All posts by wheatypetesworld

And the odd one: short story

I had a dream last night and it was so vivid I just wrote it down as a short story.  Please don’t analyse this!

TQ9ers – a Tale from Totnes

 

Hey Abs, meet me at the top of the wiggly path.  Got something to tell you…

The message was from her best friend, Iona.  It was strange.  They almost always walked to school down in Totnes together in the mornings anyway.  It must be important, if she had to make sure of it and leave a bit early this morning.

The girls exchanged a greeting as a determined, sliding drizzle began to dapple their faces from the direction of the river Dart.  They headed down the zig-zag path that led from their modern estate to the river.  Normally they would cut the corners and walk more directly down the hill, but today it was sodden and muddy, and theirs was a school that would not take kindly to them arriving covered in mud.   Even if they were to arrive with muddy shoes they were likely to get a dressing down, and probably a phone call home.   That’s the sort of school it was.  The education was good, but the views were quite old-fashioned.  The parents liked that.  That is what they paid for.  Smart uniforms and, on the face of it at least, exemplary behaviour and manners.

“Only our school thinks that it knows better than everyone else and ignores a bank holiday,” complained Abigail.  “Pricks.”

“But get this: McGonagall isn’t even going to show up!  She’s taken the day off, the sly cow.”  This was what the girls called the head teacher on account of a vague resemblance to Maggie Smith who plays the character in the Harry Potter films, even though she was a good few years younger.  “My Dad saw it on the web page.”

“How fair is that!”  Abi watched a drop of water run down her friend’s cheek.  It was getting heavier and they huddled up against the wind which was sending the rain at a forty five degree angle now.  It seemed determined to batter and soak them.  They walked more quickly and had to raise their voices against the moans of the weather.

“Listen, I’ve got a plan, that’s why I texted you.  I’m going to throw a sickie.  I intend to be gone by break time.  You should do the same.  I’ll act out a fever, I’m good at that, and you just say the English have landed.”  The girls at Leatside Independent Day School had learned in French that this was an expression derived from the Redcoats’ bloody fights against Napoleon which means that a girl has her period.  Abi frowned.  She wasn’t sure.  What would their parents say?  How would they get away with it?

Iona Meehan was destined for great things.  Her quiet intelligence was not apparent at first.  But she was a shrewd listener who generally got what she wanted, simply by working out other people’s feelings and what the stumbling block was.  Or what the sweetener could be.  She had even got herself a false Facebook account so that she could get an invite to TQ9ers – a private residents’ group to which their Head Teacher belonged.  This was for what she termed “information gathering purposes”.  For sure Iona was destined for success.

She stopped and turned to her friend, putting one hand on her shoulder so that Abi had to stop too and look her in the eye, her back to the wind now.

“We could meet those Spanish boys.”  They had exchanged mobile numbers with some of the language students who often came here to learn English, two days previously.  Abi had been particularly taken by one of them.  They crossed the bridge where the conversation had started and it was at exactly this point that Iona dropped this suggestion.  She was aware of the extra persuasion the location would add.  One of the boys had picked up a torn flyer for the anti-Brexit march and stuck it back on the wall using the gum he was chewing.  He had smiled at them and said,

“We need you in Europe.  We are friends.”

“I agree.  But you do know that we are twinned with Narnia in this town, don’t you?” Abi had laughed.  The Spanish student had enough cultural knowledge to understand the joke, or had been told about the place before his visit.  It was indeed said that the town was twinned with Narnia and it was hardly surprising that views on Europe between the Spanish boy and the girl from Totnes coincided.  There was even a man from the town who had declared independence, made EEC Totnesian passports and distributed them to people free of charge.

And that is how it had started.  They had all ended up going for a coffee together and had swapped numbers.

“McGonagall can hardly complain, being as how she’s taken the day off herself.”

