Do you have special places or things you look out for on long journeys? It was a way my parents kept me amused as a child on journeys and I still have fond memories of the full-size horse outside a garage on the way to Cornwall who only wore his tail in good weather; the mysterious pool on Bodmin Moor that I was told was bottomless; and the amusing sign outside the Wibbly Wobbly Wheel garage near Exeter.

What things do I look out for driving down through France?

The slag heaps of Northern France which always remind me of Zola’s ‘Germinal’.

The impressive sight of Laon, the ancient capital, perched on its hill. I once broke my journey there in a hotel (I think Bannieres de France) memorable for two things – a massive en suite with the door hidden in the flowery bedroom wallpaper and a huge cheeseboard in the restaurant which included a pyramid shape cheese that I seem to remember had a touch of ginger. I’ve never found it anywhere else.

The sign for the ‘vallee d’aa’ – what a great name – I wonder what its derivation is?

I love the elves and mushrooms which pop up in various guises and varieties beside the autoroute between Troyes and Beaune.

Before Troyes there is the Aire de Charmont with its sign for ‘station carburant automatique’ which turns out to be one solitary pump. Why???

I’m also intrigued by the seemingly random windsocks that occasionally appear.

This year there was a new sign warning us that the powers that be are creating ‘les passages pour faunes’. I’m sure it can’t mean that they are being encouraged to cross the autoroute?

My absolute favourite (yes, I know this is very sad) used to be a large ad on the side of a house not far from Nyons for ‘toilettage’(pet grooming parlour) which showed a very soignee poodle – sadly the sign has now been painted over.

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