According to the blog, we have been stuck in France for a few months now, but nothing is further from the truth. Since the last blog, we made our way back north to The Netherlands with our little Berry Bus, ferried to England, flew to Colorado and drove all the way to Alaska with truck and trailer. Pfew.
We choose to drive up the west coast of France because the weather just seems to hold out a little better here. Of course that turns out to be just a theory, and we are once again at the mercy of major fronts, dodging rain storms. It doesn’t matter as much as it did before, on our way down to Spain. We are really getting a system down. How to keep kids entertained in the backseat of the van while I cook, and how to camp for free. We do not go on little adventures as much as I had hoped to do, but still enjoy our surroundings.
First thing on the to-do list when we enter France, is doing the laundry. Our budget needs a drastic increase, since we pay a whopping 8.50 euros for a load. The second night in Les Landes, we park right next to a playground in the middle of a village. Someone comes over to show us where we can get fresh water, and the kids play until it starts pouring again. Since we have to camp somewhat outside our van in order to fit (leaving some small stuff outside during the night) I was expecting raised eyebrows from locals who occasionally notice we are staying the night, but that is really not the case. Antoine has gotten into the habit to clean up trash wherever we camp, in order to always leave the place a little cleaner than how we find it. We drive off before breakfast, and stop in the nearest town with a market. We brew coffee on the spot and enjoy fresh, French pastries.
Having promised our kids days before that we would go out for ice cream as soon as possible, we end up in a little café in Soulac-sur-Mer, where we have ice cream indoors in spite of the rain outside. Hanging out longer than we probably should have (books for kids, pleasant indoor environment after withstanding the chill outside 24/7) we meet Leanne who we have a really fun connection with. She points us into a different direction for our next destination. She lives in France for the summer to teach surfing, and has been spending recent winters at a permaculture farm in Belgium. Soulac-sur-Mer without tourists is a nice, quiet and cute village. I remember arriving here on our bikes years ago, feeling somewhat out of place between all these families that take over the town in summer.
Another pretty camp spot sits right next to a lighthouse on the Gironde. Kind of in a neighborhood, but we pull it off. And right by the ferry, which promises an early departure tomorrow. We cross the river and we are charged as if we are a car. Good for us, but also confirmation of how small our vehicle really is. On the other side of the water we try to have breakfast in a park, but once again we we are dodging rain drops. That sends us indoors into a Mc Donalds where the kids can play their hearts out and we catch up on work, with a hot cup of somewhat acceptable coffee. It is interesting to see how many people bring their kids here on a Sunday.
We still manage to drive a good distance, and end up at a canal for the night. While I cook dinner, Antoine and the kids pull themselves to the other side with a little boat on a chain, to explore. It is getting colder and we settle in for a chilly night. The night is not so bad, since we are all dressed well and deep in our sleeping bags. Packing up the next morning is a different story. When we finally drive off around 11 and one of the kids is still cold, we decide that we’d best head for a hotel in Tours. On the way there we drive through wind, snow and hail. Later we find out that we managed to get a speeding ticket on this day, by driving 71 in a 70 zone. Kilometers per hour that is. Seriously.