The choice of the road
On European roads "in general" Much has been written, and it makes no sense to repeat everything. We recall only the main rule: if you want a closer acquaintance with the country – Choose a beacon in his atlas "thin" the road. If you need to quickly get from point A to point B, you should stick to the "thick" roads. In different countries they may have different names, but always look on the map is similar – bold green line with a thin white stripe in the middle. Those who want to move this line should have patience and get ready to wander through the mountains, forests, and among the villages in the three houses. Returning to the highway sometimes takes half a day. And do not think that as a "fine" the road seems shorter, it will quickly bring you to your goal.
One sunny morning, crossing Germany towards the French border, we decided to save time. Turning off the track seemed to us on the shorter more "subtle" track, we were spinning a whole day on the road bends and uneven terrain, only in the evening again chose the highway. But the details of everyday life became acquainted with the peculiarities of the German heartland …
If you go to France from Russia via Ukraine (in Uzhgorod), Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it is likely the shortest way for you to pass through the German city of Ulm, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. After passing the turn to Baden-Baden, we must continue on the highway, waiting for turning to Paris. The fact that a pointer to Paris on the motorway Karlsruhe – Basel barely visible in the roadside bushes, and if you do not notice it, suspecting nothing, get to the very Fribourg, if not to Basel. And then will come back.
Probably on Paris from this German highways have some more direct route, but we never found it could not, therefore, before the first French city of Strasbourg, we usually move on the pastoral rural tracks. Or maybe they just seemed so after the high-speed German autobahns, which at a rate of more than two hundred kilometers an hour sweeping strings and the Porche Popeye motorcyclists overtaking them suicide bombers. But in any case a little earlier or later, there is the Rhine, on which at this point and the border between France and Germany.
This is a surprise every time – to see the boarded up with boards customs office. After recently emerging frontiers between Russia and Ukraine or the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with queues, picky customs, and the hassle of constant expectation of the new problems it seems like a fairy tale. Immediately beyond the Rhine – France, for which we are going to travel.
Once in France, you decide the question whether and to go further down the line, which here becomes a fee, or to turn up for a free doubler. Price is low – about one dollar for 20 kilometers, but a long journey can gain a noticeable amount of the budget. Also, driving on a stand and extends even (slightly) the way, but allows you to start with this wonderful country. And when you consider that the doubler often takes you to the free sections of highway, the loss of speed and time is generally unobtrusive.
Life makes an abundance of car safety seats recreation, roadside cafes, motels and gas stations. Road signs of brown color, which in France are marked cultural, natural and historic sites will not let pass by dilapidated castle of the local feudal lord ruling over the plain, or hill by an ancient stone on top. They will persistently remind you to stop and consider the vicinity of the fact that the very expensive French. But keep in mind: the French is very kind to their own monuments, and attractions, from their point of view, the object could not seem to you as such …
Places intersection of French Road "second order" (it is clear that highway intersections are not at all) is often made in the form of circular intersections. Are especially widely distributed roundabouts in the south. From the ring in different directions diverge roads. At its center can be a flower bed, flower garden, a fountain or an equestrian statue of a local celebrity. And then just a picturesque pile of boulders – well, like the French beauty! And if there are difficulties with orientation, you can spend hours spinning around the ring, trying out a half-dozen diverging roads to find the only one you want.
Especially difficult to choose the right direction if you're not an expert in French: the French language name of ten letters can easily be transmitted by one inarticulate sound heard from the owner of the last gas station you have encountered. In addition, often written on the tag is only the name of the remote for a couple of hundred kilometers of a large settlement. If you need something smaller, but located closer to rescue you just map the navigator on his knees – to dwell on such a ring to find out yourself in a situation is impossible.
Despite the excellent traffic information, with a large number of different roads, and poor knowledge of the language is quite probable errors. Go to the other side is not terrible – if the card or the navigator will be fixed as soon as next roundabout. But vigilance can not lose – often at such intersections advantage enjoyed the one who is already moving around the ring, not the one who enters it. Worse, when the front panel appears with the words Peage and a number of pillars with gates, signifying the beginning of Pay section of highway. Usually, you can still turn to the side, but if you missed the last Congress – that there is no turning back, pay and drive on the freeway, admiring the sky, noise protection walls so violently rushing streams of cars. Finally, finding the right exit, you blow on a sweet heart asphalt country road, creeping through the fields and forests, piercing through tiny towns, lost for a while in the streets of cities and larger appearing again on the edge, leading you on,
to the Mediterranean.
