….. when your husband walks you to the bathroom at 4am in thefreezingmorning because you are "scared of what could be lurking in the woods." ….and not so much a single grumble out of him.
Well here we are folks– its been a whirlwind since we left England. Ray wasn´t kidding when he said time was of the essence in Europe and 6 weeks would hardly allow us to scratch the surface! Woooo weee…. where do we even begin?
…July 16th–Ferry bound to France…. what an experience to drive into the Ferry in Dover, England and drive out in Dunkerque, France. Quite thrilling indeed… We were ready to take France by storm. And there in actuality WAS a storm a brewing, too– RIGHT as Alyssa decided to drive in Europe for her VERY first time. Fabulous. I think its following us… As I gripped the stearing wheel on our way to Rouen– Ray laughed so hard he cried at the contortions in my face… "THIS ISN´T FUNNY RAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!" As the rain came down harder and harder the louder his laugh got…. what a brat— But hey, I deserved it as he had just driven over 1200 miles (oh wait, he just muttered that it was actually 1280, to be exact) I now got my turn….
We ended up pulling in to a town called Pont L´Eveque because it JUST so happens to be one of Ray´s favorite cheeses. (Didn´t we tell you? We pick towns ONLY if we like the name of the food or wine… tehe) We ended up finding a place called "Hotel de France"– I know, corny– but it was €38, and what the heck– by the looks of it, it was going to rain again…. and what we already DID learn about France was that when it rains, it bloody well POURS all over the show!
This one is for you Dad… Remember in the movie Forrest Gump when Forrest is in Vietnam and he talks about all the different kinds of rain– "even the ones that jump up atch`ya?" Yup, we are now rain experts. Seems at least in France it moves on as quickly as it comes.
After we settled into our "cheese town" (and yes we did in fact get to try some of the wonderous Pont L´Eveque nummy cheese) we headed off to explore a nearyby town called Hanfleur– a town right off a port… It was stunning. This was what France was all about for us… we couldn´t have been happier or more content as we ate dinner right in the middle of this quaint village overlooking the water as the sailboats bobbed back and forthe with the rain falling… of course. But again, as quickly as it came, it went and shown a beautiful rainbow. What a way to start off our journey through France. We ended up later that night at a local bar where we conversed with the French locals through whistles and hand motions… CRIKEYS! It was hysterical! Who knew the things you could explain? HA!
Tuesday morning the 17th we woke up in our cheese town and decided to have breakfast back in our favorite new French town of Honfleur. ***Just a funny side story… as we pulled into town for breakfast there was a little portable diner by the parking lot where we parked that was kind of smoking. Ray had said, "wow–looks like something is REALLY cooking in there!" Not but 5 minutes later as we were walking INTO the town we heard a loud BOOOOM and ran back to see what it was…. (so American, I know) and the poor little diner was TOTALLY on fire! See Ray´s picts— CRAZY! After ALL the excitement… We walked about in the sunshine and explored the side streets and then left to drive to Mont St-Michel– what I called, the Sand Castle.
It was quite a sight– They actually started by building a large church on the top of a hill WAAAY back when that was surrounded by a beautiful beach ALL the way around… then they built a villange around that. Unfortunately, it was tourist-tastic inside and there were only a few areas that you could go to get away from the postcard-placement-porcelain castle replication crap…. All that was missing was a McDonalds at the top. But never the less… it had quite a breathtaking views which made it all worth it. We stayed at a small motel that night for €28 and called it a night…. We were exhuasted.
Wednesday the 18th we got up and headed towards St. Mal– a port famed for its walled city, nearby beaches and worlds highest tidal ranges. It was a gorgeous day and our spirits were high… We explored this "walled city" and I had my first REAL crepe and we even got to set our feet on the first beach of the trip. Snagged ourselves a baguette and a chocolate mirenge and headed onward to our final destination of the day– Quimpar. Or what we so fondly called it oooompa loompa. Don´t ask us why…. The town lies where the rivers of obet and steir meet. Its the cultural and artistic capital of France. (no way did I copy that from a book… errr.) We were actually suprised with a big festival that was going on– LUCKY US! So many tents… music… people and LOTS of bagpipes as it was a celtic town. We made our way to the first campsite for the bargain price of €31!!! WHHAAA? We had to ask them if this price was def. for a very SMALL tent? Yuppers… indeed it was. Basically just as much as what we paid for rooms the previous 2 nights. Oh wellllz…. We set up camp (and REALLY spread out to get the most for our money) and walked 2 KM into town to explore all the festivities going on… ****Now, for most festivals, fairs in Minnesota prices are jacked up…. But looks like in France there are deals coming out of your ears! €1 Crepes…. €2 Wines and Beers and even €2.50 entire MEALS! And c´mon folks… whats up with this thing called moules frites here? (mussles and fries) Its everywhere!! We walked back at about 1030 (still light out!) on our 2KM (yah right way longer I say) walk through what Alyssa thought very scary woods and crazy NIGHTIME sounds. Ray laughed as my pace quickened with every snap in the woods…. (never walked so fast in my life.) We got back safe and sound… of course… and snuggled into our small lil tent on our €31 campsite.