So Abi was persuaded.  By mid-morning the two had executed their plan.  The rain had stopped and the clouds were moving away.  She had had little trouble persuading the school nurse that she was suffering a rather intense bout of stomach pains.  Iona had dishevelled herself, spent the first lesson looking miserable and listless, then made her cheeks red with hot water before going to the sick bay.

As agreed, they met in the café by the market place.  A warm aroma of Nag Champa joss sticks and patchouli, mingled with fresh coffee fell about her like a heavy blanket as Abi walked in.  Iona was already sitting at a table.  Her phone sat next to a large slice of banana cake and she was smiling.

“Hi.”

“Hi, I’ll just get myself something.”  Abi returned with a huge whipped-cream-topped mug of hot chocolate and a slice of cake.  She sat down beside her friend.

“So you got out OK?”

“Piece of cake.”

They laughed.

“So, shall we ring them?”

“Let’s eat first.”

The phone buzzed.  Iona took it up and swiped the screen.  She frowned.

“You OK?”

“I don’t know really.”  She handed the phone to Abi to read the message.  It was a post on TQ9ers Facebook page from their head teacher:

Dearest Chloe,

You would have been 10 today.  We miss you and think of you every day.  I love you.  You were only three when you left us, but I thank you for every minute of your short life, for the love and for the joy you gave us.  Sleep well, my darling,

Mummy xxx

Happy Christmas

In a shameless attempt to get over 5000 hits on my website before Christmas, I have made a little Christmas quiz. 1 point if you can guess the song, 25 points if you know who wrote it and 100 points if you can name the Norweigian winner of World Idol featured on the link (before going there)…
A little Christmas teaser:
Well, Shrek featured this song, considered as the “baseline” of secular hymns, and here it is sung by four Norwegians, including the winner of “World Idol”, who also looks spookily like Shrek. It was written by a Canadian and achieved little success when first released. He wrote around 80 draft verses for it, with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York ending up with him being reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.There are now over 300 released covers of the song.
Go here: https://wheatypetes.world/ and find the link on the word songs for the best version of one of the best songs ever…😀  Who got 126 points (you musical genius, you)?

Gambia Photo Gallery

We had to hire a car to see this country – and to escape the threats of violence along with demands for money from a man who targeted us and appeared every time we left the hotel.  This hotel, where the package tour company sent us, was plagued by many of these rather aggressive “bumsters” as they call them…  We asked the company rep to change hotels, but with no joy.  Although she did arrange a part-time police presence for a couple of days outside the entrance.

Some of the European “ladies”, of a certain age would hang out in the bar up the road with young local men.  They danced together.  We did not hang around to see what happened next.  It was a bit of a sleezy place.

We had been warned on the tourist bus from the airport to “take it easy” with the locals, but one young girl in the bar told us she had hooked up with a local guide.  He had shown her around, even taken her to his village to meet his family.  He was somehow different from the others she told us.  Her instinct told her so.  She just felt it.  We met her on the bus back to the airport.  He had just disappeared the previous day.  So had her phone and cash.

The guide asked everyone to fill out a survey to win a free tour back to the Gambia.  “Who wants to win?” he cried.  At least three “NOT ME”s were heard from somewhere on the bus.  The problems are caused by the incredible poverty gap between the tourists and the local population and despite the tourist bucks, the money mostly ends up back in the hands of western companies and the hotels they own.  Meanwhile it is one of the poorest countries in Africa for the vast majority of Gambians.

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Hungary

Well I sort of liked Hungary.  My first experience was when we had just picked up Peaches the campervan in the UK and drove back to Slovakia where we were living.  It appealed to see some new countries so we went to Sopron (“Shop-ron”) for a bit.  Hungarian pronunciation has and remains a bit of a mystery to me – much like Irish Gaelic.  But anyway, we found ourselves in a pretty town on the southern edges of Lake Neusiedl/Lake Fertő near the Austrian border.  The waiter was kind to our daughter in the café we ate in, but like any free-spirited two-year-old she was having none of it and ignored his efforts.

