Wednesday 24 February 2016

A bridge too far


Essentially works of fiction conjured to sooth the minds of mere mortals who just don’t get what it is to be contrary. Namely we had a plan, which we destroyed and came up with a new one, which we rearranged over breakfast and, miraculously, it didn’t happen quite like that.

So there we were, a new day. Whilst we’d arrived after dark it was clear that we were definitely in a new world, the sounds were different, the walls were different, even Clare hanging out of the window was different, the aroma of pine that hence drifted in was definitely different.

We scurried to breakfast.

Again the place was different, the colouring of the restaurant area very mediterranean and after our  entrance last night through a cloud of nicotine smoke it was a nice surprise to see that most people had already left for their daily tasks leaving us alone to eat and decide on what to do.

So, for the sake of completeness the plan was…
  • Pont du Gard near Nîmes
  • St Tropez
  • Tourettes (well, obvs)
  • Grasse

The idea being that we would find a place up in the hills and arrange it before we left. The latter Clare managed to do, more on that later. The upside would be we’d stay ahead of the game and get to paddle in the sea.

Of course the reality was we would never manage to do the plan because something more interesting would come along. But you knew that.

Off we toddled. The slow way. The funny thing with France is it’s very big. Huge even. So whilst things look really close on the map it’s an awfully long drive to get there. Still it was a pleasant 90 mins or so of massively varying countryside and giggling before we rolled in to the car park at Pont du Gard. This had been something of a long standing wish for Clare and to be honest I could see why, it’s quite impressive.

But also we didn’t quite do what others were doing. Yes we looked. Yes we walked around. But no we didn’t walk across as frankly you got a far better view of how impressive the aqueduct was by standing at the bottom or, as we did, climbing up high above. Obviously going the hard way on the alternate path. Truly a feat of roman engineering and symbolic of technology being used to sustain life.

We also did selfies ;-)
We decided whilst standing up a height to alter the plan slightly, it would be nice to arrive somewhere relatively early and this was *supposed* to be a rest day of sorts so we deleted the middle stops and agreed to head straight for Grasse.

Well, straightish.

We must have travelled all of three miles before I stopped to refuel.

And as we realised it was now nearly 1pm maybe we should eat before we reached a motorway. All we had to do was find a place to stop. Which should be easy.

Should be.


Car park. I kid you not.
As we bimbled along, Clare suddenly overrode Tom and said take the third exit instead of the second, she was consulting google and had seen a nest of restaurants in Rochefort-du-Gard. Sounds like a plan to me.

Of course it wasn’t quite that simple. After a run through town finding nothing we parked up in the car park that might have been connected with the Hotel de Ville and wandered off with Clare clutching a phone to find the food.

Except we didn’t. This is France after all.

She did though find a place that does a book exchange and a promise was exchanged for a book. Not being able to find a place really didn’t matter, the place was beautiful. Cliched, but insanely beautiful in a way that you can only get in the South.

Soupe de Poissons
Amazingly we did find a place, we’d actually passed it on the way in, but we weren’t sure if it was a food place or not. But in we went, plonked ourselves down and got ready to see if all France would give good food. We weren’t disappointed. Clare had a starter of salad with yet more bacon, but I settled for soupe de poissons, rouille & gruyère. 

With amazing bread, obvs.

Not Brasserie Blanc, but still good!
For a main Clare went with tripe sausage, we know how much she likes a shiny sausage, whilst I went for a bleu Pièce du Bouchee. Both were perfect and yes we did compare. We weren’t offered any dodgy potatoes and fortunately Clare didn’t get married again as that really would have been awkward given that her husband might have been upset.

Though that wouldn’t have got in the way of the pudding. I had mousse au chocolat which was offensively good. I didn’t think
Offensively good...
food could be offensively good. But I was wrong. Clare meanwhile had the crème caramel au beurre salé which was oh-my-dear-lord-that’s-gorgeous.

Which is never a bad thing.

Not a French Tart.
Overall though the atmosphere won. The place was very french and we so worth spending time just absorbing the atmosphere as well as the sun. So if you are ever in Rochefort-du-Gard then you must have lunch in Cafe XL.

The trouble is it was 14:40 when we were rolled out and we still had nearly three hours of driving to get to our stop for the day just outside of Grasse. We had a get a move on. With this in mind we decided the péage was a good bet as otherwise it would have been annoyingly late. Again.

I didn’t spare the lasagne. I mean horses.

But we also didn’t miss out on the scenery as it’s still quite stunning though rolling in to the Cannes area and catching the first sight of the sea was quite wonderful. As we reached Grasse we found a place to stop so that the Skipper could plot a new route. This was a slight problem as it turns out you cant click on the links in screenshots. Who knew?

Anyway, eventually I managed to stop laughing and we headed off along a handy rally practice circuit Clare had managed to find. By this point we had travelled about 915 miles from Contrary Towers and yet in the last mile we were nearly totalled 317 times. Or was it 318?

It was a bit scary.

When we rolled up to the place that was apparently the destination I had two thoughts either a) we were going to get arrested for being there or b) we had landed on our feet and I should be grateful that my friend had a lucky streak when it came to finding fab places.

Fortunately it was b.

This place is amazing. And if you are ever planning to stay in the area I could recommend it. There’s even a handy Supermarché Casino nearby for winez and nibblez. So we managed to sit on our little terrace for an hour or so nattering and working on a very drinkable local red before eventually coming in to sit on the beds and write blog posts. Oh, and drink champagne.

As you do.

Chin chin darlings for tomorrow we invade Italy.

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