Nous sommes ici.. A la belle France, going great guns with high school French!! Out of the recesses of the brain, the best high school version has saved us on many occasions, we wonder how we will manage in Slovakia or Romania or Herzegovina or someplace like that!!
Feeling a little sassy as we parlez Francais….. Well at least the basics to manage directions to the all-important bathrooms which are nothing short of communal: “Excusez-Moi Monsieur” at the mens urinal, in use exiting the female washroom… Aaaagh! What’s with that!!!
As we continue to eat our way around the world… buying up every French Baguette, with the best cheeses, chased down with tarte citron.. Tooo absolutely die for!!
Leaving what many Brits themselves refer to as “Rip off Britain”… we were not impressed when we rolled up for the Chunnel crossing with pre-paid ticket, needing to pay an extra $100 as we had a bed!!! You what!!! So all the minivans could have up to 9 passengers and pay a lower fee?? And, overnight parking near the Chunnel – $35. The kind security chap cut us a break and directed us to a spot on the quiet… how nice was that. There seems to be a lot of rules and for free living folk fresh from Central and South America, over regulation does get to us!
Enough complaining! Northern France full of sights and adventures. France has delivered… not least of all with its’ camper friendly policy!! Free camping in abundance and some with amenities, and in the most beautiful prime places and settings. Too many million dollar spots to mention, like the banks of the Loire soaking up a stunning evening in France, with baguette in hand and French cider in the other.
Our tour of War memorials in Normandy… WWI Vimy Ridge, WWII D-Day: Juno, Omaha, and Utah beaches, and several historic points along the byways was let’s say…’moving’. Hard to know where to start… Words are not enough!!
The history is haunting. To imagine… standing on an old German Gun installation with vantage overlooking beaches where today kids play in the sand, and realize in 1944 it was a place of carnage with British, Canadian, and US fighting men falling by the thousand before liberating France from its’ 4 year occupation. Walking aisle after aisle of graves… Hero after hero, -slaughtered.
And the cold dark tunnels at Vimy Ridge where Canada’s military came of age, and thousands of young Canadians were lost while gaining control of this strategic and now picturesque strip of French countryside. The runners… that Volunteered to don red armbands and head into the battlefield to deliver messages… Life expectancy … 5 days! But no shortage of volunteers, to sleep in the relative comfort of the tunnels and not the cold, muddy, rat infested trenches.
… in a book of memorial at the Vimy cemetery, marking this once war torn landscape, lovingly tended by the French to this day who remain so thankful to those that won them freedom.
It is hard to imagine what life could have been… counting our Blessings!! Sadly, Peace comes at a price and we are thankful to all those who serve and to all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Northern France: Normandy, Brittany, Alsace all with Rural charm and character with sophistication in the larger towns.
Parked in a secluded spot on the bank of the Loire River, time for an oil change and tune-up, and anticipating our next stops in Versailles and Paris!! Getting ourselves preened for the big city, (the day I fall out the bus looking like I live on the road is the day we call it quits!) But a shower at this point would be super awesome…
Observations: Don’t mess with rules or process they take that stuff seriously! We got into trouble for trying to walk into the store the wrong way… Protocol my friend!! And do the French smoke a ton. It seems a cigarette in hand is mandatory whatever one is doing at the time!
In contrast to the UK, hardly a CCTV Camera to be seen, and police a rarity! The one time we were in a spot check, it was more for a congenial chat and admiration of Pumper than anything more threatening.
We have fallen in love with Versailles, Paris, and Strasbourg, all amazing experiences and we muse we could live in any one of them. Paris was memorable for more than its’ breathtaking iconic sights… pumpers clutch all but gave out in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and then again next to the Louvre. On both occasions it hardly provoked a response from the police who were more interested in taking a photo of Pumper than hassling us to get the hell out of the way. Adjustment both times was enough to get us through and out of the city before the eventual and expected catastrophic clutch cable failure. How lucky we are and counting our Blessings that the major snap and break did not happen until we had pulled into a campsite for the luxury of our first shower since leaving the U.K.!!! (Yikes!!) We shudder to think of that having happened in one of those Paris tunnels!!! OMG!
Hitting Paris on an August weekend was genius.. Free parking and nobody in town, we felt like we had the roads all to ourselves.. Well minus all the ugly line ups for stuff as it was the first Sunday of the month when Museums are free!! We took full advantage parking for the night just 2 minutes from the Eiffel Tower! We had also lucked out the previous day and parked free looking at the front gates of the Palace De Versailles!!!!!! Now that is crazy!!!
Versailles…. And who do we meet but the Queens Butler! Yes, The Queen of England no less!! What does the Queens butler do on his day off… well visit a Palace of course! Life sure seems crazy at times but we soak up all this mega Karma. Steve’s Birthday in Paris .. Awesome!!
Our Olympic Moment… running into NBA champion and Olympian Chris Bosh.. Walked the Labyrinth with him at the Cathedral at Chartres. Great Photo op!!
On route to visit twin brother Phil in Germany we touch the NW of Switzerland and add another flag to the bus. Whistle stop tour of Switzerland but we will return.
An hour from the Swiss border we do the good karma thing and pick up a young lass hitch hiking. It turns out a pretty young Moroccan that we soon find out is an atheist and anarchist! An Artist? No, an Anarchist, on her way to a European Anarchists meeting!!! We are calm and cool on this until the discussion arose about crossing the border… now just what are these anarchists meeting about? The next big terrorist attack on the ‘establishment’? Like how many idiots cross an international border with a hitch hiker, never mind one with the sort of credentials that this girl might have! We ask politely if she happens to have any drugs!! As if that mattered at this stage.
Daring to touch on spirituality, we keep to a discussion on Karma and addressing more pressing issues like… are we going to have to produce a passport at the border? Does she have a legal document? Our imagination running rampant at this stage. The wise thing might have been to drop her off, but then again maybe our views might lead to a more productive rather than destructive future.
Figuring out all the parking pay schemes from one country to the next… Blue zone, yellow zone… Numbered zone… Stickers, plaques… Why everyone can’t get on board and have one system. It sure would make our lives soo much easier! After all if they could do it with the currency you would think parking would be a breeze. Do we speak German, French, Spanish, or play dumb and stick to English!!! And all we want to do is take an afternoon siesta. Another hard day vagabonding!!!!
La paix et l’amour … Solving the EEU problems… ‘Not’.