 

Who would have thought that in the end the Iron Curtain would be brought down not with a bang, but with basketfuls of sandwiches and hot dogs?

And yet that is what happened. On August 19, 1989 it was agreed to hold a “Pan-European Picnic” just outside Sopron, right on the border with Austria.

The idea was to open the border for about three hours and allow people to cross unchecked into Austria, taking a step further a process started two months earlier when Hungary and Austria, in the physical form of Gyula Horn and Alois Mock, had picked some notables to take some clippers and symbolically cut through the barbed wire.

The picnic organisers reckoned on a crowd of several thousand (it was over 10,000) who would come to enjoy the removal, albeit temporarily, of the once impregnable Iron Curtain.  But they did not foresee about 600 canny East Germans who, hearing what was planned, thought they would take full advantage of the situation and escape to the West.  The Hungarian border guards turned a blind eye and let the East Germans through. Although the border was subsequently resealed, a chain of events had been set in motion that led, less than three months later, to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Today the site of those dramatic scenes is touted as an “international tourist attraction”. A lone watchtower – from which soldiers were at one time authorised to fire – is a reminder of how things once were.

Sopron – a delightful town dating back to Roman times that contains a wealth of medieval, baroque and rococo architecture “second only to that found in Budapest itself”.  Sopron has another unique selling point: very  Liechtensteinian in its quirkiness. The town has some 300 dentists and, while much of the trade comes from nearby (much more expensive) Austria, many of the practices now cater for English-speaking clients. There are worse places you could go to get your teeth seen to.

And then for us there were frequent trips from Bratislava for weekends in Budapest.  Budapest is beautiful, and the locals will tell you that the most beautiful women in the world are from Hungary.  On one trip, our daughter ran off down the train into a carriage where I met my now lifelong friend, Eric, a worryingly tall Californian who ran a language school in the capital.  He was hospitable and invited us back to his flat.  We were staying in a hotel on Andrassy – a wide main street where you could imagine the military parades of the communist era, so vividly depicted in the “Museum of Terror” , which showed in graphic detail the sufferings of the local population under first the Nazi, then the Russian occupations.  Here there is a whole enormous wall of photograph portraits of the “disappeared” behind a real live Soviet tank, and rooms depicting the various offices of the various occupiers.  Well-written leaflets in several languages tell the whole story.  At the end of Andrassy lies Heroes Square, replete with soldiers in unfathomably clean boots and teenagers doing tricks on their mountain bikes, along with Roma beggars and passing tourists.  Cross the bridge towards the Buda side of the two cities (Buda and Pest) and there is a funicular railway up to the lovely city on the hill.  The taxi drivers from the station we found to be complete sharks and would drive you around for a good half hour for what should have been a five or ten minute ride.

 

My Dad, who was dying from cancer and walking with a stick, and my mum came to visit us in Bratislava.  I knew it would not be long so wanted to show them the best of the region: time in Bratislava, trips to Vienna and Budapest but most of all time together.  He was famous for accosting any random stranger and having their life story, family history and occupation of their father within a few short minutes.  He did this a lot.  Including on our trip to Budapest where I had found “bargain” accommodation behind one of those doorways that always make you wonder: “I wonder what it’s like behind there?”  Well the answer was that the doorway was ornate and the building was a rambling old set of apartments that, judging by the ones we stayed in, were poverty-stricken ex-grand residences with electrical issues that freaked my wife out for the sake of our daughter.  We ended up fashioning an outside table to eat at in the courtyard from the building debris that was left around and actually did quite a good job of this.  It was interesting to wonder up the spiral staircase to explore the rest of the ancient building and Tash took some fabulous photos of puddles reflecting the impressive buildings all around. Up in a restaurant in Buda some very accomplished classical/folk musicians came and serenaded us and my Dad made friends on the street.  The subway system was fabulous and the trains there were reminiscent of miniature Victorian toy trains.  The escalators ran so fast, clanking in a surprisingly pleasing way, that we had to hold on to my Dad’s arm when getting on or off them.

