Across Southern France
After our night in Andorra, we had to find our way across southern France and into The northwestern corner of Italy where we had reservations to stay at a Winery who's wines we've enjoyed for years, and when we talked to the winemaker at a tasting in Chicago and found out they had a B&B at the vineyard, we added that as a stop on our trip.
But, coming out of Andorra, we had three full days and two nights with which to traverse the 900 km to the vineyard. We looked at our map and looked at possible routes, and then cross-checked them against available hotels. We selected Uzes as our first stop as it was just under 5 hours of driving and would allow us to get into the city with enough time to stroll around and enjoy it.
We left Andorra la Vella around 10 in the morning and when we cleared through the border into the winding roads descending through the French Pyrenees there was a line of cars at least a mile long, slowly winding up the switchbacks to get into Andorra. Apparently the lure of tax free shopping is a strong one...
We enjoyed our drive down out of the mountains and soon found ourselves speeding through nice straight, flat, roads as the mountains disappeared from sight leaving only an expanse of flat nothingness. Once you pass through Montpellier, almost on the Mediterranean coast, you start to head back inland and into some gentle rolling hills. We pulled into Uzes in the early afternoon and were glad that we had some hours of sunlight left to wander the amazing old city center.
The next morning we made sure to allow time for us to stop by the Pont du Gard, the remains of a Roman aqueduct built somewhere around 2,000 years ago. Apparently this is one of France's biggest tourist sites, we saw a photo of it at the hotel in Uzes and asked where it was... The aqueduct was built to run water from a spring at Uzes to the city of Nimes, and this section, because it was also used as a toll bridge after the Roman Empire fell, managed to survive pretty much intact. It's worth the park entry fee, and you can see families making a full day of the visit, picnicking, kayaking in the river, just milling about. It'd be impressive to spend a day relaxing by the river and being able to look up at this ancient aqueduct standing above you.
Still on a schedule, we admired the view and quickly headed out on our way. Our drive took us right through the old city of Avignon and then we headed up into the French Alps on our way to the Italian border. Avignon is a city we were somewhat surprised by, southern France not being someplace we had ever visited of gave much thought, and another old city we drove past was Montbrun-les-Bains, which, along with Avignon, is another that we've added to a list of places to return and spend a night. The drives through these small towns, although wonderful in getting to see sights that you wouldn't see on a highway, finds us with an ever increasing list of towns that we want to return to...
Our final stop for the night was La Salle-les-Alpes, in the Serre Chevalier valley, one of France's largest ski resorts. In the summer it's a great area to drive through and find an inexpensive room for the night.
We were happy to relax in this small little town, and after a filling meal we stopped into a local little bar and ended up having a great night talking to the owner and other customers in a strange mix of our bad French and their broken English.
The owner was celebrating 10 years of the bar in two days and they were shutting the street down to have a celebration party. He told us that we should return for the party, and it was a shame that we would miss it, but Italy calls....