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.