We have two days to tow Guillaume the 940 kms or so from the south of France to Ouistreham ferry port in Normandy.
We finished loading/packing and were on the road by 09:00. We didn’t have a set goal in mind for today. Our ferry is not until 23:00 tomorrow so, if necessary, we can do a very long day #2. Today we just want to get somewhere near half way to make tomorrow easier.
The weather forecast is not good; we have a day of high winds and the likelihood of rain which makes for a delightful combination. Still, for most of the day we’ll be cocooned in our car anyway, though I’d like the opportunity to set up our interim camp in the dry.
The wind was a bit of a concern. Our route took us up the A75, La Meridienne, which is one of the highest autoroutes in Europe reaching 1120m/3680ft. It also takes us across the engineering marvel that is the Millau Viaduct. That could be a bit blustery. It was heartening to see that all passes were open, though.
The viaduct was actually a breeze, as opposed to a gale, but there was contraflow which somewhat spoiled the view of the crossing. The viaduct is the only toll on the route all the way to Clermont-Ferrand (which we can’t resist calling Clement Freud).
Some of the climbs up to an altitude exceeding that of Snowdon, essentially from sea level, are brutal and you really have to keep vigilant about running into the back of very slow-moving trucks. The French have a wonderfully graphic road sign depicting a car ramming the back of a steeply inclined lorry. I have to say that our car, an automatic, copes very well – stick it in cruise control, lower the speed a bit and let technology take the strain. With a manual car, I used to end up with calves cramping from tensing on the accelerator and being mentally exhausted from the gear changing. I would not go back. For the most part the climbs were made harder by the wind being a headwind but it’s safer; for towing vehicles; a side wind would’ve been considerably worse.
Up from Lodève the temperature went down to 7°C and stopping for a comfort break was a bit chilly. More clothes required.
We had a couple of potential stop-offs in mind. After 15th September, half the French campsites close so it’s necessary to be mindful. Usually those near the autoroutes are a decent bet, though. Progress had been good so we opted for a new site to us, a camping municipal at Saint-Amond-Montrond. Our book said it’s open until 1st October. That’s in 3 days time so let’s hope it’s right.
A delightful lady was checking us in at 16:00. She was mightily amused when I referred to Francine as ma mere instead of ma femme. My, I’ve been away from France too long. The campsite won a few points by having a chiller cabinet containing cold local beers. I bought some to help us set up.
There were only a few motor vans on site when we arrived. We found a nicely hedged pitch but access was tight; ingress and egress would be very tricky if other pitches were occupied. You’d definitely need a mover.
We hadn’t had the suggested rain, just a sprinkle or two and the wind, which here, having dropped down off the massif, was slight.
The usual late afternoon/early evening flood of more motor vans came in. We let them get on with it while they filled all the pitches that I could’ve used to exit. Still, I don’t have to be on the road until midday tomorrow so they will likely be gone by then. If not, I’ve got the mover.
By chance we had all the ingredients required for a tartiflette – potatoes, bacon, shallots, garlic, reblochon cheese, cream (well, OK, yogurt). It should be baked in the oven – sod that – so we did it in a pan with a lid instead.