Span settled in for a cosy night on the ferry
Span settled in for a cosy night on the ferry

Wednesday 6/5/15 – Unable to do any blogs, cause their ferry has no internet…. Now that’s annoying… Great excuse though!!!!                                                                                                            Thursday 7/5/15 – Off the ferry by 7.30am, after a great night’s sleep…… and a shower….. gotta love that!

Basiliqua Notre Dame de la Garde overlooks the city of Marseille
Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde overlooks the city of Marseille

Marseille is a big city, with a huge bustling port and lots of traffic. Decided we would look for some breaky, then go up to see the Basiliqua Notre Dame de la Garde. What an awesome spectre it is to behold, as it dominates the skyline of Marseille. The golden statue of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus in her arms, looks so calm and serene as it watches over the city.  Notre Dame was built between 1853 and 1864, and like so may places started its life a fortress. Today it is the most beautiful basilica, to which people go for pilgrimage, either in groups or alone.

The crypt below Notre Dame - so peaceful
The crypt below Notre Dame – so peaceful

We arrived there sooner than expected, at around 8am, no breaky as yet, so decided to go straight in, as the Basilica and crypt were open. We were the only ones there, other than a lady saying her rosary in the crypt below the basilica. The crypt has very low ceilings and is quite bare in contrast to the magnificent Basilica above, however it had the most calm and serene feeling when in there, and one can easily understand that it is a beautiful place for prayer and meditation.

The beauty and artistry of Notre Dame Basilica
The beauty and artistry of Notre Dame Basilica

It is hard to find enough words to describe the beauty of the mosaic pictures that adorn the walls , ceiling and entry of the Basilica. The perfectly shaped red and white marble that alternates up the walls and pillars in itself is so beautiful. It is just marvellous to see the pictures that are a result of the skill, dedication and imagination of the artists who cut and shape the tiny tiles to make such beautiful pictures with so much colour and depth.

Candles for Mum and the boys at Notre Dame
Candles for Mum and the boys at Notre Dame

It was indeed very special for us to be here today of all days, as 23 years ago today, my beautiful mother passed away. It was very emotional to be able to light a candle for her in this holy and most beautiful place, and of course we lit a candle for our boys as well. After lighting our most special candles, we went down stairs…….. Smelled the coffee, and well …. Mmmmmm. In we go to the restaurant that was only open for staff, however they happily served us a coffee macchiato and the best ever croissant….. So light and buttery, that nothing else was needed on it.

Most beautiful statue in the museum - so much expression in this face
Most beautiful statue in the museum – so much expression in this face

The Basilica museum was not open until 10am, so we decided to have a look around Marseille. We went past both the old forts in the town (Fort Saint Jean and Fort Saint Nicola’s). They still have their high brick walls intact, and one is now a museum and looked very inviting, however it was not open either at that time of the morning.

Ummm.... the GPS didn't show any steps!! snuck in via the disabled entrance
Ummm…. the GPS didn’t show any steps!! snuck in via the disabled entrance

Next we set the GPS for the Palace de Long Champ. Well, all was going well initially. It took us down some very narrow and congested roads, and finally came to an end at some steps, right beside the side gate.  As we pondered our predicament, two guys walked past and laughed. We indicated we were Australians (Je suis de Australia), and at this they laughed heartily and said ‘ahh the GPS… Oui???’  ha.. ha.. how right they were.. see language is NOT a barrier!!

We decided that given we were right there, beside the disabled entry (no steps.. Yeah), that we may as well try our luck to go in. Sweet.. No probs with getting in. We only had enough time to see the outside of the castle, and that was more than enough. It was most spectacular, to put it mildly. On the entry gates were huge stone carved lions and lionesses. In front of the castle was the biggest fountain, that had so much greenery/ algae hanging from it, from years of water trickling down.

It was all we could do to admire this spectacle of art carved from stone, as there was nothing to explain the meaning of the statues and carving of the Bulls that adorned the waterfall. The stair cases that lead up either side of the main fountain were grande indeed. The pics can tell the rest, but again, they do not do it justice.

A stork high up in the middle of nowhere
A stork high up in the middle of nowhere

We left Marseille to ride to couple of hundred km to Millau in the south of France, where we are to catch up with Dave, Maggie and Ray again;  temp is 29 today, which makes for very enjoyable riding. All of a sudden, there in the middle of nowhere, and high a top a tower was a huge nest with a stork in it. What a great sight to behold. The nest was huge…. looked like some years of work, and we are amazed that it simply does not blow off! Sorry this pic is a wee bit blurred, because it was ‘taken on the run’…. so to speak.

Next we came upon a road side  fruit stall, so stopped for a look see and to buy some fruit, and low and behold, they also sold wine and sausage!

