02 October 2015 - Mortgage France News |

10 years in France: The beginning

The first article in a series written by Tony Bayliss, the founder of Mortgagefrance.com. The series will centre on his love of France, and experiences there throughout his time in the country.


I put it all down to Stelios and Easyjet commencing flights to Nice. I saw the advertisement in the Daily Express which offered cheap flights to Nice on Easyjet who had just begun flights from Liverpool an airport close to where we lived.

My love affair with the South of France had started many years earlier, in 1959 to be precise when I as a 14 year old went on holiday with my parents to the South of France. Dad had a love for the Mediterranean having spent time in the region during the 2nd World War and he had always wanted to revisit. It seemed unreal to me at the time, we left our home in Godalming and travelled to Lydd Airport on a now defunct Silver City Airways who operated an air ferry service where we travelled to Le Touquet. I will never forget the thrill of embarquing and strapping myself in to a seat on this aircraft, a Bristol Freighter which had enough capacity for 2 cars and 12 passengers. The flight time was about 20 minutes so it was up, a quick drink and down again and off went on the long drive south.

3 days had been allotted to this trip and the first night was to be spent in Joinville. This first day we travelled about 250 miles on the long straight tree lined N roads Accomodation had  been booked at the Hotel de la Poste which is still there today. At that time it was quite old fashioned with clunky windows, garish floral wallpaper which ran over water pipes and electical wiring. I can vividly remembering that whilst Dad was in his element my Mother and I were just a touch nervous.

The food however was great, and dinner on that first evening in France was spent “al fresco” sitting in the July sun which was just beginning to go down. I also washed the meal down with my first taste of local French wine. That was an evening that will remain with me always. The bedroom was small and very old fashioned and the bed had a lumpy mattress and the room being at the front in the town centre was noisy from aebout 4a.m as the next day in Joinville began with people starting to move about as the sun began to come up.

Our first “French breakfast”  was devoured and enjoyed and so off we began on our journey to the French Riviera. The second  day had been planned to be an easy one with no great distances to cover to allow some recovery from the previous day which had been very long. Just after lunch, far quicker than planned we pulled into a little hamlet and readily found our “billet for the night. The Hamlet whose name eludes me seemed to be no more than a few houses and this modern building which was where we were staying. Our spirits were elevated even further when we saw where we were staying. It was a lovely light airy building built on a slope. The rooms were fresh with tiled flooring and plain painted walls with a modern bathroom off. It was wonderful and the couple that ran it were charming. We dumped our bags in our room and went to explore and discover what was going on over the road. There was a village fete going on with various stalls and entertainments. There were a lot of people thronging about, enjoying this sunny warm Sunday afternoon.

After a most enjoyable afternoon, a delicious evening meal we took to our beds early in anticipation of an early start the next day. The very kind “Patronne” rose early to provide us with croissants bread and coffee at 6.30 am and we were on the last leg of our journey to the Riviera before 7a.m. This was a long and arduous day as our journey brought us down to Lausanne, along the shores of Lake Geneva and then down to Grenoble. This long journey then commenced the mountain section to Gap, Sisteron, Digne Castellane and down to Grasse where where in the blazing sunshine we got our first sighting of the blue, glistening Mediterranean. There was not a cloud in the sky, we all just gasped at the beauty of it all and through our tiredness came a surge of energy and wanting to arrive. From Grasse we took the road that brought us down a little mountain gorge with some properties by the river to La Colle sur Loup and so to Cros de Cagnes, which was a small fishing portbetween Nice and Cannes where we had a hotel booked for 10 days.

The hotel was in a little square just at the back of the clock tower on to of the Church of St. Pierre in Cros de Cagnes, 8 or 10 rooms with a wondefull little bar and restaurant where you could sitting on the street in this square. Opposite was the Cordonnier who spent his days in the window repairing shoes and a couple of doors up on the corner was the Pharmacy. On our side of the road on the corner was a Florists and on the 200 metres or so down to the beach was a butches, fishmongers with the Post office on the corner and a racing bar on the other . With the exception of the Cordonnier who is no longer there all the other shops are still there today.  Sadly the hotel is no longer, it is now a Credit Agricole bank.

Joseph and Ermine who ran the hotel were a lovely couple who looked after us exremely well and Joseph, who was the chef prepared some wonderful Mediterranean dishes for us.

We visited Cannes, Nice, St. Paul de Vence, Monaco and even went into Italy to the little border town of Ventimiglia. It was an idyllic holiday and we were all very sad when we had to return. Our return however was made interesting by us leaving the Riviera out of Nice and taking the road up to Sospel and then to Turin where we spent a night. The journey home took us over the Great St Bernard pass (there was no tunnel then) through Switzerland and back home crossing the channel by ferry. I remember  on the last evening whilst Dad was searching for somewhere to stay say a building “Hotel de Ville”. “That looks perfect he exclaimed” not realising it was the town hall.

The following year we repeated the exercise and this time I brought a school friend with me Andy and we came again the year after that. We then missed a year but visited again this time my girl friend Jackie was with us. Each time we stayed with Joseph and Ermine. The year after that in 1964 I visited with Jackie and her parents. I really did have an affinity with the Cote d’Azur and Cros de Cagnes in particular.

I wasn’t however to visit agin until 1974. By this time I had married and I had an 18 month old daughter. We had recently purchased a secondhand VW Camper Van and we decided to drive down to the South of France again retracing the steps of 15 years earlier. This time however the crossing was made by Ferry from Dover to Calais and as with the first time we took 3 days over our journey. The view as we came into Grasse was just a wonderful, nothing had changed and we drove down towards Cros de Cagnes to find a camp site. We found an incredible spot, just north of La Colle sur Loup by the river that I had passed all those years before and we set up camp. We had a wonderful stay, the days were hot and when we were not sightseeing or on the beach we could sit by the river and shelter under the trees which was fine having a toddler with us.

Joseph and Ermine were still there and we enjoyed several meals there, it was as if time had stood still.

We drove back as before taking the road out through Sisteron and onto Turin. This time however there was a motorway driving through Italy and we did not have to go over the Great St Bernard pass as there was a tunnel. The engine of the VW camper lost a lot of power on the Italian motorway, and we just managed to get home before the engine gave out altogether. The engine, being air cooled, had overheated and the head gasket had started to leak. There were also a few minor issues like worn bearings as well.

That was a wonderful holiday and my relationship with the South of France deepened further.


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