THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Last driving day

Autoroute du Soleil

On Thursday evening, after learning a little about French justice from my friend’s account of his visit to the family court with his ex wife and their daughter, we set off for dinner in another little yacht/fishing port of which I had never heard.

It was just as pretty as the better-known ports of the Côte d’Azur but entirely free of tourists. Just French families going about their leisurely business (and a Russian accountant on her way to being French, her Big Four company having found her a job here). Monsieur D seems intent on confirming every English stereotype about the French by chatting to every pretty girl he meets. On this occasion, as on all the others I’ve witnessed, his charm was well received (though with a pointed mention of the lady’s fiancé before he turned it up too high).

Yesterday, we had crepes for lunch in yet another unknown (to me) seaside town. This one was a tad more touristy, but still relaxed and charming. After a little tour of the local vineyards, we returned to Bandol and — ignoring the droning speech being made by the local mayor to a nearby boatful of voters in shorts and floaty dresses — had a drink and a chat before hauling my unfit organism back up the hill to where we’d parked. The anticipation of that climb had taken the edge off my enjoyment of my pastis, if I’m honest. 

Today I rose early for some online chores in the metaverse of which I am a long-term citizen. Then after breakfast on the terrace, and a last look for a while at the Mediterranean, I loaded Nira up for the journey home. 

IMG_1827I overnight at Dijon tonight, deo volenti. It’s nice to be back on the familiar Autoroute du Soleil, on which Speranza (and before her Vittoria and Claudia’s I and II) and I have so often driven in the past 20 years. There’s something to be said for the anonymity of a Kia. I haven’t had the usual paranoid sense of being juicy prey for the gendarmes. She ProCEEDs amiably enough, with no fuss and the benefit of electronic driver-aids of which Speranza can only dream. I’m sure she’d disdain them anyway. 

Tomorrow I head back to Luxembourg. Speranza is not ready, alas. Modena entirely failed to deliver the parts ordered on the day of my incident, so work has not even begun. Ferrari seems unaware that any of its owners actually use their cars. So many are, after all, mere showpieces. 

I will return home by train from Luxembourg on June 5th and come back again when Enzo’s heirs finally extract their elegant digits from wherever they keep them warm. It’s going to be a tough journey with a carful of luggage I never expected to be heaving into a rack on a train. 


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I can't begin to imagine traveling by train with a car load of luggage...


I enjoyed reading about your adventures. I hope you managed to drag your bags up into the Eurostar with no incidents.

Phil Jones

Over 30 year ago I went a couple of times to the Bol d'Or (24 hour motorcycle endurance race), held at Circuit Paul Ricard in the mountains above Toulon. The Autoroute de Soleil was free for bikes from Orange so no time checking at the toll booths.
We stayed in Toulon but would also go to Bandol where it was compulsory to pull a wheelie for the assembled throng. The cafes welcomed us with open arms, despite the doughnuts on the road outside, such a contrast to the UK.
I loved going down there, the Ardeche valley being a fantastic bike road.
It all changed when Bernie Eccleston turned the Paul Ricard into an F1 test track and the Bol was moved to Magny-Cours.

Next time take Speranza down the Ardeche, you'll have a lot of fun.

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