We bought some fruit, sausage.. and of course a bottle of wine. Span very cleverly strapped the wine to the top of one pannier for safe travelling. Worked a treat!

paragliders so graceful and so high that they look like birds
Paragliders so graceful and so high that they look like birds

Millau is known for its gorges, rock climbing, hand and para gliding, and outdoor recreations in general, as well as a most spectacular viaduct that is said to be one of France’s biggest engineering achievements .  The area is so very green in the valleys, and so very stark in the gorges.  As we rode in we counted 11 para gliders so gracefully hanging gliding above us in the blue skies.

The Millau viaduct  is indeed a spectacle to behold and an engineering marvel. It was started in 2001 and opened in 2004. It spans 2,460m  across the Millau  valley and river Tarn, and is 343m high, which is about 19 higher than the  Eiffel tower…….pretty impressive indeed! We watched a fantastic film that showed it’s construction, it was remarkable  to see how they joined the spans together.

We are staying at a caravan park in a 6 berth cabin ….. not quite as snug as in Bracciano thank goodness. Maggie cooked up a storm for tea, that was amply washed down with some muscat wine and  a beer with tequila added to it.

Washing day - dodging rain at the Millau caravan park
Washing day – dodging rain at the Millau caravan park

Friday 8/5/15 – Woke up to a cool wet rainy day. Thunder and lightning soon followed, with a short spell of hail. Somewhat different to the sunny skies and 29 degrees of yesterday, however the sun did finally come out. Spent the morning chatting, looking at maps and catching up on writing, in between juggling the drying of our washing on clothes airers, whilst we waited for the weather to clear. Domesticity still must happen, even when on an adventure like ours!

Maggie, Span and I went for a ride to the Viaduct, then on to Meyruis which we were told was a picturesque little town, which indeed it was.

On our way there, we again had so much eye candy for us to enjoy and savour, with the  beautiful high cliffs and mountains and gorges. We made a brief stop at an observatory to watch the big vultures glide above us, so majestic and graceful, but a bit too far for any pics.

A river ran through the little town, of Meyruis and there were many restaurants and cafes on little bridges across the river, as well as along the sides. We could immediately see the attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Maggie left us to go straight back to camp, while we took a ‘different’ (allegedly shorter) way home….  yet another adventure. Came across a sign  (1st clue) that basically said road closed, but we continued on none the less (Span said it was to be a short cut.. yeah right), Ever optimistic, we carry on.  The ‘2nd clue’ did not daunt us, and past that we went too. Are we ‘thick’ or what??  Finally we came to a grinding halt with the road fully bared before us. Reluctantly admitting defeat, we turn back from whence we came……. to go the long way home.

However we went through some lovely little villages in  the mountains, so  quaint and so very old. The old grey stone buildings are just enchanting, but I’m tipping they would  be cold in winter.

Every village has a stone cross  at some point, and many also have crucifix in the village centre.

What a view as we come back into Millau
What a view as we come back into Millau

The ride back,  was very picturesque, if not longer, but we made good time, and came up over some lovely hills before coming back into the Millau valley, where we had yet another awesome view before us.

Back at  camp, we had afternoon nibbles, before heading up to the camp restaurant for pizza for tea, before heading back for a game of 500 and bed.

Ready to go... just need that deposit!
Ready to go… just need that deposit!

Saturday 9/5/15 – Had to wait at camp site for the place to be checked so Dave could  get his €100 deposit back, before we headed off. Our end destination today is the town of Milac in the south of France where we will be staying for a few days. We headed off to go the curly way, of course, whilst Dave, Maggie and Ray went the more direct route.
Stopped at McDonalds  for a coffee and  low and behold dogs are allowed in!  We have noticed in most places in Europe, that dogs are welcome in all venues, even inside cafes, on beaches etc. Remarkably, they are all very well behaved and get on with other dogs very well. Sat at Maccas for about an hour, whilst we utilised the fee wifi.

 A 'concentrated' and combined effort - wine secured!
A ‘concentrated’ and combined effort – wine secured!

Came across another road side fruit stall, where there were 2 ladies and a bloke serving; they were agog that we had come from Australia.  The bloke was very quiet, we guessed because he did not speak any English, which turned out to be correct. So anyway, we bought some fruit, and  well they had wine too (gotta love France), so we bought a bottle of wine too. Span gets out the tie down to strap the wine to the pannier, next thing, the French bloke grins, rushes over and indicates he can do this for us. Well a lot of laughter and lots more gestures later,  the job is done,  so we headed off again with a big wave and smiles from both sides.

Arrived at our digs in the town of Milac in the French country side after another great day of riding in 27 degrees. We are very lucky to be staying in a beautiful house owned by friends of Sue and Andrew, who have very very generously let us all stay there. The house is  just beautiful. The original old cottage has been beautifully extended and has a huge sunroom.

Andrew, Sue, Mal and Cathy arrived later than expected. They had a  very big day riding from LeMans.

Some very happy campers
Some very happy campers

After a short rest, it was out to dinner, which was a five minute ride to a nearby village.  They served BIG pint goblets of ruby red beer, which went down way too easily, with the pizza and hamburgers.

This area of southern France is said to be the most picturesque……. indeed we were to find out that this is very true.

Map of our route
Map of our route