Our journey onwards from Chamonix was rife with hyperbole. Breath-taking, awe-inspiring, spectacular and amazing scenery unfolded around every hairpin bend. Of which there were many. On a steep and winding descent into what became the Vallée du Rhône, a roadside lay-by provided a breath-taking, awe-inspiring, spectacular and very vertiginous view (ooh, a spot of alliteration there, just for good measure) downwards into a valley below us.
A clearly-identifiable dual-carriageway ran arrow-straight along the length of the wide u-shaped valley in the distance below us, looking like a huge and therefore spectacularly amazing airport. To the right, another more natural-looking V-shaped valley headed off into misty sunshine, green and forested and in stark contrast to its highly-developed neighbour.
Our route down was so steep and the views so awesome, it felt as if we were coming in to land as we dropped by alarming degrees on a low-geared mountain-hugging road. Before we’d really fully recovered from the hyperbole, we were on the flat and headed along Runway E62 following the Rhône towards Lake Geneva.
We sneaked through Switzerland, slightly speed sensitive (OK, I’ll stop it now) because we hadn’t purchased a ‘vignette’ – a windscreen sticker which basically denotes that you’ve paid the requisite fee to travel on the autoroutes. At something in the region of 36 euros per year it might have been good value had we decided to declare ourselves Brexit-neutral and take up residency. However, our plan was to cross back into France at Creux within an hour and this purchase didn’t seem to be particularly good value. It was with a disproportionate sense of impish excitement, therefore, that we made it across the border unchallenged by Swiss Guards and headed onwards to our next pre-selected overnight stop, mentally stashing the saved fee in our ideological Good Excuse For Dining-Out fund.
Auxonne was just off the A39 about 35 kilometres south east of Dijon, and the nearby ‘aire’ we’d found was reported to be a quiet, riverside location. We found it delightfully so, in fact, and undaunted by the several motorhomes already on site we swiftly deployed awning and chairs in strong afternoon heat under yet another clear blue sky. The River Saône flowed past our door; serene, green, wide and gentle. A lone fisherman wading from the end of the simple slipway – and a couple of fishing boats which came ashore – excited us at first, but it really was very hot and there was no sign of any catch, so we relaxed in the shade and let the world float gently by. The view was made more picturesque by a moored cruiser (sporting a Swedish ensign, of all things) which became the subject of a spot of online research to realise that this classic boat was indeed registered in Sweden – and was also a full year older than yours truly!
As is usual for rural France, the small village of Lamarche-Sur-Saône was buzzing. A closed bar; a closed hairdressers; a closed butchers; a closed bakery; a main road so devoid of traffic that we thought it too might be closed all contributed to the irony of this paragraph’s opening sentence. Devoid of any sign of human habitation (apart from an exhausted-looking bloke pushing a pram – with whom we exchanged slightly startled ‘bonsoirs’) we gave up on the idea of a cooling Kronenbourg or Pelforth at a characterful pavement café and returned instead to enjoy a gentle Turneresque sunset while we drank our own beer. And perhaps more pointedly, were forced into saving our 36 euro Swiss fee for another day while we instead enjoyed a delightful under-awning dinner in the gloaming.
Bright and early the following morning, we discovered the bakers, butchers, the road and even the bloody bar to be open. There was no sign of the bloke with the pram (sleeping maybe?) and so it was we replenished our victuals and set off again northwards, ever northwards.