Corsica, Saint Florent to the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur)

14 September The weather looked good for a scooter tour so we set off just after 9:00am, and had a great day. Our route took us firstly through the mountains to the coast, where we stopped in Calvi for lunch. We then inadvertently took a wrong turn and ended up high in the mountains, but it was beautiful and none of us minded the detour. We really enjoy being in the country and seeing the greenery, and the villages with their lovely old French Villa’s and little windy streets.

15 & 16 September We departed Saint Florent for our overnight, 110 nautical mile, passage from Corsica to Nice, mainland France at 2:00pm. This was so we arrive after daylight. It was a good passage with little swell or wind and pretty uneventful. We made good time and actually had to slow down to just over 3 knots at one stage so as not to arrive in the dark. We could not get a berth in the marina, they were full so we anchored in the bay just around the headland, Ville Franche-sur-mer. Well, it took about 5 attempts to get the anchor to set. It was a very rocky bottom and finally after about an hour we were satisfied. It was a bit roly, but wasn’t too bad. Our internet dongle was not working and unfortunately our anchor winch motor was playing up and would not be capable of lifting the anchor again. You know how it goes, when something breaks, it comes in threes, well as if the winch motor and the internet weren’t enough our anchor remote control device started doing weird things. We only use it as an anchor chain counter – this tells us how much chain we are putting out. Plus, the alternator we had recently had repaired decided to stop working again! Robbie had taken off the new alternator and put on the repaired original alternator, so he swapped them over again. Now we have to try and get this one repaired again. It’s supposed to be under warranty but we had no joy contacting the guy in Mykonos who carried out the repairs. We think we have “Mr Klabouterman” on board now, this is the German bad guy who hides on board a boat and breaks things and creates havoc!!

We decided to forego a sleep and head into town to sort out the internet so as we could order a new motor for the winch, and get some advice about the anchor remote. Being in a foreign country where not a lot of the locals speak English adds to the challenge of purchasing anything, from the simplest thing of topping up your phone credit to the more complex issue of trying to get a motor repaired or order a new part.

Villefranche-sur-mer, is a very attractive town, set in the hills down to the harbour, with a cluster of very colourful villa’s around the marina. We walked up the hill to the main road and caught a bus into Nice. We found the “Orange” store, our phone and internet provider, and sorted out our problem, we needed more credit. We’re not sure where that 2 Gb went but we brought another 3Gb, had some lunch, completed the emails we needed to, and had a walk around the huge Carrefour Supermarket that had just about everything. (After cruising half way around the world and having a vast range of provisioning opportunities from virtually only onions to a fully stocked haven like this, it’s a wee bit exciting and thrilling to be shopping like this!)

We headed back to the boat and had a quiet afternoon and evening, we were pretty shattered after our overnight passage. Unfortunately a horrible swell set in and we rocked and rolled all night long, and neither of us got much sleep. It was very uncomfortable.

17 September We spoke to Peter and Heidi and all agreed we had to move, none of us wanted another night like this. So we left at 10:00am for the 22 nautical mile passage to Cannes.

It took us a long time to get the anchor up by hand. This involves loosening the clutches onto the chain gypsy, inserting the crank handle into the side of the gypsy and then rotating the gypsy with the handle for 100 degrees, and then locking the chain lock device, and then repeat the process. Each crank would lift about 25cm of chain, so to get the 40 odd metres of chain up took a long time, and Robbie had skin worn off on his fingers and his elbow. I had the easy job of locking in the chain lock each rotation, and trying to look as though I was doing something useful!

We arrived in Cannes just after 2:30pm and although we had previously booked into the marina, we had to sit and wait for about 20 minutes for a berth allocation. It’s a lovely marina, right next to the Casino. They were just cleaning up from the annual boat show, and throughout the afternoon a number of super yachts cruised in to berth. They make Southern Star look like a baby!

We jumped online and organised a hire car to pick up a new motor for the winch.

18 September Robbie and I walked into town to pick up the hire car and then came back and picked up Peter and Heidi who carried the alternator and the current anchor winch motor to the car, no easy feat. We drove to Ventimiglia, across the border in Italy to collect the new motor, this only took 45 minutes. We came back via the coast road as much as we could. Wow, really stunning views the water looks turquoise and very inviting! We stopped in at Monte Carlo and had a walk around the Casino and then down to Monaco, where they are setting up in the marina for the annual boat show. We only missed it by a few days unfortunately.

