Off we set east towards Nimes, however sometimes it was a struggle to figure out which turn-off took us to the secondary road, which was more scenic, and which one took us to the motorway, which was good and fast but pretty dull. So at turn number one we managed to accidently get onto the highway and came flying up to a toll booth! Oh crap, so some manoeuvring and swerving got us to a side road and a big loop around till we go onto the secondary road and we were on our way. However due to our extended leisurely lunch we were running a bit behind time and we didn't want to get into our next destination late and have the same trouble finding a place as we did the night before.So, with trepidation, at the next town we found another entry onto the motorway and off we flew. Now this wasn't too bad apart from the hundreds of big trucks and the kilometres of road works and not being able to understand the signs until we came up to another freaking toll booth. So there were a few areas to the left that said 'ticket' and heaps more that said 'card' and a heap with crosses and some others for what appeared to be trucks only. So with no time to think, well apart from mum slowing rapidly with shock, and a few people swerving around us, we went straightish and chose a 'card' barrier and wondered how much we had to pay. There seemed to be only one place where a ticket popped out when we pressed a button, so we took it and then the barrier flew up and we were on our way... weird...
About twenty minutes later we came across another toll booth and thought what the hell? We can't just keep taking tickets, how the heck does it work? So we opted for the side area that said 'ticket' and we had to shove the ticket into the machine first (hard luck if we had lost it) and then pay by jamming in a credit card (hard luck if we didn't have one of those either as there was no cash option). So we fumbled around for a credit card, all the while a bit of a queue was forming behind us, and eventually jammed it in the machine and then it spat it back out and we were on our way... phew. Twenty minutes later another toll booth, so we had this down now, up we went and grabbed our ticket and off we went, then found our turn off and headed into town, just to find another sneaky toll booth on the turn off. So into the 'ticket' area we went (And we still don't know what would happen if you just kept getting tickets and not paying? The must be some record thingy for your car number plate or something, surely?!) So we pulled up to find only one slot (the last one had one for the ticket and one for the credit card) so having no idea we jammed the ticket in and it said something to is in French, so we thought what the hell we will try the credit card in the same slot, which it then promptly spat it back out and said something else in French. So I said to try it the other way, out it came again?! Try another one! Out it came?? The other way! Cars behind us beeping...... oh f**k, use the help microphone, and thank christ the guy in the box could understand English, and over he came with no urgency, tried our card again for us, and it didn't work so he said we could pay in cash, which we did. He wandered back to his booth and got our change and wandered back and then manually made the barrier arm go up and we were off... phewwwwwwww...... we were half expected to be bashed to a pulp by some angry Frenchmen but we got through unscathed... however we did vow to never use another motorway again unless absolutely necessary.
We made it to Nimes in one piece but had no map of the city so had no idea where we were going. There were three different turn offs to different parts of the city, not knowing which one to choose we took the easiest turn off and we sailed on ahead. Just as the place started to look more urban and I thought we could be on the fringe of the city I saw a hotel, so mum did a quick swerve for the entrance. We didn't really care how far it was to the centre of the city, we just wanted somewhere easy to stay and somewhere we could park the car. In we went in with trepidation and we were ecstatic to hear they had a room available. So we decided to take it easy and have a meal at the hotel and an early night and get back into sightseeing mode the next morning.
The next day we drove into town and walked around to see exceptionally well preserved (and partially reconstructed)pantheon, we also went on a tour of the cool old amphitheatre where we found out some interesting and gruesome facts about its past. We found out the order of the day proceedings when they had fights on, it went as follows, first it would begin with a fight to the death with beasts against beasts, bears, tigers, crocodiles, hippos etc. At lunch they would move on to feeding the prisoners to the animals (of course with a good dose of torture thrown in), and then it wasn't until the end of the day till the gladiators would fight. Very few actually died in combat as most surrendered if they were exhausted and thought could not win, and only the ones that had not fought gallantly were condemned to death (I had no idea so much was involved!)
Next we trekked up the hill to see an ancient tower that had survived for hundreds of years. We climbed the many small steps to the top to get beautiful panoramic views of the city and beyond, but we didn't stay long as it was just too damn hot up there! So it was time to down the hill to have some lunch before we headed off to Pont de Gard. It wasn't too far out of Nimes and we found it with minimal effort and it was pretty damn spectacular.At Pont du Gard there is a portion of one hell of a daddy aqueduct, seriously huge - it really boggles your mind how the hell they could have built something so massive so long ago without the machinery of today!
Next stop was Aix-en-Provence. Just as we got into town we saw several hotels so we pulled up to the first one and we were promptly told it was full, so we kept going to the next one, full, and asked the name of another one and went to that, full, so asked them for the name of another one, full, so saw another one around the corner, full, so we were told about one down the road and they were full too!!! Just as we were about to lose our rag they rang one other place for us on the edge of town and they had space!! This book as you go thing is great most of the time with all the flexibility but man sometimes it does NOT seem worth it! We didn't see any special reason why the town was full, so it must just be because it is a popular little place, so we were enthusiastic to get out amongst it all the next day. But alas, the town didn't thrill us, it was pretty just like the rest, and had some nice fountains, and we happened upon a market and got a few new things, but it really didn't seem worth all the bother we went to find a damn place! So we headed off again to our final destination in Italy and where we would drop the car off, Nice.
Unsurprisingly we got a tad lost coming into Nice, the whole rest of the journey was pretty easy but the motorways in and out of Nice and all the god damn one-ways are a nightmare! But after three changes of direction on super busy roads, and asking someone on the side of the road how to get back into the city after we had taken one wrong exit that shot us back out of town, we found our hotel fairly easily, and we were exhausted! We put the car to bed in a parking garage as we couldn't face dealing with it until the next day and checked in to rest. That night it decided to rain and we were shocked to see this wet stuff after so long, and the next day we awoke to clouds and a bit of wind so swimming was off the menu. We did find some good little touristy trips to do and had a good wander around town, and we decided Nice was quite nice and it had a good little vibe despite the weather. So then it was time to take the car back and get our stuff sorted for our next adventure the following morning. We really loved France, it really surprised us with its beauty and the good nature and helpful attitude of pretty much everyone we came across, we were really going to miss it, but onward and upward (or right as the case may be) into Italy!