In celebration of a certain 1983 hitch-hike to the South of France by myself and Dave, M & A, here is the The Fab Four's French Frolic........
I had hitched to Lille, in northern France, in the Easter of 1983. The viability of the English leg of the route for the big summer vacation to the south of France had to be tested. The M11 was not open and the M25 at the Dartford Tunnel entrance was not complete. I remember going through places like Chipping Ongar and thinking "this should be the easy section of the trip!". Hitch-hiking to and from Teesside to Dover proved to be the most arduous and least memorable part of the holiday. As to what happened between Calais and "Le Sud" for me and Dave....it turned out to be quite a laugh...
Preparation for the journey had been from the sublime to the meticulous. Using a tent that had last seen the light of day about 15 years before, and Dave and I assembled it for the first time in his the back garden in Norton. It smelt a bit, but it was in good working order. Along with M and A we made it to excursions to see what "camping" would be like. One night, for some bizarre reason, we ended up on the beach at Marske, North Yorkshire. The tide came in, put the fire out, and wet the end of our sleeping bags. And - In the middle of the North York Moors, we were awakened by dozens of hikers about 20 yards behind the tent. We had camped on the crossing point of the popular "marathon moor" walk. All good training we thought - ha.
It was the second last week of 19th July 1983 "As I Walked Out One Midsummer's Morning" (sorry, Laurie ), onto the Dover - Calais ferry clutching the second-half of a day return ticket I purchased, at a discount price (!), from a French guy in the terminal at Dover. Such high drama before we even reached the Continent! I had visions of being thrown in the brigg for impersonating a Frenchman. At least all that adrenalin kept my travel sickness under control. To be honest, after spending the night sleeping on a grassy slope in the Dover Priory Park, (because it was the ferry terminal floor was otherwise occupied by the dozens of other back packers), I just wanted to get across to dry land and have a good night's sleep.
"Dover disappeared dreamily as Calais called quietly" - it sounds like bollocks, but that's what it was like. One 36 shot roll of film was all I had, but I had in a rough idea of how would the "story board" photo album would look. (it was early 1994 when I eventually got a round to doing this). Page one of the album we see the view from the rear end of the ferry, another photo showing us the further disappearing white cliffs of Dover, and one taken by Dave of me - "le dodgy hitch hiker Anglais." Calais was - and still is - a very uneventful and non-photogenic place to enter a country. By the time we came ashore the bus to transfer us to the ferry terminal had long since gone. Whatever the French for "indignant" was - I had it in spades. It was about half a mile walk to the brand new terminal. When we got there, it was empty. We hung around for a few minutes to see if any officials merged. I carried my newly acquired "indignancy Francais" through the non-existent "Doune" area and out into - another half mile walk across a car-park to the nearest road. Vive la France!
The first, and one of the many "incidencts" occurred at St. Omer. It was called "The St.Omer Incident". (More advanced readers may want to move on to Book Two!). We had all agreed that the quickest way out of Calais was by train. A look at the map showed St.Omer to be on a main road, but slightly in the countryside. We shambled into town like an "out-take" from "The Magnificent Seven". Were the locals peeping out from behind a large white shuttered windows muttering to themselves - "Can we trust these Gringos with all the town's money, and maybe a couple of girls, to help fight off the bandits from the hills who come down and to rape our cattle, burn the women, and steal our wheat?" That foolish romantic idea was dashed from my mind after we staggered into a bar and I saw a Watneys Red barrel pump head! And they say England is an island and could never have any harmful effects on French society. So we had "quartes Coca-Cola et des sandwichs jambon avec fromage", and mossied on out-of-town to pitch the tents. (If anyone reading this has a map - please follow it carefully. Me and D didn't take a map. We found one in a phone box in Beaune - part of "The Beaune Incident", actually ....!)