 

On another occasion we stayed in a hotel with a roof top pool heated by thermal waters.  How amazing it was to swim on this roof top, overlooking the snowy tiled roofs of Budapest on a freezing winter’s evening.  Some Russian businessmen were there also.  They led the way in their swimming habits, afterwards going to lie on the snow capped “sun loungers” on the roof top terrace and rubbing the good white stuff all over  the corporately corpulent bodies.  No matter; there was always the Christmas market a short distance below where the delicious punches could warm you to your very boot-tips.

Taking the train down from Bratislava we would pass the Danube Bend, where you could see the impressive basilica at Esztergom, just as the Slovak train crew were being replaced by Hungarians.  You can see it from all around.  Here it takes nine seconds for the reverberation echo to cease if you shout into its dome.  Not that you would want to embarrass yourself in that way.  One weekend we took off from Bratislava and camped here.  The site had no electrical hook ups, but the accommodating owners ran a cable from their office to help us out and I got bitten by a snake as I put my hand into the wood pile to restock the campfire.

 

On the way down to Croatia we stopped once at Revfulop (I think the Hungarian pronunciation may well be something like “Burnham-on Sea”) on Lake Balaton.  The campsite was a perfect lakeside location and the people there seemed rather more over-fed than the misnomer “Hungary” would suggest phonetically.  Another favourite haunt was the thermal swimming pool in Gyor (“Gee-yer”) where the thermal spring fed the inside pool and you could swim out of the archway to the outside, perfectly warm in the water, even in the snow.  You had to remember to take Forint down with you as they did not have Euros there.  Eric called me a common tourist when I mistakenly referred to the currency as “Florint”, which made a lot more sense to me.  And then we come to the way in which we saw the Hungarians dealt with the refugees when we were working on the Austro-Hungarian border down there.  Neither country came out covered in glory from this, although I do know that some groups were doing some very philanthropic work down in Budapest with the multitude of migrants who found themselves camping out around Keleti Station in Budapest.

My Dad fell down into the street in Bratislava.  He was lucky it was a weekend.  He stumbled, and spiraled downwards in slow motion, grabbing at a bollard on the edge of the pavement on the way and then fell into the (weekday busy) road still in slow motion; he had cracked a rib on his camera as landed on the tarmac.  He was as stoic about the whole episode as he was about the dive we ended up in in Budapest when we went there together.  And I think that if you are stoic then you will like Hungary.  It has suffered a great deal from Russian and Nazi occupations.  It treats minorities appallingly – Roma and more recent refugees.  But for me, somehow it charms and fascinates.

Xixarella or Bust – A Road Trip to Andorra

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On the Road Again

There was a purpose to this road trip: to visit a new country (and the first place I had ever been starting with the letter ‘X’).  So unusually I actually booked five nights at a campsite in Andorra (the new country) in a village called Xixarella.  We just had a week or so either side of that to fiddle around with.  It was Peaches’ first road trip since her incident.  But also, it was a chance to visit Rennes-le-Château on the way.  This was a place I had a particular reason to visit – more of that later.

