The nearest French island to Sardinia in Italy is Lavezzi – a mere 8 miles, and it was a must stop for us because Indian Summer is a Lavezzi catamaran. When we first purchased her I looked up where Lavezzi was (all Fountain Pajot catamarans are named after islands) and wondered if we would ever get to visit, and now we were here – it was quite exciting
Lavezzi is beautiful, similar to the Seychelles islands with large granite boulders, white beaches and turquoise water. The problem was that everyone else thought the same and it was packed with French daytrippers. We arrived about 11 and found a small space and to our astonishment we anchored next door to another Lavezzi catamaran! Having only seen a couple on our whole journey we thought it an incredible co-incidence to anchor next to one in Lavezzi. The anchorage became more crowded as the day wore on and also became very rolly. Just after we had decided to up anchor and leave to find a more comfortable anchorage to spend the night in, the other French Lavezzi swung round and BANG – hit us on our starboard sugar scoop taking out a chunk of gelcoat. Not too serious but amazing that a Lavezzi hit our Lavezzi in Lavezzi – couldn’t make that stuff up….
When we pulled up our anchor to leave, we found it had snagged under a rock and had bent the shaft. This means we needed to find somewhere we could straighten it out, so we needed to find another anchorage with rocks.
The day after, we headed off to Corsica, and found delightful bay just a mile from Bonifacio, the second largest town. At the head of the bay were some big rocks so we put the bent anchor in the dinghy and found a pair of rocks that we could brace the anchor between. I was skeptical, how was Ian going to bend the shaft back by himself? Well, he managed it with much huffing and puffing and using all his strength – it is now back straighter – but it’s strength has been compromised so a new anchor is now on the shopping list.
We visited Bonifacio for the afternoon, but it was quite crowded and just many different bars and restaurants lining the bay. We climbed up a long steep stepped road to get a great view of the island and wandered around for a while. We ended up going back to Indian Summer as the wind was getting up and it was a wet ride home in the dinghy.
We also spent a night in Roccapina, another gorgeous bay on the south coast of Corsica. The waters were crystal clear and many French tourists were lazing around on the beach. We felt very foreign as an Aussie flagged boat! The other small town of Propriano was next, as we needed to get our internet sorted out and it had an Orange phone shop where we could purchase our data. Not a very comfy night as there was a bit of swell, so we set off the next day for another small bay. On the way we caught our first fish in the Med! A medium size tuna – certainly not the size of the ones we get back home but certainly a few meals worth – we were thrilled.
We stopped at the gorgeous little town of Cargese, a small harbour surrounded by little bays and restaurants with the houses climbing up the hill behind. We had a drink in a small cafe in the harbour and then another from the cockpit watching the sun set. Life is good.
The north western town of Calvi was where we decided to jump off for mainland France. We thought we would just anchor and eat but decided to go for a walk along the beach as well. It was exposed limestone rocks, tiny little sandy bays and time-worn flattened stone and there was a wedding on one of the beaches which somehow made the place even more romantic ❤
The French Riviera – who doesn’t dream of spending time here? Synonymous with hollywood style, royalty and money…. this was going to be fun. We anchored in a large well protected bay, with buoys cordoning off the swimmers from the boats in a town called Beaulieu Sur Mer. We were surrounded by monster boats and 2 marinas but had plenty of space. Our first stop was Monaco. We left the dinghy in one of the marinas and jumped on a local bus – clean, modern and comfortable. We are certainly not in Africa anymore…. We enjoyed Monaco – we walked up to the palace, wandered round the Marina, watched in awe as some of the most expensive cars in the world all rocked up to the casino and did a spot of people watching with a glass of wine in a street cafe. I found it amusing to see adverts in a shop window, not of houses like most places but of aeroplanes!
That night we wandered around Beaulieu and found a really lovely town. Clean, friendly, classic architecture and colourful. Found the supermarket and stocked up on French cheese, baguettes and French wine. All the staples….
The next day we decided to head to Nice – about 20 minutes away by bus. We were finding our way round quite easily now so we weren’t in a rush and boarded about 10am – after rush hour which meant there were only 4 of us on the bus. We sat at the front to enjoy the view of the French riviera coastline and were very relaxed when there was an almighty CRASH – I was flung into Ian’s lap as he was sitting opposite me but was not hurt. We had been hit head on by a Mercedes – the bus windows opposite us had been smashed in and there was glass everywhere. The lady behind us had a nasty headwound as she hit her head on a pole, but the bus driver escaped injury because of the strength of the drivers cabin. The poor Merc driver was seriously injured but did get out of his destroyed car. There was just silence except the lady behind us who was so frightened by all the blood. I had a small towel in my backpack which managed to get her to keep against her head and I tried to comfort her with my schoolgirl French. The bus was squashed against the rock wall so we couldn’t get out, and people kept looking in shaking their heads.. The ambulance was there quite fast and took the car driver and the lady away but they couldn’t get the bus driver out – he was crying poor man, he was so shocked. We were put on another bus because we were ok, though I realised I had cut my knee and somehow (I’ve no idea how) lost my little toe nail! Ian had a few cuts from flying glass but overall – we were incredibly lucky. We were sitting opposite the impact side and by sitting opposite each other, we just landed on top of each other. We arrived in Nice a bit later than expected, and had a very welcome coffee.
We loved Nice. The old centre was a rabbit warren of old architecture, balconies, colourful shutters and restaurants. There is a long promenade which we wandered down and we bought some little trinkets. We stopped for lunch and the waitress asked about my leg, which I hadn’t had time to attend to. We told her about the bus crash and she disappeared and came back with a first aid kit and cleaned and put a bandaid on it!! How sweet – we have found the French to be so kind. We were bit shocked I guess, as we just really wanted to head back to the boat so we cut our visit short and bravely got another bus home… We kept repeatedly hearing the noise of the impact all evening but we were very lucky – and thank goodness it happened in France in such a strong new bus and not on some of the rickety old buses we have been on somewhere in Africa in an old Leyland.
No visit to the French Riviera would be complete without a visit to Saint Tropez. We spent a couple of days here and loved it. The old town is really beautiful, with lanes of old stone houses, steep streets and classic French sophistication. We found a park where men were playing boules and women standing around chatting.
We sat down for our sundowner in the square and suddenly about 150 sports cars all starting coming into the square. They were coming through an awning, being photographed and then did a slow lap of honour round the park before parking and allowing everyone to admire them. We found out later it was the finale of the Megeve-st Tropez rally which is a 900km journey from Megeve in the western Alps to St Tropez. Ian found his favourite car, the E-type jag – a choice of two… there were Lambourginis, heaps of Porsches, Mazeratis, Cobras, Morgans, Aston Martins etc….. We had a wonderful time getting up and close and personal with them all – such a treat.
A couple days later we headed for the island of Porquerolles. This small island is very popular with French people and even though it was late September, there were lots of boats in the anchorages. We walked around the small town, walked in land a bit and stretched our legs. There’s great diving here I gather but it was too cold for me. We also stopped in the town of Cassis. This is a delightful harbour town which as always, goes uphill behind the waterfront. We met an English couple here who had taken 4 years to come from UK to Cassis! We have taken 4.5 years to come half way round the world…
We were watching the weather daily and we had seen there was a large storm front coming through. The main problem with the southern Mediterranean coastline is that there are few good anchorages which offer good protection. We needed to find somewhere to hide and opted for a largish town just inside the Spanish border with the delightful name of Roses. So sadly our time in France had come to an end, we had enjoyed it very much.