At the End of the Day

These are to be the voyages of The Slogship Enterprose; and this is its maiden voyage. Posts as a whole will be intermittent over the next few days, depending on the availability of things called branchements, weefee, road signs not written by the sadistically dyslexic, Windows 8.1′s time of the month, and the failing energy of a blogger-cum-travel-writer.

I was going to venture down to St Jean de Luz on the French Atlantic coast towards northern Spain for the maiden voyage, but then the Meteo offered a forecast (revised) of rain, rain, heavy rain, cloud, heavy cloud, and all stops to plague-of-boils. So I opted instead for the Var, just West enough of the fame victims to be tolerable socially…but warm enough to be worth the effort. St Maxime showed sun, sun, sun, mixed cloud and sun and a temperature average of 20 degrees.

It got my vote, but not for the weather alone. In fact, I love most of the places on the way to it too: the Midi Pyrenees, snow-covered mountains to the right of ‘em, Alpine foothills to the left of ‘em, and that turn north after Montpellier towards Nimes, thence onwards to Avignon.

Avignon is a classic example of the Madness of Signwriters, in that you can belt up the autoroute for 140 kilometres and see Nimes, Lyons and bloody Delhi on the roadsigns…but not Avignon. Not Avignon, the famous and fabulously beautiful town of light-stone architectural beauty where you could allez-danser sur le pont. Only on the French autoroutes can you learn that you’re on the right road for Avignon a mere three seconds before the turn-off that says ‘Avignon Sud’.

The town of Avignon is not, of course, in the Var: it’s on the way to it – and is thus the perfect place to rest up before hitting the road towards St Tropez the following day. Not, I hasten to add, because I would ever want to be a dead cat being swung in San’trop: nope, the real promise for me is un camping that overlooks the physical beauty of St Maxime/St Tropez without the need to venture down there and watch the anorexics on display.

I first visited Avignon in 1972. To be more precise, that was the last time I visited it too. I was blown away by the delicately fashioned spires and turrets of the place….and its amazing wood-oven pizzas in the old town’s tiny back-street restaurants. So it will never be for me what the French call a Relais – a convenient stopping-off point. I prefer to think of it as an aperitif for even better things to come.

Bowling along in a motor-home in France requires the adoption of an entirely different set of attitudes to those adopted by normal motorists devoid of aspirations to be some sort of neo-modernist Gypsy. One must accept the fact that the alternatives open to one at the Autoroute péages are indifferent at best: that sometimes the tickets are unreachable on account of being unfeasibly far from a safe entry by the vehicle into the péage, and at other times they’re likely to cause serious trapped nerve syndrome on account of being at a level well below where one’s window is.

Anyway, tonight I am ensconced here at the Pont d’Avignon Camping site in the middle of a beautifully landscaped area tout près, as it happens, du pont d’Avignon. The town shall be revisited tomorrow, but only after I’ve had the night to dissipate the effects of ropes-learning when it comes to the motor home/technology interface.

I truly cannot embrace – after nearly half a century of coming here – the baffling, braindead rudeness of French drivers faced with a foreigner in front confused by the multiple-choice dog-traps on offer for payment of the road toll.

Imagine steering a 3.8i diesel engine monster towards seventeen potential ways to The Other Side, and having just 11.7 seconds to decide between uniquement telepeage, cartes et telepeage, cartes, cartes et monnaie, uniquement pieces, and who knows…perhaps even pas uniquement monnaie ou telepeage a choix mais de temps en temps des telecartes d’ors en croute de luncheon vouchers dans son jus de plastique.

Still, I have broken the back of this journey. After which there will be four days of no driving at all. Such is the blisful release I need from a three month spell of builders in residence.

33 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. John, in my long and joyeuse experience of la France, to choose anything containing the word ‘monnaie’ will not see you far wrong.

