We were just around 20 minutes away from Saint Tropez and it was getting late.
Crusing on local roads we were looking for somewhere to stay. We
came across and Aire by a river which looked ideal. Aires in France are free
stop overs usually by the motorway with very basic facilities (if any). This
one however was a bit different. There were power lines and water pipes running
on the ground all over the place and the motor-homes/caravans looked fully set
up for log term stay rather than just a nights sleep. After closer inspection
we realized that this Aire has been squatted by what looked like some kind of a
gipsy tribe. Unfortunately, we didn’t look very welcome and after not making
any friends we were back on the road.
We decided to drive into Saint Tropez which, as it turned out, wasn’t a great
idea. At this time of the year the place was fully packed with people and heavy
traffic. We managed to find a paid parking spot on the outskirts at 3 euro an
hour and had a quick dip in the sea. It was very hot and we were desperate to
cool down. After an hour we got back on the road. So far not very impressed
with the French riviera. Big crowds, cosmic prices and the general trendy vibe
we didn’t really dig.
Driving east along the coast things didn’t look much better. Most of the coast
was taken up by hotels and resorts. Parking, either expensive or not allowed
for campers. We were slowly loosing our hopes and thought of driving back
inland to spend the night on motorway services. Then we spotted a white T3
parked by the side of the road, right by the sea. We pulled up behind it.
The white van belonged to a friendly German couple, roughly our age, who we
quickly made friends with. We found the parking was indeed free and
unrestricted and decided to stay. We spent the night drinking beers with our
new found friends and chatting about the camper van ways. I really admired them
for their minimalism. Our set up looked way posh compared to theirs. We had a
fridge, they had what they called a ‘warm corner’. We had lots of stuff and
things, they had lots of empty bottles (to get money back for them in Germany).
They were properly roughing it up on the cheap, never staying in campsites,
never taking toll roads and washing their clothes in the sea (apparently they
come out nice, maybe a bit on the stiff side). Their security system was simply
not locking the van and leaving the doors wide open when they went for a dip in
the sea. Genius, a thief wouldn’t find anything there other than some dirty
clothes but at least it keeps them from breaking a window to find this out. We
felt inspired as to what levels of freedom can be achieved by simply by not
having much stuff. As the saying goes, the things we own end up owning us.
The next morning we all went for a snorkel in the crystal clear water. After
lunch they gave us a couple of nice hookups for free places to stay in Croatia
and we left the French beaches heading for Italy.