Thursday the 19th we started off with a lovely breakfast of beans on toast… NUMMMERS… and headed off to the wine region of Loir driving towards the city of Angers. Unfortunately, Angers made us "angry" so we moved on and took a chance at a small town called Saumur and what a darn fine choice it was! After arriving at our campsite called Il D´offard (a small island inlet off of the river Loir) we made the instant decision that enough was enough and we needed to stay 2 nights as the "one stop hop" a day was wearing on our nerves… So we through out the intinerary and did some wine tasting–brought directly TO US from a nearby conveyer actually AT the campsite. It got us IMMEDIATELY into the "swirling" and "slurping" mood.
Friday we visited at least 4 caves and 2 vineyards wine tasting all the way… (yes, we walked) Ray was in heaven and I was so happy to watch him in his element…. I have given up trying to understand all the different grape varieties…. bouquets…. blends and vintages. I rather just enjoy wine MY way, thank you. By drinking it. OH… AND PEOPLE!! THEY HAVE WHAT THEY CALL "WINE IN A BOX HERE!!" We immediately thought of our Gram and Gramps Peters… 14 bottles to ONE box. Oh the money one could save!!
***Side note… can I just ask why we don´t follow the same "lunch break" back at home as the French do? Everywhere shuts down at 12 to at LEAST 2… its amazing. And still surprises us EVERYDAY.
Saumur was a beautiful town… the vineyards extraordinary and even the sunflower fields spectacular! So we had one less day in Spain…. this place was worth it.
Saturday the 20th of July we started driving to Bordeaux but decided to keep on truckin´ towards Bayonne. We wanted to get closer to Spain… we figured our accents weren´t getting any better and our tans weren´t getting any darker.
We eneded up in a town called Anglet–near to both Bayonne and Biarritz…right of the coast just miles away from the Spain border… and you could just get a eyefull of the Pyrnese Mountains. Stayed at the first Hostal since Dublin, and let us tell you–its quite a shock after camping at family campgrounds for the past few weeks! But lively, none the less… full of surfers itching to get their waves. (couldn´t help but think of you Al and Kim! You would have loved it here!)
We again came upoin a burst of luck and it just so happened to be a GIGANTIC light show that night on the beach…. we got a spot right in front and waited with the masses with a bottle of wine. (still having NO idea really what we were waiting for, mind you) When all the sudden it began…. music from the Pirates of the Carribean and fireworks JUST above our heads. It was amazing… Alyssa finally got her 4th of July. She was smiling silly…. Then all the sudden this screen just pops up in front of us and starts telling this crazy story about some French pilot from the region…some war… some lady… and I THINK they even talked about how crap the planes were way back when because they kept showing pictures of them crashing.. err? Never the less… we made up our own story– and very much enjoyed the 35 minute show and firework display.
Saturday morning we woke up in the most PECULIAR place to camp outside a hostal ever… I should have taken a picture… so bizarre… got our FREE BREAKFAST and then went to the nearby beach of Biarritz where Alyssa finally got to have her moment in the sun. Life is good.
That afternoon we drove to Spain. Wow… it sounds so crazy to say– but it was literally THAT easy. No border control… nothing! Just drove right through… and there you have it. You are in Spain! We drove through the Pyrinese Mountains for hours and the drive was absolutely incredible… yup, I think we are going to really like it here in Spain.
We drove to a town called Burgos–slightly inland but on our way to Portugal. We were pleasently surprised with this what we thought at first— "sleepy lil´ town." Found a small quaint hotel for €26 from our Lonely Planet book– (how we found it, I have no idea… what luck) and went out to explore Burgos. Coming in to this town it was seriously COMPLETELY dead about about 6ish….. 2 hours later on a SUNDAY mind you, the town was BURSTING with people!! We think it has a lot to do with the "church going" (as Ray´s grandad likes to call them) crowds and religous culture of the Spanish… after church lets out on a Sunday everyone comes out of the wood work to sip on wine and eat tapas. What a sight it was! From young to old (and please refer to one of our fave picts of many old women sitting on a bench in town–so very endearing!) they were all out to just be with one another. We felt like we were the only "tourists" in the town…. it felt so good to be surrounded by local culture. What a rush. It was a wonderful evening…. in a small little city in the middle of Spain… away from it all… soaking everything we could in.
…Deep Breath… So here we are… its the 23rd of July. 3 weeks from yesterday we started our little adventure–the things we have seen, experienced and lived. Its pretty overwhelming. We leave for Portugal today… well, if I can stop chatting your ears off, that is… And hope to find a lil´ town there to spend a few days and slow down… Thats our goal. Wish us luck!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO RAY´S DAD RON!!! We wish you both the most wonderful birthdays… we wish we could be there to celebrate!
Also… to my "brides to be"— I hope Vegas was amazing Theresa, can NOT wait to hear all about the stories! Wow…. how I was thinking of you all!
AL!! You are getting SO close! Just less then a month away….have so much fun in Mexico!
Kristy… have fun at your bach! Wish I could have heard your voice on the 19th… oh how I tried! But I am sure you got some pretty crazy phone messages from us, none the less….
From Ray– hope everything is going well at the Inn! And Lisa had a good trip to Spain….
Hope your trip to Chi-town went well Karrie! Can´t wait to read about it!
Hope everyone else is doing fabulous…. we are thinking about you all and so enjoy your comments and emails. ALWAYS!
Many thanks to Adam and Kristi again for helping to keep up with this site— you are doing such an amazing job… so very much appreciated!
Mom and Dad… I will call you soon.
Alysssrrr´and Ray Ray