  2. I first visited the south of France in 1961 with my parents and two sisters in a Mini Traveller. My father (now a month short of 90 and lying in Warwick hospital with a smashed femur) had crafted an ingenious storage facility out of plywood in the estate part of this vehicle, with a cubbyhole for every item of camping equipment, clothing etc. He was so pleased with it that he invited a BMC bod from Longbridge to come and take a look, hoping to receive untold wealth in royalties when they, as they surely would, saw the enormous potential of his design and put it into mass production. After making encouraging noises and downing a cup or two of tea, the gent left and promptly forgot to take the matter any further. Entering the outskirts of Paris in the afternoon of our first day en France, we were bumping along a cobbled street when my father remarked with enthusiasm to anyone who was listening: ‘Here we go over an old bowler hat!’ Almost immediately, there was a fearfully loud grating noise of metal against cobble and we ground, quite literally, to an ignominious halt with various Parisiens gaping at les fous Anglais in mixtures of incredulity, pity, and amusement. My father leaped out in a state of extreme puzzlement and immediately ordered everyone out of the car; on disembarking, we became aware of the urgency as there were flames and no small amount of smoke emanating from the underside of our chariot. Father wrenched open the rear doors, grabbed the big yellow plastic water container, still filled to the brim from our kitchen tap, and doused the flames with all the alacrity of a veteran pompier. The similarity between the domed differential cover from a largish rear axle and a bowler hat is, of course, quite well known – at least it was, subsequently, to my father… as was its potential, given a sufficient coefficient of friction, to ignite bituminous underseal. The by now assembled onlookers were clearly impressed, and a certain amount of cheering ensued. The destination on this occasion was a campsite at La Bocca above Cannes; it must have been July or August, summer hols, and I had never felt such heat nor experienced the cicadas or wonderous smells, sights or other sounds of the Mediterranean. It is indeed a magical place, bonne route JW, and amuse-toi bien. Above all, look out for bowler hats… ;)

    • Hoping not to distract from the yarn, but I suspect it was really a Morris Minor Traveller, rather than a Mini – the clue’s in the rear-axle differential, which was of course absent from the front-wheel drive MIni.
      As I collect my anorak on the way out, I send my best wishes for a full recovery to your father.

      • It was actually a Mini, the first in Stratford upon Avon, purchased from County Garages, Waterside, long gone, in 1961. The diff cover had presumably fallen off some French commercial vehicle which wouldn’t have got very far, due to the oil loss, without it! Father weak but stable, have just visited, he saved the life of one of the nurses looking after him, now in her 40′s, when she was 3 years old and suffering from meningitis which 2 other docs had failed to diagnose – he’s getting very good care from that direction! In truth, I have to say that the all round standard at Warwick is very good. Thanks very much for your thoughts Dr Mud (crikey that was a long time ago..):)

  3. I can never understand the use of autoroutes in France or ring roads,for to do so is to miss France completely in my eyes & much cheaper(Bastiat window of opportunity),so more money to spend on wines & food to which one must try at least

    • Wow, Windows 9X you say, you must be unfeasibly intelligent and accomplished – do you even still have a body?! If you always conduct yourself with such supercilious rudeness it may be an idea to watch out for the string section.

    • Dear Woodentop
      It is clowns like your self-regardedly pompous self that keep the gangsters in business. How marvellous it must be for you, being so clever that you know everything, but understand nothing.

    • am illiterate full stop,have to que for work & get picked out if am lucky & working Heaths 2 day week,but i know the difference between a good person making a joke & a joke person making a point

  4. I remember Avignon with not so fond memories. Three intrepid camping cyclists swept into the supermarket car park not noticing the rather solid steel 2 metre height restriction bar. Three velos plus roof rack deposited in a tangled mess behind us meant our cycling holiday became a walking holiday.

    Trying to erect a tent with the Mistral blowing wasn’t much fun either. The constant stiff breeze blowing got on my nerves, the locals say it can turn people mad. I was glad to get away from there to Perpignan and balmier (not barmier) breezes.

