The journey from Nice, east along the Riviera to Le Lavandou can be mostly pleasant, provided you dont mind an awful lot of company on the Corniche, the cliff-hugging road made famous by Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal.
There is a faster, less attractive way of doing it: straight onto the A8 and then slipping off for the A57, almost reaching Toulon before turning towards Hyères on the A570. That's right, three motorways, 150km and €11 in tolls before you reach the last stretch, the route nationale to Le Lavandou. And while some of the countryside is pretty, every kilometer of the drive is back from the sea.
What has Salut! Live's version of mappy.com got to do with Simon Mayor and Hilary James?
Well, two of their CDs - the live, 27-track epic Duos and one that emphasises Hilary's contributions, Laughing With The Moon - made the pragmatic route a whole lot more enjoyable the other day after I'd dropped off a daughter at the airport.
In fact, my two hours of reacquaintance with their wonderfully expressive vocal and instrumental work eliminated all irritation that my daughter had not just flown to and from Toulon-Hyères, 20 minutes down the road AND half the journey runs alongside the Mediterranean.
Simon and Hilary have just about everything a pair of troubadours need: superior musicianship, a sense of fun, sharp wit, an exhilaratingly broad repertoire and, in Hilary, a singer who is altogether too regal for folk music but ought to be thanked for choosing it.
I wanted a clip that paraded Simon's mandolin-playing and Hilary's singing and scoured YouTube for Bold Reynard or Rosebud in June. I could find neither, but it seemed entirely fitting to opt for her seemingly effortless excursion into French, Villanelle, which was among the tracks that gave me so much pleasure on Saturday. It was recorded live at the Southwell Folk Festival in 2008.
* Villanelle appears on Duos and can be bought, along with other examples from the Mayor/James/Mandolinquents discography at this Salut! Live Amazon link.