Slip Sliding Away

The threatened rain turned up and it turned up in spades. Overnight we had a doozy of a thunderstorm as well as a mozzie buzzing around inside the caravan. Naturally the hammering rain woke us up and then, having heard a mozzie, it’s difficult not to keep listening for it. We did eventually get back to sleep.

We had originally planned to go to the Carrières de Lumières at Les Baux de Provence. The Carrières de Lumières is a lightshow of projected images inside an former bauxite mine using the more or less white, flat surfaces of the old underground mine caverns as the projection screens. Images are projected onto the floor and ceiling as well as the vertical walls. It is quite spectacular and is probably Francine’s favourite tourist site in France. It’s almost a 2-hour drive away from where we are camped.

However, we suffered a set back whilst planning our excursion. The French, bless ‘em, are gradually introducing clean air zones in parts of France, beginning with the more metropolitan areas. To enter them at certain times, vehicles must display a Crit’Air vignette, a windscreen sticker, testifying just how dirty or otherwise your car exhaust fumes are. You can buy them from a French government website for the princely sum of about €4 but delivery was said to take about 6 weeks. Paris and Grenoble were, I think first on the list and now Toulouse has followed suit, along with Rouen, none of which were on our target list. So, we ain’t got one.

It now seems that Montpellier has joined in since July 2022, though just how is uncertain – we read something about an “education period” [loose translation for French I’ve forgotten]. There isn’t a practical route from us to Les Baux de Provence without going through Montpellier. One of the routes is on the autoroute but still crosses the Montpellier area.

So, we thought better of it – leave it to next time WITH a vignette – and decided to visit Villeneuvette instead, which Francine had read about. VIlleneuvette is an old village that was given over to the manufacture of military uniforms and the houses were mostly those of the workers.

Meanwhile, outside on the campsite, lots of campervans were having fun and games. We and several of them are at the bottom of the campsite’s gentle slope. The torrential rain had flowed down, of course, and had softened the lower ground so much that vehicle tyres had sunk in slightly just as they stood, without moving. When they tried to move, with ill-advised amounts of right boot in particular, they dug themselves further in as wheels spun and refused to gain traction. Some of these beasts weigh 3500kgs but even a modest VW campervan was having difficulties.

Several of us got together to try and help one of the larger units. I went and found some wood to try under the wheels. Someone else was trying cardboard but it simply got shot out of the back with no benefit whatsoever. Some keen individuals tried pushing as the right boot went down – good luck with that technique on 3500kgs.

motorhome rutsHappily there was a more sensible Swiss motorhome which a) had parked up the slope so it could at least drive downhill, and b) carried a pair of sand mats to stick under the driving wheels. Happily, by repeating their use, the hulk managed to clamber out of its self-excavated ruts and struggle to the gravel track. I couldn’t believe that its driver, after first use of the mats, actually started reversing back into the hole having made a little progress. “NO!”, I screamed. Numpty!

Our rutsCleaning the tyresOur own car had sunk very slightly but drove out on tick-over quite nicely without much drama. It was still worth parking somewhere a bit different, though. The tyres were smothered in mud but there was a handy-dandy hose with which to rinse them off.

VilleneuvetteVilleneuvette wasn’t really worth it. We wandered around it being unscintillated for 30 minutes but returned in short order to Mèze, again, this time to share a dozen oysters and a dozen pallourdes [a type of clam], and very good they were, too.

Posted in 2022-09 France
2 comments on “Slip Sliding Away
  1. Steve says:

    The little sticker for the car window was very straight forward to apply for. All online, you will need to send a copy of your registration form and of course make a payment. I cannot see that the amount they charge for the sticker can cover the administration of this scheme.

    You get notification of the progress, and the sticker arrives in well under 2 weeks, nearer 1 week. It all depends on whether the royal mail is on strike!!!

    We entered Rouen which is controlled. Though I never saw the signs.

    Unfortunately, different cities have different rules. Thankfully, Google maps (on my mobile phone, does not seem to show this on the web version) informs you of any pollution areas you might pass through, with a link to the rules.

    How did you find out?

    It looks like Montpellier will ban all diesel vehicles in 2028 with the exception of biodiesel trucks. Petrol, PHEV & BEV will be allowed.

    Luckily, France treats Euro 5 and Euro 6 diesels the same 😊 unlike London. 🙁

    • Franco says:

      Yes, I think it was Google on a phone that highlighted the Montpellier issue. I looked at the online application today and got flummoxed by “Serial Number”, which isn’t Registration Number. Maybe VIN?

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