Anyway, St.Omer - "The St.Omer Incident" - our work first evening's camping. Oh what excitement! The joy of unpacking our gear could only be paralleled with, well, - every other time we did it. Fortunately, the grass, (the last decent grass we ever saw in France), was lush and green, and the tent pegs sank seductively into the soil. What a merry band we were! We were young, we were free, we were bloody hungry - why does it take so long for those sodding gas burners to heat anything up? There were two types of tinned products we ate at regular intervals on the strip. Ravioli and "Cassoulet". "Cassoulet" was sort of hot dogs and cabbage mainly, weird or what? Hardly typically French, more typically fart forming. Ravioli - "little pasta parcels packed with beef" - I couldn't touch the stuff for years afterwards. Even now if I have it in a restaurant I have to sit cross-legged on the floor and eat it off a dirty tin plate. So we settled down before an evenings campfire chat to discuss the opening day's play of the adventure - and did we have enough string to find our way back again.
Now I've never smoked cigarettes regularly. In fact, none of us had really. But this was France! We were young, we were free, we bought some Gitanes - why he didn't anyone see it said "sans filtres" on the packet? My constitution wasn't the best in the world but chewing up on Charles Azanore's semi-- lit and navel fluff was not the most exhilarating mind and body enhancing experience. Just say "Non!" The " St.Omer Incident" was over the following morning. I lost the toss, (don't ask me what was on the coin), and had to go over to the farmhouse on the other side of the road to ask for water. The farmer's wife had seen it all before - ravioli stains, string, Chaz Az butt-ends everywhere - she pointed it to the tap in the yard where we could fill up the bottles. Once refreshed and packed the "Fab Four" split into two "Dynamic Duos" "To Boldly Go " - and we did!"
We left off just after the "St.Omer Incident".... "It was Friday 29th July 1983. Dave and I bodly went to town called Lilliers and promptly caught a train to Arras. I wish I could remember what the first lift in France was, but I can't. It obviously wasn't that memorable. Neither was Lilliers, except for one thing - the railway station smelt like it had been vigorously rubbed down with 10 tonne of smoked haddock. Very odd. Arras, on the other hand, was a small provincial town with a nice garden next to the library. This was where the overspill of campers and hikers were sent. We were part of that overspill and had the absolute delight of having two leather clad bikers from a Yorkshire "rest of their fiery steads a while" on the return leg of the tour of Germany. Speaking the same language, (an unfortunate coincidence in this case), we got to talking. During the conversation two other international bikers parked up alongside for the night as well. Being the bumptious fellows that Yorkshireman are, they launched into several stories about how stupid the Germans were. The Yorkshire bikers found their stories highly amusing. What was even more amusing was that the other two bikers who had pulled up weren't laughing at the stories is at all - they had little "D"'s on their machines. After a time I stopped one of the Yorkshire guys and told him, to which she replied: "Aye, I wondered why they weren't laughing. I thought the'D'stood for'Denmark'." Sadly lacking the international highway code, I think. Arras also produced one of my top 10 photographs of all time. Poor Dave. The boy had attempted to shave his beard off with only a bag full of safety razors. I caught him behind the tent attempting to conceal the facial carnage with antiseptic cream. The caption in the photo album were Dave's words at the time:
"It isn't funny you know"
On the contrary, it makes me laugh to look at it even now.
During my research on this epic journey I came across a list of "lifts" in France. Using photographic evidence and expert cartographical (?) plotting, it seemed to me that Dave and I had a hard time getting to, going from, and getting around Cambrai. Remember the map that me and Dave didn't have? Well, now that I see - Arras is only 30KM (about 20 miles) from Cambrai and on one straight road. Saturday had started quite good. A mad couple in a CV gave us a lift to the top of the nearest autoroute, which was only 9KM from Cambrai. One might think, even in French, that stuck on the top of the motorway and pointing in the right direction, that the natural result of the next lift would be to be travelling in that direction? Au contre mon ami. A delightful lady with her two children, crammed me and David into the back seat of her car and promptly did a 'U' turn and we ended up getting out 10KM north of Arras! We walked a long time that day. Many hours later things were getting desperate. Having exhausted all other methods of hitching a lift, I resorted to the 'Ultimate Technique'- I got down on my hands and knees and begged a car to stop. It worked. The second car that came along pulled up. He was going to Cambria. We piled in. Little did the three of us know that we had just concluded our parts in "The Cambria Incident".
