13th October 2016. La-Plan-de-la-Tour, France.

We’ve been woken in many interesting ways on this trip but todays early morning wake up call takes the biscuit!  There we were in the Land of Nod when suddenly there was the most enormous BOOM and the van shook from the aftershock!  We’ve no idea what it was, we thought at first it might have been thunder because it was raining but there were no rumbles or in fact any other booming noises so it’s a mystery but at least it got us out of bed, so that’s a good thing.

It’s pouring with rain today so we’re off to France.

We did all the ‘packing up’ chores and Darren was thrilled to find that the services were the best he’d used yet for dumping grey water and poop, they opened using foot pedals.  However as we were driving away we bumped down the big gully for the grey water and there was a loud banging noise as we carried on driving.  Darren wanted to get to a flat area to check it and we’d just reached the flat area when we heard a man shouting  in Italian and running up behind us.  It seems the bump had knocked the spare wheel frame off its mounting and it was dragging along the road.  Poor Darren spent ages trying to get the frame back on.  He ended up having to take it off and leave it with the wheel propped up against a wall to clear the lane so a car could get past, then he had to roll the wheel along to the van.  It’s typical that it was pouring with rain while he had to lay on the floor fiddling with the rack.

We left the site and the SAT NAV was STILL trying to take us under the little bridge! Needless to say Darren ignored it and drove past it to a road OVER the railway line a bit further along.  That took us straight to the main road that we’d driven along the previous day which begs the question why didn’t the SAT NAV take us on that easy peasy route previously!!!!!!

When we got to the toll booths at the autostrada we were patting ourselves on the back because we know how to use them now.  However when Darren pressed the top button (to make it easier for drivers in large vehicles to reach the ticket) it didn’t do anything!  I watched him continually pressing the big red button but NOTHING!  Oh oh!  He eventually leaned out of the window to press the ‘car’ button which, thankfully, spewed out a ticket, phew!

I thought that going on the autostrada would be uneventful but it has been a rather hair raising experience.  There were loads of tunnels (thank goodness) but a lot of them come out onto exposed bridges over gorges which means a VERY strong cross wind consequently Darren was having to constantly correct the van.  I was very scared and slid further and further down in my seat so I didn’t have to look out, Darren didn’t have that luxury!  He tried to make me feel better by telling me that he was used to fighting with cross winds from when he landed his tail dragger plane, it was a nice try but I still couldn’t wait to get off that awful road.

It was exciting when we reached the French border but it was STILL pouring down with rain!  We came to the first French toll very quickly and were extremely disconcerted to discover there were height restrictions on the card/cash booths and the other booths had the Telepass signs.  We drove over to a booth that had a green arrow and a T instead of the red circle with the 30 and the T in it.  To our relief Darren discovered we could use a card in that one.

We stopped for brunch in the motorway services, I was going to try to order in French but the assistant spoke to us in English, which was very helpful.

After lunch we came to another Toll but knew what to do this time and decided to keep the credit card out after this to save time at the next Toll however when we got to the following Toll it refused to accept the card.  In desperation we tried another AND another, none of which it accepted!  AAAAARGH!  Darren looked for the place to put coins and eventually discovered a place to put notes so he had to jump out of the van to put the money in!

On the next Toll he pressed the big red button for the ticket only to discover it was the help button on this Toll booth and the ticket had actually come out of the lower ticket dispenser instead of the one at eye level!

This whole motorway thing has been horrendous and expensive, we’ve both decided we don’t want to do this again.

We drove down the road following the SAT NAV into the aire at La Plan de la Tour (what better place is there to plan our tour for the next couple of weeks, let’s see how THAT goes!) and it tried taking us down a ‘No Entry’ road, its having a bad day just like us.

We arrived at the aire, there were 4 other motorhomes in the car park.  There was a view across a tiny vineyard and the rain had stopped although there were still a lot of black clouds hanging around.  I hope they’ll blow away by tomorrow.  The journey here was exhausting, we’re hoping to just pootle around this area for a little while now.

As the weather had improved and we needed to stretch our legs we went for a walk around the village.

It was a beautiful little village, we were pleased to see the Tourist Information Office was open even though it wasn’t supposed to be so we popped in to see whether we could find out something about the area.  The lady was very helpful and gave us information on the whole area including St Tropez where we were going to be stopping.  It made a nice change from the German Tourist Information Offices which would only tell you about the town you were in.

We wandered into a grocers shop, the shop assistant greeted us in English, which was nice, as we wandered down the first aisle Darren pointed to the shelves at the back of the shop and asked me whether I’d seen the small furry thing that just ran underneath them and was it possible it was a small cat or was it a rat?  I wasn’t quite so keen to look around then although I felt sure that all the shops would be suffering from the same problem, so we wandered off to explore a bit more of the village.

On the way back we stopped in another grocer’s and bought some bread, the shop assistant was very nice there and praised my attrocious attempt at French.  We carried on to the cat/rat shop and bought some wine, some salad and some cheese.  The grocer was very cheeky and kept teasing us.  I eventually asked him where he had learned to speak English, he was fluent, and he told us Hong Kong!  He also said he’d spent a while in Australia as a student, he was very interesting.

We had a look around the village to see if there was anywhere to have dinner and I noticed one restaurant had a vegetarian dish on its menu so I was happy until Darren pointed out it was bean stew and they were charging 28 Euros for it, on second thoughts!

I’m glad we went out when we did because for the rest of the evening it hammered down with rain.

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