Clermont Ferrard – Lyon – Paris

Golden light selfie

Today was the start of the journey home.  Once again, I stayed in a budget chain hotel (ACE) in Clermont Ferrard, which is located just off the major highway, but also had a cluster of chain restaurants nearby (and coupons in the foyer to get a reduction on the bill – something I forgot the night previously).  I continue to get painfully full from delicious meals – at this Pizza restraunt, I had a ginger cocktail followed by a square pizza with camembert, some sort of dried meat, bacon cubes, onion and potato.  Amazingly good.  Followed it by a tiramisu made with speculoos, which is a spiced biscuit from the Netherlands or Belgium which often accompanies a coffee.

First, one drinks
Then one has two cheeses with two meats in a square pizza
Then you go Italian with a Belgian twist for desert

I forgot to set an alarm, but naturally woke at 8.30am (well and also 1am and 6am, but… you know…).  I enjoyed the 6E90 breakfast, almost identical to the day before – a large mug of hot chocolate, a yoghurt and two pastries.  When in France, right?  The buttery lightness of pain au chocolate and croissants is amazing when it’s done right!  Then back in the car.

For this leg of the journey, I decided to try taking the toll roads (or paege).  It cut a considerable amount of time from my journey (the GPS had been configured to remember ‘no tolls roads’ so it took some playing around to reverse that idea).  The initial projections were a four hour travel time, which would have had me returning the hire car after the 13h15 agreed.

The toll roads are wonderful – still spectacular scenery, but foot down and that’s about it – no roundabouts.  There’s at least two lanes everywhere, and three in areas where it’s hilly (so the trucks can take a slow lane).   There’s also a collection of tunnels, which are impressive too.  Overall, road rules and sensible driving abound.  Everyone stays right unless overtaking.  I’m not sure if it was forgetfulness or the rules, but many people leave the indicator ‘on’ whilst in the fast lane overtaking.  Generally speaking, there was little predatory behaviour, like following closely, though one Ferrari driver had a moment that saw me give him eye contact to say “your impatience will not see me cut in front of a large truck until I deem it safe”.

Approach to a large tunnel!

There was horrendous congestion on the approach to Lyon, and I worked hard with first and second gear, and didn’t one stall!  I did change lanes once or twice, and in hindsight, far right was the best (for the future turn, but also for traffic flows!).  I also, unexpectedly had an additional toll for using the city’s ring road. I haven’t a CLUE what the cost was, and just merrily inserted my card.  Devil may care… or… there’s really no backing out.

When bluetooth audio won’t work, and the 130kmh makes the ambient noise incredible, one keeps a podcast audible like this..

Once within Lyon ‘walls’, I had an easy enough drive, although the final turn was left, across two lanes of traffic, two tram lines, and then there were pedestrians crossing (or talking on their mobile and making me anxious whilst I straddled tram lines).  In the end, dilly dallying mobile phone man was ignored, and I proceeded. Car back! Safely!

It was a few blocks in the baking sun to the train station, which seemed to have increased the armed military presence.  I sat down for a little while to decompress after buying my ticket, and then grabbed some lunch (Starbucks… cause the French chain Paul had unbelievable lines). Then I boarded my train – not without a pushy women trying to cut the line in front of me, to realise.. wrong carriage.  I did say excuse me in French, but she may not be French.  Shame.  Seriously, forming an orderly queue is something most in France and Germany can master… tourists too!

Free wifi on board (for multiple devices!)

On the road again

So, I’m alone again, which is a SURE FIRE way for me to write more (as I don’t get to speak as much!!)

Travel alone = selfies!

Today, was a travel day.  I got a 7am train from Heidelberg to Mannheim, then awaited a Mannheim > Strasbourg train (which was terminating in Paris-Est). I have only gushy good things to say about the latter train, a German high speed ICE train, it travelled up to 250kmh and the best bit for me was the free wifi (as mornings here are when Australia is awake).  That journey was only an hour.

This screen would then show the speed we were travelling at

It was like breathing sweeter air arriving in France.  Ok, I’m delusional – I did suddenly understand most of the announcements, but I was slow to prepare my bags and had ever so polite French people barging on board making it hard for me to disembark.  Of course, it was two charmany French gentlemen who eventually stemmed the flow.

Once on the platform – the obligatory French police office with a semi automatic weapon.  This has always been a visible thing in Paris, but I have no doubt they’ve redoubled security efforts in recent times, and I saw two army kitted, semi automatic wielding men in Lyon station too.

This was not the German. The screens are great for travellers to get an ETA, and the number of stops

Oh, not to jump ahead, but the train from Strasbourg terminates in Marseilles, but I took it to Lyon which seems like a local hub to hire a car and drive east toward Oradour-Sur-Glane.  And as may have been foreshadowed previously – there was NO wifi on board.  And two very loudly speaking germans were seat mates – and I still napped (and gave them side eyes when I didn’t.  True to stereotype, they were in socks and sandals too!).

Now, momentous milestone time I hired a car! Ok, so I’ve been in hire cars, but I’ve never driven one, certainly not as the sole responsible party.  I don’t think I even drove hire cars we got in the US last year, or in QLD the year prior.  And if it’s not enough I hired a car, I hired a manual (usually drive automatic) in a country that drives on the other side of the world.

Little twingo

I do wish, for comedic purposes, I’d filmed some of my early moments in the car.  At one stage Kate the GPS lady misguided me, and then says “Make a U turn when safe” and I chuckle and say out loud “I’m not French you know?”. Yes, Kate is speaking English, cause there’s only so much of a challenge I need at any one time!! The car was at the train station – so full on down town, one way streets.  Thank you Kate, you were an extra 16E per day, and it’s not a euro wasted there, let me assure you!

Yes a driving snap – but… Syrians. Heart aches

All in all, there’s a ton of things I’m thankful for

  • thanks Mum for buying the little bro a cheap manual to learn on (and… for me refreshing my 15 year old learners lessons in manual last year)
  • thank you France for the fine weather – can’t imagine adding pelting rain to the adventure
  • thank you GPS Kate, for your faultless directions… well except for roadwork
  • thank you Renault Twingo for both having a cute name, but also a little icon to say ‘hey silly, up a gear’ or ‘down a gear’
  • thank you for my stress/anxiety for somehow allowing me NOT PLANNING THIS PART, and driving til an arbitrary time (6pm) and finding a cheap hotel with a handful of nearby restaurants.  Charming – not so much, what I need – definitely!  Who knew I could do ‘unplanned’?
  • thank you random Aussie friends who are awake late, and chat to me when I need it – it’s nice to share the ‘I’m doing this now’ with someone… even if only virtually!

I should also say – I actually have no idea where I am.  I mean… I just turn when she said turn, and I set her to Limoges my destination. I did a few times think ‘are you sure honey’? As I was inclined to go via Clermont Ferrard.  I did go via Vichy and two Louis Vuitton offices or factories in the lovely countryside.  I any case, it’s ‘only’ a 2 hour drive to my planned destination tomorrow, and another night out and about before I need to return the car, so tomorrow can be less travel and more site seeing.

Hotel room with a view! For 52E a room, I’m happy as a clam