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.
the definition of wild camping is where you ignore campsites and find a nice isolated spot and park up for the night. So as we were en route to the border and since Chartres was so difficult to leave, in every sense of the word. It was fairly late when we drew level with Paris, to the south. So we decided to find a nice quite spot and park for the night, Rosita is small, but mighty and we could just pull down the bed and snooze
incidentally for all of you that were unconvinced, she is very comfortable to sleep in and we are sleeping very well.
I had some criteria for my wild camp spots, it needed to be quiet, but not too isolated. Two women alone are a little vulnerable if we are in a completely out of the way spot. So I thought a little village, down a sleepy residential street, arrive after dark and leave early and all will be well...right?
Turns out that Rosita doesnt lend herself to stealth. She has a very noisy engine, noisy doors. The first place we tried, infront of a house that had all the shutters down that I (wrongly) assumed was empty, after two minutes of getting the bed ready the front door shutter rolled up and a little old lady came out, She stood on her doorstep and gave us the evil eye until we shuffled off. The second place was even quieter...until a man came out, stood on the road watching us, until we left. Either we look like knackers or they are very paranoid, but in the end we made up the bed. Ignoring the many times my ass hit the horn, ,OK so the engine isnt silent, so the horn doesnt make much of a difference, right? Bed all ready to jump into we found yet another quiet street, cut the engine, coasted into position and got some sleep. On our way early, we tried to head east.
I say tried, but as it happens Paris is another incredibly magnetic city, despite an attempt at complete avoidance, she lured us in, we got completely stuck driving around and around and around the suberbs of southern Paris, for months and months, as they say all roads lead to Paris (or as Mollie corrected me, to Rome..but in this case Paris is apt)
we finally escaped and drove for hours across the centre of France. It is not as obviously pretty as Normandy, and Brittany, but it was wonderful to be back in a landscape of huge rolling fields of wheat, sunflowers and corn. It was like being back in australia
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....
Did you know thqt the layout of French keyboqrds is different to the ones that we have in ireland. nope Neither did I. so forgive any obvious typos.
well we have arrived in France, The ferry trip was long qnd pretty uneventful,I think I hqave pretty much confirmed my opinion that I am not cut out for cruising. It was lovely to have the company of my old friends on board, we ate we slept, neither experience was good enough to write about- then at about 11am we arrived in Cherbourg and i hqd to drive, i was terrified? i hqve driven on the wrong side of the road before in the US, but my steering wheel was on the proper side of the car. the other hitch we ran into were the electronic demons . our sat Nav was on the blink from when we left home. so about 10 miles from home I pulled over to try and beat it into submission- and promptly dropped the micro SD card-the brains of the thing- down into the most inaccecible reaches of the seat, so no sat nav and on the wrong side of the road. but its OK we are doing well. This was after our iPod died!
I had booked into the same campsite as my friends but when i actually looked at the map i discovered that it was much too far to the south for us. so i abandoned those plans and we travelled along the coast to where we are now. a little fishing port. Port au Bessin. On the way we stopped at Omaha beach and the US cemetary-powerful experiences, yes of course I wept. like million people before me I grieved for the senseless loss of life- but as humans, we never seem to learn.
We stayed two nights in this little campsite, seeing the Bayeux tapestry yesterday. today we move on
Its 9>30 and no we didnt sleep too well, we are leaving very soon..first step is a drive to rosslaire port, it will take about 4 hours and then a ferry crossing to cherbourg, the ferry is about 18 hours I think, I have sea-sickness tablets.
I have to confess to being quite intimidated by driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, I did it in orlando for a few weeks last year., but the steering wheel was on the correct side of the vehicle.
Ah well it will be good. See you all on the other side!
By a great stroke of luck my best friend from school and since, is travelling on the same ferry (with her family) as us to Cherbourg. Once all the kids are bedded down, there will be couple of seats in the bar, with a glass or two of something nice, waiting for us.
I have decided to stay in 'their' campsite for the first night. In Carnac, very nice with lots of facilitites. So on the 15 July we start our vagabonding in earnest.