Today we were going to stay with our friends, Penny & John, who have a beautiful house in Le Castellet. As luck would have it, they arrived the previous Monday and as they would be in France for a week, we agreed to stay overnight with them the following Friday, today. We were both looking forward to simple pleasures…..a hot bath, sitting by a wood fire, an evening of conversation, a good meal and finally a glass of wine!
The route was via Aix en Provence and Marseille but as we were travelling along the main E roads, we did not envisage any problems. We have been avoiding toll roads as they can be very expensive and as we are not in any particular hurry, we thought we had made a good decision. How wrong we were! We always enter our final destination into our Sat Nav trusting that as we have entered our dimensions, the route instructions would not send us into any tricky driving situations……
Firstly, the Sat Nav decided to take us into the centre of Aix en Provence…mistake number one and then for some reason decided the best route for us was straight through the middle of Marseille. I was driving and I can tell you my stress levels went through the roof! Bikes, cars & buses were coming at us from every angle and whilst I was negotiating the traffic, Carlos was trying to read the route on his phone…..needless to say a left turning on a back road became a nightmare situation. A van had double parked!!! I tooted my horn hoping someone would hear it and helpfully move but to no avail. The only course of action was to reverse back on to the previous road. Carlos got out to help me negotiate this manoeuvre. It’s very difficult to reverse in our van as we have to rely on a camera and huge wing mirrors which I find distorts the concept of distance vehicles are to the van. I was sweating but slowly I reversed only to hear Carlos screaming stop followed by a very loud crunching noise. My heart was in my mouth, I felt sure I had either crushed a bike or worse a car! I had to move forward and try again…..Carlos confirmed it was only the chassis which had caught on the road….the same bit of chassis which bent as we were being towed out of a field in Derbyshire….the same bit of chassis which scraped the road when entering the Aire at Aubignas….the common denominator…..ME…I was driving in every incident and I felt physically sick.
Finally, I was back facing forward and hoping to God the next set of directions would get us out of this hell hole called, Marseille! The route signage is diabolical and we could not see a way of exiting this city without driving straight through it. When we eventually did get out, we vowed never again to drive through Marseille.
We took the decision we had to pay for toll roads and so for a mere €3.80, we were heading on the Auto Route to Le Castellet and our next challenge….how to get into Penny’s drive and should we chance using the single track road which is very steep!