Part One – Friday/Saturday 23rd & 24th August 2013
Back in May we came to Port Cogolin and went on to spend eight days exploring Italy following the Mille Miglia route from Brescia in the north, down the leg of Italy to Rome and back again. Later in the Summer we came back to Port Cogolin for nine days and spent a day exploring Monaco, while retracing the steps of my childhood book hero Biggles, on an adventure he had in Monte Carlo set in the Second World War. We both enjoyed these two holidays immensely but luckily for us these two trips were part of a trilogy of adventures we had planned for the Summer and the final part of the trilogy is this trip to Port Cogolin and Venice.
Some of you may know that I have been fighting a battle with The Big C, bowel cancer with secondary bowel cancer in the liver. This fight has seen me have a bowel operation and two liver re-sections and some chemotherapy. All big battles but all battles we have won. Fighting the Big C though is a war and right now after winning all these battles he is an opponent who will never quite surrender. The white flag is elusive and he has run away to hide. So every six months we try again to find him hoping he is still staying beaten and hasn’t regrouped and found some soldiers to fight his evil war. The CT scan then is for the 20th September. If that remains clear then we build another six months plan before looking once more at what action we should take in this long war. Right now though all is really well so our current six month plan was one of fun and indulgence with this trilogy of adventures. The fun we had on the first two has meant that this one, consisting of three nights in Venice topped and tailed with some R&R in the sunshine of the south of France, is one we have been looking forward to with great excitement. I am writing this on Sunday morning so let’s see how it all pans out.
Peanut was off work on Friday to do the packing and last minute pre holiday jobs. Brenda, Peanut’s Mum was settled into Beastie Folly for home and cat sitting and I was at work doing my last day before the holiday began at home time at quarter past four. These days are never easy for Peanut and it was made all the more complicated because ClubBeast our MINI Cooper S Clubman had to have a suspension strut fitted to pass its MOT. This was scheduled for Thursday but the wrong part came to the garage. At 1pm on Friday the right part turned up, it was fitted, the car MOT’d and returned to a frazzled Peanut just after Two. We are taking SilverBeast (our other MINI) on the holiday but it’s not good going on holiday and leaving a car in bits at a garage while you are away.
Finally, work was done, I left the office room, ran downstairs clicked out and ran over the car park all smiles to a waiting Peanut sat in a very handsome looking JCW MINI Coupe. We were off!
We usually head for the South of France on a Friday night straight from work and the last time we did this, the traffic on the M25 was so dreadful that we missed our train and had to kick our heels in the Tunnel terminal for a few hours, which allowed us the delight of contemplating the seagull poo on the windows of that delightful building, which did not win any architectural prizes when it was built. You know, I say that based on the certainty of knowledge purely from the fact that I’ve seen the place, but I might be wrong! I’ll have to check now and see – can you imagine that? Maybe the headline at the time was “Seagull Paradise wins Architectural Award”.
This time we booked a slightly later crossing and it was a good job we did! It is bank holiday weekend again and The M25 was a car park. It took us 4 hours to get to the channel Tunnel terminal from Tewkesbury and without doubt it is the worst 4 hours of all our journeys on holiday. We made it, we just had enough time for a toilet stop and then we rolled onto the train. The night drive in France was a breeze and no rain meant it was easy going and we made great time. The sat nav said arrival at Port Cogolin at 9.30 and this was looking good to me. Then at 3.30 am Peanut pulled over and it was my turn to drive. It was the darkest hour so we decided to sleep for an hour in the car. Unfortunately that became three hours, so when we set off the ETA had jumped to 12.30. I was a bit disappointed but on the bright side Peanut had brought a lunch, tea, coffee and coffeemate, so we would not have to rush to the supermarket as soon as we arrived. I love Nescafé Azero coffee with coffeemate. Try it, it’s lovely!
As we approached Lyon I noticed that the sat nav was taking us around Lyon on the peripherique but as it was a quiet Saturday morning, I went the direct way, straight through Lyon centre on the motorway. This aged us 20 km and gave us back almost half an hour so half an hour past Lyon we pulled over for a croissant breakfast at one of the service stops and got back on the road with our ETA once again 12.30.
We always come off the motorway and reach Port Cogolin via La Garde Freinet and old Grimaud but for some reason this time the sat nav kept us on the motorway and we exited to go through Ste Maxime and along the coast to Port Cogolin. We had been busy talking and singing in the car so had not noticed this! The ETA was still 12.30 as the fiendish sat nav had always plotted to take us this way but we knew the consequences! Yep as we hit Ste Maxime we hit traffic and it was a slow crawl along the coast to our apartment in Port Cogolin which we reached at five past one!
We parked the car and I lugged the food box up so Peanut could make a brew, while I fetched the rest of the luggage. I lugged the case and three bags up the stairs from the garage into the flat to hear Peanut say, ” pooey bottoms, I’ve forgotten the coffeemate.”
Now when I am rational and I do have these moments, I am able to contemplate how marvellous my life is when the biggest upset/worry/problem in my life is that we have forgot the coffeemate, when three years ago I was told I had six months to live if the doctors did nothing! However, I had just driven the last 300 miles looking forward to my favourite cup of coffee and I was hot and bothered from lugging bags up 2 flights of stairs in 34 degrees of French sunshine. Churchill might describe me as ” a modest man with much to be modest about” but the plain exterior is trapping Elvis and James Bond inside. At this point, Elvis would have dealt with the situation admirably, ” Forget the coffee darlin’ just make me an extra burger…” Bond on the other hand would have been wearing his Casio watch and used it to magnetically unzip Mrs P from her dress… But I found another guy hiding inside me – Sid Vicious…
Peanut walked to the shop for some milk to rescue the situation and feeling mean for grumbling I made sure all the unpacking was done before she got back. Coffee sipped, a quick kiss and we were on holiday!
Next stop was the pool for a quick dip which was gloriously refreshing especially when after 5 minutes it rained! Yep one minute it is glorious sunshine and I’m overheating lugging baggage, then when we go to the pool, clouds appear, a little thunder and it rains! Was fun though swimming in the pool in the rain.
We went up to the apartment had a shower, a snooze, then did a mini shop at Geant. Later in the evening we cooked our first meal. We had some sushi as a little starter, as I had been talking about it with some mates at work. A sushi bar has sprung up here in Port Cogolin and now Geant has one and they seem to be popping up everywhere in the UK. It was interesting watching them make it but ultimately for me us it was a take it or leave it experience. Great as an interesting selection for a finger food party or buffet, or as a little something with cocktails perhaps but not a stand alone meal.
Next up we had a seafood paella and this was gorgeous, with mussels, king pawns, scallops and white fish. Gateaux for dessert and then crackers and cheese with these little goat cheese cakes, this one covered in cranberries. Delicious! We walked it off with a stroll around Port Cogolin which looked simply beautiful with a red sky setting over it and then went to a well earned bed!