After our first week back on the road it is time to truly start heading north. We move on from our pathetic Spanish campground after our laundry is done to drive no more than 45 kilometers. The goal is to sleep in reasonable temperatures, with as little rain as possible. Little do we know at this point how much we are going to put up with later, weather-wise. We park in the city park of Tous. Close to us, a family is having a party. They have a barbecue and turn on music. When Finn hears the music across the park, he asks if we should give them some money. Apparently he has met enough street artists by now to consider this the norm, and we have a good laugh.
Leaving the beautiful fields of orange groves around Valencia behind, we find ourselves surrounded by blossoming almond trees. Further south these blossoms had already been coming to an end when we were there but more inland we are enjoying them at their prettiest. We sleep at a hermitage on top of a hill by St. Mateu, next to a few campers. Finn finds a treasure: an old toy truck. It is completely falling apart, but this boy is in seventh heaven.
Further inland, we try to find another playground although it rains on and off. On days when we try to make many kilometers, getting exercise is absolutely crucial. The one we find is true faded glory, to the point that Metta almost falls off a bridge and Finn is playing in rusty water. It’s time for coffee and rolls in a little lunchroom. Lots of kids walk by with their moms, all rolling their school bags like little suitcases. Zoe wonders if just maybe there is an airport nearby. There are kilometers of road construction today because a huge section of the road is being renewed. When we reach another part of this same road the next day, we understand the necessity of this construction. Everything starts falling off the shelves in our bus while we rock ourselves down this stretch of narrow road.
We make it to the village of Quinto with a much more up-to-date playground right in the center, on a large square by the church. As is gets later, more and more kids come to play. Our children enjoy all these other kids around them, and I have a nice conversation with another mom. This is somewhat rare in our experience, since it is usually just the kids who immediately connect while the parents seem to be focused on each other and their phones. We make a dinner salad right there, so the kids can play as long as possible. Then we head to another old hermitage where we spend a quiet night. Next morning Zoe notices another loose tooth. You wonder if our travels are more exciting, or the tooth.
Today we will try to reach the Atlantic coast, but rain and wind slow down our progress. Once again we exercise on the famous outdoor Spanish fitness equipment during lunch, in rain and freezing temperatures. We find ourselves quite late in Pamplona with 80 mountain kilometers to go. While I do groceries, Antoine decides to call a random hostel in the next town. I cave and we enjoy the luxury of a warm, indoor bed while it rains and freezes overnight here in the middle of the Pyrenees. Hostel Santa Maria is an old, not pretentious little hotel, and they allow us two rooms and a bathroom for a very reasonable price. When we have coffee and hot chocolate the next morning, they offer us leftover muffins and croissants in spite of opting out of their full breakfast.
After I take Metta for an hour long stroller walk by the river, on a path beautifully surrounded by the mountains and even taking me through a tunnel, we coast to the French border. Lunch on the beach provides us with a spectacular water show as waves break heavily on the breakwater. It is a fabulous view, and we enjoy it for a long time. Once again we hit the jackpot when it comes to camp spots. Surrounded by a nearly budding deciduous forest in the very south of France, we park close to a canal with a bike path next to it. Did we maybe bike here in 2006 on our way to Africa?