Never trust a man with a Satnav: JOAN COLLINS did. The result? A nightmare 5-hour drive - and a hubby lucky to be alive!
The drive was supposed to be leisurely: winding through the picturesque Provencal countryside and along the glorious beaches of the South of France.
Our destination? A friend's wedding in the hilltop town of Gordes. The mother of the bride had assured us it would only take two-and-a-half hours - 'three at the absolute maximum' - from our home in Saint-Tropez: 'You can find the directions on Amy and Chris's wedding website.'
When I suggested to the man of the house, my husband Percy, that he do this, he was adamant that it wasn't necessary. 'Satnav will tell us how to get there,' he pronounced firmly.
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Hmmm. So we set off at 11.15am in our rented car, which I considered plenty of time to get to our hotel, shower and change before the wedding at 5pm. So much so that I suggested we show our two friends who were staying with us how to get to Ikea en route. They would follow in their car.
Percy looked doubtful: it would take us half an hour out of our way.
'Well, I'm sure Satnav will show us the way,' I replied breezily.
I would come to regret forgetting the advice of our usual English driver Steve, who calls his Satnav 'Edna' and scornfully refers to her as 'bloody useless'.
We bid farewell to our Ikea-bound friends an hour later and I relaxed, admiring the magnificent roads - not a bump or pothole to contend with, and all that gorgeous scenery...
But the clues were there after another hour. 'We should be there soon, shouldn't we?' I asked Percy. 'Why are we heading towards that hugely steep, mountainous road?'
'The Satnav seems to be sending us that way,' he replied, 'but yes, we should be there soon.'
There was a slight quaver in his voice that only a wife of 14 years could detect. But his set concentration on the Satnav and the horribly winding road brooked no argument, so I lay back and listened to a Steely Dan CD for the third time.
We reached the top of the mountain another hour later. As far as I could see there were no signs of life or civilisation whatsoever.
'Are we close yet?' I ventured.
Through clenched teeth came a monosyllabic grunt and, since the winding road was making me feel queasy, I decided to shut up. Until I saw the sign to Marseille, yet another hour later. By then it was 3pm.
'That should be near, shouldn't it?' I chirped hopefully. The stony silence gave me my answer.
Suddenly the view changed and we found ourselves in the shabby outskirts of Marseille, with its grim buildings glaring at us menacingly. Nowhere near where we should have been by then - an hour and a quarter, at least, away from Gordes.
Angry looking people were milling about and Percy, now furious with 'Edna' hissed: 'She's taking us totally the wrong way. We're way off course.'
There were a few more adjectives interspersed in there but this is a family newspaper.
To make things even more heated, there was a strike by local taxi drivers demonstrating against Uber, the taxi service app.
A friend flying into Marseille for the wedding told me later that upon arriving at the airport, dozens of cabs lined up but refused to take fares, even after our friend offered €500 to take them to the venue, which is easily twice the normal fare.
We wended our traffic-bound way through the side streets. It was by now way past the three-and-a-half hours allotted for the trip. We were in the seamy backstreets of Marseille and stories of illegal immigrants breaking into vehicles kept running through my mind.
After finally getting out of spaghetti junctions, Percy announced victoriously: 'Not much longer now.' But his tremulous tone gave the game away. Not much of a poker player, my husband.
By this point it was nearly 4pm. I tried to figure out how little time I would need to shower, make-up, do hair and dress in time.
We passed endless signs but not one said 'Gordes' or anything remotely helpful.
Desperate for a rest room, we found a small garage and shop but when I asked where the toilets were, the shopkeeper gave one of those infamous Gallic shrugs: there weren't any. On we drove - I was now quietly hysterical and Percy quietly furious. Every time we passed a sign, he said, 'Won't be long now!' in increasingly strained timbres.
When we finally went off road to find a rest stop (the situation was reaching critical mass) he stayed in the car to have a serious chat with 'Edna'.
Which is when he discovered that the previous hirer of the car had programmed the Satnav to avoid all toll roads. So, instead of driving on the smooth direct motorways, we had been forced into following every winding road in Provence.
Tired and weary, we finally arrived, by some miracle, at the hotel five hours and 15 minutes after setting off. We had half an hour to spare before the start of the nuptials.
But, as is the way with these things, the comedy of errors continued. The hotel, though charming, was newly decorated and freshly painted, so after barging past the front desk attendant with demands for the key - God knows what the poor chap thought of us - we found the door to our room firmly glued shut with paint.
The concierge and Percy pushed and shoved and finally had to call the handyman, who proceeded to push and shove as well, and finally managed to pull the handle off the door with a plaintive wail. All three then gave an almighty shove and broke through.
We had 15 minutes left to prepare for a glamorous wedding wearing full black tie and long dress. Like maniacal quick-change artistes, we managed to get it together and hit the wedding venue just before the bride walked down the aisle.
The wedding was a magical, romantic and picturesque event of the kind that only the South of France can provide in a fairy-tale setting, overlooking the majestic cliffs.
The bride looked ethereally beautiful, the groom handsome, but suitably apprehensive, and the mother of the bride endearingly choked up with emotion. Our tribulations with 'Edna' soon vanished in a haze of romance.
Until the next morning, of course, when we had to drive back. Having learned our lesson, it was motorway all the way and the trip was completed in less than two-and-a-half hours.
'Edna' in her wicked way still tried to take us 'off-piste' but we opted instead for our tried and true route - no scenery, several expensive tolls but clean rest-stops and no Gallic shrugs.
We drove back to our house where our house guests awaited, lounging by the pool, which is what I like to do when I'm on holiday - precisely nothing.
So it's no more 'Edna' for me. Give me an old-fashioned map every time. And yes, I can read a map.