TRAVEL BLOG: French Connections (24/08/23)

Day one of an adventure in the South of France

Well, I say day one,  it’s day 0.5, it’s travelling day. We were up with the larks to get to Bristol aerodrome, but we were meeting up with Struth and Kev, who were coming from Narberth, so were hitting the road before we went to bed.

Two items on the news as we drove.

India,  a country in which millions of people live in abject poverty, have landed a craft on the south pole of the moon. I wonder how many people could have been lifted out of poverty by the money spent on this mission.

The other item is that the top dog of the Wagner mercenary possee, him what challenged Putin, has died in a plane crash. This stuff just isn’t surprising anymore.

Our flight time is just right..We left early enough to miss the rush hour traffic,  but not so early we had to prop our eyes open with matchsticks. We were dropping bags off at Bristol Airport by eight of the a.m.  As we arrived  we bumped into the aforementioned Struth snd Kev. I’ve not seen a lot of either of them in the last thirty years. We used to get mashed together ‘back in the day’, gurning and talking nonsense around camp fires till the sun came up. Till we grew up. Ish. But the bond built then was enough for us to just pick up where we left off.

Obligatory cliche photo

We have the obligatory over-priced pint and breakfast and are soon crammed liked sardines in the no frills airplane. The cheeky bastards even charge for cabin luggage these days.

I look around to see if anyone looks like they might be a Russian mercenary,  and breath a sigh of relief.

I’ve brought the legendary book, ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ with me. A book on punctuation that is astoundingly more funny than a book on punctuation has any right to be. But an apostrophe, after all, can be the difference between knowing your shit, and knowing you’re shit.

As I read it, I remind myself to get this blog proof read.

We are not going as far as the moon, just Nice, right down on the bottom bit of France. On arrival we step out into the outdoors and it feels like we have stepped into an oven. 34 of the bloody Celsius.  I want to go home already.

We head for the clearly sign posted car rental office.  There are a dozen or so companies based in the office, Avis, Hertz, Euro Car etc. But no sign of OK Mobility that Struth had booked. After going through her email, walking half way across the airport, and back, making two phone calls, we establish that the rental firm is not based at the airport and we have to get a shuttle bus to the depot. And they don’t have room for the four of us. We send the hippies on and wait for the next one.

When we finally get to the depot, they have already upgraded from a smart car to a big car with a smashed windscreen. We wait for them to find an even bigger car, with a complete windscreen, and are soon off into the world of driving on the wrong side of the road and tolls in the motorway.

Ruth: ‘Your doing fine, you’ve got the hang of it now, you just need to get used to it’ (wtf?)

After several incidents of comedy gold where Kev lost his shit at toll booths – including one reversal to try another booth, shouting at a French lady over the intercom and an incidence of le driver behind beeping le horn as Kev tried to recover £99 quids worth of change from the machine – we eventually land in le Carrfoure in Dragonland (or some such named place).

We stock up on fromage, baguettes, water and cidre (which we later discover, to our horror, is only 2.5%)

At this point I should mention that we are here for the wedding of Alka and Lee. It’s all happening in a remote little former hippy community up in the woods near Montferrat. We are here for a week, so I’m sure I will have plenty of time to go into more details through the week. For now I’ll just say it is 1.4km to the nearest shop and pub and 8Km to the nearest cashpoint. A bit like Fochriw in the valleys,  but hotter.

Le Boozer

We pull up to the pub and find the clans are gathering in preparation for the wedding. Cakehole Presley have just come back from doing a gig a few miles away and various members of the gang are scattered in sheds, villas and caravans around the area. Alka has driven into a ditch and wrecked his van, Cakehole have reversed into the hire car of another one of the gang. We are grateful to be in one piece.

After a few beers we head up into the mountains to our cabin. It is beautifully built into the side of a cliff. More details to follow no doubt.

Le gaff for week (ours is in middle)

We meet up with the eighty year old couple that built the cabin themselves fifty years ago… before going on to build several more over the years. No doubt their story will unfold over the week, with the help of others, due to the small matter if the language barrier. We are saved by Megan’s stint in a French brothel in her youth. Or was it working as an au pair? (EDIT: Megan says it was the latter but I’m not convinced.)

After drinking some mildly alcoholic apple juice we go to lie on the bed and swat mysterious insects off ourselves all night.