We had a last minute discussion yesterday about whether we should delay our departure from Fontvieille for a couple of days, due to the continuing beautiful weather, and then charge up the expensive French motorways or stick with our plan to take five days on the free country roads. It was a close call but we decided to stay with our original strategy.
When morning came we were both glad we hadn’t changed our minds. It was distinctly cooler and the skies were overcast when I fired up Basil’s engine and pointed him homeward.
It is approximately 500 miles (800 km) from Fontvieille to Luxembourg, where we hope to meet up with my brother and his family. My maths is strong enough to calculate that to arrive in Luxembourg in five days we need to travel ……. errrrrr ………. let me see ……. 100 miles a day!
Our plan was to programme Luxembourg into SatNav, tell him to avoid toll roads and let him do the rest. Yes, I know, a bit of a risk given some of the scrapes SatNav has got us into on this trip, but we like a bit of jeopardy in our lives. So we have decided to drive for two hours – then stop and see where we’ve got to – and pick a place to stop for the night. Since we don’t know which route SatNav will decide to take us, we cannot plan stopping places in advance, but France has such a plethora this is not a problem.
Our one hundred miles today was basically following the Rhone Valley northwards towards Lyon. I had feared it might be a slightly boring drive, just following the river, but it turned out to be a fairly varied and interesting route. As I have mentioned before autumn is taking a hold in Southern France, so the colours were a lovely mixture, with some bright reds now beginning to pepper the vines. Sunflowers and maize crops stood dry and light brown ready for harvest.
We stopped after two and a half hours at a LIDL to get supplies, since it is Sunday tomorrow and everything is shut in France on a Sunday. Sarah has found some palatable dry sparkling wine in LIDL for just over two euros a bottle, so for the second time she picked up twelve to start to fill up Basil’s cavernous underfloor cellar. By the time we had finished it was lunch time and so LIDL served as an impromptu picnic spot!
While Sarah had been shopping I had decided on a stopping place which was only another half hour drive. By this time the heavens had opened and heavy persistent rain was falling. With slightly more than one hundred miles under our belts SatNav guided us into the little village of Cornas and to a free aire (44.960121, 4.847170). We were early enough to grab one of the five places, but they have since all been filled.
The rain pinned us in Basil’s interior for most of the afternoon but eventually we ventured out and found Cornas to be a pretty little place, full of old limestone houses. There was a wedding going on in the centre but because of the rain the whole party were huddled inside the Mairie (Mayor’s Office) in the village centre.
Cornas is a wine producing area and it is one of the smallest appellations in France. There are plenty of producers in the village offering tastings, but they are all shut today! I read on line that Cornas tends to sell for €20 a bottle and higher, so I don’t think us retirees will be bothering them in any event!
We found in the village a small pizza place which does take outs. Since the village has been generous enough to provide somewhere for us to stay and empty and fill Basil, for free, I thing we may reciprocate and buy a pizza to share between us. That is the great thing about the relationship between motorhomes and communities in France and elsewhere in Europe – the community provides a bit of spare land for motorhomes, and motorhomers will buy local produce. I suspect some of our French compatriots on the aire will be buying wine and I will buy breakfast and lunch from the bakers, just 200 metres up a road in the village centre.
We will see where SatNav takes us tomorrow!