We arose bright and early to pick up our leased car, a Renault Grand Modus. Renault, Peugeot & other companies offer new cars for short-term leases; this allows them to sell “almost” new cars without the 19.6% VAT tax. We took the hotel shuttle back to the airport, found our way to the agency’s counter, boarded another shuttle and were whisked away. We chose the Grand Modus because the pictures on Renault’s website showed that although it was a small car (13.22′), it had a spacious trunk and a comfortable backseat.
There was a line of silver cars being loaded by other families starting their “vacanes”. We turned in our paperwork and patiently waited for our silver car to arrive. Much to our surprise, our little Modus was blue! Thanks to the minutes of time we’ve spent with RosettaStone, we could now say that we have a “bleu voiture”. But wait, Sacre Bleu! This couldn’t be our Grand Modus, this car had a spacious trunk but not a comfortable backseat – there was no room for legs! Turns out it can have a comfortable backseat OR a spacious trunk but not both. Changing from one to the other is easily accomplished with the flip of a lever. After being assured that this was, indeed, our car, off we drove.
The only parking available at the hotel was in the basement, with stairs leading up to the lobby. After making multiple trips up and down those stairs, Craig had all the luggage (2 large duffel bags, 2 suitcases, 4 carry-on’s and one cat carrier) comfortably loaded in the car. The interior space is truly amazing. Against his better judgement, Felix allowed himself to be placed in the carrier and off we went….starting the long trip down to Salleles d’Aude in southwest France.
Getting out of Paris was challenging…GPS would have been a sound investment. After an hour of picking our way through myriad French highways, we were finally out of town and on our way down south. Felix was very quiet…no doubt wondering what new hell we were putting him through.
To say the countryside is “beautiful” doesn’t do it justice. The rolling green hills, the quaint stone villages, the vineyards, the mountains….it’s unbelievably beauteous. Not only is the scenary absolutely gorgeous, the roads are smooth and there are rest stops every 25 miles or so (what a concept!).
You do realize what a small world it is when you’re on European roadways. We passed cars and trucks from Espana, Italia, Croatia, Hungary..so many countries. We stopped for gas twice (about 50 euros each time) and picked up some munchies and wine to enjoy after we arrive at the cottage.
As we approached the Millau Viaduct, our breath was taken away. It’s the most graceful bit of architecture we’ve ever seen. It’s was constructed in 2004 over the Tarn Valley and is the the tallest bridge in the world. Here’s our picture…taken from the car…which doesn’t do it justice so also included is a pic pulled from the Internet.
It started to rain as we approached our destination. Our newest car is a 2002 model, so maybe all cars have this now, but our little Modus has sensors to know when to speed up or slow down the windshield wipers….much more efficiently than the intermittant wipers we have on our cars. We enjoyed driving through the rain just to watch this new “toy” in action.
When we were within 15 minutes of the cottage, the traffic came to a complete stop. Looking ahead, we saw that the storm had felled a Plane tree (Sycamore tree…they line the roadways and canals for shade and, of course, for effect) so we turned around to take a back road. Although the downpour had stopped, the alternate route was flooded with even more water rushing down from the vineyards. We drove slowly and carefully through and finally made it to Caryl’s cottage about 8 pm.
Caryl and Jean-Michel were waiting for us. They had been working very hard to clean-out the cottage. Caryl was amazed at how much she had accumulated after 15 years…but having just gone through the same process, we weren’t surprised at all. They gave us a quick tour of the cottage and said they’d return in the morning for a proper briefing.
Felix looked around, found the bed and made a run for it. Craig and I opened our bottle of rose and toasted to the future.