Le Lavandou, France

Three's Company - Our first guest in the camper!

July 21th, 2020.

Since we started planning this trip years ago, we’ve constantly pestered our friends about joining us on the road. One, because we like our friends and want to see them, and two, because we figured at some point we would be sick of each other and desperately need to see some fresh faces.

We didn’t expect our first guest to be so soon, but we were stoked when our buddy Antoine said he would come spend the second week of July scuba diving with us in the south of France. Morade and I met Antoine when we were both working for Reuters. He’s a strapping young video journalist (hey ladies) who was based in Colombia for a while. When Covid hit, he got stuck in France, and decided to take the opportunity to relocate to Paris.
Hosting a guest in our camper presented us with several new challenges.
First, we needed to make space in the back seat so Antoine could sit comfortably. This sounds like it should be easy, but we only have a half back seat in the pickup and it’s generally packed with all the extra stuff we can’t fit in the camper. 

We ended up fixing a little space for him to sit with an extra pillow for his back. We also moved the passenger seat forward so Antoine and I were both equally cramped. Since we weren’t driving too far it wasn’t that big of an issue, but it wasn’t the most luxurious arrangement.

The view from our first campsite
Antoine brought his tent to camp out next to our truck, so the second thing we needed to consider was finding a place to sleep where he could also pitch his tent. 
Normally, we decide where to camp on a day-by-day basis. Depending on how much time we have to look for a spot and how late we start looking, we’ve slept in parking lots, on streets, at the entrance to hiking trails, on beaches and in the wilderness. In Europe, the app Park4Night has a good database of spots where wild car camping is tolerated.
In this case, we needed to find spots that were near our dive sites, not too close to a busy road, with soft enough ground to secure Antoine’s tent. The first night, we found what seemed like the ideal spot – it was on a flat, wide, dirt turnout off a low-traffic mountain road, with a panoramic view of the sea. Antoine pitched his tent between two shrubs not far from where we parked the car and we started making dinner, expecting to have a chill first night eating outside under the stars.
But before we sat down for dinner, massive gusts of wind started whipping across the mountain, jostling the camper and blowing anything that wasn’t weighed down off the table. Morade chased an empty plate across the road, and luckily managed to catch it before it rolled down the mountain. We lasted about 20 minutes (which was already 19 minutes too long if you ask me), before deciding to finish our meal inside.
Antoine’s been camping for years in different conditions, so he said he had no problem sleeping with the wind. Being close to the ground meant he was spared the worst of it, while we were rocked (more like thrashed) to sleep in our camper. The next morning a local cyclist told us this road is famous for its mistrals, powerful winds that blow from the mountain out to sea. He said the previous night they’d reached speeds of up to 70 km/h (43.5 mph). 
The view from our second, better campsite
With that in mind, we decided to try a second spot out the next night, on a route forestière in the mountains above Le Lavandou, where our next dive departed from. This time, the conditions could not have been more perfect. There was zero wind and almost no clouds, which gave us an unobstructed, dramatic view of the Hyères islands. We made grilled salmon with rice for dinner and were quite literally on top of the world. 
Then, all of a sudden, this bright red moon started rising over the horizon. It looked so unreal that I asked Morade and Antoine “What’s that red thing over there?” These dorks spent nearly an hour taking photos of Suzie and the moon. The whole spectacle was ridiculous, with Antoine holding a headlamp at varying angles because we didn’t have a flash bulb. But the results weren’t terrible.
The final thing we noticed was that having an extra person with us meant having to transport an extra person’s stuff in the car. Our storage situation is already calculated to every last minute detail (thanks to neat freak Morade, and no thanks to Anca the slob), which meant while Antoine was with us we were generally throwing both his and our stuff haphazardly in the back. But hey, we made it work, and everyone had a good time!
To prove it, here are some photos of what we got up to when we weren’t camping.
Eagerly awaiting our next guests,
Anca and Morade


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