  5. Good Morning JW from our Motorhome at Sennor, Lands End, where we spent most of the night laying awake and wondering if it was going to blow over on its side ! I hope your weather will be better than our last 24 hours !

  6. Have several happy memories of Avignon:

    1958 my first and only foreign school trip I have a photo of myself and schoolmate seated by the Pont, this photo is on my fridge door to enale me to desist from opening it as the photo shows me as a slim 15 year old unfortunately I continue to be too good a liar to myself.

    My second memory comes from 1960 when I hitch hiked down to Avignon and possibly camped at the same campsite where JW stayed my overwhelming memory is of the really foul toilets that were also unlit, we, as I met up with 2 other pals who also hitched down there was to hang a bottle of dettol equivalent round our necks, take a very deep breathe and venture into theunnumbered cycle of hell

    The third occurred around this time of year on the whit saturday weekend 1970, when I was sitting in the copilot seat of a small Piper single engine plane piloted by a friend of mine around twilight coming into land at Avignon airport when we were ony a few 100 metres away from the runway my pal suddenly made a decisive evasive action as the runway that had appeared to me as barren brown land suddenly dispersed as a herd of sheep!

    We eventually landed successfully had a pleasant overnight stay and left for St Maxime the next morning where we landed and then took a very small ferry across the bay to st tropez and further memories.

  7. John you are enjoying yourself too much. Where is the bile, the vile, the venality, the poisonous politicos. Where are the assaults on The Farago. How come you have backed off from Borisconi, Camloser and Milliballs. I know like you we have been in search of “Le telepeage d’or” or even argent i would settle for. I wonder if the outlay on your “bateau des autoroutes ” has softened your senses, are you drinking at the last chance saloon of automotive fantasytoo much.

  8. All boils down to the distribution of Torque Density throughout Space-Time-Matter, I say. Beware of tornadoes in US midwest, and happy trails! Loved Avignon 1960, 1974. Your description resonates with truth and bracing perception. Concernining Windows and its precedents, you’ve no idea how right you are — THE premier computer virus. Malice aforethought? Wretched cobbling of code? A conspiracy to settle late 20th century anti-trust suits by handing code to the G? Naah ..

  9. Avignon is a rip-off – you have to pay to walk on the bridge. Reminds me of the way Carcassonne has been exploited.

    However, not to far away is the home of Beaumes de Venise, with it’s wonderful Muscat. Worth a visit – but be careful with tastings if driving afterwards – there is a lot to enjoy!

    • The ‘Harry And The Dinosaurs’ quote lets you out pw ;) I will be camping next weekend with 2 children and a Panther Model 100 in a frost pocket behind Stonehenge, following – even during – which I could very possibly agree with you..

      • I wish you good luck!
        Funny thing is……I do not take well to being contained..,…like put in a box and like given a label! At the moment I am learning to or should I say adjust to a very foreign dinosaur!!!! Am I able to do this?

      • Blimey you make me work hard Raaaaah
        Can you fit one more on the panther?
        My state of grace is fast disappearing!
        Enjoy a frost free episode.

  10. Sounds like a great trip.
    Look forward to hearing of further adventures, escapades and tales of jolly japes and merry pranks.
    Allez Jean!

  11. Go south John, go south, we are in Portugal at the moment at Cabanas near Tavira and it is wonderful weather. 26* wall to wall sunshine. The people are lovely and they have just celebrated 40 years since the carnation revolution. I wonder how many people remember that.. 25th April 1974 when a military coup took the country from a dictatorship to democracy. Supposedly not a shot was fired and the protestors put carnations down the barrels of the soldiers guns. If only all revolutions could be thus! Safe travelling.

  12. John, the answer to the peage problem is one of those card things in the windscreen that lets you drive straight through and sends you a bill at the end of each month. You can google for the firms that do it. If you keep your eye open, some peages have a place where you can park and sign up on the spot. Bon voyage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s