Our First Aire

Gruissan Port 28-30 April

Before heading to Gruissan we were on a mission – to locate a camping shop near Beziers and visit the Brico-man (B&Q type store) next to Carrefour at Villeneuve-de-Beziers. Which we did. At CJL Evasion we acquired a small table, so necessary for putting your drinks on when relaxing in the sun, a bike cover to protect them from the rain when chained up outside the van, and finally the german LPG adaptor we had been hunting for. At Brico-man we acquired some necessary plumbing bits.

An hour or so’s drive took us through garrigue-covered hillsides to pretty Gruissan Port, past the tightly-packed sailing boats in the marina to the Aire des 4 Vents at the end of the road (literally). Paid for 2 nights and were lucky to get a parking space looking out through the tamarisk bushes across the channel into the marina and the sea beyond.

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Next to another N&B Arto, only bigger than ours. And German. We have been constantly surprised at the high number of large motor-homes, our size and bigger, that we are encountering. Far more than at home, and most towing either cars, motorbikes or even in one case a beach-buggy. A lot of big, expensive Concorde motorhomes. Very few British motorhomes so far. We are in the middle, below :

After lunch we went for a walk out to the Tourist Information on the marina then into the old village. The small castle on the rise above the village was inviting but we opted instead to sit outside a locals cafe in the sun with a glass of rose and watch the world go by. We immediately noticed the change in price for a glass – a third of the price of Yelloh!

On the way back we located the small shop at the petrol station and the adjoining boulangerie with it’s typically bewildering array of bread, then called in to the village wine co-operative where a rose corbieres caught Kate’s eye. There was also time for a coffee at a little bar on the marina that was shaped and decorated inside like a wooden sailing boat. Very quaint.

Next day, sun shining and sparkling off the water, the wind had dropped and bikes came out. We put together a picnic and headed off biking and birdwatching. Very slowly. For the first hour and a half we stopped at every chirrup, but given the lagoons, rivers, canals and proximity to the sea, the variety of shrubs and trees, vines and reeds, there was a disappointingly low amount of birds and birdsong. We got most of way round the main lake then headed off along a river. Stopping regularly to try and locate a bird whose song was driving us nuts – loud and melodic amongst the reeds the bird itself remained unseen despite all our efforts. Kate renamed it something unprintable – Google tells us the latin translation is credo edepol.

As we came to a choice or routes along the riverside cyclepath, we met an Asian gentlemen who Danny established, after trying out his french, was actually from Llandudno. He recommended turning left to head out to the Canal du Robine where we would pick up the cycle path along the canal and into Narbonne. Although we had not originally intended to cycle to Narbonne it was a lovely day so we decided to go with it.

We had lunch sat in the long grass on banks of the canal, using Danny’s little stool as a table for the baguette, ham, eggs and spring onions, and sipped red wine. It was even warm enough for Kate to peel down to her t-shirt. The occasional passing cyclist hailed us with “Bon Appetit!”.

Full of delicious crusty, crunchy pain de campagne, we finished the cycle into Narbonne, the canal taking us right into the centre to memories of our last visit with Brian & Olive, Trevor and Maggie during that brilliant long weekend in Carcassone. March 2007 – paddling in the sea in sunshine one day and huddling inside away from the snow the next.

Memories kicked in and led us to the Cathedral square. We chained up the bikes and had a leisurely wander, looking in to the Cathedral which is being restored very well.

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We wrote postcards to our youngest relatives – Jack, Daisy and Téghan & Kyra – sipping a glass of rose in the square.  Then we retraced our cycle to complete a respectable – if slow –  21.5 miles, getting home by 5pm.

Although still quiet there were a few more people around the marina so we decided to head up to the old town for something to eat, and see if there were more people around there. There were, but before leaving the van our german neighbour had recommended a restaurant on the marina to us as ‘excellent’. The one we had our eye on in the village was disappointingly quiet so, his words ringing in our ears, we decided to walk back down to the marina and give it a go. Ignoring the ‘Petit Fute’ recommended restaurant 2 doors away, we headed into L&L’s. Big mistake. Lovely surroundings, nice staff, large portions but disappointing food. The french bread was clearly ‘bake-up’, the french fries were unlike anything previously encountered being soggy and unpleasant; the mussels were dry and overcooked; and whilst Danny’ generous crevette & foie gras starter was acceptable his fish soup not so good. Disappointed we called in tho the boat-like cafe for coffee and – in the absence of irish whiskey – Havana rum. The good vibe in there saved the night, and we had a nice chat with a lad from Aberdeen via Cambridge who had a boat on the marina there. Could have stayed longer but dragged Danny away at 11pm as the barman was obviously looking to close.

Sunday 30th April

Decided to stay another day at Gruissan with the intention of getting the Blog up to speed. One of the 4 winds that give the Aire its name was blowing strong and cold and even our german neighbours were sitting inside instead of out.

It should be noted that over the weekend, Danny had developed ‘garage envy’ for our german neighbour’s huge garage space at the rear of his van – looked to be twice the size of ours and much higher which would have allowed us to put our bikes in without all the hassle we currently go through, removing the front wheels and lowering seats and handlebars. He was also eying their collapsible electric bikes!

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Despite our best intentions in relation to the blog, a healthy salad lunch accompanied by  a bottle of the local “La Clape” white wine made for a more relaxing day and instead we just put our feet up, chatted and enjoyed the view whist the wind lashed against the van. Undoubtedly our inability to get TV to find out the latest Trump-isms contributed towards our overall sense of wellbeing.

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That night, after a cosy evening watching the new Bridget Jones on DVD, a howling storm and the rain battering against the van rocked us to sleep.