You must pay the entrance fee to the site. Only once in the Maritime Alps near Nice, we got into a situation where the Congress had to pay for a highway. Suddenly, the road blocked with barriers and the CAT mark the end of a paid site. Collapse was nowhere to go, had to throw a change in the machine that opens the passage.
If you're a traveler and naturalist, the idea of five-star hotels with swimming pool and breakfast in the room you are alien. Sleeping bag under the stars of Burgundy, Provence, or Catalani quite suit you. In case of bad weather, the tent is useful. Empirically established that sleep may be in the car: two men did not exceed 180 centimeters more or less comfortable seats are laid out on the "Lada" fifth model. Convenient parking, where you can stay for the night – abound. All are equipped with the necessary minimum livelihood – tables, benches, trash containers, and often playgrounds, toilets with washbasins and a cafe.
By the way, in any, the most nondescript European parking need someone spends the night – tourists, truckers, businessmen with a set of white shirts on a hanger. Preferring to enjoy the comfort of a roadside motel or hotel. Motels with the significant title "Formula 1" can be found everywhere, and the room in any of them will cost you no more than 100 francs ($ 20) per night for the whole family. Even if you are in torn shorts and a faded T-shirt and moccasins old, nobody will look at you askance – half of France in the summer goes that way.
The problem of power on the road, too, can be solved in different ways. For example: breakfast at motel, lunch at the cafe, dinner at a restaurant. And you can cook yourself on your own primus, from products purchased in supermarkets. For petrol, the only problem – its price. For those who have traveled on U.S. roads, it may seem excessive. Across the country, gasoline costs about the same – 6 francs ($ 1) per liter. Better to refuel at gas stations near the supermarket – there it will cost a little bit cheaper that the long journey may not be significant. Still cheaper than gasoline at the pump self-service, but it is only for holders of credit cards, and there is not much gain. The only rule – not to Refuel on the highway, where the most expensive gasoline. Possible failures in the path are removed either by itself or if a serious problem for service stations. On your car can laugh good-naturedly, but will do everything possible
especially if you are on the "Lada", and the service station – Fiat.
The road to the south
Loire Valley – the pearl of Central France. We drive on the highway N 7, 200-odd kilometers that stretch along the Loire. Here is a concentrated number of historical sites that explore them all – life is not enough. Glimpses of towns with mandatory peaked "Eglise" (the church) in the center, not at all changed since DHArtanyana, ancient "chateau" (castles) and the mansions of the rubble, overgrown with ivy to the roof. Old ladies neat, as if descended from the pages of "Little Red Riding Hood", sitting at the doors of their houses, cars escorted eyes wildly form. Local children dive into the Loire to the dilapidated bridge, which was built during the time of Charlemagne.
We pass the town of Nevers, in Burgundy – flat landscape gives way to rolling hills, while in the area of Clermont-Ferrand on the horizon there are mountains. Massif Central extends almost to the Mediterranean Sea. This region is the most thinly populated and economically backward, in France, but the nature here remained in its original form. Serpentine road descends to the bottom of ravines, pierces the rare and rather neglected, according to French standards, the campuses. The higher we climb the mountains, the fresh air and the thick forest. We get up for the night at dusk in the heart of the Massif Central, past the town of Mand. Comfortable parking with a table and oak benches in the shade of a huge tree is at the time of our home. Dilute stove, and while preparing dinner, relax Burgundy, admire the spruce forests on steep slopes, deep gorge with a snake at the bottom of a thread of the river. It was getting dusk. Not a soul around.
Our idyllic meditation is interrupted by a lone car headlights which draw their twilight bivouac of the curdled mess and two unshaven men the imported spoons. Out of the car with some caution out the two young Frenchman. Quickly get to know. Boys go from Nice, and to shorten the way, we decided to skip straight through the mountains. Their English is better than our French, and after-call "Bon Soir" and "Ca va?" go to the English. They are treated to wine. We regret we obtain with bated cherished "Zubrovka" (the only word that they are pretty well pronounced in Russian), and a couple of hours, they leave us with tears of emotion, announcing toasts in honor of the Russian-French friendship. And who invented it, the French non-contact with foreigners?
