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My Journey Home Begins – Day 36

20 November 2009 No Comment

Monday 17th August 2009 – France

The campsite reception opened very early this morning so I was able to check out and be on my way first thing. This was good as I was intending to re-visit the bank from yesterdays nightmare, and plead with them – in the best French I could muster – to let me have my bank card back. What could go wrong??

Maybe I should have already foreseen this, or maybe I should have been more ‘on the ball’, but I hadn’t bargained for what I was about to see. That is, nothing, nobody, not a single person on the street, or a single shop open. Likewise the bank was closed. It turns out when there is a public holiday in France, they have the following Monday off as well, something I wish we could adopt in the UK. That and siestas. This didn’t help me, and didn’t help with my rational thinking, as all I could think now was that I was finished with this trip. The money I had would last a while, but if I was going home I would need every penny. It was either that or wait until tomorrow to find out I couldn’t get my card back. Then I would be in a familiar situation, one that I didn’t want to be in again, one that would have me sitting around for 2 weeks scratching my head, wondering when my new card would arrive. There was no choice, I had to leave to come home, today.

I began the trip up through the middle of the country, back in the direction of the ferry terminals, wondering if I had made the right decision, but I knew I had. This part of the trip was all but over. I got to thinking about what I would do when I got back home, and I couldn’t help but wish I was doing this all a different way, maybe backpacking. Maybe I could come out again with my backpack, using public transport instead. This would have to be thought out in more detail when I had a clearer head. Now I had to battle with the kamikaze drivers on the French roads.

The journey today was a lot less pleasant than it had been along the coast, with only motorways and vehicles to satisfy my eyes. I also had the unfortunate pleasure of being shouted at in French by a group of people in a passing car. They had all their car windows open and were being obnoxious and rowdy towards me, even swearing at me in English. It was charming. Later I observed a car full of youths as they planted their car in front of mine and stuck their middle fingers up at me. They proceeded to hurl abusive language back in my direction, but by now I just refused to be bothered. They soon sped off.

I arrived at a sensible stopping place about a third of the way up the country, the place being Clermont-Ferrand, and a nice place it was too. The campsite was quite good, and the prices far cheaper than what I had been paying in recent weeks. I was also surprised at how few people there were compared to the busier places that I had come from. This would be a good place to stay the night.

I needed some water as I was a little dehydrated after the long drive in the heat, and the bad day I’d just had. I went to the campsite shop and asked for water, but the guy couldn’t understand me, even with my best French, the same as I have used each time while in France, with no problems. But no matter how hard I tried, and how many times I pointed at the water, he didn’t understand, or maybe just chose not to. Either way I’d had enough and walked out of the shop, and into the street to look for a nearby shop. I had no luck on this so went back to my car and consulted the sat nav. A short drive later and I had reached a small store that was still open.

The guy was welcoming people as they entered, and seemed like a cool guy. We shared a bit of banter, and he understood my French perfectly. I came away with what I needed and drove back to the campsite, resisting the urge to hurl a grenade into the campsite shop, but only just. I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good grenade anyway. It would probably come in handy later on 🙂

The evening was spent reflecting on a trip that has been full of drama, good and bad, but one that has left me with lasting memories. All I wanted now was the chance to relax in familiar surroundings, and give my car a break. I contemplated the idea of coming back out again, staying in hostels and traveling by train and bus. The more I thought about it the more appealing it sounded. I’ve not met as many people as I had hoped I would staying in campsites, and I relished the idea of meeting so many more in hostels, as I had previously in New Zealand. Too many times I’ve felt like the village outcast here, probably because of the foreign car, possibly because I’m traveling alone.

The silence in the campsite was soon drowned out with the sound of drums coming from the corner of the site that I was right next to. A young group of volunteer workers were letting off steam after a days grafting. I think I was more irritated by the girl practising the accordion. She strangled out the notes to a song I didn’t know, but repeated the same part of the same song over and over and over again. Now would have been a good time to use the grenade, and I wished at this point that I really did have one. I thought about getting my guitar out and thrashing it around to drown her out, but I didn’t have the balls, nor the energy. I just put my head under my pillow and went to bed.

Click here to view more pictures from today, and throughout my trip around France


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