An Early Start
When we set off, we’d been thinking we might toy with the idea of going to do a parkrun at Toulouse, but once we arrived in Luz Saint Sauveur it became apparent we could forget that idea. The apartment block wanted a formal check on the morning of our departure prior to returning our deposit. The reception didn’t open until 8 am. So a painful early start changed to an infeasible one.
We still had a long way to travel, though. We aimed to get downstairs on the stroke of 8 am and get the first slot in the departure game. We got up at 6:30 and got on with loading up the car, finishing the cleaning, and dumping rubbish and laundry in the relevant place.
We’d apparently done enough to get our deposit back. After that, the checkout was fairly efficient, and we were off at about 8:05. So far so good, then.
The First Stretch
We took the road down the valley and through Lourdes and Tarbes and then headed east on the motorway towards Toulouse. Before we got there we stopped for some breakfast at the Aire de Comminges. We tried to do a geocache there too, to keep the “colouring in” streak going. We couldn’t find it at first, which was annoying. We retired for some breakfast. Whilst sitting there I delved more deeply into the geocache description and found some spoiler photos. D’oh! How did we miss that?
Kas took over the driving here, and managed to negotiate us successfully around Toulouse and on the way toward Narbonne before the day started to go a bit pear-shaped. We found roadworks. And then we found a crash, and a big queue, and then more roadworks. The drive from Toulouse to Narbonne took maybe 90 minutes more than it should. Painful in every way. This kind of set us behind schedule for the rest of the day. We stopped for a geocache and changed drivers near Carcassonne, but didn’t stay long.
Not the Seaside
We’d promised the girls the possibility of having a quick plodge in the Mediterranean, so we fought our way through the minging traffic all the way to Montpellier before jumping off the motorway to head for the beach at Palavas-les-Flots. The plan was to park up, plodge on the beach for half an hour, grab an ice-cream and a geocache, and then move on. Unfortunately, plans rarely happen. We couldn’t find anywhere to park, and after half an hour we had to give up because we’d got an appointment in the evening that was time-dependent. So we didn’t stop. We stopped for a cache on the way out of town. I couldn’t find that either, so we just left. We swapped drivers again while we were musing, so Kas was in the hot seat again.
We needed to stop at the Aire d’Ambrussum to get more fuel and take a comfort break, and there was a geocache in the car park, so we stopped for a bit to sort ourselves our. It had been busy all day and we were starting to get a bit sick of it. While we were there, we grabbed some McDonalds to eat too.
Heading off the Grid
From here to our endpoint the sat nav thought it was going to take half an hour more than the amount of time we’d actually got. That wasn’t good. We took a second opinion by checking with Captain Google. He said we were OK, just, but only if we went the way he said. As we were short of time, we also decided not to stop for any more geocaches. That left us with a gap in the “colouring-in” chart, to be rectified on another day.
The route that Captain Google suggested involved driving to Nîmes and then cross-country up to Alès. We followed google to the letter, all the while watching how the changes of route were making the car’s satnav come more into line. We eventually reached our destination town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc at just the right time (6:30 pm). We found a car park and pushed our way through some crowded streets. We found the event at a small square with a covered seating area. I’d noticed the event some weeks earlier and promised to try to get to it. The event was only open for half an hour, so timing was important. We made it to the event but it was pretty obvious the girls didn’t want to be there. I did a quick traditional cache around the corner and we said our goodbyes to go and find our apartment.
We’d originally booked in an expensive hotel along the road out towards the Ardèche Gorge, but a few days before leaving home we’d thought that spending five days in a single room (and having to go out to eat all the time) would be too painful. We therefore changed it, and moved to a small apartment complex over in Salavas, just south of the river.
It proved to be a small family-run affair. It had a totally different approach to the commercial skiing place in Luz. We didn’t need to pay until we left, and they were willing to trust. We didn’t have to clean up the flat before leaving and the swimming pool stayed open until “Meh! When we switch the lights off.” They also had a bar that was open more or less all day, so as we were too tired to do anything strenuous, the girls jumped in the pool while Kas and I sat in the bar with a beer and some crisps. When the girls had done in the pool (i.e. when we told them to come out) they had an ice cream from the fridge in the bar.
The apartment was quite small but the bathroom was nice and whilst there wasn’t much room, it was pretty comfortable. Comfort was good, because we hit the beds like four proverbial sacks of potatoes.