Road trip to the South of France – Part 2: the disaster

St Tropez
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.

St Tropez
St Tropez

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.

St Jacques Scallops in Antibes
St Jacques Scallops in Antibes

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.

 

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Dubai

Dubai was never somewhere I had ever thought of visiting, until I met my now-husband. Growing up he’d spent up to 6 weeks of the year in Dubai where his dad often visited for work, and it became a bit of a family tradition for them. (Note, on my family holidays we went to visit my Gran in Scotland, or in our caravan to France, or to Center Parcs or bizarrely named holidays parks like Sandy Balls…yes, really!)

However, he was always keen to return and I, too, quite fancied seeing this place that is growing in popularity, and where a lot of people I had known from school had moved to and now lived and worked.

View from our room

Not long after my husband lost his dad, and very soon after we got engaged (I unknowingly booked it the day before he proposed!), we booked to go on a dream trip. Two nights in Dubai, two nights in Bangkok and 10 nights in Koh Samui, an island off the coast of mainland Thailand.

Hotel

We booked to stay in the hotel in Dubai where my husband stayed as a child with his family, Le Royal Meridien on Jumeriah Beach. Before going, I decided to try my luck via twitter with Le Royal Meridien, to see whether we could get a room similar to those he used to stay in with his family, or even just an acknowledgement from the management in memory of his dad (he had visited this hotel more than 20 times as a child, staying for long periods at a time). They were great! I gave them my husband’s name and our arrival date and they said they’d see what they could do. On arrival, we were upgraded to a Royal Club room in a separate section of the hotel. It was huge and really plush.

Room upgrade

We did notice though that when we opened the balcony door, the heat was so intense all the glass and mirrors in the room steamed up. I found taking pictures a challenge too with the lens steaming up with the change in temperature from the cold air-conditioned room, to the humid outdoors that was hitting 40c by 11am!

We got ourselves ready and went downstairs to go to the pool and sunbathe for a little while. We found a spot and lay down…and got back up pretty sharpish. The heat was so intense and neither of us thought we’d be able to sit out for long. We got into the pool and swam around for a while (mostly cooling off!) and then went to the swim up bar and ordered some smoothies. We decided to give the beach a go, and thought we could perhaps do a little snorkelling off the beach…OH MY LIFE. The sand was absolutely excruciatingly hot. We both had flip flops and the sand was so fluffy that even with shoes on, the sand would scorch your feet. Since my husband last visited they had moved the beach (this is Dubai after all!) and made it a lot longer – so a much longer walk down from the path across the sand to the water. We ended up sprinting but we genuinely did both burn our feet.

We ran into the water…such a strange feeling…the water was hot! It was like lying in a bath. A lot of the time you get in the water to refresh but this felt really weird to be in the sea when its hot! Regardless of this, we swam around and enjoyed ourselves. We were sweeping the sea floor with our hands absent mindedly while chatting when my husband produced a dried starfish! He had scooped it up!

After a while we braved the run back to the walkway across the beach, and then went over to where the boat shack was. We saw that there was a tour of Dubai by water later that afternoon, something my husband had been really keen to do when we were there. We booked on and went back to the room to get ourselves ready.

Later that afternoon we wandered down with about 8 other people and set off on our boat trip. The boat trip was great as you got to see a lot but in the shade of the boat with the cool sea air on you. It travelled around the Palm and over to the Atlantis, then round to the Burj al Arab. We got some great shots of this and the Jumeriah Beach Hotel, and then we were taken past the Sheikh’s yacht parked on his private island – absolutely huge! We then glided through the marina and back to our hotel. The trip was great, and gave you a great perspective of Dubai from the water.

We relaxed and had dinner in the hotel that night – buffet style but absolutely incredible!

Atlantis, The Palm

The next morning we were up early and had breakfast at the hotel – again, absolutely delicious! We then got a cab to a local mall and wandered around for a while. The highlight was the macaroons we bought (divine!). We then got another taxi up to the Atlantis on the Palm.

DubaiThis hotel is incredible – featuring a full-size aquarium within it that you can visit, but throughout the hotel there are walls of glass where you can see the marine life passing by.

There are long shopping arcades and then a part closed off to the public for guests only. I wasn’t really paying attention but my husband led me towards it and the security guard let us through! We went out the poolside and had a quick look around, and up at the impressive building, then went back in.

Dubai

We head back to our hotel, got ourselves ready and got a car to…the Burj Al Arab for Afternoon Tea (see post). As the sun was setting, we came out of the Burj Al Arab and walked across the private bridge to the Jumeriah Beach Hotel (shaped like a wave). It was really nice inside, but for my husband who’d visited so many times before, he was a little disappointed – more about the lack of spectacle, which he felt it used to have.

DubaiWe went back to our hotel and packed our bags, ready for our next leg of our Far Eastern Adventure, Bangkok!

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