It was quite a journey. 1286 miles not counting the bit of cross-channel lurching twixt port and starboard, Portsmouth and Le Havre courtesy of Brittany Ferries and the sea state of La Manche. As the ship and I rolled about this way and that, my mind turned to the huge load of vehicular hardware loaded on three separate decks below us and I speculated that this could be my last night on this earth, or, more accurately, sea. How those things stay afloat is a miracle.

Amazingly, we got a few hours of sleep in our wee cabin and arrived promptly to set off across France on a day of unremitting rain and a steady temperature of 7°. Grrr. Miles of French roads beautifully maintained by Messrs Vinci– those tolls are worth every cent – with only one hiccup as we exited a ‘peage’ section at a crawl. The guy responsible for traffic flow planning must have been AWOL when this junction was built. We overnighted in Carcassonne’s Hotel Ibis, the IKEA of the hotel world, somehow continental but somehow also très ordinaire. But perfect for this occasion, centrally located, cheap (the euro is so easy for us Brits), comfortable, clean, and, in this case, close to a modest little bistro that served up stupendous fresh prawns grilled in their shells, laced with garlic and accompanied by deliciously slim, crisply sautéed potato, a weird combination but a taste sensation.

Despite a reasonable sleep, we still felt shattered in the morning as we departed about 7.30 in the pitch dark. It was still raining. But by the time we reached the Spanish border the rain had stopped. We breezed our way south on the Autopista del Mediterráneo; the Spanish roads are wonderful and the traffic is light. As we coasted down the A7 the 7° reading on the temperature gauge was finally dislodged. Barcelona made 14° and between Castellón and Valencia, a distance of about 70 km, the temperature zoomed up to 25! Sweet summer!

Carcassonne to the cottage in Bedar – about 645 miles – made it by 7 pm. Now for some sleep!

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