We knew that the trip from Beynac to our ultimate destination—a farmhouse on the northern outskirts of Salon-de-Provence—was going to take a huge chunk of our day, but we didn't know it was going to take as long as it ultimately did.
We knew that our kids would be pushed to the limits as far as being stuck in a small Renault Captur with food and backpacks stuffed around their feet.
And yet, we really wanted to try to drive to Carcassonne and reach the ancient fortified town in time for lunch, to see the fortress, and then to high-tail it and reach our villa/farmhouse in time to have dinner with our friends, who were coming from Germany and spending six days with us.
According to Google, the journey to Carcassonne was just over three hours; in reality, it took about five. The highways were packed (with a high number of insane drivers—drivers until then were respectful of the rules of the road), and getting through the numerous toll stations could take about five to 10 minutes, each. We had left Le Capeyrou campground shortly after 9; it was past 2 by the time we parked near Carcassonne's Palais de Justice.
And about three hours into our journey, the kids wanted out of the car.
We would stop for bathroom breaks only when it was absolutely necessary, but we realized the trip was taking longer and we tried to go as fast as we could (speed limits on the autoroute varied between 110-130 kph: I drove between 120-145).
With the old city on the horizon, the kids were well past their limit. They irritated each other easily, they yelled, they kicked, they cried. I couldn't blame them: I knew they were tired and hungry, but there was nothing we could do.
As we approached the city centre, all I could do was follow signs and look for a place to park without losing my cool. A beer was going to need to go with lunch.
We parked, Lori and one of our daughters got out of the car, but the other daughter refused to go anywhere. "I'm not getting out," she cried.
"You've been screaming to get out for hours," I said. She had hit her limit. There was no moving her.
I instructed Lori and the other daughter to find some food for themselves and come back to the car as soon as possible. I would wait in the car with our distraught child. I opened the windows to allow a cool breeze to freshen the stale interior air, found a local radio station that was playing pop hits, turned it low, and sat quietly.
"I hope you change your mind," I said, "but I'm here for you."
And so we sat there, watching the locals pass by, other drivers looking for a place to park, and the pigeons searching for food.
Nearly 20 minutes passed, and I could hear my daughter breathing easily. She had calmed somewhat. "You hungry?" I asked in a soft voice.
"No." The answer was short, but not angry. Her mood was changing.
Five minutes later, I asked, "How are you doing, sweetie? Wouldn't you like to get out and stretch your legs, find something to eat, before we get on the road again?" Google said it was two-and-a-half hours to Salon-de-Provence. I didn't believe it.
"We don't know where Mom went."
"We can find something close by."
A few minutes later, Lori and the other girl returned. "We found a great pizza place, not far away. What do you say?"
I turned to face the girl in the back seat. I gave her my Dad loves you look, and she smiled, nodded.
The pizza place, about two blocks away in a large plaza, made awesome artisan pies. Everyone found something they liked. The beer, craft-brewed, was delicious. Just what I needed.
By the time lunch was finished, we had no time to actually tour Carcassonne. We had time to duck into a neighbouring Carrefour, to pick up energy food and drink for the rest of our drive, and to arrange a meetup for the villa/farmhouse cleaning lady, who had keys for our friends, who would be arriving hours ahead of us.
Lori and our daughter who had the meltdown switched places in the car. The mood changed entirely.
The only view of the fortress was from behind the steering wheel, as I drove out of town. No one had a camera in hand: there was nowhere on the road where I could pull over.
The road through Montpellier was under construction, and the main toll road was seriously under-maintained for the amount of traffic. We reached this city by rush hour, and for 20 minutes, in a place where many lanes converged into few, we moved no where. I turned off the engine, opened the windows.
We called our friends to tell them to eat without us. We weren't expecting to reach our destination before 7:00.
It was almost 8:00 by the time we reached the farmhouse.
But the reunion, the food and wine that awaited us, and the beds—actual beds—made the long journey worthwhile.
|The first three photos were shot the morning after we arrived. Looking away from the house, at sunset, this was our view.|
The trip continues...