The two sides of Italy, the picturesque, historic but then the traffic. Ventimiglia roundabout is notorious as the first encounter with Italian traffic after the frontier with France. Scooters, white vans and just people in cars all mingle in a chaotic urban jumble. The camera hides the lack of paint and crumbling masonry, revealing only the wildlife in the river Roya and the picturesque Ligurian town just across the border from French Menton.
Cold snap here in the Écrins rather than the Indian summer which we had hoped for. We’re staying again ay Boustigue, just off the Route Napoléon at Corps. Fine dawns on the Grande Tête de l’Obiou (2790 m.) over the mist in the valley of the river Drac. We followed the Drac upstream to its sources, the glaciers of the Écrins. The name Drac means “dragon”, so-called because of its devastating flash floods. The valleys of the two principal tributaries are quite different in character, the White Drac runs down a valley of crystalline rock whereas the Black Drac has a deep valley eroded in to sedimentary rock.
A seagull looks curiously at the photographer... do I have a croissant? Meanwhile, the sun rises over the French Mediterranean port of Sète.
Historic Marseillan, a fishing port on the Bassin de Thau since the 12th century. More peaceful than Marseille and the air is clearer. The Bassin de Thau is famous for its oyster beds; it’s a lagoon, a geomorphologic synclinal; the corresponding anticlinal is the mountain of the Gardiole to the north-east. Nowadays, the Marseillanais grow vines, brew the vermouth Noilly-Pratt created in Marseillan in 1813 and still enjoy their comedy in their Italian theatre; there’s a chateau and of course a church, this one with richly-coloured stained glass windows and a tower dating from the 11th century. But mostly the visitors enjoy the port with a selection of historic and modern vessels moored at its old quays.