Friday 12th August
After a rather disturbing family ‘phone call we packed up Rosie and headed off; destination U.K. our normal route is to head north through Spain and catch a ferry from Bilbao, Santander or occasionally, Gijon, but alas no availability so it’s off to France and the channel ports. Wait a minute, Andrew is in Frejus with Elton for the weekend so why not detour that way, and that’s what we did.
Friday morning after Christine had her “nails” done we hit the road around 1130am, straight onto the motorway at Los Montesinos, “pedal to the metal”, Frejus here we come. We were slightly apprehensive as we hadn’t used Rosie before but fully confident she would be a good girl.
Travelling mid August in the exhaustive heat was bad enough but the traffic was unbelievable, and nearly every car had a top box; holiday-makers arriving or returning, but clogging up the motorways and service stations!!!!! We suspect this was the Dutch, Belgiums and other northern europeans “their staycation”!! The other issue at the top of our minds was LPG; we had tanks fitted but couldn’t find a service station that had an LPG pump and when we did, they had none!!! At least our new generator worked well and whatever we went without, Christine still could boil her kettle and make her tea🥰🥰🥰
100-kms short of Barcelona we pulled into a service station and found a spot to stop over, not the quietest mind you with commercial vehicles running their fridges all night but acceptable.
Saturday 13th August
After a very hot and noisy night we had our breakfast and hit the road, even though it was only 0830am, traffic was heavy and passing Barcelona was bumper to bumper at 💯 KPH; good fun!!! Add to all this, we were still looking for LPG so drove through most service stations along the motorway, and they are numerous but non selling what we want!! We resigned ourselves to buying it in France as it is probably used more there when suddenly we drove into “another” service station and we were spoiled for choice, they had about 6-LPG pumps, wow, another tick in the box. Our plan now was for one last stop in Jonquera, the last service station in Spain; might as well take our last chance advantage of the “generous” Spanish rebate on fuel! Arriving at the service station, with traffic backing up on the motorway and crawling very slowly, we were confident that after we had filled up and had a spot of ‘elevenses”, the motorway would be clear.
Our “woes” started here. There were about 6/7 cars queueing for each side of the pump islands and here, there are about 6-islands so around 50-cars all trying to get fuel with more joining this queue by the minute. Several cars didn’t bother and drove across the pavement to get going. We had time on our side so kept creeping forward as a car left. Like many garages in Spain one has to go into the shop, register their car and which pump they are drawing fuel from. This in itself is a painful time wasting exercise, especially these days with sophisticated numberplate recognition available but that wasn’t the end of it, oh no, they couldn’t take credit cards👹👹👹👹👹 and folk who had filled their tanks were scratching around for cash whilst leaving their cars on the pumps!!!
After the best part of a wasted hour we got to the font of the queue but knowing we had zero cash, just drove off and before you ask, there was no cash machine available!!! Oh well we’ll just have to fill in France!!!
When we got going we hit the motorway “car-park”, far from easing, it was worse and we drove bumper to bumper along with cars with every European number plate the last 8-kms in Spain and the first 15-kms in France at an average pace of a “heavily-pregnant-snail”, another couple of hours lost! The hold up turned out to be, what looked like a minor RTA in front of the French Toll Road booths!!! At last we’re off now and hopefully we can pull back a little time; no, wrong again we kept getting held up, even on the peaje; so slow this journey and no discount of the charges for the inconvenience; just not our day.
Probably the one bright spot in the day was hearing police sirens coming from behind, well it sounded like police sirens but they turned out to be Fire fighting vehicles, probably 40 in total but once the last one had gone, we tucked in behind and had clear passage for a bit, yeah!!!
We are due to meet up with Andrew and Elton tomorrow so decided to take a short detour and stop at a vineyard we know in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and enjoy a bottle or two but no, time had run out and we would have arrived after they closed so plan “x” came into play. We found another vineyard that allowed overnight parking not far from Montpelier so quickly jotted their address into the ‘phone and headed into the mountains that run along the Mediterranean.
On the way up we passed acres and acres of burnt out forest fires, the land was so scorched one wonders if it will ever recover and as the area was so large, most of France’s firefighters must have been employed!! Perhaps the fire fighting appliances we’d seen earlier were the same ones!
Languedoc is not our first choice of wine region but hopefully going straight to the Château we won’t be disappointed, anyway we’ll give it our best shot!!!! The route to get to the vineyard was interesting and Christine was hanging on as we drove along the narrow and rough road. I really must get a “truck” GPS that takes size and height into account, this was not a suitable road, still we arrived at the “Clos de L’Amandaie” in a village called Aumelas.
Naturally our first port of call was the vineyard shop for some “dégustation” before buying, so far so good, the second one we tried hit the spot so bought a case to go on with but shock, horror, as we were walking out of the shop we were stopped, very apologetically admittedly, by a lovely lady and told we couldn’t stay over night as they had a big wedding function tonight; bleep bleep: “and” we’d spent a fair amount of money!!!!! Anyway we were invited to join them in their car and taken to see an alternative overnight parking place. During the 2-minute drive we discovered our host was Philip, was the sixth generation of the family vineyard business, and his wife Stephanie, the English speaker who together took over the “torch” in 2002.
The alternative spot was fine but before heading back they showed us the way to the ancient castle “up-on-the-hill”, they suggested we may like to take a stroll later: hhhhmmmm a definite “no”; too far, too steep, to hot!!, so they took us to see three of their plots growing the vines but due to the lack of rainfall, they looked rather “off-colour”; I think they had a number of prayer mats out for rain. They told us about the two main grape varieties they grow and said how lucky they had only suffered minor fire damage recently, having vines growing in a number different locations, they were luckier than most.
Once “deposited” back at Rosie and our good-byes said, we headed to our new overnight stop; a very large, parched area, probably the village green in normal times but all to ourselves.
Their website is worth a visit on their link:- http://www.closdelamandaie.com/
The village of Aumelas boasts a medieval castle up-on-the-hill but little else, other than numerous plots of vines growing.
We were spoilt for choice when it came to parking Rosie but after much discussion settled for the evening and after dinner played crib before heading for another ‘hot” night. Me-thinks an air conditioner may be the next thing on the list!!!; however we were for a surprise in the night, it rained😁😁😁, not before time looking around this part of France!!!
Sunday 14th August
We were away early, even before breakfast as we had no way of knowing what the motorway traffic had in store for us. Fortunately we didn’t have to repeat the way we arrived yesterday afternoon, this morning we headed straight into Montpelier and onto the peage, so far so good, so soon stopped for fuel, breakfast and diesel. To coin a famous phrase “I don’t believe it”; the guy in front struggled to get his pump to work and eventually he finally moved forward, but that wasn’t the end of it. The car in front of us who had been watching, tried as well and he was forced to move forward as he was unsuccessful! All this took up valuable time but what was worse, we couldn’t have moved to another pump island as the service station was so busy.
After fuelling ourselves and Rosie we hit the road again and have to say, though heavy traffic it was generally moving at a fast pace which meant we arrived at the planned time for lunch. After the previous days, this one was a doddle. To be continued…………..