The next morning along a winding serpentine climb to the summit of Mont Agual – the highest point of the Massif Central. From the observation deck casts a glance around. The sight from the height of a mile spectacular – the feeling that you can see half of France! So, we are seven, on the edge of the Massif Central. Then the road goes down – up to the Mediterranean Sea. We make the last march, and in the evening we drive to the immense sandy beach near the town of Argeles-sur-Mer. Overnight, the Roman patrician – in a grove of Mediterranean pines. By measuring the rustle of the waves impinging on the sand looking through the long needle on the twinkling stars, listen to an enthusiastic bathers screaming night and fall asleep to the sounds of the African tom-toms, wafting, we think, just from the opposite shore of the Algerian …
Police diverted several times during the night in search of parking outrages, we did not touch them. On the coast, only to minibuses and caravans not allowed to sleep in the parking lots – they offered to go to the nearest camping area. For passenger cars the police did not fit – who knows what people are doing out there at night … Police in France, tactful and intelligent – not prevent travelers spend night where like.
Twenty-five years ago the southern coast of France, adjacent to the Spanish border, was considered a distant backwater. We rested there and bought a villa poor people. For example, retiring from Alsace or a miner, a veteran of World War II to the north of the country could well afford to buy a piece of land a quarter acres and a big house to while away the old. Rich people have traditionally preferred to settle closer to the Italian border – between Monaco and Saint Tropez.
Now the situation has changed, and construction and tourism boom swept the coast of Catalani – former Spanish provinces, ceded a few centuries ago the French. French themselves call this area Roussillon – probably so as not to feel the invaders. Here the construction of new residential areas are expanding the road, turning into highways, from year to year increases the influx of tourists. Our French friends, who had secluded villa in the vineyards ten kilometers from the coast, were convinced that civilization will not come before them. Imagine our surprise when, instead of a narrow track, passing by their house, which hardly two passenger cars were sliding, we found the exit on the highway Paris – Barcelona.
Arriving on the Mediterranean Sea in June, we had the opportunity a few weeks sunbathing on deserted beaches, visit the big supermarkets, which could operate a cash register, and all did not arise. Everywhere we felt in the center of attention – there were few visitors. We knew that all Frenchmen rest for two months – July and August. Then in Paris, close half the stores, and prices are going down the remaining half. Wander through the city crowds, finding out each other in English, where the attractions mentioned in guidebooks, and the French it virtually disappears from the circulation. Parisians at this time lying on the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, or stand in traffic jams trying to get him.
When the first of July we hardly got to sea, after spending two hours without movement in the car on the way to our favorite seaside town where the supermarket stood in line for forty minutes, but worked all twelve banks, when they saw how our deserted beach yesterday turned into something resembling a rookery of sea lions, we realized – it's time to move on. Where to? Well, for example, in Andorra.
At this point, the border between France and Spain on the Iberian mountain passes, so there is practically no roads. We had to get to Perpignan, turn on the highway b 114, leading to Spain, to which there are only a few kilometers – and only after the town of Bourg Madame began the usual serpentine. Andorra – a small principality, located on the way in which many centuries tramped smugglers transporting to France cheaper Spanish goods, especially wine and more spirits. Therefore, the capital of Andorra – Les Escaldes – has long been considered a transit point and resting place of local smugglers. Until now, it retains the status of duty-free trade zone, which is equally attracted to and the Spanish and French. Only there you can see the Spaniard in the supermarket loading trolley to the brim with sugar, which in Andorra for a few pesetas cheaper than in Spain.
Another Andorra is known as a place of training cyclists preparing for the next Tour de France – we constantly overtook them on prolonged climbs, and then, on steep slopes, they overtook us … Going to Andorra, we somehow do not think that this is another country. Therefore, only after passing something resembling a checkpoint we realized that our passports were something in Paris. The fact that the fear of thieves, who have enough everywhere in the tourist areas, we have left their instruments in Paris, in the safe of our friends, taking with him only a photocopy of two pages – the first and the one where the surrounding French visa. That's vlipli – we understand, seeing as pretty French girl in police uniform and uniform coquettish hat shakes tourists returning from Andorra. Those who went to Andorra for some reason did not check. But it was too late to turn back, and we went on.