are so gorgeous. A fun part of being in Monaco is car-spotting. So many expensive cars – Jaguars, Bentlys, high-end Mercedes, Ferarris etc. Porches are a dime a dozen!

And of course, the marina and the boats! There were a couple of cruise ships in the harbor as well as lots of super-yachts.

While we were there Monte Carlo was hosting an outdoor Statue Festival throughout the town.

Grubie enjoyed the day out but had to be carried up the mile-long escalators to the train platform.

By mid-October winter had arrived, although there was still no snow on the Alps behind Nice. The early mornings were cool and it was getting dark as early as 7pm. On October 18 the rain started and sometimes it was positively torrential! They had already packed up and removed all the beach bars but took the precaution of totally closing the beaches and promenade. At least it only lasted for about 4 days and then we were back to sunshine.

In between downpours we managed to keep amused. Michael went to the local sports bar to watch Australia play England in the Rugby World Cup. Then after Australia was eliminated he barracked for France in the next game and they got beaten too. He was left with only England to cheer on.

Our friend Patrice who owns Nice Caravans and Camping Cars came to the camping ground to see us and to organize what we wanted done while we’re away. The camping car has done 41,000km now so is due for its first service. Patrice is a real car fanatic and goes to a lot of car and camping car shows around the world.

We had another visit to Nice for some shopping and on a beautiful sunny Sunday we caught the train to Villefrance sur Mer in the next bay on from Nice. It’s a very pretty place with a lovely harbor and some nice old buildings. Perfect for a walk around and a lunch in the sun.

For Michael’s birthday we went to – guess where? Le Frog. Escargot, frog’s legs and a nice bottle of red wine celebrated the birthday in true Woolly style. Our host, Laurent spoiled us with complimentary drinks and that made the ride home a little slower.

We still had shopping we wanted to do so we rode to Antibes, where we had much more luck and found what we were looking for. Michael and Grubie made like locals, sitting in the alley for a cigar and a little rose.

The super-yacht Dilbar was still in the port of Antibes. This yacht is amazing – it reportedly costs 800 million USD and has an indoor swimming pool. It’s owned by a Russian who lives in London. She is the 17th largest yacht in the world and takes 40 passengers and 80 crew. It’s so big we can see it from the beach at Villeneuve-Loubet.

The last few days in Villeneueve-Loubet dragged by as we waited to head back to Australia. We were very excited to be seeing family and friends and welcoming our first grand-nephew, Hugo Berketa with Jack and Alina - Dad & Mum. Grubie is again going to Pension des Cabots to stay with Coco and play with the other dogs. Michael kept telling her she’s going to be sent to boarding school!

Our camping car needed to be cleaned out, packed up and delivered to Patrice and after a last meal in Nice we were off!