Follow me around the world!
Day 4: From Grenoble (France) to Alella. 625 Kms
Ah, la France! My beloved France. I am always pleased to be in France, even for a few hours and driving the roads. Ah, the roads… After enjoying free roads in Russia and Belarus, cheap ones in Poland, free and excellent ones in Germany and expensive ones in Switzerland (even though you pay once at the entrance and have a different feeling about), we realized, just after our coffee, that we were in France so it means you need to be ready to pay (quite a lot) for driving their higways. Since I live just off Barcelona, I am very used to the usual robbery (daily, in my case,when I need to move to the city) but for someone who is not, it means kind of a hole in your pocket.
Anyway, road was good and the surroundings quite beautiful. France is a beautiful country. You can enjoy, of course, the lovely Paris but also many other cities like Bordeaux, Marseille and, of course great landscapes in the Bretagne, Normandie, the French Alps or the Pyrenees. French people usually have a bad reputation: they are not friendly, they are very arrogant and, sure, the most chauvinists in the world. Especially those in Paris.
I lived, in two different times of my life in France. The first one, many years ago, in Montélimar, near Grenoble, where I combined a stay with a family with a bedroom in one of their Lycées. The second time, it was in Paris and I was working just next to Nôtre-Dame. I can only say great words about that family who received me. Difficult to meet that kind of people nowadays: so generous and friendly. In Paris, I also met great people. I still keep contact with some of them. Idiots and assholes? Of course, like everywhere else, but not more. I am truly convinced you make your environment, your attitude is the key. If you are nice to people in Paris, Shanghai or Caracas, you will meet the right people. If you are just an asshole pretending everyone should adapt to yourself (I met some of them, believe me) you will find everyone to be unpleasant.
Ok, after this little philosophical note (I get old so am starting to tell about my old battles when I was young…), I go back to the road.
We had a quick lunch in one of these well known “pique–nique” they have so often in their highways. I always liked these “resting” areas they provide. You are next to the highway and can hear and see the cars passing by but, after placing some trees and tables, you can really relax a little before getting back to drive.
At this point and, after more than 3200 kms on the road, we saw “Barcelone” in the signs for the first time. Like a boost! I must say, during all these days, we enjoyed great sunny days but, as soon as we were approaching home, the sky was getting darker…
So after three hours, we were about to arrive to Perpignan, close to the border. Let’s go “back to Paris” for a second. Some would think they consider themselves the center of the world. And maybe some of them do. Some others would think of New York. The financial capital of the US, if not the world. But, my friends, you are all totally wrong. This honor of being the center of the world belongs only to Perpignan. And not only the center of the world. Dalí considered Perpignan (and especially its train station) to be the “Cosmic center of the universe”.
And we are not going to argue with the great Salvador Dalí, right? It was back in 1960 when the brilliant artist visited Perpignan for the first time. When he arrived, he pronounced the words: “Perpignan, c’est le centre du monde“. Later, they named “El Centre del Mon” (in Catalan, to my surprise) the shopping center by the station, they keep signs of Dalí’s famous words at the station hall and, every 27th of August, the date of his arrival, the “Amis du Centre du Monde” association pays a tribute to the surrealist painter.
Two hundred kilometres to get home. Around Perpignan and the border we had some heavy rain but, once we entered Catalonia, we thought to be experiencing the biggest storm I remember. We slowed down to maybe 60 or 70 kms/h as it was almost impossible to see anything. Another problem: we were running out of petrol and the “we’ll stop at the next station” was already not possible. Signs showed next one in 35 kms and car displayed less than ten to go… So I turned out in Girona. Right after paying before leaving the highway the display showed less than 5 and the light was blinking. I, then, had to decide wether to go straight or turn right without any visible signs of any gas station. I turned right and, right after two hundred meters, in the middle of a storm, it emerged a beautiful gas station. Saved by the bell.
From Girona to Barcelona, we had less than 100 kms to go. My only fear was that, on the way to Alella, we had to take an exit near La Roca Village. A nice (and very large) outlet that my wife simply loves. But, at this time, the Gods were with me. It was almost closing time so no point to stop there.
From there to home, we had less than 20 kms but, after such a long trip, we decided to reward ourselves with a nice dinner before going home. So, we did some extra 5 kms (after almost 4000 it was no big deal) and went for some great tapas in one of our favourite places in El Masnou.
We relaxed, enjoyed dinner, had some beers and laughed a lot and only then moved home. We entered home in Alella. After 3822 kms crossing Europe, from one home to another.