The last three weeks have been a medley of the memorable and the mundane in the south of France. I’ve found little time or opportunity to write about it, however; cheap internet cafés are practically non-existent here in Western Europe. Everyone has their own computer here , so it’s no surprise, but it’s something I’ve sorely missed.
In fact, there is a considerable list of things I miss from the other side of the EU border. Quiet roads, for sure. Even France hasn’t quite delivered on that one, though perhaps it’s the area I’m in. People don’t stop and stare at me any more, or holler at me to come and join them for a cuppa. It’s not that I felt entitled to it, but more that these encounters provided invaluable insights into people’s daily lives and their hopes and fears, and over time into the character of nations and of human society as a whole.
More and more I realise that the French Riviera — with it’s super-yachts, 5‑star campsites and Michelin-starred seafront restaurants pandering to the rich, retirement-age population of Europe — probably wasn’t the best place to look for local engagement and hospitality. But I can’t deny that wild-camping amongst it all has delivered something of an anarchistic thrill!
I’m transferring the last batch of map-tiles to my GPS receiver before sending the mini-laptop home. I decided for this trip to try out an open-source (i.e. user-created) set of electronic maps, which can theoretically be used to choose a quiet route through the back-lanes rather than down the main roads. (More on that another time.)
The laptop is one of many things that are being jettisoned; a family visit with an empty spare suitcase makes this possible, so the last couple of weeks are going to be more lightweight. It adds to the overall feeling of homecoming and the finishing of what has been a monumental psychological undertaking, physical hardships on the road aside.
We’ve been very, very lucky with the weather; only a couple of wet days out of more than six weeks of travelling since we docked in Bari back in August. Approaching England, we will undoubtedly have this balanced out by a couple of weeks of solid rain, but a head-down slog on the final stretch would, I suppose, be a fitting end to all of this…