Woke up to the luscious sounds of the sea. It was Bryn’s first time abroad & he was instantly enamored to the experience. We bought wine & bread to go with yesterday’s pasta & breakfasted by the sea. The weather was warm, if a little windy, & we set off along the Riviera (6-1). After passing thro’ passport control at Ventimiligia, we arrived in the stately streets of Monaco. We pottered about a bit, but soon found ourselves sat in a little market square, drinking in the sun… getting quite drunk in the process. Our next stop was Antibes (7-1) from where we found the Golf de Juan, the site of Napoleon’s landing in 1815. After a swift look around we headed to the campsite at Boit, put the tent up, dipped in the pool & prepared to go out.
We dropped the pills on the way into Cannes & arrived off our heads. It was the day before the festival started & the place was beginning to buzz, with huge film billboards lining the front. After a pizza we hit a few bars; never seeing any stars, but at one point this Italian lady entered a swanky place & the barman led a round of applause. Didn’t know who she was, but she would definitely have got it. Our only hiccup was when we stumbled into a whorehouse, got stung 4 squid a beer & had to refuse their advances – tho’ on his pills an over-rampant Bryn was sorely tempted.
Back at the campsite we hooked up with two English chicks who took us to a few caravans full of script-writing English. They seemed bemused when I told them we were here to visit La Route Napoleon & not the festival. I managed to help myself to this geezer’s weed, which finished me off, & it took me half an hour to find mi fuckin tent. Bryn turned up later after getting off with a bird & we both snored ourselves into oblivion. At this point getting our heads together for the rest of the tour seems molto difficile.
We woke up proper spangled, but a quick dip in the exquisitely cool pool proved enough of a respite from our frail noggins & we were able to pack & head out to Cannes. It was the first day of the festival & full of noisy Yanks, so we soon got out of dodge, striking inland on a bus to Grasse, a lovely town stacked high against the hillside. We had a couple of hours to kill so wandered around a bit & to our delight found it very swell, with lovely narrow streets & great prospects of the Cotes d’Azore in the distance.
After sending off our postcards we hopped on a bus north along La Route Napoleon. The view was spectacular as we climbed & wound thro’ the mountains, each one clad in trees giving a baize effect, & I could imagine Napoleon & his column following the same road. A rapid mist descended, however, followed soon after by heavy rain which showed no intention of letting up as we were unceremoniously dumped in the wee hamlet of Seranon. We dived into the only bar around for shelter & refreshment, obtaining a few funny looks off the funny looking locals.
Eventually we found out the bus North didn’t leave til the morning, so we were stuck. We didn’t fancy puttin the tent up in the rain so opted for a hotel. A friendly couple drove us a half mile down the road to their mate’s hotel, which was closed. Luckily the mustached madame opened it up for us (a whole hotel to ourselves), but we were forced to share a double bed (with pants on obviously). As soon as we paid our 15 francs the sun came out & we heaved a table up to the roof’ bought wine, cheese, bread & sausage & had a most pleasant supper among the mountains. It was cool, me musing & Bryn sketchin’ & it felt nice to be doing spot of real travelling, the only sound being the constant chuckle of crickets. Bryn very correctly brought up the point we were stuck in a one horse dive & had less than two days to get to Venice, but I re-assured him all would be reyt. We made a chess-board out of paper & stones & played to the setting of the sun, before all the wine & well-thought-out moves took their toll & sent us both a-slumbering.
We woke early & made a half-hearted attempt at hitching (I remember now why I prefer the trains), before catching the morning bus out of town. It was very expensive, but luxurious, & took us into the wonderful townlet of Castellane. It is set amid a great amphitheater of mountains, spread underneath a huge chapel-capped crag. Beyond Castelleane we wound along a road hewn into the rocky surrounds & the driver had to honk hard at each bend. We were dropped off in a sleepy village called Barremme, where Napoleon had slept on his march to Paris. After buying some fresh bread we finished off the sausage & cheese, plus a wispa Bryn had pilfered off-his-nut in Bishops Stortford. We left the tranquil station, where a woman controlled the level crossing by hand, on a tiny, impossible-to-jump train. We had to pay to a place called Digne (7-2), passing along the bottom of a deep gorge, by a scintillatingly blue river. Digne was the largest town we’ve seen for some time now & we idled an hour in the bar waitin for the next bus. This took us to Saint Auban, where I breathed a massive sigh of relief as we had now reached the main railway line. It felt as tho’ we’d been an arrow, slowly pulled back on its string as we travelled thro’ the almost comatose Provencal backwaters, then fired away at a hundred miles an hour in the direction of Briancon.
After two successful jumps (9-2) we meandered through’ the mountains, our train driving thro’ sheets of dramatically pouring rain. We were so high the clouds hugged the ground, while the Alps towered above us like stunning, hungry beasts. At Briancon (the highest town in Europe) we were suddenly thrown upon our wits again as we rudely discovered there were no buses between France & Italy. It was pushing 7PM when we set off on the 5 mile hike to the border, the light fading but in good spirits as we crossed the Alps… both Napoleon & Hannibal had done it & now I was about to… buzzing’! Fortune smiled on us once again, for not 200m into Italy we were picked up by a proper friendly Algerian truck driver, taking empty bottles back to San Perrignon to be filled with water. He spoke about as much English as we spoke French, but somehow we managed to carry on a pidgeon conversation for the next few hours (mainly about cannabis, which none of us had any of) as we headed West. Just outside the city he pulled over for the night & much to Bryn’s annoyance I got the bed while they slept in the seats… benne notte!