The Kindness of Strangers

We left Moliets Plage in good time and set off towards Tarnos near Bayonne and the Motorhome dealer I’d found on the Internet. Just as our trusty Chinese cheapo Truckers’ Satnav told us that we were close to our destination a massive rainstorm hit. Shirley who was driving at the time, could barely see where she was going. Taking off her sunglasses helped a bit but it still felt dangerous so we drove very slowly into the little town to look for a place to park and sit the storm out. By the time the rain stopped and we had retraced our route back to the dealers they had just closed for the customary two hour lunch.

We parked up in their car park and Shirley went next door into an organic food shop to buy something for lunch. She came out carrying only a baguette and feeling stunned by the prices. I’d like to say that the small stick of bread was very special at 1.80€ but it would be a lie. In fact it should have been labeled Danger to Fillings. However we can find a blessing in anything if we look hard enough – it took us a long time to eat our lunch and we had a lot of time to fill.

At 2 p.m. I went into the workshop and started my prepared speech requesting help and advice for the batteries. The man in the workshop grunted and pointed at another younger man who came out to the van and spoke to me in English. With his charmingly French accented English and my not so charming Yorkshire accented French we managed quite a sensible conversation. He brought his circuit tester and checked the two batteries and pronounced them healthy. He then fixed a loose connection to one of the batteries, changed a fuse in the solar controller and explained that he wasn’t a solar specialist.

“Perhaps this is faulty, but I think you will be ok now” he said with that Gallic shrug .

I asked him how much I owed him for his time.

“Nothing at all” And he smiled and went back into the workshop.

I must admit that our concern had been that a dealer would try to persuade us to buy two expensive batteries without taking care to check out the problem. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Motorhome repairs

Feeling richer in more ways than one we set off to find a Carrefour and buy some food for the next couple of days. The fridge was looking empty after three days on site so we strolled through the aisles in that dazed way that comes from shopping without planning in advance what to have for dinner.

At the checkout with a well-loaded trolley we noticed that the lady behind us had just a basket with a few things in it so we turned and said, “Après vous!” She laughed and said “Thanks, that’s very kind”. It turned out they were another pair of motorhomers on their last couple of days in France and Spain before getting the Santander ferry home.

We managed to share quite a lot in those few minutes at the checkout, including the fact that she’d known we were British because she could see the George label on my T shirt.

They were sad to be leaving and very jealous of us barely beginning our adventure. They also advised us not to buy too much in France, especially diesel, because Spain is so much cheaper.

Next stop was our chosen Aire for the night. A port near Bayonne called Anglet where we can stay for 24 hours and use the services for 6€. We had to drive through the town of Bayonne to get to it and it looked fabulous. The river Adour running right through the town is wide and slow and the spires of a magnificent church dominated the skyline. Sadly it was rush hour so we couldn’t stop and look around but we noted it as a place to come back to another time.

The Aire didn’t look very appealing when we first arrived with no views of the river and plenty of the cranes at the harbour but a short walk with the dogs brought us to the beach and the sight of massive Atlantic waves crashing onto the rocks.

Waves on the Atlantic coast

Sitting by the sea

Walking back along the sea front we met a French couple with a pretty little young poodle who rushed up to Poppy to give her a kiss. Poppy responded with uncharacteristic grumpiness and we crept away apologizing for her unfriendliness. It seems only two minutes since Poppy didn’t know the rules of dog manners and now she is giving younger mutts the dog equivalent of a clip round the ear if they get over familiar. Boo on the other hand stood back in his customary way and let them get on with it.

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