Southbound Again


Roy Aylett reports:

We have just returned, in our Bongo, from the South of France, where we have been holed up for the worst part of the winter. We are fortunate enough, to have pretty much permanent access to an apartment on the northern edge of the Camargue, where the Rhone splits to form the delta. We have made this journey on a regular basis for several years in a wide variety of vehicles, and generally stick to the same route southbound, via the motorway, through Reims, Lyon and Arles. French motorways are a joy to drive, they are fairly traffic free, superbly maintained and offer spectacular scenery for a modest toll.

Now here’s the rub. AFT Bongos are 2.09 metres tall, and the toll charges are based loosely on height, 2m being the max for classe 1. In the past, one would pull up to a toll booth, greet the occupant with a cheery bonjour, and be charged for a car (classe 1). How the charges were calculated were a mystery until, one day, we pulled off the motorway at a remote exchangeur, for a spot of lunch, and chatted with the toll booth occupant at some length. It would appear, at some booths, a green line is painted on the next door cubicle at 2m. If the operator can see the line over the top of your car, you’re under 2m. If not, you’re over 2m and move up a band in the charge scale. Experienced operators just know how high your vehicle is. At others, about 5m before the booth, a painted pole indicates to the operator the vehicle height. Up until recently, pot luck seemed to be the rule, most times you would win, occasionally you’d lose.

But that’s all changing. simple technology is being introduced, and will take the guesswork out of the equation. An electronic beam is fitted across the booth entry lane at 2m, break the beam and up goes the cost. Our AFT Bongo broke the beam every time. We now travel to the south via the west side of Paris. From Calais/ Dunkerque/Boulogne, head for Rouen via Abbeville, then Orleans via Evreux and Dreux, we jump off the motorway at Orleans because its peage to Clermont Ferand, but its free all the way to the stunning new bridge at Millau (well worth the €5.40), and the scenery across the Massif Central is drop dead gorgeous. Total toll charges for this route are about a quarter of those for the Lyon route. You pays your money etc. etc..

Billy billy bongo (from San Fernando), didn’t miss a beat, and just loved the plage at Piemanson (photo above).

Southbound again, YOU BET!