If Sunday is a day of rest - God had never hitch hiked in France. After an enormous walk from the campsite in the Reims to the outskirts of town, we endured several hours baking in the sun. For this penance, and as a reward, we were sent a gorgeous black haired beauty with legs of the way up her shorts - and further! Sadly this was only another one of those 20mile trips. I didn't think we had much in common to talk about - like the same language. After several more hours being fried we got a lift. He went three miles up the road and stopped at a garage. I was beginning to think that God was French and we were getting'Le Run Around'. As a by-product of travelling through France during a long hot summer you get to notice different things. For example, did the Coca-Cola realise that their famous bottles of Coke were being sold at least at five different prices between Calais and Marseilles? Did the French government know that they have roads going to places that aren't even on the map? - I have a photo entitled:
I am posing with a road sign on the D33 where I am 2.1KM from Monchy-le-prix and 0.8KM from Roeux - I can't find these places on the map! But one of the most memorable reactions to me and Dave in France was by a little boy in some northern French town who asked where we were going, I said "Le Sud", he flipped, it was obviously beyond his comprehension. The Great North - South divide exists even in French..... I wonder where 'Le Watford gap Services' is...?!" That really was a grand hitch. The best. You just don't see hitch-hikers anymore. Too dangerous, sadly. Oh the times......
For those of you not paying attention, this is the story of a hitch-hike to the south of France which occured way back in 1983. Myself, Dave, and M & A were the boys concerned. Enjoy the story, (have a map handy as well!)......
And just to prove that God does have a sense of humour - "Bonjour Monsieur M. P.!" good old Mr P. was a true individual - much to the annoyance of his long suffering wife and kids. It was 8:30pm on that very long Sunday 31st July. Dave and me were.... lost. We had been stranded in a no - horse hamlet called Bar - s - Aube, about 20 miles from Chamont. Along came M. P. - and the fun starts ici. He was a nuclear scientist on the way back from a weekend's micro-liting competition.... Not too bad, eh?! We headed towards Dijon. It was getting dark. He said we could stay at his house.... Dave looked worried.
We left the main roads and caught on to smaller 'D' class roads. Dave got more worried.
We left the small roads and headed off up the country lanes into the hills. Dave was seriously concerned for our safety.
I thought it was hilarious! I assured Dave that there was two of us and only one of him'- and we were from Teesside! Eventually we ended up crawling through an ancient cobbled street town called Grancey-le-Chateau, about 25 miles north of Dijon way up in the hill's. M. P. had a large modern bungalow, with garden, on the edge of town. We stood on the edge of his garden and watched his loving wife open the back door to welcome the happy husband from his weekend hobby.... ah, I thank God for a brilliant memory - the look on Mrs P's face as poor old M. explained that the disgustingly filthy pair of wayward looking tramps which were lowering the house prices of the neighbourhood by their mere presence - that these two guys were staying for dinner - her face was pure poetry and she could have also been a medal contender in the Olympics for France in the 'Jaw Dropping' event. She was not pleased.
We dumped our gear in the garden and shuffled into the house. Nice place. We met his son - a student in Switzerland. I think there was another child. They watched as me and Dave devoured every single item of food placed in front of us - actually, I did most of it! Of course, to complete his role as host, Mr P offer the facilities of his bathroom - we had been on the road for three days....! I went first. It was a good deep bath with lots of hot water. I can't remember how long after this event it was, but Dave told me he was so embarrassed about the state of the bathroom when he went in, that he spent all hit time in there cleaning it!
And to complete the evening we pitched tent in his back garden. It had been a very hot that day, we decided not to put the 'fly sheet' on the tent. Boy, what a fatal mistake that was! To perpetuate my belief that the son of God was indeed called Jacques Christeau - an almighty storm occurred that night, and we were soaked. Curled up in our soaking tent and sleeping bags we snoozed and sneezed through the night. The next morning, M. P. dropped us off on the road to Dijon, and went on his way to work a hard day splitting atoms. (For those of you keeping track of 'incidents' in this mammoth track you have just experienced the third one - "The M. P. Incident")."
