“TOLL CHARGE! Awwww, why do things cost things? I hope you’ve got money, cos I spent all mine on chocolate cigars!”
This is the happy refrain that greets and warns me whenever I put a new destination into my Sat-Nav these days. No, it’s not the sterile computer voice of “Kathy” or “Simon” but rather that of a portly, yellow faced and follicly challenged resident of fictional Springfield. Homer’s chocolate cigars wouldn’t last long in the heat on the south coast of France, even with my newly topped up air-conditioning working at full tilt!
It was the second of a handful of free days yesterday so with Homer in tow, I embarked on my own little Odyssey.
It has to be said that despite the tolls, or more likely because of them, driving anywhere on French roads, particularly the auto-routes, is an extremely pleasurable experience. They are smooth, uncluttered and have a distinct lack of of cones sectioning off huge stretches of, largely un-worked on, roadworks!
I was heading in the direction of St Tropez, east of Aix, but was sidetracked en-route by a lovely looking beach at a small town called Aguiebelle. With a name equating to “beautiful water” it would have been churlish not to stop and have a swim and even more so not to pop my head into a very friendly looking bar and restaurant right at the water’s edge.
A charming, ludicrously deep tanned gentleman was multi-tasking away, serving drinks one minute, kitting out young, intrepid adventurers with life jackets and canoes the next, then attending to guests on sun-beds shaded by simple but elegant white parasols.
I’ve noticed already how different it is to be an Englishman in Provence as opposed to, say, Paris. As you will already have read, my French speaking skills are rusty…to say the least. An alarming number of years have evaporated between my French “O” level B grade and now. However, I will always make an effort. In Paris, one can stumble over so many nouns and verbs and conjugations of verbs in order to avail one’s self of a single cafe-cr