July 24, 2014

The the long, long, long, drive to the Riviera

Our second day in the Loire Valley was spent right at the Gite. Sean and I had thought we'd go explore the other chateau we had missed the day before, but a relaxing day around the house sounded lovely, as did Dad and Lea. We did wander into the village of Descartes for lunch where we witnessed interesting local behavior.

The village streets are very narrow and only allow for one side of the street to have parked cars so as not to block the road from traffic. In front of the BNP Paribas bank, a very large armored truck was parked half on the sidewalk, and half into the road. Now if you were a small Renault or Peugeot, you could probably get around the armored truck without an issue. But, if you were a rather large motorhome, it would be impossible to get around the truck.

Naturally, the first vehicle behind the armored truck was a rather large motorhome. We sat and enjoyed our lunch at the outdoor café and watched the traffic back up behind the motorhome. Now we are talking a 20 or 25 car backup and there was not a single honk of a horn! Nobody stormed out of their cars and demanded that something be done, or had a loud conversation with a fellow trapped driver. Instead, one guy ordered an espresso from a local café who was kind enough to deliver said espresso to the guy's car. Those silly French.

We were just so amazed at how calm, and unbothered everyone was about this delay that was over 30 minutes. I'm pretty sure I would have lost my mind. But I am wound rather tight, or so I've been told. It was just kind of comical to watch. Now if we had encountered that same incident in Italy, boy there would have been horns and fists and LOTS of yelling.

Given that the sun still refused to show itself, here's how we dried our laundry. When Dad and Lea woke up first on our departure day, they thought we might be opening up a retail shop to pay our travel expenses.

We all did a great job of getting our stuff together, tidying up the Gite and into our cars by our agreed departure time of 9:30 AM. Since the drive to the Riviera would be too far of a drive to do in one day, we had an overnight stay planned near the town of Lyon, which was roughly one-half of the way to the South. According to Google, this stopover would take us 4 hours and 39 minutes. Add in an hour for potty and lunch stop and we figured we'd be to our hotel by 4:30 or so. We couldn't have been more mistaken.

This is what our drive was like . . .

About an hour past the time we should have arrived, we stopped for gas. We were about 60 KM from our hotel at this point (and it was already 6:00 PM) and April was so mad at me she could spit. According to her, I was going the WRONG way and instead of heading directly into Lyon (our hotel was right outside the city), we should have traveled "above" Lyon and into Villefranche-sur-Saône, instead of going around Lyon. Now this sounds logical, but my British GPS lady didn't indicate that I was to take this "shortcut."

In my defense, I did remind April that they had their own British GPS lady and they also had a roadmap. Nobody was forcing their car to follow mine and although April did call me when she thought I was in error, it wasn't like I could just turn around. Do you see the traffic?

So we screamed at each other, filled up our gas tanks and got back into the car. And encountered more of this.

What should have been about 40 minutes more until our destination was another 2 hours. It took us almost 10 hours to arrive at our hotel. We were all REALLY, REALLY hangry.

I found L'Hostellerie La Ferme du Poulet on TripAdvisor. It was really nice. Nothing fancy, but this former chicken farm is now a lovely little hotel with an excellent restaurant. The owners are a husband and wife team and they both manage the hotel and he's the chef at the restaurant. We paid 110 Euros for a double room. Our room was spacious and had a sitting area and a desk. However, apparently my room was the only one with Internet access that worked well, so April had to spend some time after dinner there to get some work caught up.

Dad and Lea were tired from the drive and not overly hungry, so they retired to their room and just snacked out of our "ice chest"  on some cheese and salami. Dad was happy with his very own large bucket of ice.

The rest of us let the stress of the day go while we enjoyed a very, very, good dinner and some excellent wine in the restaurant. We were all very pleasantly surprised how delicious the food was. It was surprisingly delightful. The good news was that now my sisters were talking to me as we all solved what ailed us through wine. It really is the "cure-all" elixir.

After a good night's sleep, we departed the next morning at 9:00 AM. Our GPS said "4 hours 23 minutes" to our villa in the South. The hotel proprietor warned that "it will be very crowded driving today." UGH.

We each decided to navigate ourselves to the villa in the South so as not to repeat the screaming that ensued the day before. It was pretty much a straight shot down the A7 almost to the ocean, but instead of taking the toll road, you could drive the smaller roads, which was a strategy that the "other car" started off using until they discovered that road to be just as crowded as the A7.

This pretty much sums up our drive, which wasn't even close to what Google said it would be. Try 10 hours! Another very, very, long day.

The one thing I can say that I thought was really, really, nice, are the frequent rest stops on the highways. In most cases, there was a rest stop about every 20 KM. Some of the stops just have bathroom and picnic facilities, but most of them have gas, restaurants, picnic areas and even activities for kids, like playgrounds, trampolines and basketball courts. The bathrooms were always really nice and clean as well and we loved the ones that featured "Villery and Boch" commodes. It's kind of nice taking care of your business on "fancy" porcelain.

After about 3-1/2 hours on the road, we decided to stop at one of these nice rest stops to grab some sandwiches and stretch our legs. This was a huge mistake. We should all have just worn depends for the day and NEVER stopped for any reason. What we were thinking?

To give you an example of just how ridiculously overrun this rest stop was with tourists like us traveling to the Riviera, it took us 30 minutes just to PARK. The place was an absolute zoo with people just running amok. There was really not much order happening in the parking lots, which were very large, but I think this particular rest stop had 5,000 people trying to park, picnic, buy food and pee. I have never seen anything like this before. Complete pandemonium.

We chose the shortest food line inside, which was a "Paul" boulangerie. It was interesting to see that the line for "Subway" was about 4 times the line at the French chain. I realize that I am not a fluent French speaker, but I do a pretty good job of pronouncing my numbers in French and it completely irritated me that the young girl who was helping me was acting like she didn't understand my "deux" or "trois" when requesting my food items. I would say "deux jambon et beurre baguette sandwiches  s'il vous plais" and she would say "you mean two?" Then she would giggle to her co-hort. She did it for everything I ordered and I enunciated my "deux", "trois" and "quatre" very clearly. So can imagine how delighted I was with her service. Then she tried to act like I didn't clearly state that I wanted to buy bottles of water. She asked me "you mean a table?" WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS CHICK????

Calgon, take me away. Far, far, away. Sunshine and a pool awaits. It was what I kept going back to in my mind during these dark two days.

So back into our travel prison we went. Dad and Lea were good sports, as was Sean. It's not like we could have really KNOWN it would be this bad. I had heard about August being just awful, but we were in mid-July. When we were about 60 KM from our final destination (finally) we drove through quite a storm; we had very dark clouds, thunder, lightening and I swear hail, but it was much too warm for that. So let's just call it very thick rain. And then, the clouds were behind us and we could see some sunshine on the horizon. And finally, we arrived. I might just add that we beat the "other car" by almost an hour.

We all piled out of the car and just were SO glad to be there. We had finally arrived and nobody was going to kick us out for another 7 days.

We found the rental on VRBO in the village of Le Plan de-la-Tour, which was 8 KM from St. Maxime and it was really nice. We paid 59 Euros per person, per night for this 4 bedroom, 3-1/2 bath villa. The outdoor space was really nice, with an outdoor kitchen, spacious seating and a bocce boule court. We really loved having the pool and spent a LOT of time in it (which was really a must for the hot, hot weather we would encounter over the next week).

À bientôt.

1 comment:

  1. The other car was just as frustrated, but we enjoyed a lovely lunch not at a rest stop. Hence the 1 hour delay.