In that time we drove to Nice, following Julien and Virginie, and travelling with Jacob for the last time. I was bemused that the toll booth swallowed Julien’s ticket, a new experience for him. Must be our influence over those machines!!
Before we left we visited Julien’s friend who makes amazing clocks. Pieces of mechanical art out of bike parts. Large and beautiful mechanical creations that are alive and have obviously taken months of creative and technical effort. http://www.artmecanique.com/
Some people are just really clever!! Sadly, these are too big to pack into the backpack, and a little out of our price range. His charge is commensurate with the extensive time he has taken to make each one.
We toured old Hyeres, our last old town, which are actually really interesting places to walk through. there is a sameness about them all, but intriguing nevertheless. Intriguing on how they were built many centuries ago, and how people lived in them then, but also intriguing on how people live in them now.
Bit of a fuss at the airport, dropping of passengers, finding an open diesel station on a Sunday, worrying about checking our bags in on time, dropping off the hire car, all last minute panic type stuff. In the end, we said our sad goodbyes to our wonderful son, who had guided us so well, taken us out of our comfort zone and given us increased confidence of how to travel in strange lands.
The four of us sat quietly for the hour or so waiting for the closing phase of our journey, reflecting on the many experiences, most of which have been shared here with you.
Our first flight from Nice to Dubai was uneventful. We had centre seats on the aisle, if that makes sense. The 777 aircraft of Emirates have two aisles. Three seats, aisle, four seats, aisle, three seats. I generally like the window so I can look out. But on long haul flights, with the passenger in front rocking their seat back, you can’t stand up, stretch, or get out without a lot of hassle. For both our flights, we had seats in the centre section, so it was much easier to stand up when we wanted and the high ceilings gave a better sense of freedom too. You can still see out the windows a bit, enough anyway at 12km off the ground. Arrived Dubai at midnight, six hours in the air. The pilots had made good time, but we had to hold for half an hour, circling around the Gulf waiting for a spot in the landing queue.
Once we landed and came off the main runway, we taxied to our stopping point. That took fifteen minutes. Yes, fifteen minutes of driving around the airport on taxiways. A bit like trying to find a parking spot in the shopping centre it seems. And when we alighted, there were no nice covered walkways, just steps onto the tarmac and a line of ten odd looking large busses that we all piled onto. Chris and Cass had row 16 seats which are the best in economy and plenty of legroom, no seat in front, but near the toilet. So we got separated from them as we exited and caught different busses. Trusting that they wouldn’t be stolen, we travelled for another fifteen minutes on the bus before finally arriving at the arrivals entrance. Yes, this place is huge.
Gate numbering goes to around 360, which is a little deceptive as there appear to be three terminals adjacent to each other. Terminal 1 has gates 101 to about 160. Terminal 2 has gates 201 to 270, and the same for terminal 3. So it seems that there are something like 180 departure gates, not 360 as the numbering may indicate. Nevertheless, a big big place.
I cannot recall much of what we did there for ten hours. For the first hour or so, we tried to find the Transfers Desk as we had seen on the flight board that a flight left for Perth at 3am, seven hours ahead of our scheduled flight. It was worth a try to see if we could be wait listed. Alas the flight was full, and the baggage transfer window meant we couldn’t transfer even if there were seats.
So we settled in for a long wait. We found some of the seats with footrests that we had seen people sleeping in, but found them incredibly uncomfortable and slippery. Later on a wander into Terminal One, we found carpet on the floor, and many bodies stretched out on the floor behind the rows of seats. Note for next trip to Dubai – take a walk to Terminal One and find some floor space where sleeping seems more possible.
Resting was not helped but a loud incessant woman trying to make a phone call. Shouting Hallo, Hallo, a multitude of times, then carrying on her conversation with a now deaf person, we are sure she didn’t need any technology to get them to hear her. Kerry and Chris were disturbed by her rantings on their seats way down the other end of the area. Cass and I just started giggling after a while. Earplugs helped a little.!
Boarding for flight two came around and the long haul of ten hours was uneventful. Good food, smooth flight, typical bumpy descent into Perth and a landing that had a few gasping where the memories. I’ll have to remember to not watch the forward facing camera when landing in Perth on a wet and windy night. Seeing the centre lines of the runway off at a 20° angle from straight is a little disconcerting at 250kmh landing speed. We eventually managed to maintain all wheels on the ground and momentum pulled the craft straight. You know, these are amazing machines, these aircraft. Ten hours of flying, 9000kms most of which is 12km above the ground, all propelled by two engines that push us along at 900kmh or thereabouts. And people complain about the TV screen, or their coffee….. which is annoying, but get things into perspective! The crew was great, attentive, and friendly. We enjoyed flying Emirates, not any complaint what so ever.
Passport check queue was long with several flights arriving – it was 12:30am on Tuesday. Not sure where Monday went. Customs woman was friendly and appeared to be genuine when she asked how our flight was, and happy to chat about where we had been, all whilst going about her work. Quarantine checks. Yes we have been on a farm in Europe. ‘I bet that was fun. Any mud on your shoes?’
Australian voices, relaxed and helpful. Nice to be home….
Janet and Larry had come out on the wet and stormy night to meet us, much to our surprise. We gratefully accepted their lift home, and found a stash of lovely goodies at the door, bread milk, Tim Tams!! Thanks Jan!
And the doggies. Apart from being woken up at 2:30am, yes they were pretty pleased to see us, and us them.
So folks, that’s it. Over the next few days I will revise things, add a few more photo’s etc.
We ensured we made the most of the NINE Euro each breakfast, about A$12, at our castle home before we hit the road for our last full day traveling together as a family of five. Mixed feelings for all of us.
Scenery of rolling hills and farmland, small villages and decent sized towns, we made our way through a maze of roads towards Millau and the 130kmh motorways.
