Road to Pérouges

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This morning began much like yesterday. I showered soon after 6 am. Majella was moving when I finished. We caught up with email, Facebook, Duolingo, Wordle and the like until almost 7 am when we woke Callum and went to breakfast.

Once we had eaten we went back to our room and packed up. By 8 am we had checked out and were waiting for our Uber. Traffic entering the airport was lighter this morning and the driver followed his navigation instructions carefully so we had no mishaps. He dropped us at Terminal E as requested in the app and we made our way downstairs and out to the rental car area.

There were several people ahead of us in the line at the Budget counter so Majella and Callum sat with our bags while I stood in line. Once I reached the front Majella joined me because we needed both licences. The young woman at the counter spoke good English and soon had us on our way. I had booked a small Citroen or similar through Qantas but she indicated she had given us a larger car. Out in the yard we found our car which is a deep metallic blue Toyota Corolla hybrid automatic and quite new with just over 2000 km on the odometer. It has plenty of room for us and our bags.

Majella took a few minutes to familiarise herself with the controls while I arranged some navigation to our first planned stop, Auxerre, on my iPhone. We found our way out of the airport and onto a major road without difficulty except what came with my having to hold the iPhone where Majella could see it. Not long after we joined the main road toward Lyon we encountered traffic congestion that slowed our progress for the next 30 minutes or so.

I explored the menu on the car screen looking for any reference to navigation (needed subscription that we didn’t have) or CarPlay so I could project my iPhone screen (no mention). Majella asked me to check the manual for cruise control details but my limited French did not extend to identifying that in the manual. I did find another small manual about using Bluetooth to project to the screen. I paired my iPhone to the car and instantly had the navigation details on the large screen.

I had spent some time looking for a USB A port to connect my iPhone for charging and other purposes but did not find one. Eventually I discovered that the small hole on the underside of the dashboard was a USB C port. Problem solved.

Weather was cloudy after the storm that passed last night and we had a few drops of rain as we left the hotel. About an hour into driving we passed through some heavy showers but that did not last long and we soon began to see small patches of blue sky.

For much of the way the countryside was a mix of patches of forest and grain fields we thought looked like wheat. We saw villages or industrial areas including power plants. A fast train zoomed by toward Paris at one point.

By 10:30 am we were on a toll road and Majella was enjoying being able to drive on the motorway. She had still not been able to properly activate cruise control though it was clearly there, just different enough from our RAV4 to confound us.

My planning for the trip included looking around French tourism sites for suitable stops to break up a day of driving. We reached the first of those, Auxerre, around noon. We found parking in the middle of the town. It was pay parking and needed the car plate number which I went back to photograph rather than trust memory. The first hour was free and that was as long as we planned to stay.

Majella had acquired directions to the post office so we walked that short distance so Callum could post his post cards. He had bought the cards in Paris and wrote his messages in the car this morning.

From the post office we walked on around some corners and back to a square we had passed through earlier. We had remarked on the old buildings as we left the car park and continued to be awed by their age as we walked. Many of them had visible timber with plaster, reminiscent of Tudor style.

A cafe in the square offered a range of sandwiches so we opted for lunch there. Majella and I shared a short ham and salad baguette with coffees. Callum had a Mac beef panini with sprite. He gave that a good rating.

After lunch we wandered some streets toward the river, though we never reached it. We passed many interesting old buildings and eventually came to the cathedral. We went in for a brief look. It was old and showing it but impressive for its high vaulted ceiling supported by flying buttresses. The external carvings were worn by age and some were missing body parts.

We found our way back to the car and set navigation for our next waypoint, Chateauneuf. The route out of town took us down to, along, and across the river Yonne.

Not far out of town we found the highway and another toll section. We made one stop along that route so that Callum could get some snacks (gummy bears and snake equivalents).

We missed a turn after exiting the motorway and passed through an additional quaint village to reach our destination. Chateauneuf was visible in the distance from the motorway before we exited, perched atop a hill with the château nearest the road and the village tucked behind it.

The road in did not appear to be suited to a lot of traffic so we we surprised when we arrived to find many cars and tourists and several places serving food and drinks. We parked at the back of the village and walked down a gentle slope where we found a cafe selling artisanal ice cream.

Majella had been looking for ice cream so we each had one and I added a coffee. The ice cream was very good and refreshed us for a stroll around the village. The château was being restored and our access for a clear view from the village side was restricted by a large crane. There was a burst of thunder while we were walking about but no rain to follow.

Once we had seen enough of the village we walked back up to the car and set off for Pérouges and our accommodation for the next three nights. That was another 2 hours of driving on motorways until the last few km on local roads. We were heading south and east away from the storm clouds we could see to the west. Most of the way we drove in sunshine under blue skies with scattered clouds. The countryside had a lot of forest coverage but we drove through many areas with vineyards and other agriculture.

Our exit from the motorway was just short of our destination which was on a country road between the modern town of Meximieux and the medieval village of Pérouges. We had to drive past Meximieux so I suggested we buy fuel and the basic foods we would want for breakfast on the way.

Our first attempt at buying fuel at a self service station was a disaster. We drove in the wrong way and after the woman supervising allowed us to access a bowser we could not find the lever to open the fuel cap. Rather than persist we drove to the nearby supermarket and did our shopping. In the meantime I examined the car manual and eventually found where the lever was located. Our second attempt at buying fuel was more successful.

Jean, our host, greeted us when we arrived, showed us where to park at the rear, and walked us through our accommodation. It is over 2 levels in an old brick and stone building that has been renovated to provide high standard accommodation. The entrance to our apartment is across a moat like structure spanning the remnants of an old mill. Jean is clearly a collector of all things old and he has two vintage Citroens and two other vehicles as well as an old motor cycle and other bric a brac. Our unit is quirkily adorned with delights such as old butcher shop labels and old tools. The clothes drying option is particularly interesting with a pulley system designed to keep the laundry high above our heads.

Downstairs is living space with kitchen, dining and sitting areas. The kitchen has a washing machine which we are using. Upstairs there are two ensuite bedrooms with double beds. It is a very comfortable setup.

After some time to settle in we drove up the hill to the old city of Pérouges for a look and hoping to eat at one of the restaurants Jean had suggested. It is a fascinating and beautiful place with cobbled streets and old stone buildings. Many of them look well cared for and may be renovated inside. Whether because this was Monday or because everyone was exhausted after the weekend festival, there were no open restaurants in Pérouges.

Majella drove down to Meximieux and we drove the length of the Main Street there without finding anywhere we might eat. There was a pizza place opposite the supermarket near where we entered the town. Majella went to order pizza and I went to the supermarket for something to drink with it. At Majella’s suggestion I looked for cider and managed to buy a bottle of sparkling cider from Bretagne where we had enjoyed cider on our 2017 trip. The supermarket closed behind me as I exited.

Back at our accommodation we enjoyed the pizza. It was chicken and much to Callum’s taste except for the four black olives that Majella and I ate. As we ate, Callum commented on how he had enjoyed the day and the places that we visited. It was another enjoyable day.