Posts Tagged ‘france’

Road Trip Part 3 – The Final Day


On the last day of our trip I suggested that instead of visiting Marseille  we spent it wandering around the small historic island which sits in the middle of the river in Martigues.  So my Navigator thinking  a day of gentle strolling around,  cafes, Romanesque churches, archeological digs etc., decided to go ‘girly’ put on a dress and dressy sandals then we set off.  On the way into town Driver to Navigator: “you look nice think we’ll go to Marseille for lunch”.  Now you would think this wouldn’t be a problem but she had changed into sandals that were not meant for walking round a city, they were only meant for short walks like from car to bar then back to car,little did we know she had hit an ooops moment…..   So we  arrived in Marseille to find a built up city very touristy and nothing like I had imagined it would be, why I was both surprised and disappointed I don’t know but I was.


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On arriving in Marseille we parked in the underground parking which is quite something to behold.  There are several levels, all underground,  but despite this they are well lit, clean and surprisingly airy.  Returning to the surface via a lift we found ourselves in a vast open area and facing us was one of the grand ornate churches.  On the side bordering a small basin is the museum and art gallery.  Clean and modern with various exhibitions happening both here and in the old renovated defence turret.  Even this was an experience as they have linked the two with a walkway out over the wáter.

The theatre is a modern cantilever construction which hung over a small pond lit at night by coloured spot lights.  The church is quite a focal point no matter where you are in the square, by looking under the cantilever  part of the theater in the evening you view the church through the coloured lights.

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I first viewed Marseille when Rick Stein was cooking here. The inner harbour had small fishing boats with a few yachts here and there, now it totally yachts with a small free ferry to take people from one side to the other, to me it felt like something was missing.  Each side of the yacht marina is lined with bars and restaurants, all vying for customers.  What I had wanted to do was to sample the bouillabaisse for which Marseille is famous.  But although we looked at several restaurants I didn’t fancy any of them, perhaps it was the smell, it really was a hot day.

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Anyway we took the ‘road train’ or ‘chug-a-lug’ as we call them round the old part of the town. Unfortunately there isn’t much of that left and what there is was spoilt by cars parked in streets that were basically just wide enough for passing.  The ‘Artisan’ quarter didn’t hold much either so we were rather disappointed, still the Chug-a-lug ride was interesting and saved my Navigators feet.


By this time the Navigators feet were beginning to hurt rather badly, so we found a café along the shaded side of the basin and stopped to enjoy a refreshing beer. By now it was getting on so we decided to return to the car and the hotel, so I slowly wandered back with my Navigator hobbling along beside me.  This ended in a dash to the chemist for foot plasters and her nearly being run down by ‘cops on skegways’  well at least they were having fun.  The return was simple and after a shower, rest, drink and change of shoes I decided that on our last night there  we should have a meal in town. We went to one of the water front restaurants and enjoyed a typical French fish menu.

Next morning after a good breakfast we set off for home. No detours this time, it was as if the car knew the route so by 4pm we were sitting in a bar in town enjoying a beer and tapas.  Then off to the shops for food and finally we arrived home.  There is nothing like your own bed!!!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and have a few more in mind, but not sure if I like one or two of the Navigators ideas  the Alps are ok, but by car in mid Winter????  brrrrrrr……..

(c)   Michael Douglas Bosc




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The Road Trip – Part 1

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First Glimpse

Now ever since I saw Belle and Sebastian on television I have wanted to visit the Camargue and see the horses for myself.  Living where we do it is only a short drive – 6 hours – but considering I have driven to Bilbao in 8 hrs it should be a piece of cake….. oh yeh??

After doing a few bits and pieces we set off on Monday around 11.30. It was a sunny morning as we headed for the A9/E15, little did we know what was coming.  Driver to Navigator “have you got the road map?” Navigator “What map???” Driver “I put it on the coffee table” Navigator “Oh its going to be one of those trips, just wing it.” so we did.  Nearing Barcelona I noticed dark clouds with lots of flashing lightning not a good omen, we had seen these deluges on TV and they were not to be taken lightly.  But we were, so it seemed, going away from this one – who was I kidding… a bit further on and we couldn’t see the road let alone the vehicles in front.  Lights came on all over the place everybody slowed down but in a few minutes we were out into light rain phew…. This happened not once but three times before we were past Barcelona.

Now although we got through that ok which was a good thing, what we didn’t know was as we went through that squall we had missed the sign telling us to move over. So when I saw a sign that said France – Franca I naturally thought that was the route to take – wrong…. it turns out that these are suburbs of Barcelona. This meant we ended up going through and round the city eventually to be re-directed back the way we had come to join the C32 to Badalona before re-joining the A9/E15 and another squall….  this was to be our lot until we were well past Badalona where in warm sunshine we stopped for a coffee and snack while I tried to find a road map of France (no luck) before going on.  Well that’s the first ‘detour’.

