Saturday, October 15, 2011

Surprise! It's Winter!

When we woke up in our lovely pre-booked hotel room, a magical fairy (Courtney's Mum) had banked cash directly into my account (we didn't have access to Courtney's) and we were able to not only fill the bike, but eat again. Heaven sent bliss. A different, less favourable fairy had also left us a surprise - winter. It was freezing and a huge thick fog blanketed our doorstep and the view beyond.

We ate at the hotel and then headed towards Cherbourg on the west coast. We passed near Paris, whose road signs are all in a special just-for-Paris font, and again it felt nice to know the things we had seen and experienced were just - over - there. It was Courtney's birthday, and we found a lovely restaurant at a truck stop for lunch. Despite being a truck stop this was a 'real' restaurant, and incredible food. We filled up on buffet entrees, massive mains and... all you can eat dessert. I'm talking miniature sized individual servings of chocolate mousse, tiramisu, profiteroles, a pancake bar, and about 10 other desserts I had never tried or seen before. I didn't have any pancakes because I, um, didn't want to be greedy (they wouldn't fit on my tray) but to the amusement of our very nice waiter, I got my moneys worth.

As we were finishing, they were packing up to close for the break between lunch and dinner, and he gave me more desserts and then gave us the entire tray of profiteroles. We ate what we could and he insisted we eat more. When we told him it was Courtney's birthday he packaged the last of them up and sent us home with 'birthday cake'. All this and he barely spoke English.

We made it to Cherbourg around 7.30pm. Winter had decided it would stay with us the whole way from Avallon and we were subzero on arrival at camp. We decided to ask for a cabin rather than putting up the tent on the frost but this campsite only had small houses, which were twice the price of any hotel we had stayed at even after our prepaid camping costs had been deducted. Tenting it was, so we put down the heat blanket Courtney's Dad had sent us away with, then put the tent on top, and put our bike gear between the floor and our mattresses. We put on every item of clothing we had and snuggled under the blanket.

We continued to do this for the next 36 hours, leaving occasionally to charge a gadget, go to the toilet, or buy more chocolate. On our second night we braved the freezing air to go to the restaurant at the bottom of the hill. I should mention that the freezing temperatures were not helped by the fact we were basically on the beach. The crisp sea air that resulted reminded us a little of Ireland and a lot of home. It was kind of like a nice easing-in to heading back home. Sue in Cormatin had mentioned it would be cold when we returned, but in the 45 degree Italian temperatures of the prior week we hadn't even thought of her comments until now.

Anyway, dinner at the restaurant was really really good and we went to sleep cold but satisfied, and slightly dreading the next day, when we would say goodbye to both tent and bike.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Going Home Shouldn't Be This Stressful

I haven't forgotten you, I promise. After eventually getting supplies the following day in Cannes, we ended up doing... not much. On our hunt for supplies, we drove into Cannes town itself. The miserable drizzly weather did nothing to spice up the town and while we only saw the beach from afar, it definitely didn't scream "Hey! International celebrities and filmakers! LOVE ME!". It was kind of average, and while we only explored from the safety of the bike, we saw nothing that peaked our interest. I was a little disappointed, but that could have also been an offset of the weather.

We spent the following day in a huge argument, absolutely miserable. Plans to see Nice went completely out the window as the emotions of leaving Europe, wanting home, missing family, friends and furchildren, facing leaving the bike and the tent... all got too much and taken out on each other. Eventually it all got sorted and the tent became a house of love again instead of a pathetic screen dividing us and the fellow campers with zero audio blockout of the fighting.

While planning to leave Cannes, we realised I had made a massive miscalculation in drive time and we had two of our biggest rides yet ahead of us over 2 days. We had planned to leave early and see an incredible medieval castle (one that is being built in present day, using only medieval tools and methods) after lunch but that idea proved impossible to fulfill.

At one point, we found ourselves riding past off ramps to Taize and Cluny, both right next to the tiny campsite we stayed at in Cormatin. Knowing we were on the opposite side of the towns than we had previously approached them from, I strained my eyes to see the familiar flour mill that indicated we were close to camp. I knew it was in vain, we were nowhere near the actual camp, but seeing a place we had been before gave way to a yearning for familiarity. I wanted to call in to Sue and Cees, our hosts, and say "Look! We DID IT!" but time was not on our side.

We stayed the night in a beautiful little boutique hotel where the rooms opened onto the path and curved in circles with their backs to each other. It was late when we arrived, and it was while deciding what to do for dinner that I realised my last few hundred NZ dollars, which were to get us home following our banks third massive bugger up (in previous posts you will find the details of how they accidentally stripped us of the last 400 Euros on our travel card just when we needed them) were going to be going out on an automatic payment the following day. These loan payments had completely left my memory and we were now faced with the prospect of having literally 5 Euros in the bank.

As Courtney made frantic calls home, I had 2 chocolate chip cookies for dinner and went to sleep miserable.

There's no place like home, right?