Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 13 April 2007

Two difficult days of driving from Valencia to Saint-Rambert d'Albon

Yesterday's journey took me from Valencia to Girona, in theory a pretty easy 4.5 hour drive. It didn't turn out quite that way, however. Oh, the motorway is excellent and when I did it in the opposite direction in January it worked out very smoothly. However it was raining heavily for most of the way north yesterday and that always makes for difficult driving conditions I think. One slightly brighter apsect of yesterday's journey was that I had a more than just tolerably good motorway lunch - a plate of very nice Iberian dry-cured ham with a lovely salad to go with it; no wine of course, but you can't have everything! I stayed in the same hotel in Girona as on my way down and had a very comfortable night, with a pretty good dinner. I didn't get online yesterday evening, however, because the hotel had run out of 24hour wi-fi access cards! They need to orgnaise their stock-replenishment better, methinks; they had also run out of the wine I wanted to have - that's a more serious fault, I suppose.

Today's journey from Girona into France and up through the country as far as Saint-Rambert d'Albon (about 60 Km south of Lyon) made yesterday's journey seem smooth in comparison. My SatNav suggested today's trip should take about 4.25 hours and with an hour for lunch and toilet stops I had calculated a journey-time af 5.5 hours. In fact door to door took about 8.5 hours! Firstly it rained again today, very heavily for almost all of it except for the last 50 Km or so. Added to that there was a lot of traffic on the road, specially once we got into France (Easter break holiday changeover day). It took quite a while, too, to get through the border - no problem, except that there was only one car lane open through the frontier control so even though it was just a question of driving slowly through, three lanes of traffic had to filter into that one lane. Apart from the foul driving weather, though, the heavy traffic resulted in a ginormous delay getting through the toll control just south of Montpellier, well over 40 minutes of slow crawling to travel less than 500 metres to pay the toll; almost all the lanes were manned, it's just that there was a huge amount of traffic. The traffic then proceeded to crawl along for a large part of the rest of the way, with a few stretches where decent speeds were possible; I had the 'pleasure' of listening to the road traffic reports on the radio describing the dreadful traffic delays on just the route I was following and suggesting that we all be patient (like when have you ever seen French drivers being patient - lol). Finding the hotel here was another bit of 'fun'; twice round the town with SatNav taking me to a sign only, nothing else. On my second circuit I drove deliberately slowly past this sign and managed to read the small print below the hotel name, which informed me of how to find the hotel.

Now because I am basically an optimistic and happy soul I want to end this 'gripe' of a post on a more upbeat note. Not all the rooms here have wi-fi access and when I was told my room number I asked if it had this; I was told 'no'. I asked if they could give me another room and after a bit of hunting in the room allocation computer was indeed given another room; and I must say the quality of the connection is one of the best I have ever had when using wi-fi; so far the connection has never cut out at all and the speed seems very good and all for EUR9.80 for 24hours (Spanish hotels in the same hotel chain charge EUR12.00 with sometimes mediocre connection quality). The other and more important factor that has lifted my spirits this evening is the excellent dinner I had; nothing fancy, but just good French 'bourgeois' cooking; the French do know how to eat well and in this place the staff really do seem to care about what they are doing.

I have another 4 or so hour drive tomorrow to reach the village where I'll be staying with friends tomorrow night; I certainly won't be online whilst there as these particular friends are not into computer technology at all; they are letter writers, not e-mail senders - they even produce their own stationery. For example envelopes are hand-made, never bought and cards or letter-heads are always beautifully illustratecd by hand. No shop-bought nonsense for these people! Both he and she are good cooks, too - obviously this has particular appeal for me. On Sunday I reach the Netherlands and am there for five days; as I think I mentioned in an earlier post I will probably get the use of a computer when I'm there, but likely only to check e-mail; I doubt if I'll take time to blog anything when I'm there so it'll probably not be before Sunday 22nd April, once I'm back home in Nairn, that I get a chance to do that. So until then, be good - and if you can't be good, be careful.

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