Monday, 23 June 2008

Day 5

Day 5 - Avignon - St Gervais-les-bains - Approx 5hrs drive.

A bit of a rude wake up call this morning, it seems my Lupus is back.

I knew I had a form of subacute cutaneous Lupus, but it had mysteriously disappeared 3 years ago after I stopped taking the pill.
(if you're clicking on the link, don't look at the pics, they are horrendous and my case is really not as bad as all that.)

I had been told by the docs that it could resurface at one stage, but seeing myself in the mirror this morning brought back some unpleasant memories and a deep sense of fear.
It needed to be checked out by a dermatologist, and while I knew what to take, I didn't have a prescription to be able to buy the medication.

So this morning was spent trying to force myself into a dermatologists office.
An hour later and all was sorted, I was once again immune to malaria and plastered with sun block.

Anyway, moving on, because that's not the only thing that happened today.

We head off towards the old part of town to do the touristy bit.
The town's architecture is amazing, and Avignon has a fair amount
of history which I will not detail here, as there's a lot to get through.

There was really only one thing I knew about in Avignon,
and all the french speakers among you will know that it's the famous
Saint-BĂ©nezet bridge - or rather as we know it; Le Pont d'Avignon.
You see French speakers are taught a nursery rhyme as kids,
all about the Pont d'Avignon and the dancing that happens "on" or "under" it depending on the version.

However this bridge is a bit weird as it goes nowhere, several arches are missing these days, so you can walk out onto it, and walk half way across the river, but that's it!
We didn't feel like paying the fee needed to experience this wondrous monument ... so we just admired it from the ground.

Satisfied with the touristy stuff, and getting a bit hungry, we stop off for yet another traditional french lunch. Kebabs!
(I have to say, as far as eating local goes, on this trip we haven't really outdone ourselves, what with a Mcdo stop to add on to our - actually pretty damn tasty - kebab.)

With the heat not getting any better, and me needing to get out of the sun, we make the decision to leave the south and head up towards the mountains... the Mont Blanc to be precise.
The plan is therefore to drive up to a small mountain village near Albertville where we would spend the night.

Long post this one ... and we aren't half in bed yet. ;)

We arrive near Albertville some time late in the afternoon.
Having watched the landscape change from flat open fields, we now find ourselves in the midst of luscious greenery and ever growing hills. We can already spot the snow covered mountain tops.
We gage the temperature meter on my car approx every 30 secs, hoping and wishing the degrees would go down.
34, 33, 32 - Wohoo, 33, 32, 31 - Wohoo, 30, 29 - Wahey,

We both agreed that Albertville was not the small village we had in mind and so we proceeded up on the route towards Chamonix.
A lot of windy roads, confusing deviations, endless traffic lights and middle of the road drivers later, we decide we really should start looking for a place to stay.

This for us, was the hardest part of the our road trip, as with both of us being slightly indecisive; it's a real game of "what do you think of this place?", "hmm", "too expensive looking?", "hmm yeah, not great", "let's keep going for a bit", ... , "and this one?", "I don't know, let's go to the next village and if there's nothing we'll come back". You get the idea.

A quick stop off on the ice-rink car park at St-Gervais-les-Bains for a smoke and a stretch, and off we went.
30 meters up the hill, right in a blind turn, my trusty car decides to die.

Pretty quickly, despite our best efforts, we realise that it is useless to try and get the car going again, so I let the car roll back to the car park trying not to get smashed into by the numerous cars coming round the bend well over the clearly signposted 30km/h.

Thankfully, I always take out extra travel car insurance when I leave Belgium with the car, so a quick phone call later, a tow truck was on its way. The guy diagnosed the car as having a busted fuel pump and broke the news that this was not a quick fix and my that Peugeot needed to be taken to a garage in Chamonix for a new part.
It was about 8 in the evening by this time.

Another quick call to the insurance company and I am told that a taxi will pick us up from the tow guy's garage and take us into Chamonix to find us a hotel for the night. So far so good.
I was allocated a budget to cover transport and hotel costs for the duration of the car fixing.

The taxi was there when we arrived in Les Houches. We quickly decided what stuff we needed and crammed the rest (suits and all) into the boot hoping it would all still be there when we returned. The friendly woman drove us up to Chamonix and stopped outside the Mercure. I had calculated that with the budget given, worst case scenario we'd be stuck here for 3 days, that we could afford a room at about 100 euros per night. Compared to the 20/30 euros we had been aiming for up until now, that was total luxury.

I manage to negotiate the room rate down from 159 to 96 which was a relief as it was getting late and we were well and truly pooped. We head into town to find some food.

Having been here before, Simon knew of a good place that served food quite late. He was dreaming of a Tartiflette, and I was quite partial to Fondue Savoyarde. It was still about 25° so our choice of dinner might seem bizarre as traditionally, these dishes are great to keep you warm during the ski season.

I had never been to Chamonix, but I loved it instantly.
It is set in the most beautiful surroundings, right next to the Mont Blanc,
its streets are mostly pedestrian, and there are LOADS of shops.

(I'm aware of the shitty quality of this pic, phone cameras don't work too well at night.)

I had no problem being stranded here for a day or two. None at all.

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