Home sweet home
Trip Start May 27, 2007
21Trip End Nov 27, 2007
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The elusive parts to fix the wheel of the van turned up finally on Wednesday lunchtime, six days after the excitement of the previous week. I'm not going to complain too much - there are, after all, worse places to be stranded than the south of France. Ales itself is a bit rough and ready, with only a mining school and two hairdressing schools to give the local school-leavers a choice of future careers. Otherwise, there is nothing to do so we hired a Renault Scenic and went off exploring. Orange, Arles and Nimes all have the most amazing Roman ruins, the latter both with Colloseum-style amphitheatres and the former with the most incredible stage and theatre wall. Hard to imagine how it has possibly survived the last 2000 years.
Outside the cities the countryside is beautiful, and even though it's now November the weather was glorious. 20 degrees, clear blue skies every day and the autumnal colours of the trees and vines all around us making the whole area look spectacular.
The only downside was the uncertainty over the van, but at last we got the call on Wednesday to say it was ready and we finally got the keys at 7pm. We'd postponed our original ferry from Roscoff, 800 miles away, but we were still going to be cutting it fine to make the new time - 2pm the following day.
Now, 800 miles doesn't sound too bad if you have to make the journey in a normal car. But Alice is not normal and even going flat out it took us 17 hours to get there. We operated a three-stop fuel strategy but otherwise, apart from a midnight omelette at the end of my first 5 hour stint at the wheel before Claire took over the graveyard shift, we did the journey without any breaks. And made it with an hour to spare, easy! The van has proved yet again to be absolutely legendary and coped with the marathon journey without the slightest tremor. We even had time to pop into a French hypermarket and blow the last of the budget on several crates of wine. After all, we'll need something to help us cope with the prospect of reality back home!
So, that's it.
Thanks to everyone we met on the trip who helped to make it such an amazing journey. To Ingrid and Stephen for rescuing us from being drowned in Switzerland, to Lesley and Ian for looking after us in Munich, to Bill and Anne for all the valuable advice in Luxembourg, to Renata and Brano for taking us for a great night out in Slovakia, to Tristan in Sweden, to Milos for the tea and carrots in Czech Republic, to all the French people who pulled over to check we were ok when stranded last week, to Kil in Denmark for jump starting us, to the git in Prague who helped to lighten our load, to the policeman in Hungary for the highway code refresher lesson, to Liz, Alice, Chrissie and the parents for coming out to visit, to all the many hundreds of others who we met along the way, and of course to Claire for being such a great co-driver/co-chef/co-mpanion(!) and for putting up with me, my terrible guitar playing and some of my more adventurous cooking experiments.
We hope you've enjoyed these little snapshots of our adventures. If there's any way you can escape normal life for a bit then go for it. Europe is an amazing place, at times confusing, often familiar, often bizarre, but always a lot of fun.
Thanks again, and until next time,
Bye (/Ciao/Arrivaderci/Au revoir/Auf Wiedersehen, etc, etc)