Ferry to Corsica

We had a second night to spend on an aire during our drive down to Nice from where we'd catch the ferry to Corsica. Having spent a week camping in Cagnes-sur-Mer a couple of years ago we knew there was an aire in Antibes which would have been ideally located considering the early hour we were to check in for the ferry crossing. Antibes it's lovely, very picturesque and full of character but the aire de camping car was full of caravans and lorries which all looked like they were staying long term with camping paraphernalia scattered around in an untidy mess. I'd not have enjoyed staying there or felt particularly safe. And so after some research I homed in on an aire just north of Nice, next to a lake, that had great reports of its peacefulness. I was reassured too by its ability to accommodate up to 20 motorhomes.

I never learn the lesson that proximity on a map doesn't naturally translate to ease or speed of the drive between two locations. As we wound our way up into the Alps I began to realise that Lac de Thorenc, lovely as it sounded, wasn't really cut out to be a convenient stopover for someone needing to be in Nice at 7am.

Cleopatra pulled in to the large motorhome parking area at 7pm. Tony parked her between a large motorhome and smaller campervan, the only two vehicles currently resident. After a quick examination of the nextdoor toilet facilities we went for the short walk to the lake.

We found a bar and restaurant at the lake's edge and picnic benches and small car parking area. The picnic area was busy with families while others sat behind trestle tables upon which sheets covered their contents. It was as though we'd just missed a market.

Tony and I had a brief mooch around the edge of the lake, mostly for photographic purposes, and then returned to Cleopatra to find, in the space of ten minutes, both of her neighbours had left.

It always feels safer when there are other motorhomes on an aire and, as dusk fell, and Cleopatra was all alone in this huge parking area, I began to have second thoughts about my choice. I looked at Tony who looked like he was looking at me to suggest going somewhere else. I didn't want to be the one planting the seed of doubt and so I didn't say anything. We unpacked the chairs, opened a bottle of wine and sat outside looking onto the trees between the aire and restaurant and picnic area. The occasional sound of merriment from next to the lake gave the impression that we'd be hearing people leaving long after we'd gone to bed for an early night.

We were in bed by 10pm. After consulting Google's weather forecast, which showed only a 10 percent chance of rain during the night, we'd removed Cleopatra's rain cover topper and so the pop-top bed was nice and cool and I drifted off to sleep without problem. I never did hear anyone leaving the picnic area and restaurant, though a little later I did hear movement and looked out of the unzipped window to see the welcome sight of another campervan a short way away.

I was drifting in and out of sleep by the time the alarm went off at 4.30am. I always have a restless night when there's an important alarm, wondering if it failed to go off and I'm already late. Tony had slept well and, since he was driving, that's all that really mattered.

With just the roof to fasten down we were on the road sharpish, winding our way back down through the mountains. We passed almost no other traffic, one or two cars coming in the opposite direction causing Tony to dip the full-beam headlights illuminating hairpin bends in the darkness. Eventually black sky began to turn navy blue and, as we neared the coast, the pale blue of a summer's day began to show.

At Cagnes-sur-Mer we joined a busy motorway heading east towards Nice. There was a surprising amount of traffic for 6am on a Sunday morning. We arrived an hour earlier than required for our ferry departure, but that was reassuring since it wasn't immediately obvious which area of the port we were supposed to be to embark the imaginatively named Mega Express 5.

Showing our ticket to a man in high vis confirmed we were in the right place and two more high-vis-wearing staff waved us by. We were then stopped and asked if the bikes, on the bike rack at the back, could be put inside the van. He said we'd paid for a five-metre-long vehicle and the bikes put us over that. We were asked for an additional €70 for the three quarters of a metre extra - not an expense we'd been expecting.

Cleopatra was one of the last vehicles allowed to board, being held in a queue with other tall vehicles. As time neared the ferry's 8am departure I began to worry if maybe it was our unbooked additional length that was holding us up and maybe they'd decide there was no room after all. It became apparent that it was the height the bikes were adding that was the cause for concern, despite our booking showing we could be up to two and a half metres tall.

Last to board meant last pick of seats. We walked past comfortable-looking cabins, an expense we couldn't justify considering it would be daytime, towards the upper deck where all the deck chairs had been claimed. We perched ourselves on the wooden edge of the empty swimming pool (empty of water, not just swimmers). I suggested Tony stayed there claiming that space while I investigated the seating in the restaurant below. I found an empty table and just needed chairs which I bagsied through pointing and making a questioning expression with my face. Then I rang Tony and tried to explain where I was.

Reunited, and with two comfortable chairs in which to sit, we began trying to amuse ourselves for the 4.5 hour ferry crossing. I was cross with myself for not bringing any of the dozen or so boardgames that were inside the van. I watched enviously as a group of five people at the next table played cards. Tony fetched two very strong coffees and got out his Kindle. And I decided to write this blog post, which I now can't share because mobile signal was just lost!

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