May 12th to 16th: France
More Perils ahead. Next morning, time to head off to France but that stupid mountain road was playing on my mind. I was looking forward to going back down like I look forward to having diarhhea. Went to get the car out of the parking lot and it was covered in bird crap and leaves and some sap thrown in for good measure. Oh for fuck sake, what a pain in the ass having to dab that shit off. But I had to. Time to attack the mountain again but this time I got smart and waited for a couple of the locals to head out. It was a much quicker ride down than it was up....apparently they don't give a shit about oncoming cars. When they did turn up, the ones going up backed up like they were supposed to. One guy in a new Fiat backed into the mountain and started yelling. Felt bad but better him than me. Got to the bottom of the hill and breathed a big sigh of relief. Then headed onto the lake road for my 25 km drive to the next Italian autoroute. I didn't realize that these 25 km's were all skinny roads once again with even skinnier tunnels that I grew to just HATE. Especially the one that really skinnied up about mid way, on a curve, and where I was the lead car that came face to face with a big eurobus. My heart sunk and I thought "uh oh, this is definately it, there's no way we're both going to fit here." Both of us slammed on our brakes and came as close to our respective walls as possible. There was some sort of BMW god watching down on me that morning, I swear there was no more than a millimeter between the passenger side and the wall and my side and the bus. I actually shut my eyes briefly waiting for the big sideswipe to happen but it didn't. Got out of the car at the first rest stop I could find to calm down and make sure I didn't shit myself. Finally got to the autoroute an hour or so later and was more than happy to pay tolls for the priviledge of driving in normal sized lanes at way above normal speeds again.
Towards the Italian riviera the tunnels (big ones now) started getting more and more frequent. They too were interesting for awhile (the engine sounds once again) but after awhile, and with the right lanes constantly filled with big euro trucks going much slower than regular traffic, I started to hate them. The French autoroute continued the same theme once I got into their half of the Riviera and I was glad to get off when I got near my coastal town, St. Raphael, for the next couple of days. Christine had done it once again with sending me to some hotel that required 20 km's of twisty mountain driving to get to but the French do their fun roads better. They're wider and marked with a centre line - not that many French drivers pay attention to it!! The coastal/mountain road was much more fun with speeds averaging 60-80 km/hr in mostly 50 posted zones. You just couldn't do 50 and besides, this was about the first place I could push the handling. Much, much better.
Got to my "pension" and spent the next two days there. It was on the Mediterranean and very, very pretty (Pics 1,2,3)
Couple days later left the ocean and headed towards the country - Aix en Provence. Another day of driving an expensive autoroute system with expensive gas but again, what the hell. And the Autogrills were in France too, now equiped with baguettes, wonderful meats and cheeses....just great food. It was a short driving day so I reached my beautiful Provencal-styled hotel early afternoon. Wow. Surrounded by huge maple trees, looking over a river at the drinking patio that I soon claimed as my own, overshadowed by the Roquefavour Aqueduct....life was good (Pics 4 and 5)) And they gave me my own private parking spot in the garden (Pic 6). A day and a half of relaxation was order. Dinner that night was gourmet and very French....just wonderful.
Went into the city of Aix en Provence the next day to pick up "my stash" (a new bottle) after travelling on country roads for about 1/2 an hour. Once again, skinny little things that scared the shit out of me on a couple of occasions but very nice overall, lots of room to see who was coming at you and move over in time. Provence is wine country and the scenery, vineyards, etc. was beautiful. When I got into Aix en Provence it may has well been Paris. The city was packed with cars and buses and I thought "how is this possible." I'd find out the next day. I got out as soon as I could, found a large grocery store and mall on the way and picked up some fantastic French snacks....and my beloved bottle of course. Back to the hotel and then some hiking followed by dinner and drinks. A fabulous meal again.
During the walk I checked the car and noticed the winds were picking up. And picking up again. Then I heard tree limbs crashing down and watched in horror as one of them fell right in front of me. What the hell was happening now???? I looked around for somewhere else to park the car but the whole place was covered with century's old maple trees. I went inside and asked the owner about the winds. She said "Ahhh....Le Mistral has arrived." These are the "winds" of southern France apparently. For fuck sake. Why couldn't they have waited for a couple of days. So now I was worried about the trees crashing down on the car but I just drank heavily to get over it.
Next morning I got up and ran out to check the car. Sure enough there was a tree limb on the windshield along with dirt and other crap thrown up by the winds. Thankfully (once again), the limb apparently fell onto the glass and not the fragile hood or expensive roof. No damage. Big sigh of relief....and time to get heading back to my next destination near Dijon in the Burgundy region of France and away from these stupid winds.
Well that trip started out quite nicely except for the time that I mistakenly went through the electronic toll booth in the transponder lane because the stupid Navi lady told me to keep left as I approached the toll booth. How embarassing. Cars behind honking, everyone staring at me and no where to go because the gate wouldn't let me through. And just my luck....this was one of those toll stations completely electronic with no staff around. After pleading with someone to let me pay for their transponder for a few minutes (which didn't work because they understood absolutely NO english), the gate magically rose and I dashed off to get through it. Next stop....explaining at the next pay station why I didn't have a toll card. Fuck me, I wanted to go home about now.
And then I hit the traffic jam of all traffic jams. I didn't get to my destination (an hour away) for more than 4 hours. Where the hell were all these people coming from and going to???? (Pic 7) Well once I crawled into Nuit St. Georges (Pic 8), a small rural town in the Burgandy region, the Scottish owners of my little Pension told me that it had been a "long weekend" holiday in France and that most everyone spends their time in the south. Oh for fuck sake, why didn't anyone tell me this!!! Anyways, a nice quiet night in the pension was in order and the owners felt so sorry for me that they invited me to dinner. It was really nice of them and quite a treat to not have dinner alone. Only problem....no ice in the place. This Europe thing was killing my cocktail hour habits!!!
Off to bed after calling home and time to head back to Germany the next day.
Last edited by Mark's M; 05-22-2010 at 02:42 PM.