It seems almost ludicrous that we have just returned from our first trip and we are already thinking and planning the next. We learn’t so much on the last expodition that we can put to good experience for the next and one of those things is good planning. So where are we going, when are we going and what are we going to be going to do?
Unanimous decision is to go to America – perhaps over April and May 2013 and why not on a Harley? TO be more explicit – follow the road from Washington State all the way down to San Diego????? For this we will need to plan!!!
With great sadness, I realised this morning that our holiday had come to an end. We packed up and ambled down to the metro to catch the underground to the Gard de Nord to catch our train home – I thought we had loads of time afterall we were only leaving at 9:30am – ALAS I had made a mistake and our train was leaving in ten minutes – only my kids could appreciate my panic attack and all of you would think it was exagerated so I wont even go there – bottom line was we made it to the train, found our seats and safely set off for Schipol Airport. From there it was plain sailing – we got wonderful seats on the plane all the way home, our luggage made it through and after 20 hours or so of travels arrived at Cape Town international. There was the sweetest little beagle running around sniffing suitcases which I tried to befriend…….clearly no contra band with us and were met by a smiling Rob on the other side of customs.
WHAT A HOLIDAY!!! would I do it any differently? Perhaps spend more time in each stop. But not with any other travel partner!
We woke up to a perfect Parisian day and set off on foot no less (me with 10kg of camera equipment on my back against Dale’s better advice) to explore. We walked up to the Arch De Triumph, the louvres, figured out that the Hotel De Police was not a hotel that we would want to stay in but the police station, past the hotel de ville, up the Champs Elysse, then onto the Eiffel tower and then back down to the Ilse de Cite over a gzillion bridges and back down the Seine. I discovered a whole bunch of pet shops I was desperate to go to and could not get over the prices of the cutest doggies – any where up to R20 000 a pup! By this time I was falling over and we stopped for a beer and lemonade – all of Euro 12.70 and I google mapped the distance we covered on foot. THis was well in excess of 30km!!!!
We went back to the hotel and rested for half an hour and then headed back to the Gallery Lafeyette which is the most mind boggling department store ever – so large!!! Dale bought a work shirt on the Champs Elysee brand name too….DALEX
We spent the evening with a pizza and a bottle of wine on the banks of the river Seine and recalled our two week adventure. There were three kids playing their guitar and doing a very bad rendition of Bob Marley – the part they got right was the wailers.!!!
We slept later than we had meant to and charged out our hotel to capture the old city of Troyes. To think we were just going to drive on and give it a miss – what history and interest in this city!!! Hotels and buildings built and standing from 700 odd years ago. Mind blowing stuff!!! Saw the prettiest shops but we did not have the time to wander in – a pity but perhaps just as well!
The drive to Paris was at times tense as we approached the city but we made it in one piece without incident and delivered our little fiat back to the car hire and set out to explore Paris on foot. We walked along the Seine and then crossed over to the Saint Chappelle – oh wow – I dont have words to describe it. The architecture and the vibe is so awesome – we are about to go out for dinner in a short while and experience Paris at night. Our little hotel – the Hotel Paris Rivoli is exactly that – by far the most expensive accommodation on our trip and by far the smallest and most basic.
I must add the story of the car return – imagine driving in PAris city centre on a Friday afternoon – again no map in hand and needing to find the Gord de Nord, navigating traffic and one way roads. DAle in his ingenuity thought to go up some side roads and we landed in the old Jewish quarter (remember its Friday afternoon and conservative jewish people dont drive cars on Friday afternoons) – with not a vehicle in sight but our trusty little Fiat we headed forth through the masses on their way to schul (spelling) and yay we made it on time at the car hire to return the Fiat unscathed (that is the car and not our nerves).
