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Report 467: Travelling Light - With Some Unwelcome Assistance

By Pamela R from Sydney, Australia, Fall 2001

Trip Description: The drive from Paris had been fantastic. We had just said it was the best time we'd ever had in France. Now we were excitedly heading towards Italy and looking forward to staying in some lesser-known towns and using our newly polished Italian language skills. Why did we decide to take a detour?

Destinations: Countries - France, Italy; Regions/Cities - Dordogne, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Pyrenees, Cinque Terre, Liguria, Tuscany

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Garden Visits; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 26: Tuesday 25 September - We Pick Up Our Car and Leave Paris

We woke up in good time for our shuttle to Orly Airport, but unfortunately the breakfast girl hadn’t turned up for 7 a.m. breakfast time.

The night porter who was still on duty attended to our account, with a bit of a mix-up about a credit we were due – through a mistake by a different night porter – but everything turned out OK. As he couldn’t leave his post, we returned to our room and brought our bags down, but there was still no sign of breakfast. With the shuttle due at 7.45, the assistant girl arrived at 7.40, so we were only able to have a hurried juice and yoghurt, though Peter just managed to gulp a coffee as the shuttle was pulling up outside.

Our driver, a Sri Lankan, was very pleasant and had been to Australia, after being in the navy, and he seemed to enjoy the opportunity to reminisce about his time there. He had some family in Australia, and had visited his sister who lived at Eastwood .

There were six other passengers, Spaniards, aiming for an Iberia flight. We were sitting in the front with the driver, and had a good view of the traffic chaos that awaited us shortly when we would have our own wheels. Arriving at Orly at 8.20 we quickly found gate M and were pleased to see that the Peugeot man was already there, although our booking gave the pick-up time as ten o’clock. So we took off in our green 206 diesel, a good bit earlier than we’d anticipated.

After a couple of missed turns coming out of Orly, including a quick visit to a probably delightful cemetery, we were on our way. The weather was grey and misty, and it soon became very dark, starting to rain as we stopped for coffee and a ham roll, but later it turned fine and sunny. We had taken the toll road (97FF) as far as Vierzon, where we turned off to drive south-west towards Chateauroux. After 335 km we stopped for a DIESEL fill up. We’d had a slight worry about filling up with petrol by mistake, but in the event, it was never a problem. Our card swiped OK too.

The countryside changed to hills and forest after plains, sunflowers and corn. After our minimal breakfast we were getting hungry, so from one o’clock we started looking for somewhere for lunch. After numerous parkings and U–turns, we finally found, around three o’clock, a wayside inn between La Coquille and Thiviers. Other places had been either closed, or had finished serving, and this didn’t look much more promising.

As we stood in the entrance the patronne showed us the menu, which seemed fine to us, so we were shown into the dining room and she turned on the lights – we were the only ones there. It all seemed a bit strange and we had to walk through their private living area to go to the washroom, but it turned out to be great, and very much better than we had anticipated. [Peter – tartine Ardennaise (a sort of scrambled thing in special bread); Pamela – assiette du nord (cepes omelet, jambon, foie gras, aubergine pate, potato salad, lettuce, tomato, cucumber!] It was a truly great lunch and she and her husband both became quite chatty as time passed. The wine was good too, a Bergerac white.

We had travelled much further and quicker than we had anticipated, our original plan having been to stop at Chartres, but we’d passed that turn-off at about ten o’clock. We were getting close to parts of France with which we were familiar, so we decided to continue further south to Brantôme, where we remembered a superb foie gras omelette we’d eaten ten years earlier.

At Brantôme, there was a nice hotel overlooking the river, but they only had a back room in the annex, so we moved on and tried for the chambres d’hote advertised at an antique shop. These too were full, but the lady there referred us to Carol and Colin Robinson just up the street, who ran a chi-chi bed and breakfast. They had just one room left, the most expensive, and it was over-priced at FF500 but we took it.

Our hosts came from the North of England – he worked as a plumber, while she ran the B and B. It was a lovely restored two-storey house, right on the main street, but it was a small, quiet town so it wasn’t noisy. We parked the car by the river, and wandered through the town looking for our restaurant from the previous trip, and admiring the bridge over the river Dronne. After our short wander we sat on the terrace at Le Fils du Temp for a couple of red wines, but we didn’t need dinner after our huge lunch.

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Trip Report Pages

Tuesday 25 September - We Pick Up Our Car and Leave Paris

Wednesday 26 September - Hautefort, La Roque St Christophe

Thursday 27 September - Le-Buisson-de-Cadouin

Friday 28 September - Marcillac, St Antonin Noble Val

Saturday 29 September - Lautrec, Nissan-lez-Enserune

Sunday 30 September - Abbaye de Fontfroide, Chateau de Termes

Monday 1 October - Carcassonne, Sete, Pont du Gard, Fontaine de Vaucluse

Tuesday 2 October - Gordes, the Bories, Roussillon, St Clair

Wednesday 3 October - Bagnols-en-Foret, Frejus

Thursday 4 October - Bagnols-en-Foret (again!), Pont du Loup

Friday 5 October - Italy at last - Volterra

Saturday 6 October - Volterra, Pescia (near Lucca)

Sunday 7 October - in Pescia

Monday 8 October - Lucca

Tuesday 9 October - who would drive into Rome for a day - we did

Wednesday 10 October - around Lucca

Thursday 11 October - around Pescia, Collodi, Uzzano

Friday 12 October - Capannori, Montecatini Alto, Bagni di Lucca

Saturday 13 October - Pescia to Volterra, Massa Marittima

Sunday 14 October - back to France, but first a visit to Certaldo

Monday 15 October - Bagnols-en-Forest (again!), back to Italy (again)

Tuesday 16 October - Camogli, walk to San Fruttuoso monastery

Wednesday 17 October - Walking Some More in the Cinque Terre

Thursday 18 October - Portofino, Portovenere, en route to Greve-in-Chianti

Friday 19 October - Arezzo, Monterchi, Sansepolcro

Saturday 20 October - Arezzo (we made in this time), arrival Spello

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