Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Life in France

France is a country with a lot of history. History that can be seen in virtually every village. It’s embedded into the buildings, the people and the French way of life. Being in France, in a small town, on market day is possibly the best way to experience what I mean. Because while there are cars and motorcycles to be found in the streets, nothing else seems to have changed much in a thousand years. The quality of life and the richness of it all is still very much there. Simply watching French village life is a sure way to get rid of stress...

We had just left the campground that morning, situated in the middle of the Dordogne region. First stop was to be the local bakery. In France bread is made fresh every day, always has been as far as I’m aware. Even when I was a little boy, before the world had become a 24 hours economy, the bakeries in France were already open seven days a week. The French simply don’t eat bread that’s a day old. They are right too. As a result the French stick doesn’t need any preservatives and tastes great. (Don’t mistake the bakery version with the supermarket version though!)

While Mike  went to the bakery I stayed with the bikes and observed French village life. My eye caught an old man on an old bicycle slowly cycling to the news agent. He cycled so slowly that each push on the pedal almost made the bike tip over and created a zigzag motion. An old Renault 4 idled past, stopped a bit further on and delivered a tray of eggs to the shop. The ‘delivery driver’ was at least 80 years old and has probably been doing the ‘egg-run’ all his life, of which the last 40 years probably in this very same car.

These images can be seen in villages all over France. On market day it becomes even better. Markets always attract a lot of people and market stall holders are colourful people by their very nature. In France it isn’t any different, probably even more so. The first thing we noticed was a musician playing well known songs from the 60s and 70s on a small guitar to earn a bit of travelling money. When we met him, he had been on the road for 6+1 years (6+1 is how he had written it on his roll-top bag). Originally from Finland, he had lived in Spain for a number of years and worked there as a builder. He met his wife there too and 6+1 years ago they decided to leave the rat race and start travelling indefinitely! His wife had found a job painting a house nearby and he was making a few Euros busking. We talked for a while, a long while to be honest as he has a great sense of humour and delightfully easy approach to life.

On the road for 6+1 years...

Mr Chevrolet feeding Mr Yamaha and Mr Triumph!
Returning from the market we found a mobile food stall had been set-up behind our bikes. I felt a bit sorry for the owner of the stall, thinking our bikes right in front of his vending spot didn’t help him selling his wares, but he thought differently! He had seen the bikes and the stickers of all the places we had been to and decided that we needed a feed... and thus made us a traditional meal for the Duras region! The people you meet make travelling so much more than just sight-seeing. I’m sure it was the Triumph Bonneville that made him so generous, as while his name was Chevrolet, his friend’s name is Bonneville…!

In the summer season there are plenty of farm campgrounds and campings municipal open in France. Now, being well past the season, most have closed down for winter. The one we had found and which was supposed to be open, even according to the sign outside, had been shut for months. According to the camping book we had picked up along the way there wasn’t anything to be found for 200 km. Hmm. We have learned not to worry too much about things like that as usually something will turn up somewhere, most likely when and where you won’t expect it to. This time it wasn’t any different as just a kilometre up the road I spotted a small hand painted sign with a tent and a motorcycle on it...! It turned out to be a great place, on which we will write in a future post. Let’s just say we were sure glad the other one was closed!