It was not the best of starts, for after setting off a 4 a.m. the campsite near Nantes, where we found ourselves at 7 p.m. had a sign outside saying “Complet”.  Well it didn’t look very full so I thought I’d ask anyway.  And in fact, yes they did have room for one night, lots of room as it turned out.  There is something to be learned from this, I’m sure.  Uzerche was the next stop and Marilyn (the SatNav) sent us right into the wild end of nowhere to a very smart campsite.  Curiously, everyone there seemed to be Dutch.  But the bar/restaurant was swanky-looking, the pool inviting and the landscaped grounds were refined in the extreme.  It was expensive and even the camp leaflet was all in Dutch.  The lady I asked at the bar was Dutch too and she looked at me as if I were mad when I enquired about the possibility of a pitch for the night.  Then she called a man from the kitchen who told me that there was no space at all, even for one night.  I worked out later from the leaflet what it was with this site at La Bonne Source.  It was an exclusively Dutch site offering “a vacation spot where you can really feel at home as a Christian.”  Ah, all became clear, I understood that look; she had obviously remembered the bit about no room at the inn from The Instructions and when she saw a mother with child, had decided to follow that bit rather than other passages advising charity.  So back on the road it was, and in heading to a near-ish site we drove past a completely empty site next to a fishing lake close to the village of Lubersac.  Oddly, this too was run by a Dutch couple, but unlike the one up the road, was the polar opposite: deserted.  Well they obviously had room then.  The only problem was that neither Janny, nor her husband, Bertus, spoke a word of French.  How could a site be so totally empty in the middle of the high season?  No matter, they actually spoke English, but I didn’t ask why this was so depopulated and the one up the road was so full.

 

Rennes-Les-Bains

The first longer stay was in Rennes-Les-Bains, in the low Pyrenees of the Aude region.  This was described as the “esoteric Mecca of the Aude”.  Should be interesting then.  Josette, who is retired along with her husband, comes down here in the summer from Normandy to help out their daughter and son-in-law with the running of the site.  She takes us to a golf buggy so she can show us the options.

“Watch out; she doesn’t know how to drive that thing,” comments one of the staff at the reception with a giggle.  That evening we stroll past the bar, where a tagine and Sangria evening is being prepared, and walk along the river into the village.  It is a spa offering treatments in the 33 degree thermal waters and the place is unusually full of hippy-looking types: baba cools as they call them here.  In the square we stop for a drink on a café terrace.  Oddly, the waitress does not speak much French.  She is an Australian working here over the summer with the aim of learning the language.

Maria, the joker from yesterday, is cleaning the shower block the next morning when I get there.  She complains that there is no work for the likes of locals such as her and that most of the tourist facilities are owned and run by “people from the North”.  She advises me to visit the “Fauteuil du Diable” (the Devil’s Armchair) as this special stone has powers to re-energise in some mystical way.  It has been carved in the shape of an armchair and has a Templar cross engraved on the back.  No-one knows how old it is, but it is said to have been carved for the Comte de Fleury in the eighteenth century.  On the evening walk into the village we head up into the woods where we find a small waterfall into a pond, beautifully lit in the golden evening sunshine.  Near here there is a she-hippy, living in a cave in the woods.  By the river a man comes out of his house and we exchange a greeting.  I ask him about the Devil’s Armchair.  Has it really got powers?  Has he himself felt it?  “If you stretch out your arms and touch each side you can feel its power in your spine.  You will feel different afterwards,” is his solemn reply.

A traveller summed up Rennes-les-Bains by describing the characters she met there.  It captures the place in such a perfect way that I offer a loose translation of the piece here:

“A woman with a cascade of hair will stop to talk to you.  Her long hair is flecked with white.  Her colourful, organic cotton dress  may seem a little too big for her, but is incredibly comfortable.  She will explain that she and her friends have come to Rennes-les-Bains to feel the forces of nature, so alive in the forests here.  She will confide to you that they are in fact looking for the tomb of Mary Magdelene, her idol.  In a whisper she tells you that Mary Magdelene was the husband of Jesus and it was she who gave birth to these lands.

A man will have his feet in leather sandals, in the style of a monk, a scarf around his neck and a pleasant face.  He will explain that he has spent more than ten years in India looking for ‘The Truth’.  Then he found his truth here, in Rennes-les-Bains.  He will spend hours explaining how the most important thing in life is the love we have for each other – ‘If I speak to you, it is because I love you.’

