THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
A pause
At ease in Aquitaine

The Last Big Run

We had a five to six hour run ahead of us from Barjac to Penne d'Agenais in 30º heat – mostly on autoroutes. By now we know the drill for driving without air con. Babička has even found a way I didn't know was possible to open the tiny rear window behind her (Speranza is a 2+2 if the +2 are hobbits) while keeping the main window up. The problem was not the driving but the stops. The roads (and so the aires) were packed and shady parking spaces were at a premium. We were on a three stop strategy and came back each time to a little furnace. 

We'd hoped to find some nice little village to stop at for lunch, but Babička is not a digital native. She could find restaurants but she couldn't figure out their proximity to a motorway junction. In the end we settled for an Autogrill at an aire and it wasn't too bad at all.

The final 60km was on country roads where Babička kept reminding me her late husband had managed to clock up €800 of speeding fines on a single day. The speed limits vary from 30-80kph, the signage is poor and the whole route is sous surveillance. Time will tell if I did any better. It wasn't easy and – to be honest – by this stage I didn't care. I was anxious to get Babička to her destination safely and to have a few days rest before my return journey.IMG_6130Her daughter's in-law's place is a beautiful old farmhouse dating back as far as the 17th Century, complete with all its land. The in-laws rent the fields out to locals and enjoy watching the farming around them.

After dropping our bags, we headed to town for Babička to shop for dinner and for me to refuel Speranza. I made another young Frenchman happy when he asked permission to photograph her. I asked for his phone and let him sit in the drivers seat to be photographed. I  hope some young French lady is suitably impressed when he flashes the photos. It's a myth that Ferraris are "chick magnets" – the glances one gets are all from heterosexual males so it's more an expensive form of gaydar. It's the FPC (Ferrari Purchase Capability) that is the magnet – and that attracts entirely the wrong sort of woman.

While I waited outside the butchers shop, an older Frenchman came over to talk cars with me. He was an Aston Martin driver and happy to learn I'd originally set out to buy a Vanquish but didn't fit into it, which is how I ended up with first a Maserati and then a Ferrari. One of the things I like about Speranza is the way she starts so many conversations with like-minded people. No Guardian-reader is ever going to come over for a chat! She has built-in anti-Bolshevik defences.

IMG_6130After dinner outside accompanied in my case by some Cheshire-brewed ale, I retired to my motel-style bedroom with Speranza immediately outside my hobbit-sized door. I'd hoovered out all traces of Babička's rather messy occupancy and plan to wash Speranza's exterior before I leave for Spain and – ultimately – my ferry home next Tuesday. Babička has all kinds of plans for outings in the meantime and while there are vehicles a-plenty here, until her daughter and son-in-law arrive I am the only licensed and insured driver . Despite that, I am hoping to give most of them a miss and enjoy French rural life at leisure rarely afforded to the area's hard-working folk.

My Track My Tour map is updated here.


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Dear Tom, as U R so far, "by accident" U R also so close to Rochelle (some miles northbound) - with the enormous fortress (once help-supplied by England), which is "must-to-see"! Your choice - anyway ;-)
Greg B.

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