I remember the following morning Mr P. dropping us off on the main road to Dijon around 7am. We then immediately set up the small gas camping stove in the lay-by, and heated up a can of Oxtail soup for 'petite dejeuner'. The off we went a hitching again...
I know, even I wouldn't stop for someone in black Doc Martens, jeans & T-shirt :). But we were young, free - and clueless - and that's all the clean clothes I had in my rucksack. Ha - there's more to come. Stay tuned. Has anyone else got any travelling stories they'd like to share?
As if you didn't know what was going on here - the following journal is part four of the diaries of a hitch-hike to the south of France as performed by me, Dave, and M & A in the summer of 1983h.... So we left our hapless hitch-hiking heros leaving Dijon....heading vers Le Sud.......
A Town Called BeauneDave and 'Le Ants'!
Things were hotting up. We were halfway down of the East side of France. The temperature was rising the further south we went, and 'The Incidents' became more frequent. Following the exhausting Sunday, we took the train from Dijon to Beaune and stayed there for the day, camping in the towns municipal campsite. I liked Beaune. I took a photo, which didn't come out too well, of a narrow street lined with 4/5 storey town houses. "Pourqoui?" I hear you ask. The street had sounds of domesticity booming from every window. It was a typical French sound effects record. The campsite was also full of life. We had to de-camp, very quickly, on Tuesday morning due to an invasion of hundreds of ants.
'Fortune favours the brave' they say, (whoever they are) - it never mentions how 'Fortune favours the completely hapless wits who hitch-hike 350 miles deep into my foreign country without a map'- this was Dave and me. We were about to leave Beaune and something occurred to us that hadn't happened before on the journey - we didn't know which way to go. Et voila! I spied a map in a telephone booth about 10 feet from us and this dear reader est la finis "D'Incident de Beaune".
There are many times when I've heard an expression, or phrase, and thought - "Hey, what a great name for a band!" Well, whatever the name of the band will be, "Lyon Central station at Midnight" should be the name of their first album. On Tuesday at the 2nd August 1983, with our newly acquired map, Dave and me made our way to Lyon. We actually got two lifts to Macon and got the train to Lyon. Somewhere in England, Oxford I think, there are four English guys who may still be suffering from shock when I virtually forced me and Dave into their VW camper parked at the side of the road. I reckon they pulled into Macon deliberately to ditch us..... I can't imagine why, ha, ha. Still, we arrived in Lyon Central station - and had to spend several hours to wait for the southbound train - in fact it was the 0002 Express to Marseilles.
I remember talking to a couple of the Irish girl's and having to 'insist' to a couple of slimy looking French Mediterranean types that the girls were with me and did not want to go to a party with them - mon dieu! As it got close to midnight a huge queue was forming to buy a train tickets. Apart from the Arabs, it was quite a good, lively atmosphere - there were loads of back packers waiting to get out of Lyon. Someone had lit up a joint in the queue, the police didn't seem to mind - they probably sold it to him. Dave had the task of practising his 'Longman's Audio-Visual French. Stage One' at the ticket desk. He said his piece, and he sounded OK to me as well but the women behind the desk said: "Amsterdam? Amsterdam - Non!" Dave said "Amsterdam!!" It didn't sound like 'Marseilles' to me either. Eventually it proved too expensive to go to Marseilles.
The Express had come from Paris and was packed capacity. It pulled out to the station and had just gathered at speed when it stopped again. We had arrived at Chasse-sur-Rhone. It was the 'I.C.I.' of Lyon. We were getting off at 0007 hours in the middle of a chemical plant! Hundreds of head were looking out of the train windows as me and Dave - and (an overalled worker on night shift) - brought the Paris to Marseilles Express to a halt in the middle of the night at the centre of the most heavily industrialised areas of Lyon. Oh merde!
It began to rain. We were debating where to sleep. We saw a large board with black and white Chevron direction arrows on it. It sheltered us from the wind and we put the fly sheet over the to protect us from any rain. It worked quite well....
