So after an extended holiday in the pretty town of Brantôme in The Périgord, Fifi was finally declared fit again, after being fitted with a shiny new clutch (that is if anything to do with an old car’s engine is shiny!).
First and foremost though, we had to get from Provence back to Brantôme to collect her, just a little 690km drive down the road, effectively driving across France and a little bit further on.
Now I’m sure the sensible option would be to take a gentle drive during the day, stop off at a couple of the sights en route, perhaps the stunning old city of Carcassonne, have a meal and a night in a hotel, before picking Fifi up, refreshed and ready for a slow potter back to Provence.
As I say, that is the sensible option. But as generally happens it’s the least likely option for us to choose, so yesterday we evening we packed an overnight bag and another with some snacks, had an early night and set our alarms for 2.45 this morning to start the drive across.
Of course we were excited at the prospect of being reunited with Fifi and starting the adventure again and were both lying awake, staring at the ceiling waiting for the alarm to go off. All I can say is that it is a good job we’re both morning people.
As the clock ticked onto 3am, we set off into the night, hoping we would arrive in time to collect her from the garage before they closed for lunch at 12, as we would then be able to drop the hire car back in Brive, when their office opened at 2.
The joy of driving in the early hours is that the roads are quiet and we get to watch the dawn, which happened just as we were approaching Carcassonne, with the huge fields of Sunflowers glowing in the light of the new day and a gentle shimmer of mist across the valley towards the dramatic skyline of the old city.
We passed through the centre of Périgueux with its beautiful domed Church and then on up to Brantôme, arriving about 7 1/2 hrs after we left home.
Fifi was waiting for us and a few minutes later Andy was back behind her wheel, roof open with a grin on his face again, although after her collapse it was a grin with a little anxiety now about continuing the journey anew.
That said the difference was obvious and it was clear that some of her little eccentricities we’d noticed on the way down had disappeared and perhaps she’d been struggling with her clutch for longer than we thought.
We travelled in convoy with me driving the hire car, followed by Fifi (and Andy of course) who just seemed to be happy to be back on the open road again. We had chosen a route that would take us through the back roads to Brive and it proved to be a great choice.
The roads were quiet and the views were beautiful, with pretty Périgord houses appearing as we drove along what appeared to be signed as the ‘Route de la Noix’, that took us through Walnut trees and pretty villages as we wound our way towards Brive, taking the time to stop for lunch in a quiet hamlet en route.
An area so different to Provence, with rolling countryside and a verdant landscape, the vibrant green looking so different to the more bleached colours of The Luberon. Also there were so many cows, with beautiful Limousin cattle grazing gently in the shade of trees. Although in one field they were all standing haunch-deep in a small pond, happily relishing the cool water on their legs as the temperature gauge in the car rose steadily above 30 degrees.
Fifi though was taking it in her stride and Andy was starting to relax a little, happier as each mile passed.
We timed our arrival at Brive to perfection, just as they were opening after lunch and were then both back together in Fifi to enjoy the onward drive, heading to Aurillac, the capital of The Cantal (an area neither of us have visited before)
It was just lovely to be back together in Fifi and pottering on through the spectacular landscape of the Corrèze, drifting through beautifully kept villages and towns, some decorated with flowers, others having their streets lined with a tapestry of trees, alternating the green of Acacias with the dark purple of Copper Beech.
And the houses looked as if they had been plucked from the pages of a beautifully illustrated Fairytale story, with their arched windows and roofs of scalloped stone. It was hard to take it all in as it was just so breathtaking with glimpses of wide views across to the distant Massif.
We may have just passed through it this time, but I have no doubt that we’ll be back in the future with our bikes to explore it further.
So 14 hours after leaving home we finally booked into the hotel in Aurillac and after a little wander around the pretty centre we have collapsed in our room, drinking wine out of paper cups, too exhausted to head out for a meal. We know how to live!
But the main thing is we’re here and ready to enjoy getting back on the road again tomorrow and continuing Fifi’s French Adventure.