We enjoyed the scenery, crossed the border and after this the journey proved to be straightforward until, that is, we came to Arles.  It was here that we really proved our ability to get lost not once but twice!  My advice is don’t come off the motorway until you hit MARSEILLE!!

Navigator “we want junction 5”  Driver “you sure?” Navigator ” yes that’s what it says here. Its where you pick up the D35.”  Driver “ah, well junction 6 is coming up we’ll come off here!!!” don’t ask…. Now we wanted the D35 because it ran down alongside the Camargue to Port St Louis where I decided to make our base….wrong Michael, (best plans of mice and men and all that).  Arles although a pretty little town is one hell of a place to get lost in take it from one who did – twice.  The road signs are not clear – where there are any – and even when you can see one it does not match the map (oh yes we finally got one in France….).  ‘Detour’ number two.


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I drove along roads heading south for some while looking for this bloody D35, stopped, asked directions and finally after driving down avenues of Silver Birches – I do so love these trees – came to the D35.  We now needed to head for FOS.  Suddenly there was this Fire Brigade Landrover heading to Fos (it had Fos written on the side) my Navigator uttered those immortal words “follow that Landrover” so I did.  We had our first glimpse of the white horses, Camargue sheep, lush green fields and the sea.


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We went right past the Fos turning and ended up in Martigues a small town on the edge of the Camargue near the mouth of the Rhone.  ‘Detour’ number three, but our adventures were not over, oh no.

When we entered the town I followed the signs for the Ibis hotel, came to a roundabout where all the buildings had the word Hotel on them. So I pulled into the first car park I came to and sent the Navigator to book in….  Not quite the safest thing to do. You see the police station, town hall as well as the Ibis (which was tucked away at the end of a curve) had the word HOTEL before their name so you just KNOW I had parked in the wrong place.  When I went to look for my Navigator I found her laughing like a drain and telling me to go move the car now as the police were about to call the bomb squad because I had walked away from the car after parking it in amongst theirs.  Ok not quite true, as she explained, they were concerned until she uttered the words “your not the Ibis hotel are you”….

Anyway  when they had stopped laughing they kindly pointed us in the right direction. Unfortunately this Ibis was full but they sent us to another one where we booked in, had a meal then hit the hay and slept until 6am when we were woken by the noise of the traffic, to begin our exploration of the Camargue.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc





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We were booked on the ferry to England on Monday morning, so we decided to travel up to St Malo EARLY on the  Sunday to ensure a relaxing unhurried drive. EH??   So at about 2am (yes 2am guess who forgot the clocks had gone back?? Things you discover at petrol stations) we were up and away from home.

The route we had decided to take was across country to Zaragoza where after a short journey on the motorway we would head for Pamplona. We had decided to try the route round the Pyrenees past Biarritz and then up to St Malo, after other Brits had said how easy it was (never travelled with us had they).

Now we knew we had to head for Pamplona,  however we forgot which turnoff we needed, then discovered the road map was on the table at home so, as is our want,  decided to ‘wing it’….. that’s when I knew it was going to be one of those trips.

If we travel anywhere there are usually detours or ‘getting lost’ bits this trip was to be no exception. So this time found us taking a longer route than necessary (discovered when we finally bought a road map, original is back in the car – I think!!) but as it turned out, we had done the right thing as unknown to us St Malo had been packed all weekend with the yacht racing crews and their well wishers (the race goes from France to the Caribbean) so there would have been ‘No Room at the Inn’. The journey was through some of the prettiest countryside seen all autumn(fall) my wife would occasionally gnash her teeth when a particularly colorful section came into view no camera and she was taken with the leaf peeping photos from the states that had been posted on Facebook.  As we arrived the town was emptying and we managed to find the all important parking space and a hotel room, and a nice restaurant so all was not lost.   

The trip home was a little easier, we were fine untill we arrived at Bordeaux. Here we found heavy rain, black skies, thunder and lightning, which, when we were climbing into the Pyrenees and the Vella tunnel sleet first then snow, memories of last years trip sprang to mind. We emerged from the tunnel and made a safe, quick decent as was possible on this twisting pass, as we descended things got easier and it stopped raining snowing. We saw about 2 snow ploughs on the road and we  finally arrived home around 11.30pm. 

 We have decided to fly in future, it is getting a bit too much to tackle in one go even if its only 14hrs plus I do not sleep well in hotel beds.  My wife will miss it she likes France, but even she agrees there’s no place like your own bed!

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