The next morning the noise of traffic was - considerable. We popped her heads out from a our impromptu bivouac. What had seemed a huge sleeping industrial monster only a few hours early, was now very much awake. We had camped on a major roundabout. It was rush - hour. I felt like one of those Japanese soldiers who spent 40 years on a Pacific island thinking the war was still going on! And I don't know which was the more bewildering sight - me and Dave emerging from behind a sign and dragging our gear across the road, or the looks on the driver's faces as they tried not to crash into each other.... And it had seemed so peaceful the night before.
The Fab Fours French Frolic - Le Fin
Yes, it is the final episode of the serialisation of a hitch-hike to the South of France as actioned by me, Dave and M & A, way back in the summer of 1983. So, now,(as Petrocelli used used to do!), let me take you back to where it all happened.......
It was now Wednesday 3rd August 1983. We walked the 10KM to Vienne & got the train to Valence. It was going to be another rest day. Valence had a well-organised & large municipal campsite on the edge of town. We pitched the tent, got cleaned up & headed off towards the refectory for 'Des Nosh-Up'. Remember fortune favouring hapless wits etc? We walked around the back of a car & bumped into to - M & A! All I could say was "Blood hell!" - I was so shocked! So were they! We spent the night swapping stories & arranging to meet the next evening in 'the campsite' in Avignon...as if such things were as easy as that...
Hitching out of Valence was not easy. There was only one good hitching spot from the campsite, and, as at St.Omer - I lost the toss, and me & Dave got the duff bit of road to hitch from. We owe "The Beatles" quite a lot. Throughout the trip from Calais, whilst stuck on the side of the road for hours on end, we must have sang every Beatles song - solos, duets, harmonising, even singing them rather badly - the whole repertoire. Today was no exception. My hitching notes show me we got a lift to Montelimar - no details though. We did get a lift from a woman in a van about 25 miles further down the road to just outside Orange on the N17... We decided to refresh ourselves by taking a trip into the roadside Les Routiers café. We met a couple of guys from Manchester. They were professional 'hitchers'. This was their third 'European Tour'. They lived rough. They looked rough. We left about an hour later. I think they were going to rob the place...!
La Derniere Hitch
Our final hitch in France was the best one we had. From outside the Les Routiers café we got a lift off a German couple in a superb air-conditioned Mercedes to the outskirts of Avignon. Comfortable leather seats. Luxury. However, it was only for about 15 miles. But it got us to Avignon.
Of course, how we met up with M & A in Avignon was not as simple as 'at the campsite'...!
Our German friends had dropped Dave & me off right by the side of the road where they had just laid some fresh concrete. I remember this because I was in a great dilemma as to whether or not to leave a huge footprint in it or not...:)...I think I did something, but can't remember what. We walked through some lovely medieval parts of the old city, and then over a bridge, (not THE BRIDGE!), but just enough to find 'the campsite' on the other side.
With true British military precision we had devised a plan for arrival at 'the campsite'. Everyone, who was there, would go to the front gates of the campsite at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock that day - and eventually we would meet up. Brilliant, eh? As it was the first week in August - this was festival time in Avignon. Everybody and his dog had come to town...from everywhere. The campsite was full - bursting to capacity. We shared a plot normally reversed for one set of people, with a 'foreign couple'/their caravan & kids - cosy :). It was like a little hedged coral, with a windy path trailing all around the campsite, and eventually back to the front of it. The ground was hard. The green stuff pretending to be grass was 'brittle' - none of the lush green library gardens of Arras here matey. This was Le Sud. And didn't we know it.
