France Trip 2003

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Charleroi to Frejus

France Trip - September 2003.

We had booked very cheap flights from Prestwick to Charleroi in Belgium . At the same time we had also made a reservation with Avis to pick up a hire car. On arrival at the airport we collected our baggage and made our way to the arrivals hall to look for the car hire desk. Much to my surprise there was not an Avis desk there ! I then looked at my booking reference and was pleased to see that we had been given an instruction to take the bus to the long term car park and that is where the Avis rental desk was located. Panic over.
We picked up a new VW Golf 1.6 and set out on our journey South. We got onto the N5 and headed through the Belgian countryside to the French border and on down towards Reims. It was now early evening so we began to think about getting somewhere to stop for the night. We passed Chalons and decided to stop at Vitry-le-Francois, a pretty small town in the Champagne region. It was not long before we were checking in at the Hotel de la Cloche. This was a typical old French Hotel with creaky wooden stairs which probably looked the same 60 years ago. It was a warm late Summers evening as we went for something to eat and then sat at a bar in the main square for a beer or two before bed.
Payed the Hotel bill in the morning ( € 59 ) and got a few things for breakfast from the nearest Pattiserie and then we were on our way. We had a long journey but the sun was shining and the traffic light on the roads. Got back onto the A31 near Chaumont  and headed on past Dijon,Macon and Lyon towards Valence. It got warmer as we headed to Avignon and into Provence. By mid afternoon we turned off for Frejus and we were soon looking for the Hotel L' Arena. Checked in and then i had to take the car round some narrow streets to find the Hotels private car park.


Hotel L'Arena.

We spent a few days travelling along the coast and visiting little towns and villages. Had a day on Tahiti beach St.Tropez which had not changed since my last visit there over 20 years ago. Its a great drive from St.Tropez along the coast to Port Grimaud and Ste.Maxime and back to the St.Raphael and Frejus area.
In the old town of Frejus there are some delightful little restaurants with great food and nice local wines to help you enjoy the pleasant late Summer evenings.

Heading East its also a superb drive along the coast road to Cannes and then to Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. All these places have magnificent harbours full of luxury cruisers and yachts and are great to stroll round dreaming that one day you might be able to afford one of them if your lottery numbers come up !
Its then along to Nice and then to Monaco and Monte-Carlo where the
boats just get bigger and even more luxurious. Not the easiest place in the World to get the car parked but after driving round the roads which form the Grand Prix circuit you will find there is underground parking under the hillside below the Royal Palace.
Although i love the glitz and the feel of money in this part of the Cote d' Azur it is over crowded and far too busy a place for me to spend too much time there. It is nice in Provence to venture inland and away from the busy coast road, into the rolling hills covered in fields of Lavender and grape vines.


We left the Riviera and began the journey North through
Provence towards the Gorges du Verdon. These are the
largest gorges in Europe and are in an area of great beauty.
We drove from Comps sur- Artuby to Moustiers-Ste Marie
stopping every so often to take in the stunning views.

We then continued on our journey Northwards and into
the Southern French Alps. We stopped for Lunch at Gap
then it was into the beautiful Ecrins National Park and
onto the highest town in France, Briancon. Going through
the villages that make up the Serre Chevalier Ski resort
was weird as everywhere was virtually deserted. The
Summer had gone and it was now a matter of just waiting
for the Winter season to arrive.
We drove over the Col du Lautaret (2058m) and down to
the small village of La Grave. This is a place where in
Winter some of the best and most challenging off-piste
skiing and boarding in the Alps can be found. It was a
warm Summers afternoon as we checked into the Hotel
La Meijette named after the mighty La Meije peak which
overlooks the village.

Serre Chevalier

La Grave

View from Hotel La Meijette
Beautiful La Grave

Hotel La Meijette

When we had booked into the Hotel we went for an afternoon stroll
to a small bar at the top end of the village where we sat out and drank
a few beers , enjoying the late Summer sun and the stunning scenery
looking up to the magnificent La Meije peak.
Tonight we had dinner in the Hotels restaurant across the road. The
food and service were superb and the mountains looked at their best
as the sun went down.
The next morning we were up bright and early and set out on the long
journey back up to Belgium.
Once we got to the Autoroute at Grenoble it was good progress up past
Chambery and towards Dijon. By mid afternoon we were past Nancy
and Metz heading towards Luxembourg and into Belgium passing
Arlon where the previous year i had spent 2 weeks on excercise
with the Army.
It was getting dark as we reached Charleroi and it took a while to find
the Formula 1 Hotel we had booked into for that night. These places
are very small and basic and this was the first and last time for us.
The next morning we dropped the car back at the airport and caught
our flight back to Prestwick.