Before anyone asks, no I haven’t had a haircut yet. Deciding you need one on a Thursday evening is just about as sensible in France as it is in the UK. All the salons are full of people getting ready for the weekend. It’ll have to wait until Tuesday because the hairdressers are closed on Mondays. By then I will be causing elegant French women to weep in sympathy as they pass me in the street.
We almost got the dogs’ haircut organised until we realised that the appointment we’d made was for six days hence. It’s so easy to forget what day it is on a trip like this. We really couldn’t find enough to do in Montrejeau to fill six days so we had to abandon the plan. I took the chicken out method and sent an email to cancel, using Google translate in the hopes that it would make sense. It must have done because we received a lovely reply back wishing us well on our travels.
Anyway, here is the news on the touring front. We left Montrejeau after a pretty good night’s sleep, punctuated only by Poppy and Boo telling us whenever anyone passed the van. Fortunately the town went quiet at a reasonable hour otherwise I would have been lying about the quality of the sleep. There were no services at the Aire de Camping Cars so we set off to the nearest Intermarché where a service point had been thoughtfully provided. I got excited when I saw that there was a Flunch at the supermarket. If you don’t know Flunch I can recommend it. It’s the French version of a supermarket café and, as with most things French and foodie, it is on a different planet to the ones we have in the UK. You choose your main course and pay in advance, they give you a ticket that you hand to the chef and voila you are handed the meat or fish part of the meal. You then wander over to the vegetable table where you can serve yourself with as much as you want. It’s entirely your choice whether you fill up on French beans, ratatouille or chips. Or you can have all of them. Try to go easy on the chips though … I speak from painful experience. There is also a magnificent array of starters, desserts, drinks and – heaven help me – ice cream. A meal here will set you back somewhere in the region of 12€ depending on how many extras you buy. I love it! Anyway, we got the motorhome all emptied and filled up again with fresh water at the service point then we looked at the time. It was only 11.00 a.m! No self respecting Flunch will serve food at this hour. We had to make do with coffee and they’d run out of croissants. It was a low moment but once again I cheered up in the supermarket where we bought a French stick and yet more Brie. I fear I am developing a dependency as the mere thought of eating bread and cheese fills me with delight.
Back in the van we chose our next stop for the night. Mazares sur Salat is, as the name suggests, on the Salat River and the Motorhome park is right beside the water at a fish ladder. Shirley, being a keen fisher, was delighted by the prospect and to be honest we really wanted a quiet spot for the night. Two consecutive nights in towns left us with a desire for peace and tranquillity.
Miss Molly, our Satnav who has behaved so well for the majority of the trip, caused us to miss the turning to the Aire and made it worse by inviting us to turn left half way over a river bridge. Getting back was very complicated as we were in deepest rural France where roads were never meant to carry large vehicles and certainly not to turn one round. Shirley was driving and there were a few choice words from behind the wheel but we managed in the end and found ourselves in a lovely spot with views once again across a river towards the mountains.
Bearing in mind this was November 6th we couldn’t believe the heat when we got out of the van to walk the dogs. It was roasting hot – too hot in fact. We had to go back into the van and cover ourselves in suntan lotion.
The rules of these Motorhome Aires are basically that you shouldn’t spread yourself outside the van. You are not supposed to set up tables and chairs or fire up a BBQ unless you’re on a paid Aire where they sometimes provide you with your own little patch of grass. This was a free Aire so the ‘no camping behaviour’ rule applies, however there was a large area of grass beside the river that seemed to be for general use so we got out our reclining chairs and settled down by the water.
Not five minutes later another motorhome appeared and we were astonished to see that it was our Cornish neighbours from two night’s previously in Oloron. Another five minutes passed by and the Belgian family who had also been parked in Oloron turned up. What a grand coincidence! There’s often a great camaraderie amongst motorhomers and there was a lot of chat and laughter. The Belgian man spoke good English and I kept trying to divert him so that I could practice my French but he was having none of it. The chance to practice his English was too good an opportunity to miss.
We’d wanted a quiet spot and in many ways this was as quiet as you could imagine. The village was very tiny and had only a bar, a post office and a boulangerie and we were right out in the sticks but the noise from the water on the fish ladder was terrific. I wondered whether it would keep us awake but Shirley reassured me that it was white noise and we would sleep like logs – she was right. No-one stirred in our van until 7.30 a.m. when Poppy’s internal alarm went off. Her usual yip didn’t wake us so she started flipping the lip of the bin with her nose. Too clever by far that pup is. Shirley stumbled out into a beautiful morning and took them for a long run around a rugby field. They came back muddy and exhausted – the dogs of course, not Shirley.
I’m starting to feel a bit homesick. It’s just a little pang but it’s there just the same. I miss our family and friends; I miss our big comfy bed and the familiarity of home. I love this life but there’s no way I could do it full time like some people do. We’re heading north now and there’s still a lot to see – no doubt I’ll be sad when the time comes to get on the tunnel back to the UK but just for today in these quiet moments before the day begins properly I realise that there really is no place like home.