With a toilet stop needed, we pulled into one of the many ‘roadhouses’ along the motorways to find it packed with at least one hundred cars and trucks and caravans. The parking areas cater for this number, as does the shopping centre that sells clothes, food, and many other no doubt essential travel items. Julien had told us these places were expensive and he was once again right. Fuel at tiny out of the way Castelnau was 1€37. At the motorway stop with high turnover it was 1€47
Traffic got heavy as we approached the big centers of Marseilles and Toulon. We found later that school holidays have just started which explains the busy Saturday crowds. Changing through the many interchanges between motorways is an experience i wont forget.
Jockeying for position on the exit of the TWENTY THREE lane wide tollway money collection point where there are no lanes marked for 400 metres and all the cars, trucks, caravans have to find their place in two, three or four lanes of motorway with a 130kmh speed limit is the closest thing we’ll experience to an F1 starting grid.
And then being plunged into stop start city traffic with tight lanes, pedestrians, motorbikes and general noise and intensity that are these big cities is all part of the driving experience. Not very enjoyable.
Toll ways work in a couple of ways. One you pay cash at the start. A few Euro and the green light comes on at the gate lifts. Others, you collect a ticket which you then insert into another machine further down the road, pay the calculated amount, then are allowed to proceed through a boom gate.
We’d got this figured out until we came one tollway- there were perhaps ten today – were the gate remained up and the green light light on. Not sure what to do, I edged forward and then proceeded.
Unfortunately a ticket had been waiting for us to collect, which I missed seeing and/or collecting. Knowing this would cause a problem, we phoned Julien for help. He advised to press the help button at the next booth, which came came after not so long and the Help button was found and pressed. A Voice came over the loudspeaker. The voice insisted we put the ticket into the machine. The voice couldn’t understand we had no ticket. This exchange went back and forward for a while. Then a helpful man appeared from the car behind and explained our plight. The solution, as always, was money. 14€10 later we were freed with the operator not knowing were we had started on the tollway, so charged us maximum fee.
At the following booth, it was one were you put money on first. Signs were up to say 1€80 which Cassidy had ready for me to insert. I was part way through feeding the machine coins when change started tinkling like a big win on the pokies. After I scoped that lot up, off we went. The ‘change’ came to 1€80 and I’d put on about 50c. ????
Sheesh, get me away from these machines!!!
Okay then, let’s get into four lanes of cars at 130kmh just to focus the mind again!!
Folks, the day has ended peacefully, but to say I was a little exhausted when we pulled into V & J’s little property on Hyeres is an understatement!!
We’d travelled 550km in seven hours on the road, a decent days drive in Australia, but here in France, it’s a long way indeed.
After we’d collected our thoughts, spread our gear through the cottage that was our home one long month ago, off we went onto Hyeres for a nice meal out at a restaurant and shared the stories of our experiences.
Tomorrows task will be to ensure we get to Nice, a two hour drive away, drop off the car, and catch our flight due to leave at 4:10pm. Jacob will stay with J & V for a day or so to collect his thoughts, update his blog, and transition to the next stage of his journey.
As for the rest if us, we’ll spend ten hours in Dubai, not sure how just yet, and arrive home at 1am in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning some 27 hours after leaving Nice. Oh goody!
I’ll most likely post some reflections once we get home and update photos from today, but for now that little ditty by John Williamson comes to mind:
Give me a home amongst the gum trees, with lots of plum trees,
A sheep or two and a kangaroo,
A clothesline out the back,
A verandah out the front,
And an old rocking chair.
Thanks for traveling with us folks, it’s been a wonderful four weeks.
First was to find a Lavarie, a laundromat. Not easy to find in a medieval town dating back 1000 years. Fortunately, modern conveniences have come to Sarlat, and with a bit of confusion we found one we had seen of the way in. Was it this street? Or the next street? It was just near the steep hill? No it wasn’t. Yes it was.
In the end, no it wasn’t…. We used the washing and drying time to find the back alleys and explore. No point sticking to the main routes, as quaint as they may seem. The trick is to find an alley way and walk up it. Little gems such as restaurants, tiny shops, and really old stuff is generally the reward for the adventurous.
Our next challenge is to find our next accommodation in an out of the way place.
Castelnau De Montmiral, France, and we need to travel via Cahors, another old town, maybe we will find lunch there.
These are from Sarlat and Cahors.
Indeed we did find lunch in Cahors.
And indeed the best places in these towns are off the main street.
School kids were on their lunch break, and making all the same noise Aussies kids do, but in about ten percent of the area Aussie kids do. And the high schoolers were sneaking out for a smoke, but along cobbled streets many hundreds years of years old.
We instructed the GPS to not travel via Toll Rounds, and instead travelled via tiny out of the way lanes and villages in rolling valleys, cows and vineyards until we came across our village for the night.
Perched on top of the hills, we are in an old castle. It’s chilly outside and with the clear skies it will be a col night but the views are spectacular, as you will see.
Day of car travel from one to another. Chilly start with plenty of fog around Tours, motorways with 130kmh speed limit which we took advantage of, small country lanes that put driving skills to the test to place the car in the right spot on the road. Getting used to it now.
Cassidy is suddenly keen to drive, so she has been changing gears for me and taken the front seat to manage the GPS and directions. This is good learning as the gearshift is all on the correct side for when she gets to a go herself.. I.e changing gears with her left arm.
Sarlat is a medieval town we will explore a little tomorrow. We are off the main highways for the time being, off the tourist routes, and it is getting colder with fewer travelers around.
Nice time to travel, like we had been told.
I’ve added a video to the Eiffel tower page that shows it sparkling at night, pop back and have a look from the link at the bottom of the Eiffel tower page.