Once we got ourselves watered and fed, Dave & I consulted our sundials and headed to the exit of the campsite at 3pm. We waited...we waited some more. (There wasn't a lot of shade from the trees by the river!). We gave up after a while. We went back to our shrubbery den. We were discussing food again - a major subject always with me! - when we heard voices....English voices......English voices we recognised! The voices were outside the tent! Unzipping our mobile sauna we stuck our heads out to find....only our foreign camper friends looking appallingly uneasy at our sudden flurry of activity in the afternoon heat. However, we HAD heard voices we recognised. We clambered out of our cocoon and strained to listen above the noise of crying babies, secardas, (foreign crickets!), and all kinds of incomprehensible foreign gibberish being uttered in the scorching early evening French summers sun - for those English voices. Nothing. Then.....yes! They were there again - and very close! In fact, they were on the other side of our 'privet prison'! It was in the opposite hedged cellblock!
Was a hedge/privet going to stop us from discovering who was it that was only a few feet away from us - oh no! I think it was Dave who first who began to scurry in a mole-like manner through the thin rakey looking hedge to get through to the other side - and scare the s**t from the campers sharing that plot! I quickly followed. What did we find? M & A - that's who! Ha - they had arrived at 'the campsite' several hours before us....had been set up in their plot...we then arrived and were set up on the other side of the hedge from them....we had somehow 'missed' each other at the 3 & 6 o'clock meeting times at the front gates. But the best was yet to come. Do you believe in fate? Do you believe that sometimes there are forces watching over you, guiding you, and keeping you safe? Well, this is a classic example of one such situation. M & A had arrived into Avignon from the other side of the city. The couple of lifts they had, had driven them around the city and through to where we were now - on the south side near the river. There were, in fact, about SIX other campsites in Avignon. M & A had put signs on the lamposts outside the other campsites directing Dave & me to this one. We had never seen the signs...never knew there were so many other campsites. We just turned up at 'the campsite'...and then found our friends on the other side of a hedge from us. Call it fate....call it what you like...but there were some forces other than 'coincidence' working that day that kept the four of us safe & together.
The Following Day...
We took a train to Marseille...a train to Toulon....and a bus to Le Lavandou. It seemed like a sensible thing to do. We were all tired from hitching. By this point - Friday 5th August - we'd been hitching & camping for just over a week. I had been hard work & fun, but we wanted to relax a bit now...ha! Le Lavandou was a great place then. (Dave went back there some years later on a 'standard' holiday with his new family - it wasn't quite the same :) ). It is right on the coast - I mean - the bus stops there and you fall off into the sea! The beautiful South of France. Once only the playground of the incredibly rich, or the elitist class of the world, had opened itself up to the common riff-raff and rag-tag people, (us!), who turned up in droves to crash in the cheap campsites - or sleep rough:) We arrived late in the afternoon.
There were hitchers/travellers/campers from all over Europe - it was like gathering at the last 'undiscovered' natural hippy commune. Needless to say - it was a tad overcrowded. But hey - we were young, fit, foolish, and prepared for anything...which was a good thing really...! There was no-where to stay. All the campsites were full. There was no-where, (legal!), to pitch a tent. It was getting later into the afternoon/early evening, and an 'executive decision' had to be made as to where we were going to crash that night. Thankfully, in a strange sort of way, the decision was made for us. In a mutiny which could only have been formerly seen in a Jacque Tati movie, some families, with their screaming kids, who had travelled from the North of France for their annual holiday in the sun, decided to break a padlock on gate and enter into the only remaining open green area in the South of France. It was a field which looked as though it had been a campsite in the past. Although looking at the state of the abandoned shower block & toilet facilities, it looked as though it could have been a staging post for prisioners who were being sent to Devil's Island! They were in the true sense of the word 'INSANITARY'...blah, urgh, etc etc. But that didn't stop 'le spirits du revolution' staking their claim.....parking their vans...and pitching their tents. Naturellement - when in Rome, right...both our tents were up in a matter of minutes. The camping stoves were fired up. Tins of cassoulet and ravioli were broken out. We were going to have a monster feast. A trip to the local 'Mammoth Supermarche' also got us two 4x1litre packs of the local wine. We used it for cooking with - but mainly for drinking. God - I remember how good that was - ha! It was the best nights sleep I'd had in ages! A few bottles of local brew, and my ratty sponge thing under my sleeping bag was like a feather mattress - I slept like the proverbial log. However, like life in general, there is usually a downside to something really good...
