We’ve moved on from Loupin but only a relatively short distance, about 40kms further east along the Mediterranean coast to Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone. [I’m curious about the grave accent here on “les”.] We’re in a couple of days of unsettled weather pattern which we’re trying to ride out as best we can.

PXL_20230921_120243066.MP-01This place is in some salt lagoons that the Canal du Rhône à Sète cuts through. This canal joins the Canal du Midi at the Étang de Thau. A canal cutting through lakes sounds a little odd but I think the reasoning is that the shallow lakes need a deeper navigation channel cutting through them.  A couple of pictures should give the idea. We went out for a windy bike ride to have a gander. On the left of this shot is the canal itself with a lagoon on the right.

PXL_20230921_120258380-01Just behind that picture we found the Passerelle du Pilou which is an opening swing bridge to allow the passage of boats. What I found fascinating about this is that the swinging part of the bridge is driven by two outboard motors, one pushing the bridge open and the other, in the opposite direction, to close it. It looks like an ingeniously cheap solution to a power source for a bridge..

The other “attraction” was that this place runs a commercial aire de camping car which Francine found had good reviews, so we thought we’d adopt the camping car approach and give it a go. It’s another automated system offering credit card entry to a what is a tarmac car park but with water and electricity connections on each space, of which there are 44. Reviews say it is favoured by larger units because of its manoeuvrability. We arrived and the access worked a treat, with instructions in multiple languages. A code is issued to open the gate again pour sortir We parked modestly-sized Frodo, hooked up to the electric borne, which Francine declared to be working, got the chairs out and settled on our rented piece of tarmac for a traditional installation beer.

PXL_20230921_153017406-01Now, on the plus side these places are open all year and your 3.5t camping car ain’t gonna get stuck in mud, which we had witnessed happening remarkably easily last September after rain at Villemarin not so far away.  It’s also close to the autoroute for passing travellers. Sometimes, there may not be a campsite around, either. (Most of those here now seem to be closed.) However, we’d just been paying €17 a night at Loupian on a bona fide campsite with trees and sanitaires, but which will close at the end of the month, and this car park costs €20 a night, which seems pretty steep. Still, it’s popular so they must be doing something right. Ya pays ya money and takes ya choice, I suppose.

A Spanish rental van had turned up close by and, after a little while, seemed to be having trouble with the electric hook-up. There was much Spanish peering at plugs and sockets, accompanied by discussion. Eventually, they seemed to give up – everything got packed away and said Spanish rental van drove off and exited. Meanwhile other vans had been turning up around us.

Shortly after returning from our windy bike ride Francine announced that our electricity had gone off. I looked at the borne. all four previously green lights (there were four connections in each borne) were now extinguished. I wandered to the neighbouring borne; same story. At the opposite end of the car park a group of French campers were in animated conversation. I joined them. The electricity supply for the entire aire had gone phut! It wasn’t an individual circuit breaker problem. The French told me that they had called someone, who was on the way.

A Swedish van now parked where the Spanish van had been. He needed power for some breathing apparatus overnight for his wife. I assured him that the problem was in hand. How’s that for confidence?

Mr Fixit duly appeared and studied the main site circuit breaker box. He spotted the fact that I keep my excess cable coiled on a drum. It’s true that this is said not to be the best idea but that’s ‘cos too much current flowing around a coil can cause overheating. What it doesn’t do is cause you to draw still more current, unless things melt and you short-circuit. Even then, you’d think it would pop your individual circuit breaker. I’ve been doing this for 35+ years and it hasn’t yet caused a problem. Nonetheless, my less-than-helpful French neighbour tried to unravel the drum, the wrong way, and tangled it up  Thanks a bunch!  The problem persisted.

I directed the assembled French multitude to the borne vacated by the now absent Señor Spaniard. Aha! The offending former connection had been found. I’ve no idea what had been done but one socket appeared a bit mangled. If it’s good enough to save Apollo 13 it’s good enough for a French aire de camping car – duct tape was produced and the offending socket taped up to avoid further use. Normal service was resumed. Phew!

Flamingo take off runThere are Flamingos on the nearest lagoon but I had not had my camera on our bike ride. For some light relief after the electrical excitement, Francine and I wandered down on foot, this time with camera, to watch them. They are quite close in to the shore and offered a decent opportunity, once one of their number decided actually to do something instead of just standing there.

Posted in 2023-09 France