Mr FD has been away for a few days visiting his mum in the UK, and seeing his sister, nephew, niece and cousins. I was charged with collecting him from Lyon airport on Thursday evening, at 10.30. I’d not slept well the night before (I estimate I got about 2 hours sleep) and I’d had quite a busy day at work, so I really didn’t fancy hoiking myself over to Lyon. Still, needs must and all that.
I left at 8.15, giving myself loads of time to get there (it’s probably about an hour-and-a-half) and called in to get petrol just before I got on the motorway. I debated whether to wait until I got off the motorway at the other end, but decided to fill up. I’m glad I did, as I wouldn’t have wanted the added pressure of running out of petrol – there was pressure enough to come!
So, I get on the m’way and soon there are notices saying that the m’way was closed at Junction 33. Now, if I’d have thought just a little bit I would have sussed that Jnct 33 was the next junction but for some reason I guessed it was nearer Lyon and so I would be able to wibble my way through the suburbs. And anyway, there would be diversion signs, wouldn’t there? If I’d have sussed all this, I would have gone the slightly longer route down the other m’way to St Etienne and along to Lyon. But I didn’t.
I was forced off the m’way at the next junction, and there were no comprehensible diversion signs – plenty of yellow signs saying “S26” or “S13” but nothing telling you where these led to! If I’d have only thought I could have got back on the m’way and gone down to St Etienne – but I started to panic! No GPS, no sense of geography, no real idea of how to get from where I was to Lyon… As a passenger I tend to just sit and let Mr FD do the driving; I admire the scenes as we go by, but I fail to take any real notice of the route we are taking. And by now it was pitch dark and raining, so things didn’t even look the way they do in the day.
“Don’t panic!” I instructed myself as I started to swear and not know what to do. Then I saw the signpost to Balbigny “Remember we went through Balbigny when we took the mountain route to Lyon only last week (thank goodness!) so you can do that. ” I rehearsed the route…Balbigny, Nervieux, Violay, Tarrare…All these places were signposted so it would be fine! I remembered passing through Nervieux and the layout of the roads (don’t head towards Miserieux) And breathe!
Off I set towards Balbigny…signpost to Nervieux…follow that…through the town…hang on, this doesn’t look right…I’m going back towards St Germain (where I got petrol!)…I’m going wrong….PANIC!! I turn the car round and head back into the village to find a bar where I could ask for directions. Everywhere looked closed up, but there was a bar with lights on “Au Bon Accueil” (The good welcome) The door was locked, but people were sitting inside, so I tapped on the window. Small dog yapped, man looked up and gestured in a manner that was at odds with the name of the bar, but woman came to see what I wanted. I explained about the m’way being closed, about looking for the route to Lyon etc etc.
The man (less threatening now) said the French equivalent of “Bloody hell, you’re really lost aren’t you?!” but was fairly sure that the m’way wasn’t closed (yes it is) and gave me directions to pick it up. I followed his instructions for a bit, but then thought “I’m heading back to the junction on the m’way to St Etienne. So I’ll have to drive on the m’way that’s closed….NOOOOO! It’s still the wrong way!! PANIC!! If I’d just thought (again!) I could have picked up the m’way, gone to St Etienne…etc etc But I had it in my head now that there was only one m’way to Lyon AND IT WAS CLOSED!
But then I had a flash of brilliance (it doesn’t happen very often!) What did we use to do in the days before GPS? We looked at a map – and there was a road atlas in the car!!! I stopped the car, put on my hazards and rooted in the boot for the map book. It took me a while to focus but then discovered where I had made my error. The route we had taken the week before was not, as I had convinced myself, Balbigny, Nervieux, Violay, Tarrare.. but Nervieux, Balbigny, Violay, Tarrare.. I’d turned in the wrong direction in Balbigny, and was indeeed heading back home again!! Had it been daylight I would have recognised this, and probably seen the signs to Violay as I turned in the wrong direction, but I was so panic-struck and fixated on staying calm that I hadn’t clocked the fact that I shouldn’t really be crossing the Loire if I was heading in the right direction!
So I turned round and headed in the right direction (huzzah!) The rain had stopped but it was very windy, but I was now making reasonable time. Although it’s a winding route over the mountains, it is a good road, so I wasn’t too worried about the driving, as I could put the lights on full-beam – I only met about 5 cars in the 30-odd kilometres over the top. I reached Tarare praying that the m’way there, which I planned to pick up, wasn’t closed. And (phew) it wasn’t!
Everything going reasonably smoothly (I’d texted Mr FD to say I was running late) now, but time was against me. Reaching the toll booth for the tunnels under Lyon, I swanned up to the barrier with my Telepéage badge at the ready – this means that it goes Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! and the barrier opens, with the toll being paid at the end of the month.
And there was no Beeeeeeeeeeep. There was no opening barrier. Just me, starting to panic. Again. Thankfully, it wasn’t busy – had it happened a couple of hours earlier there would have been angry French drivers hammering on their horns, but I was able to switch on my hazards (again) and reverse out to go through another lane. I feared there was a problem with the badge (why? It had already worked well three times that evening!) but all was okay.
Got a text from Mr FD saying he’d landed, while I was about 20 minutes from the airport, but it wasn’t too bad….However, when I arrived I then realised that there are three terminals and I had no bloomin’ idea which Terminal he was at. I drove round (starting to panic!) but then he phoned me. A bit snippy, it must be said, and when I asked where he was, he suggested I was a bit stupid not to know that it was Terminal 3 because it’s always Terminal 3. So off I drive to the Depose Minute car park for Terminal 3 – of course I’m in the R-hand drive Honda, so had to leap out at the ticket barrier to get the ticket as I couldn’t reach the machine from the dtivers seat (lost one of my leather gloves when I jumped out! It must have been on my lap and it fell out of the car. Grrr) with the queue mounting up behind….And phew. There is Mr FD. Collapse in quivering heap and hand him the car keys.