So we drove and we drove and drove, OK I drove, Moll chatted, sang and navigated. We were heading for a campsite right on the French German border, in the vosges. Of course we got lost more than once, did some big loops. French detours for road-works are amazing, they send you to an entirely different town to avoid the roadworks.

We were aiming for a town called Bitche, yes that is pronounced exactly as you wouldnt want it to. But it lends an interesting dimension to not speaking french (much) and asking directions, up to now we would lean out of the window 'excuse moi' and then add the name of the town as a question, like paris?? and look perplexed and wave the map. But now we were leaning out of the window 'excuse moi, Bitch? ' very odd, but no- one threw stones so I guess we did OK.

Eventually we found Bitche and our campsite another 15km further on, A little forest village called barenthal. we arrived hot, tired, cranky, only to find that the Gods were leading us exactly to the right place. It was on a lake, we camped in a meadow and were lucky enough to arrive on the night that the village were celebrating Bastille day, right by the campsite, bands, beer, wine, disco and fireworks over the water, It was great, we ate the local speciality flamme tarte, (which you can buy in lidl in ireland) cooked in a pizza oven by the local equivalent of the country womnes association, delicious.

Our pitch also had two trees perfectly spaced to hold our hammock, the lake was beautiful to swim in, there was a pool, the surroundings gorgeous, so we ended up stay three nights, just lazing and resting.

Reluctantly we pushed on. So on Tuesday Morning we headed for the border to cross into Germany, a simple enough task one would think, but no France loved us so much it was reluctant to let us go, a simple 15 minute drive to cross the border turned into a two hour epic, but finally we ended up over the border in Baden Baden.
 

France

07/21/2010

 
It seems that internet cafes are few and far between, at least in the parts ofFrance that we have been visting. We are now in Germany, but france needs an honourable mention.

I have been in France once before a horribly stressful overnight visit on the way to Australia, the trip started with some bombs in London, compounded by me totally screwing up the times of the flight to Bankok, arriving at Heathrow a day late, any way in the heel of the hunt, we arrived in Paris to be greeted by the most horribly rude and uphelpful people I have never met. We very thankfully left France the next day, swearing never to return.

So our intention was to drive through France as quickly as possible and get on with our real trip. As it turned out France was far more beguiling than I had imagined. The normandy coast was very pretty, exquisitely beautiful little towns (if you can get out now and buy shares in the word 'pretty'  you should do it now as I suspect I might overuse it) so Normandy -exquisitely beautiful little villages, honey coloured stone houses straight out of the middle ages. we spent two nights in the campsite in Besin and then headed south east. I wanted to see Chartres cathedral.

Way back when I was at school; I studied art and Chartres was a pet obsession of Sr.Anne, I remember a mountain of photocopies about each carving and window in the place. Sadly like Katy in 'what Katy did next' as she said (and I paraphrase) everyone that visits europe wishes that they had read more and studied harder when at school. As it was I could remember nothing about the Cathedral. Which might have been just as welll as my head wasnt clouded by facts. It is gorgeous, quite dark, but the darkness only serves to emphasis the glorious soaring colouful stained glass windows. Despite having a lot of tourists present, the place swallowed them up in an atmosphere of proud age. Sr Anne was right, the carvings are amazing, but mostly it was the presence of the place. I was so overwhelmed by it all that I almost forgot that this was the home of the labryinth. The orignial chartres labryinth. A copy of which I have walked many many times in mountshannon. It is inlaid in the tiles of the floor and sadly covered over with chairs. Happily for Mollie, mind you as I would have insisted on walking it. And she has a fairly low church/cathedral/temple tolerance.

We went back to the car and tried to leave Chartres, but it appeared to be a peculiarly magnetic place as without the sat nav and with only a (barely adequate) set of maps, the cathedral didnt want to let us go, every road seemed to lead back to it. We escaped, eventually and headed east. I didnt want to go to Paris, so we planned to wild camp for the night in a little village well south of the city...to be continued....