Another man carries a salesman’s case.  His shirt and townie trousers will give no clue as to the ideas in his head.  He will hold a serious meeting in a village shop where he will explain to the attentive audience that in Rennes-les-Bains one can communicate with the water spirits.  Using a clock at the end of his talk, he will measure the size of your aura and maybe you will have the good fortune to give him a happy surprise: he won’t be able to ascertain the outer limit of your aura and respectfully declares that you have the gift of healing.

Then there is the man wearing all the latest technical hiking equipment, his waistcoat has useful pockets, his hat of weather-resistant fabric, his trendy backpack.  He will admit to you that he is over seventy years of age.  He will just have overtaken you as, out of breath, you stumble up to the Château de Blanchefort.  Not a drop of sweat on his brow, he will offer you a cereal bar…

And all of these diverse characters, so different one from the other, co-exist in the greatest mutual respect.”  (http://www.terre-de-mysteres.fr/hauts-lieux/rennes-les-bains-haut-lieu-esoterique-de-laude.html#more-91)

 So we got up to the Fauteuil du Diable and sat in the stone chair.  It has comfortable arm rests.  And did it work?  Well my back had been a bit of a nuisance but didn’t hurt for the rest of that day.

The girls wanted to go to the thermal spa pool so I dog-sat as it is too warm in Peaches for him.  I was disappointed to have to miss the healing waters and be forced to sit reading in the bustling village square over a beer or two at a café… but only slightly.  Before, the square had had some raucous teenagers in one corner behind a large tree and now some hippies are there smoking joints.  It must be the naughty corner.

On our last morning Maria asked me if we had been to the Devil’s Armchair. “Did you feel it?” she asks.  “I don’t know… it’s weird… like some sort of magnetic vortex…”; she’s rolling her eyes now.

 

Rennes-Le-Château

Rennes-le-Château (inc.) makes the most of the story of the Abbé Saunière.  I had wanted to come here ever since reading the story of the enigmatic Abbé in the excellent book “Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail.”  It concerns the true story of a nineteenth century parish priest who mysteriously became an incredibly rich man overnight after purportedly finding something during renovations to the church.  The village is perched on a high rocky outcrop and is not the sort of place one would normally expect to make ones fortune.  Abbé Saunière lived with his house maid, some twenty years his junior, and spent the rest of his life financing expensive renovations and building projects around the presbytery.  After he died the housemaid promised to reveal the secret before she too shuffled off her mortal coil.  Tantalisingly, she also said that there was plenty more where that money came from, more than she could ever spend in her lifetime.  Unfortunately she took ill one day and was left without the ability to either speak or write.  She died two weeks later.  So stories of lost Cathar treasure, loot from the Crusades, or even of the Holy Grail itself began to circulate and this is where the story links to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”.  From the mid-twentieth century treasure hunters and mystics, of which Rat Scabies (the former drummer with The Damned) was just one, began to arrive.  Excavations ensued.  The publication of Dan Brown’s book saw the commercialisation of Rennes-le-Château into what I now call Rennes-le-Château (inc.) where there is a dedicated museum and well established visitor’s programme.

 

Xixarella

Marilyn sends us on D roads over the Pyrenees into Andorra.  It is a spectacular drive up the hairpins, along wide, green alpine passes and amongst the cloud: one of those drives where you enter a tunnel and when you come to the other side you hit an entirely different climate.

Finally we make it to our destination: Xixarella.  Andorra is not part of the European Union; it has “special status”, like Switzerland.  But the border is a relaxed affair and each of the policemen in his booth is sitting intently doing things on his mobile phone.  I actually got the passports out and stopped, only for one of them to look up briefly from his phone and with an irritated wave of his hand send us on our way.  What a job!  Sitting up a mountain in the clouds playing on your phone all day, and then getting paid for it?  Well that sounds just as hard as sitting reading over a beer on a sunny café terrace and chatting to some friendly hippies… I mean dog-sitting….