After walking and walking and admiring we landed up on the left bank and had dinner at a simple little French eatery with an extensive price! Our first day in Paris and we slept like babies
After a wonderful evening in the quaint town or Uriage we set off again into the unknown. I am in awe of our tenacity to travel through France with no real map – just some random French instructions, a Fiat and our intuition. We headed for a town called Annacy where we thought we might spend the night but alas we drove past a Harley shop – of course you can just imagine – Dale could not pass without stopping and a couple of hours later we headed back on the road, stopping at a lake on our way for a picnic. Why do Foreign cows look so we cowish? They just seem to be more beautiful than those we find here – although perhaps it was the very green fields and blue skies that made it so. WE arrived in a little village called Troyes – and thought this is terrible but Dale had to make a potty stop and thought the garage would provide one – that it did not but a sweet French lady (oo la la) it did who guided Dale and his charm to a hotel. We were rather tired and decided to what the hell just stop there, after all the hotel did not look too bad. On exploring this village on foot we were amazed, around the corner not 20 steps ahead was a medievil Town built in the 1500’s. Oh my gosh it was just beautiful – so even tho this was not part of the plan – we had a lovely evening swathed in history, wine and again a picnic!
Brimming with confidence based on our navigational achievements and successful choices of the previous day we set of for Grenoble by the back roads. With the exception of our exit from Sault our navigation was again unerringly accurate. We passed through villages that I had only heard of previously when watching the Tour de France (it was little bit like driving through Orange County California in the 1980’s navigating on the basis of my favorite Frank Zappa songs!). Sal took lots of pictures that hopefully captured some of the beauty we experienced.
Grenoble as beautiful as it is confirmed our view that big cities are not for us. We visited an IKEA store mainly because Keiron had told is about them in Amsterdam and partly because we need to buy a cereal bowl. What a concept rounded off by a brilliant exit – you scan your own goods and pay by credit card without a cashier in sight (it would never work ion SA!).
We then headed for the mountains think that we could find a great hotel at a ski resort.
We have covered many miles over the last few days but most certainly the countryside has become more beautiful as we have headed into the hills – I never imagined that there was so much open space in France. Driving between Avignon and Apt we passed the most beautiful fields of red – Poppies and more and then further along fields of lavender (which unfortunately had been cut back) Apt was a little dead so we decided to head further to the next town – Sault and what a beauty!!! We had another romantic picnic drinking our last bottle of spanish wine in a French village eating Italian Pizza – we stayed in a very quaint hotel le Louvre and have been told that the little village was having a major market this morning after which we will head off to the hills again and hopefully our little Fiat will get us to Grenoble.
We checked out of our hotel early and headed for the Pont du Gard near the village of Remoulins. The Pont in is an aqueduct built by the Romans in about 50 AD to carry water from a spring about 70 km away to Nimes about 30 km away. One has to see the scale of the structure to believe it. The gorge it spans would be a challenge to modern bridge builders let alone Roman engineers who had no computers to calculate or cement to bind. The whole thing is put together out of precisely fitted stones some weighing 5-6 tons. How they got them up there and fitted them so precisely is difficult to figure. And then there’s the question of how the worked out the differences in elevation between the source and Nimes 90 km away without theodelites so that the water would flow as required.
From Remoulins we headed for Avignon which served as our first indication that it was best to stay away from the larger routes and cities. The most impressive thing that we saw was the huge wall built around the city but you can only marvel at huge walls for so long. After driving around for about an hour we decide to push on to Apt which is in the Luberon region which is extensively featured in the Tour de France Tv footage every year. The journey into the pre-Alps was pretty and got better as we went but Apt so that we became concerned (which had been highly recommended) turned out to be a disappointment: not bad but it certainly did not live up to my expectations based on a few short viewings of the Tour de France. After a cup of coffee we decided to press on to Sault which was higher up in the mountains.
We had not gone far before we started to doubt our decision. The landscape changed from rich soils and verdant growth to chalky ground and blackish scrub. The road narrowed to single lane and became dodgier as we went. Petrol and darkness became fleeting concerns but after about an hour we came upon a beautiful valley. I stopped for Sal to take pictures only to round the next bend and see a better view. We arrived at Sault at about 8 pm (but with at least 1 ½ hour of sunlight left) and set about finding a hotel. Faced with a choice of 2 we selected the Le Manoir hotel chiefly on the basis that it was on the overlooking the valley and the hotelier, one Jean Pierre (who could expect less) was the friendliest fellow we had met in France.
After checking in we went down to Bruno’s Pizza (he has a wood burning Pizza oven tin the back of a truck and seems to be the gastronomic sensation of Sault judging by the queue). We sat on bench with a magnificent view of the valley and chased our pizza down with our last bottle of expensive Spanish wine before retiring to bed.