Verity drove me to the Auto-Train at Frejus on Saturday. Vespa was outside the station, merrily standing out beside the cars awaiting collection. She was filthy! I guess the Auto-Train is open. Otherwise, all was well: I showed my ticket, and we were good to go.
Glorious sunshine! Warmth! Familiar roads (from my previous visit with Dani)!
This was why I’d insisted on buying a Vespa in the first place.
Following Verity’s car, I headed off to les Adrets. Or rather, up. The winding DN7, or ‘Roman Road,’ follows the route of the old Roman road, the Via Aurelia. It plunges and weaves up the Esterel, switching up and back and forth and up and up –
I’d warned Verity that Vespa does inclines, but at its own pace. Vespa has become, in my mind, The Little Vespa That Could. A loveable (albeit not cuddly) machine, shiny and pleasing and altogether capable. Within its parameters.
Vespa’s parameter on a small mountain is about 20mph.
So up we went. Steadily. Slowly.
To rip off a page from Verity’s Michelin Guide:
‘The Esterel between St. Raphael and La Napoule is an area of breathtaking natural beauty. One of the loveliest parts of Provence…The contrast between the busy life along the coast and the loneliness of the inland roads is extraordinary – the latter will appeal to tourists who prefer to leave the well beaten track for the pleasure of exploring on their own.
‘The massif, the Esterel, which is as old as its neighbour the Maures, from which it is separated by the Argens valley, has been worn down by erosion so that its highest point, Mount Vinaigre, is a mere 618m – 2,027ft. However, in this mountain mass, the deep ravines and broken skyline dispel any impression of this being mere hills….’
The Roman Road makes for a stunning drive. Rusty-red porphyric (volcanic) rocks create jagged cliff faces, while heathers, gorse, and lavender grow on the rugged hillsides. Cork oaks are carefully half-stripped of their cork, and the red of the bare trunks matches the dry, crumbling rocks. The air grows cooler as you ascend.
The road winds from sun to shade, and on a scooter I could feel every patch of sunshine and the shadows cast by each twisted tree. A few cars passed us; we passed a few cyclists. The air was drinkably pure, spiced here and there with hints of wood-smoke.
We passed through les Adrets, past the petit magasin and the boulangerie, which have, even over the past few days, become essential parts of my life here. Finally, I pulled into the sharp, steep slope of Verity’s drive: a driveway that intimidated the heck out of me when Dani & I visited; that he expressed great skepticism I could drive up, or down. I rolled down the drive without hesitation. Over the past two days, I’d gone from London to Paris, (almost entirely) on scooter.
A steep driveway? Pas de problème!