I was up early today and had my breakfast as usual but this time preparing some sandwiches from the buffet to take with me on my drive north. I packed my bags and checked out of the Ibis, loaded my car and was on my way by 1015. Remembering the traffic on the A6 through Lyon when I came South, I decided to avoid this motorway and use the A75/A71 from Montpelier to Paris instead. It was a long drive along the coast motorway past Marseille and Aix-en-Provence with some scattered bottle necks but as soon as I was on the A75 heading North it was clear. Just North of Montpelier I stopped for a coffee and to eat my sandwiches but I was shocked to find that the motorway rest service areas were completely full of people, queuing for drinks, fuel and even the toilets, there wasn't even anywhere to just sit and eat my own sandwiches. I had to sit on the kerb outside of the cafeteria in the end. It was complete mayhem families everywhere, moving around and bumping into each other, children crying and tugging at their parents. Mothers exhausted and Fathers exasperated. I swallow down my sandwiches as fast as I could manage and took my place in the queue for fuel and toilets. After nearly and hour I was rested, and both my car and stomach were filled. I was finally on my way, and feeling happier each mile I travelled further north away from the French August holiday mayhem I was leaving behind on the Cote d'Azur. At around 1900pm I had made it as far at Claremont-Ferrand and pulled of the A75 to an area full of motels and local restaurants. I went into Ibis and asked if they had a room, they said they were full, so I went next door to the Campanile Hotel, they too were full. I was now panicking and drove a few doors down to the cheap premiere class motel, as I walked into reception, the phone rang and the receptionists answered the phone and replied to the caller that they were full. My heart sank, when the receptionist put down the phone and asked if she could help me I said I heard it was full. To my immediate relief, she said they do not take phone bookings at this time and only offer their last room to walk in guests. I was so lucky to get the last room, even though it was a really cheap hotel chain.
The room was like a moulded plastic container stuck together with other containers like Lego and assembled into a rectangular building with a hotel sign pinned to the top. It was like a space cubicle but at least very clean. It was very quirky as the moulded double sink even had built-in ashtrays from a bygone era seemingly when French Gitaines cigarettes were popular. Once I was checked in and unpacked my overnight bag I went across the road to the Companiles hotel restaurant for dinner. I just had the buffet starter and dessert along with a pitcher of white wine to ease the long drive away. It was pleasant and I had a comforting feeling to be on the road in a French motel restaurant, sitting with other travellers, some heading south others north, eating good everyday French food. It seems while the worlds is in rapid change; in France, traditional ways continue and change takes it time like a slowly cooked leg of lamb. I was tucked up in bed around 2300.