Monday, 6 July 2009

My favourite time of year – holiday time!

We certainly don’t do things the easy way in the Stolarski family. Every year, for the past 15 or so years, we have taken our annual holiday in the south of France – and every year, we choose the option of driving, rather than flying. Why? Well, I sometimes wonder myself. A 6 am Friday ferry from Dover means leaving Nottingham at around 1 am, which basically means a night without sleep, for me, at least. So when we hit the French roads, with 220 miles already under our belts and another 700-plus miles to go, it can be a bit of a drag - not to mention very tiring! Of course, an overnight stop is essential. Completing the journey all in one go is possible (indeed, I have done it before) but the urge to get us all there in one piece outweighs everything else. And the offer by my friend David Bennett of the use of his house in the beautiful, sleepy village of Saint Gengoux Le Nacional in the Cotes Chalonnaise region of southern Burgundy was not to sniffed at. And what a lovely place - tardis-like, with four bedrooms, two shower rooms and spacious kitchen, dining and living space. It was almost a shame we only had one night there. Here's a photo………..

Our onward journey from Saint Gengoux to our destination in Roussillon was always going to be a little fraught, since this is one of the busiest Saturdays of the year on the French roads, with what seems like half the population heading for the Mediterranean. I’ll spare you the detail, but suffice to say that the autoroute south of Lyon often resembled a huge car park. After several hours of stop-start (more of the former than the latter), we eventually got past Orange, where the autoroute splits into two – one heading to Marseille and the Cote d’Azur, the other heading to towards Languedoc, Roussillon and Spain. Finally, we made some serious progress, eating up the miles, hampered only briefly by the mother of all rainstorms. After a quick stop for a comfort break near Narbonne, we were off on the last leg of the journey. And then, disaster! Accelerating hard up the hill back onto the motorway there was a loud “pop” from the engine. Our 2 litre turbo diesel Mondeo suddenly had all the power of a sewing machine. Luckily, there was another aire (service station just up the road, so we chugged along for a mile or two and pulled in. Fearing the worst (think ruined holiday and a huge repair bill) I looked under the bonnet and found that a large rubber pipe leading from the engine to the turbo had blown free from its seating. Joy of joys – a simple job to fix! 5 minutes later, we were back on the road, with full power restored. An hour later, we arrived at our hideaway, perched 500 metres up above the Roussillon plain in the village of Arboussols, with magnificent views of the Canigou massif and the eastern Pyrenées towards Andorra. I’ll post some more, later, including some more pics.

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