The Next Day...
Remember how we got into that field last night? Well, the day of retribution was at hand....and quite early as well. Around 7am the noise of motorised vehciles filled the early morning air. Was it more revolutionary Parisian campers arriving to stake their place in the sun? Oh no - it was the local Gendarmes! Three armed units of policemen turned up to turf us all off this private property. Now, you might say, that if this had been England, for example, the local bobby arriving on his bicycle around 10am and having a 'quiet word' with the field's occupants could have resulted in the same mass exodus as eventually occurred in that abandoned campsite in France. But no. It had to be done 'the French way'... The first thing I remember was a slight commotion outside, then a machine gun pistol poking inside the tent flap - rattling against the tent pole (!) - and some Nazi gibbering on about "Allez! Allez! Vite! Vite!". Well, it doesn't take long under those circumstances to figure out that the police didn't want us there. And it's also an incredible adrenhalin rush which sobers you up in a split second - no matter how many great bottles of wine you had the night before. Dave & me, like M & A , had dragged our kits out of our tents and started to drag our tents to the side of the field before the fine French constables got their boots stuck into us!
They were...well, brutal. But what made it even more amazing was that the 'ring leaders' from the night before, (residents of the country, who spoke the language), were actually ARGUING with the gun-toting jack-booted Nazi policemen about how they had no-where stay, and what were they going to do now etc etc. Amazing! These 'policemen' weren't in the slightest bit interested in anybodies opinion. A man with a gun and a mission usually is 'right' in my book - unless I've got a bigger gun and a bigger mission...lol.. - which I didn't have in this instance. So, after a hectic early morning rise, a quick gathering of belongings, we were homeless in France once again...but not for long... Renee I do believe he was called Renee. And he had an enormous gut. We called him 'fat belly Renee' - how original:) But FBR had a campsite, of sorts, where, for the rip-off price of 15F, (remember the Franc...It's not so long ago y'know?), a night, we could rest our weary bones...and camp our tents. The picture below shows the dustbowl we stayed on for about two weeks. Grass was a thing of history books. This was a case of clearing rocks and finding flat ground. But we did:
We even had Jim Morrison staying with us...In a tent opposite us was a French family whose father - we believed :) - to be Jim Morrison .He looked like the fat bearded guy he ended up to look like shortly before his 'death' many years earlier in Paris, France.
There was a massive storm one night, (they get them a lot ), - lightening slashing across the sky ! Thunder booming with the force of canons almost knocking tents over ! The rain was making new roads in the dry dusty earth as it gouged into the ground like millions of pickaxes!
And 'Jim' ? HE WAS SITTING OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ON A STEEL CHAIR DRINKING BEER !!!!! It was Jim alright :) What a guy!
It was a great time down there. We went for a day trip to Monaco.Where I posed for a super shot over-looking the bay :)....
But we eventually had to come home....
For those of you interested in how we got from the South of France to Dover, England...it went like this...depart Friday 19th August 1983 · Bus from Le Lavandou to Toulon. · Train to Paris via Marseilles. · Metro from Gare du Lyon to Gare du Nord · Train to Calais via Langdeau, (near Amiens). · 02:00hrs ferry Calais to Dover. · Arrive Dover 02:30hrs - sleep in the ferry terminal. I shan't bore you with the details of the few lifts it took Dave & me to get back up to Teesside suffice to say that there are two girls who must have been bewildered by our ignorance, as they picked us up in Essex at 10:50hrs...they drove like a couple of nuns....we fell asleep...and eventually got out at Dishforth roundabaout, (the turn-off to Teesside on the A1), at 14:50hrs - some four hours later. You know who you are if you're reading this...maybe if the conversation had been a bit more interesting we migh have stayed awake, eh? LOL...:)
What a summer! My sister said it had been really hot in England....I think the comparative 'tan test' says it all?..
So - that was that. Dave, me, M & A hitched to the South of France in the hot summer of 1983. It was a memorable time. I hope you enjoyed the rambling. I know I've enjoyed writing them :)