Jamie – 7 September 2011
One of the beautiful aspects of the region around Uzes is that it is full of narrow country roads, lined with 50 year old Plane trees, alongside fields of sunflowers. One of the terrifying aspects of driving here is that it is full of narrow country roads, lined with 50 year old Plane trees, alongside fields of sunflowers… It can be white knuckle, teeth clenching stuff.
Admittedly our nerves may be a little frayed by the fact we are already onto our second leased car in three weeks, and that our car of choice is a rather large Renault Espace (a soccer-mum’s car as Bec calls it). You can literally count the ladybirds on the bark of each tree as we trundle down these beautiful roads, dodging each oncoming vehicle, some of them very large.
I’m also a little suspicious of Jane, our GPS auto-pilot. She sounds sweet, never gets stressed and gives the impression she knows exactly where she is going. She also has a habit of sending us along the narrowest, out-of-the way roads in the region, and suggesting we play chicken with the locals up one-way streets. Nor is it reassuring that there are other rental cars following us. They simply have Tom Toms too.
I sometimes wonder if Jane is a relative of HAL (of 2001, a Space Odyssey fame) and will be particularly vigilant next week as we drive along the cliff top roads of the Mediterranean into Italy. Three children in the back seat is distraction enough, and I don’t want her slipping anything like “at the next cliff, turn right” into the driver’s ear.
Anyway – after a couple of quiet days lying low in Uzes we have again ventured onto the roads in search of fun activities. Yesterday we drove about an hour to Anduze, a small country town south of here, where we caught a magnificent steam train to another small town, Saint-Jean-du-Gard, and back again. Both boys have their birthdays later this week and this trip was their present from my parents.
It reminded me of Puffing Billy, except that it went over Roman-built aqueducts, through a mountain via a 1km tunnel, and offered extraordinary views over rugged landscape dotted with medieval villages. The children were presented with small flags when they boarded and spent the next hour madly waving them at anyone we passed. We caught the end of market day at Saint-Jean-du-Gard and also enjoyed watching the surprisingly large fish swim upstream from the old stone bridge. We then had the obligatory ice-cream and caught our steam train back to Anduze.
It was a great day capped off by some babysitting last night which allowed Bec and I to go out to dinner at an Uzes restaurant we have often walked past and wondered about – the appropriately named “Bec a Vin” (which I believe translates as “mouthful of wine”). It turned out to be a real find. Whilst the restaurant itself is tucked away in the cobbled streets near the main town square, it hides inside its doors a beautiful small and intimate garden, with tables surrounded on all sides by towering ancient stone walls and featuring a giant fig tree through which a million stars twinkle. The food and wine were both excellent – it was a wonderful night.
Today I drove the boys to an outdoor adventure park (flying foxes, rope courses in the trees, etc) but unfortunately it was closed (contrary to their website’s guidance). No matter – we marked it up to driving practice for Dad, and returned to Uzes where all three children went next door to artist Maude’s house for their next art lesson. We shall wait and see what they return with!