Andorra is clean, prosperous and not the sort of place you can imagine any homeless people.  Everywhere you look, the mountains are breath-taking.  It is the sixth smallest country in the world so it does not take long to get from one side to the other, even though there are no motorways (and no airports).  The campsite could not fail to be in a beautiful spot, however hard it could have tried.  It is also the only country where the official language is Catalan and 80% of the GDP is accounted for by tourism.  In the campsite office I pick up a leaflet for the tourist bus routes (at 38 euros per person) which is a good start to get out and explore independently, albeit in second gear most of the time.  We drive to the top of a mountain then to the most elevated capital city in Europe, Andorra La Vella, where I am delighted to find a LeClerc hypermarket.  At tax-free prices the range of foodstuffs is very tempting: mega bottles of olive oil for five euros, enormous blocks of cheese for three fifty etc…   From there we head back to the town of La Massana where we take the ski lift up the mountain some 700 metres above the town.  In the summer it is a mountain bike resort, rather than a ski-resort.  It is a hot mid-August day and the dog is made up to find that there are still small patches of snow up here.  Come to that, the daughter seemed to enjoy it too, although she didn’t roll in it like he did, just took off her shoes.

We got back to camp just as a mountainously monstrous storm hit, its thunderclaps amplified by the terrain.  Time to hunker down and cook up one of the local dishes: cheese fondu.  Hare, wild boar and partridge are also typical fare here.  Forty-eight hours of rain stopped play in Andorra somewhat.  It is a very outdoorsy country anyway but camping out, even in Peaches, has a sell-by date when it is so relentlessly wet.  So we blew out on the last night, even though we had paid for it, opting to go and look for some sun.  It had got to the stage of sitting in a thunderstorm watching a teenager running to the shower block and dropping his pants in the middle of the roadway.  “Oh my goodness!  That teenager has just dropped his pants and they’re Star Wars pants,” Iona declared gleefully.  “How embarrassing!”

“I don’t think a teenager would be wearing Star Wars pants,” was her mama’s reaction.  But the next half hour was spent watching the campers’ reactions on their way to the shower block to a pair of pants in the middle of the road.  Some stopped and did a double take; some side-stepped in revulsion and some sniggered, until one kind lady spoiled our fun by picking them up and hanging them helpfully on the bottom of a lamp-post.

“Eeeew!  I wouldn’t touch those pants,” Iona commented.

I had, shamefully, been enjoying this game, so I went out into the torrent of rain, implanted a stick by the roadside and hung them on there.  In so doing I was also able to confirm that they were indeed Star Wars pants.  I used the stick to pick them up, in case you were wondering.  It really was time to leave rainy Andorra and look for the sun.

 

Limeuil

Sun-searching involved a drive back up to the Dordogne to a beautiful campsite, right on the river bank under a medieval village at the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère rivers.  The pitches are huge and the sunny, landscaped pool is set amongst banana and palm trees.  I congratulate Didier, the owner, on the second star on the shirt that France have just won at the World Cup.  He told me that he had already got his French shirt sporting the second star the week before.  It must have taken virtually no time at all to get those made up and out into the shops.  Limeuil is a picturesque village with steep winding streets and narrow alleyways.  There was a small food market and glass-blowers’ workshops, but nowhere to buy basics except at the campsite shop.  No matter: it is hot and sunny, just what was required after Andorra.  So riverside barbeques, floating down the Dordogne using the current on inflatables and doing nothing in particular was the order of the day.

 

Video from the riverside here.

Omaha Beach

Finally it was a trek back from the Dordogne via Poitiers to a campsite on Omaha Beach in Normandy for a couple of nights – time enough to pay our respects to the fallen and visit a supermarket.

 

In the end the goal had been achieved.  But truth be told, it was one of those trips where the travel outshone the final destination; this is the mark of a good road trip.  For it was in the mysterious tale of a once obscure country priest, in the discovery of a community of hippies beneath the winding hairpins and high passes of the Pyrenees and in a quaint Dordogne village where people played in the river that this travel was birthed… oh, and we also got to Xixarella, Andorra.  Job done.

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