Today was one of the more ambitious in terms of driving. Our South of France idyll over, we reluctantly locked the door of our friend's villa and headed to the autoroutes. Our destination today was Beaune, which is 370 miles from Mougins.
We decided to make the trip slightly longer by diverting to Abbaye Nôtre Dame de Sénanque. Our goals were not devotional – our researches suggested it would be a good place to photograph the lavender fields of Provence.
A couple of hours into our drive we found the place. After some excitement entering the car park (two Italians in motorhomes insisted on our backing up all the way to the entrance so they could exit – even though they need only have waited a few seconds for us to get out of their way) we set out for the short walk to the Abbaye. It's a functioning Cistercian monastery and growing lavender is indeed one of the ways the monks sustain themselves. Our internet researches suggested the guided tour (for which the monks will break their silence) is not worth the time or money so we contented ourselves with viewing the exterior and smiling at the antics of photographers trying to make the early and rather unimpressive displays of lavender look more dramatic than they were. Instagrammers had come dressed to pose in the lavender and the monks had thoughtfully provided a small patch with wide spaces between the plants so that their quest for the ‘grammable moment did not damage the crops.
We then headed back to the road and were soon heading north on the Autoroute du Soleil. I was trying to rein Speranza in. We had left our last Euros as a tip for the cleaner at our villa so a speeding fine would have involved a slow drive in police convoy to an ATM. I have experienced this before and it's best avoided!
The speed limits had been reduced by 20kph because of a "pollution alert". I think one reason I became a libertarian is that I take laws so seriously they inconvenience me more than those who adopt the Jack Sparrow approach ("more like guidelines really"). So I wanted to comply. The locals seemed unconcerned however, except when the presence of radar controls was signalled, so I went mostly with the flow and complied in the broadest of senses. Two youngsters in a VW Golf amused Mrs P II by giving her the thumbs-down sign as they overtook us – indicating their contempt for Speranza, or more likely the unworthy chap driving her so sedately,
We took breaks for lunch and petrol and bowled along enjoying the sights of Provence, Beaujolais and Burgundy while listening to our music. The day passed pleasantly enough for all the blistering heat. The roof stayed firmly up. Driving with it down is not much fun at high speed on motorways anyway and we wanted the comfort of the air-conditioning. Besides, the boot/trunk is fuller than when we set out as we have both received gifts and bought some of our own. The space required for the roof to be stowed is full of those acquisitions so the option is not available.
Our hotel in Beaune is another old Abbaye, but no longer in monastic use. It's an impossibly cute hotel now, right in the city centre. We are idling in our air-conditioned room to recover a little before heading out to see the sights and find somewhere informal to eat. Much as Beaune may have restaurants to compete with those we've recently visited, I want somewhere I can go in the denim shorts and Fulham training shirt I am wearing in this heat!
Apparently this is our last day of it as the weather forecast suggests Epernay – our destination tomorrow – will be a full ten degrees cooler and that it may even rain!