We had a nice few hours watching all the very expensive cars including Bentley’s, Rolls Royce’s, Aston Martins, Ferrari’s you name it and it was there. We loved it in our baby Citroen though!!

19 September After our day in the fancy rich areas yesterday we decided we needed a country fix, so we headed off with Peter & Heidi in the car for the Countryside. We headed inland and our first stop was Grasse. This is a city of 40,000 people, and 4,000 are employed in the Parfum industry. The city sits high on the hills overlooking Cannes and the coast and is very picturesque. We called into a perfume manufacturer and tried a few scents. Nothing inspired us to purchase a fragrance though. They offer a workshop for 45 Euro and you can make your own Parfum. We decided to continue on our journey and our next stop was Castellane. Wow what a beautiful little village. The town of Castellane is a very old city located upstream of the Gorges du Verdon. There is a chapel very high on the cliffs of a hill or very high rock, called Our Lady of the Rock (Notre-Dame du Roc). It was built in the late twelfth century. Absolutely stunning scenery.

We had a coffee and checked out the markets where you could buy a whole cooked pigs head, as well as all the beautiful cheeses and smoked pork, and continued on to Gorges du Verdon.

The Gorges Du Verdon is in south-eastern France Alpes de Haute Provence, is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful. It is about 25 kilometres long and up to 700 metres deep. It was formed by the Verdon River, which is named for its startling turquoise-green colour, one of the location’s distinguishing characteristics. The most impressive part lies between the towns of Castellane and Moutiers Saitne Marie, where the river has cut a ravine to a depth of 700 metres through the limestone mass. At the end of the canyon, the Verdon River flows into the artificial lake of Sainte Croix du Verdon.

 We got photos that unfortunately, do not do the stunning scenery justice. Robbie and Peter were sitting right on the edge of the cliffs getting shots of Eagles soaring in the wind updrafts through the canyon, unfortunately our photos didn’t show them up very well. It was a beautiful drive through the narrow windy roads with lots of tunnels and at times a cliff overhanging the road so low that I ducked when we drove under them.

20 September after returning the hire car (great deal Europcar – 47 euro for 2 days, funny though that the insurance cost more than the car hire!) We departed Cannes for St Tropez, just after 10:00am. It was a beautiful morning, with only 3 knots of wind when we left the marina – which was full of super yachts.

We did the 21 nautical miles in 4 hours and anchored in the bay just behind the harbour of Saint Tropez. Robbie swam and checked the anchor holding. He also put up our new Country of Origin flag which we recently had made in Australia. Peter and Heidi had kindly informed us that our tatty old NZ flag was not a good image in the French Riviera!

We had a late lunch and went into Saint Tropez, picking up Peter and Heidi on the way. It is much smaller than we expected, but very likeable. There were a number of artists painting right on the marina dock and lots of sculptures everywhere. We had a good walk around checking out the huge superyachts and then had a game of 500 and a drink in the Irish Bar, which was of course playing the World Cup Rugby games. Born a Kiwi, I always support the All Blacks. I am looking forward to hopefully catching a few of their games. We continued on our exploration of the town, a number of times now we have seen the locals playing boules in a common area in the centre of town. We were going to have dinner but it is really expensive, we sat down in one café and they wanted 17 euro for one beer!!! That’s about $30 dollars for us. We can buy a carton of 24 beers for that in Australia. No way said Robbie, so we walked around a bit more and found another café that wasn’t so expensive, 11 euros for a beer, and 28 euros for a bottle of Rose. Not so bad and the Rose was very nice. We had another game of cards whilst watching the Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, Bentleys and Rolls Royce’s roaring around. There is certainly a lot of wealth around here!

We decided to head back to the boats for dinner, so walked back to the marina where we had left the dinghy and eeeeek no dinghy!!! Surely it couldn’t have been stolen we thought? Robbie and Peter went searching and I went the other direction and found the Captainere office and there was a couple of guys who luckily spoke English and they called someone else, who said “you parked in a berth your dinghy was moved to the hard dock”, and showed me (on a map) where they had put it. By the time I walked back Robbie had found the dinghy anyway. Phew! It gave me a bit of a fright, Robbie was sure it hadn’t been stolen, there were far too many other nice boats around for someone to take ours!


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