Road trip to the South of France – Part 2: the disaster
Continued from the first part of the story!
We decided to explore a little more and travel to Cannes and Antibes…and this is where our trouble began. On the windy day at Saint Tropez, our car engine lights had come on, including the diesel particulate filter.
We read that you should drive the car in a low gear at high revs to clear the issue. We had been doing that but the light had stayed on. Anyway, we set off for Cannes and drove along the coast – breath-taking. We continued on to Antibes at on a roundabout with a VW garage on it (of all places) the car suddenly shut down. We could drive it but it wouldn’t go over 30mph and more engine lights came on. We pulled up to the garage but found it was shut for lunch.
My husband and I, we have realised, take it in turns to flap when something goes wrong, and this time it was his turn. He wanted to turn around and try to head back but I assured him that if we just waited, went for some lunch, we could come back and go into the garage for help. He agreed and we went into the centre of Antibes and had a look around. We parked up and went into a beautiful hotel and looked out to the sea – and saw Abramovich’s yacht! We wandered along the front and found a beachside restaurant, Le Bord de Mer Chez Vincent in Juan Les Pins where we sat down to consider our options and get some food. I have the most amazing St Jacques scallops while my husband moped over a pizza and took the occassional picture of Abramovich’s yacht.
We finished up and came up with a plan. We had taken European breakdown cover with AXA for just £35 (best £35 we’ve ever spent!) We called and they advised us to try the VW garage first. We went in and they said they were booked up for the next week and couldn’t help but did advise us to drive with low gear and high revs. We left a little crestfallen and called back our insurance company. They decided they’d call round other VW garages but in the meantime we should try and head back to Port Grimaud if we could, or sit and wait to be towed but they were advising it would be a few hours at least. We bit the bullet and tried to head back to our campsite.
This involved going on the toll motorways with a car that at times (momentum and downward hills helped this) wouldn’t go over 30 miles an hour!! We were nearly back when the insurance company called and said that the only garage they could get us in to would be near Marseilles and could we drive there? On the basis of the last terrifying hour, we asked if they could instead recover the car and tow it there which they were happy to arrange for the next morning at 8am.
Now at this point it is probably important that I tell you that this was Thursday. We were leaving the south of France on the Saturday morning to drive half way up and stay, then continue our journey on the Sunday to get to Le Touquet on the Sunday. Our crossing was Bank Holiday Monday in the morning, to be home and back to work on the Tuesday. So basically, we needed to get the car back on Friday evening at the latest in order to pack it up and get on the road…
So the mechanic turned up on Friday at 8am and looked at the car. He drove it and decided that he couldn’t fix it and it would need to be taken to the garage. He left with the car and we settled down for our last day on holiday and waited patiently for news of the car. We had heard nothing by lunchtime and spoke to AXA who chased the garage. Nothing. We chased again at 4pm and were advised that the garage hadn’t even looked at our car and that they were shut until Monday now!
This time panic set in with me. We had to check out the next morning by 10am and had nowhere to go and no way to get home! My husband got on the phone and the insurance company really came through for us. They said that they would pay for us to stay in a hotel for the weekend, with a budget for two nights of £300!
My husband selected a lovely hotel in nearby Sainte-Maxime, The Montfleuri Best Western, with breakfast included and AXA went off and booked it for us. They then booked a car to come and get us and take us to the hotel the next morning. So we packed up and checked out on the Saturday morning and were met by a private car which took us to our new hotel.