Bonette or Bust – The First Three Days
Bonette or Bust is a 2500 mile circular road trip through Europe, starting and ending in
We joined the adventure for the 3 day journey down to the
The Runners – The Magnificent Seven
v Wigley (Stuart Wigley and Jane Goodman)
v Paa100 (Andy Williams)
v Matt 18 (Matthew Cartwright)
v Spaci (Erich Mangold)
v RVW (Ray and Gail Westfield)
v Beastmaster and Peanut (Adrian Ainsworth and Chrissie Gates)
v Matrog (Matt Rogers)
After a sumptuous breakfast cooked by Mum we had a civilised start, leaving Ashford at 9.15. When we arrived at
The route to
At 8 o’clock we met up for our evening meal, a very pleasant and leisurely affair in a lovely panelled dining room. We suspected that the pattern for the rest of the trip was set there and then, as we all sat at a long table and recapped the day’s event, all clearly enjoying the camaraderie of the adventure. The boys stayed in the bar for a while longer, so I was asleep when Beastie came up. The only downside to the hotel was that our room was on the front and if you had wanted to, you could have reached out and touched the artics going past the window. The church bells on the hour every hour didn’t help either!
Day Two – Monday 5th September
The first job of the morning was washing flies from the windscreen – definitely man’s work. There was a lot of driving to do today, but to make it more pleasant we felt it would be nice to do the first bit off motorway, which was much more fun (in places) but probably took longer. As a rough idea we headed from Troyes towards Dijon across country, following this with a motorway dash to Lyon from where we headed East towards Grenoble and then on to La Mure just north of Gap.
While still heading cross country, we tried to find a small shop in a village to buy something for a picnic lunch, but it seemed like that part of
Charcuterie was mentioned and that was fine - cold meaty things - but no-one seemed to know what she had said for the main course, which was a shame (or maybe not). The starter was duly eaten and soon enough the main course arrived. At first glance it looked good - small roast/fried potatoes and slices of rare beef, and beef it may well have been. However, it didn’t taste like any beef I’ve ever eaten and I wasn’t the only one, but if it wasn’t beef, what was it? We joked that it was horse; that they had had it in the freezer for months and no sucker had eaten it yet and “look here are some English idiots who won’t know what we are saying if we speak fast – they’ll eat it”. Well they were right we did!
Anyway, we galloped away to the motorway and fought our way through
We were turned out of the restaurant at 10.15 and the bar was shut, so we mooched about the town for an hour or so, but it was too cold to sit outside for any length of time, so before long we all retired to bed or Channel 15.
Day Three – Tuesday 6th September
Today should have been an easy day with not too much distance to cover, but things never go to plan, and what should have been an interesting drive through some spectacular scenery became a lorry overtaking epic. For some reason there are cheapskate lorry drivers who choose to drive through these steep roads and presumably pocket the tolls themselves, whilst causing mayhem behind them.
We had the advantage of radio contact, and although we were often split up by other fed up drivers wanting to get past, we could move as one when Wigley gave the call. It must have been a sight to behold in a line of traffic to see 2 or 3 minis all move to overtake synchronously, especially on blind bends!
Unfortunately having battled our way past the lorries and slow cars we felt the need to stop for a stretch and a “comfort break” and whilst parked up, they all hurtled past us again! So the game of cat and mouse (or chess perhaps?) would begin again and so it continued. At one point an Alfa was stuck in our midst and thought he could play too. However, when four minis shot past him on a solid white line on a blind bend, it truly was “checkmate” in four for the minis. The radios were an invaluable tool on Day Three! We had stopped at a supermarket for picnic food for lunch before we even left La Mure and the wisest of us (Paa100) suggested we stop and eat because the sky looked a bit forbidding. Fortunately we did and had only just finished when it started to rain. This rain continued almost non-stop for the next 24 hours, to the accompaniment of wind, thunder and lightning.
It was a great shame to have the views at the Gorges du Verdon shrouded in rain and cloud, as they would have been spectacular on a sunny day, but as it was pouring so hard we couldn’t really get out of the car for long and when we did we couldn’t see much! To cap it all, what was proving to be a very interesting road along the edge of the Gorges du Verdon suddenly became one-way at the top so we had to turn round and come back.
Driving on to Le Muy the weather seemed a little brighter so a plan was hatched that they would drive down to Gassin and join us for a meal at 8 o’clock. This all went well, and the weather held off for the evening, giving everyone a chance to see the views that this hill top village offered. Nonetheless, it was windy in Gassin so we dined indoors - it was just the walk to the restaurant that nearly blew our hair off. A lovely evening was assured the minute that we were seated in a prominent position in the room and not hidden away in some hidden corner, thus removing our paranoia about always being kept out of sight!
However, a very pleasant evening was spoilt by someone trying to break into Spaci’s car which we discovered on our return. The door handle was wrenched off and there was a scratch on the paintwork. We were told that he should report it to the Police the next morning in St Tropez, so the plan for the next day had to change a little. To try to end the evening on a high note we led everyone on a slow, late night promenade through St Tropez past its glitzy yachts and then brought them back to our apartment for a drink and a natter. We arranged to meet them the following morning at 9.00 am in St Tropez, with a view to leading them to
Day Four – Wednesday 7th September
During the night the real storm began, the rain became harder, the thunder louder. Andy and Matt in their hotel on their own, with shutters rattling and a storm overhead lost their electricity sometime in the night, and somehow had a hot flask of coffee for breakfast, provided by “mine host” (not really a chain-saw murderer).
The planned trip to
It became obvious that the plan to see
We had the advantage of an umbrella each which made the dashes between shelters easier to plan – at least the top half of us kept dryish, but by the time we reached the haven of Le Café de Paris on the harbour front we were totally soaked below the knees. We have never been in here before, usually because it is warm and sunny, but this was a deliciously plush café in the old Parisian style – red velvet curtains, chandeliers and polished wood, but not as expensive as I thought it might be and in any case today it didn’t matter. We needed food and shelter!
As we walked around later, we saw a man standing in the road up to his ankles in water, as by now the water was lapping the kerb, talking to a policeman and holding an umbrella in front of boats worth millions, and I bitterly regret not taking a picture on my phone – it’s not a sight you see often in St Tropez.
By now my wet feet were rubbing on my wet shoes and getting sore, so we came homewards and called in at Geant where we bought our first instalment of cheap wine and a selection of Chinese nibbles and rice, which we ate in bed as we warmed up. I then spent an hour or so writing up our diary, while
Just before bed we shared a beer and reflected on the road trip from