Hector (Van-Perspective): “People are strange… All this back and forth, the months of nothingness and then immediate action – hope they know what they are doing. At least the wellness treatment with a new toothed belt, bright eyes and a new rear battery is well-planned. Guess it will make me look 10 years younger! Good starting point for the next 5.000 km, be it with 1 or 2 or 5 girls.”
B., Driver’s Perspective: When it is all about spontaneous travelling, why does nobody mention the squeeze of flexibility vs. fully booked campsites? Refusing silly ideas like “hidden places in the middle of nowhere” or “back-country-camping only”, I am confronted with wonderful internet pictures and the “Sorry, we are full!”-lady on the phone.
H: “While drivers and passengers get more and more excited about the upcoming trip, I keep calm and wait for all the piles of stuff to be packed. Hope we will make it to some waves this summer… I wonder if I will get the surfboard I dream of ever since, it would suit me so well!”
B: After some rollercoaster of planning, letting lose and a couple of calls, the spontaneity includes 1 ferry, 2 campsite reservations and the flight dates of at least two travel mates. For all the rest, we will see what the next weeks might bring.
Meanwhile, juggling with Hector’s garage appointments, UK plans and over-sophisticated excel-lists culminates into waking up at 4:15 a.m and a constant buzzing hum. It makes me re-consider my preparation, and not before long, I figure out that some yoga classes, meditation or and a bottle of wine are by far more appropriate than endless to do lists.
Weeks before departure, Hector carries a big smile on his face. Spreading good vibes, he tells stories about how he will enjoy champagne with the girls soon.
Since prices for gasoline reached unknown heights, my van is convinced of getting champagne all the time – nothing else makes sense with the pricing, right? With the utmost positivism, Hector bares hailstorms while dreaming of sandy bays at the sea, castles along the way and rebellious moves when driving on the wrong side of the streets.
Spontaneous Reactions to “Champagne with Hector”
Meanwhile, Linda plays with options for joining us in Brittany. Andy and local friends align for London, and Melly has booked flights in and out of Great Britain. Furthermore, the house-sitter gets accustomed to our place and Barbara plans to hop on towards the end of the trip. Altogether, packing will be more Tetris than ever.
Thursday comes and is accompanied by a hurricane. We think of the most exposed lift that might be closed and smile: Having planned a ski tour anyway – fell under ski and walking up with pure fitness, ha, who needs lifts?!
For about half an hour, half of the ski region opens up. Other guests checking out manage their way down just in time and the same is true for their luggage. New guests with scheduled arrival miss their chance – we will have the chalet all for ourselves tonight, but before that, there are hills to run up and blizzards to face.
Meanwhile, the entire ski region is closed and we align with our host the best destination for our tour: Up on the alpine plateau, leaving the trees – slight tendencies to fall over – behind.
Strangest sensation of the day is a rainbow to our right. It remains there for hours, stable as a rock and entirely un-impressed by the squalls.
We make our way up and get a rough welcome by the hurricane’s strength when reaching the Längenfelder high plateau. From here, we could turn left and head for the Hochalm. Yet, encouraged by two other crazy guys, we decide to continue straight on to the top station of the chairlift.
The storm is loud and forceful up here. Every now and then, some of us give secret glances to the signposts along the way, ready to dodge flying obstacles. The last yards towards our target occur simultaneous to one of the storm’s peaks. With 3,000 m altitude more, it would be a copy of the Mount Everest’s base camp at average weather.
Next in our adventurous movie are fragments like: Hide in the few inches of lee behind a skilift’s mast. Strip off the fells, hold tight to every item and step on the skis, prevent them from being torn by powerful squalls. Seek stable stand on the skis and stop thinking of scenes with people being pushed by the wind over a mountain’s edge.
The rest of the day contains sunny minutes on a bench, relaxed homecoming to our chalet, delicacies and wine. And updated plans for our future: Candidate A claims to be out of Himalaya or South Pole field trips. Candidate B promises to look for more comfortable ski tours. However, both are happy and satisfied with another great outdoor day during our wonderful holiday week.
EXPECT NOTHING IN PARTICULAR, BUT THE BEST IN GENERAL.
That is my preferred approach to life, and it rewards me with beauty and snow and all the rest.
Together with my sister, we spend a full week skiing the Alps. Between Hausberg and Kreuzeck, we are located in our preferred place in Garmisch Classic ski area. The hardest choice: find the most charming panorama – when in every direction, out of every window, the surrounding is fantastic.
Timing is excellent with solid conditions on our preferred hills. It takes two days for measuring every inch of the Kandahar weltcup slope, 100% steep and challenging and perhaps the most wonderful way to work on your leg muscles.
Evenings are lazy apart from tough brain exercise: scrabble-battles of the peaceful, yet master-level-kind. On Tuesday evening, the tables are full of ski touring folks, while on other evenings it is just the fireplace, the scrabble board and the two of us.
At 8:30 each morning, the slopes are all ours. Having the pole position for the start into the day is so cool – no matter if we leave the first trace of the day in the Kandahar slope or if we enjoy untouched powder from last night’s snowfall on the No. 2 of our favourite slopes, the Horn-Abfahrt.
Days end with a toast to the Alps and pink skies, immersing the Kreuzeck funicular station in the most romantic light. It all looks peaceful, until… (tbc)
West will be the most certain, general direction. South, perhaps. Trying to be as flexible as the limitaions and rules on behalf of Voldemort (= topic that should not be named). My ukulele, my Hector and some books will be fine for a start, surf waves are preferred along the way and sun will be very welcome.
I wake up in golden light with low tide at my feet. Today is my last day on Île de Ré and there is one village missing on my list.
My destination of choice, La Flotte, is a quick win: just a few kilometers against the wind and easy to find – as long as the sea is to my right, I can hardly go wrong.
It turns out that La Flotte is the most charming of all island villages. A cute little harbour, a handful of bars and restaurants and one or two tiny alleys with all sorts of shops. Today, it is topped by a dramatic sky.
I hurry up for some pictures with green water and heavy clouds. I very much prefer interesting skies to endless blue horizons – at least for the photographs.
I am realistic enough to prefer a table under a solid roof for lunch, making me look like a smart (and dry) girl. I am in the middle of my main course when the rain pours down and dozens of tourists hurry up to find better places before their wine turns into spritzers.
A half hour later, the scenery is picture-postcard again. In high season, the places might be packed with people, but in the mid of June with mixed-up weather, it is as relaxed as can be.
I stroll around and take my time to detect the facets of the place. I have the promenade at the shore all for myself, except for the toy boats (or so it seems) dancing on the water’s surface.
The view over the sea towards the horizon reminds me of one of my favourite songs: Au-delà des orages / je part en voyage / mon âme au vent / le coeur éléphant… It is about travelling, about a big heart and about the joy of living – and so appropriate.
A few steps further, I come to a small church. Despite the emptiness (me being the sole person in here), it feels vivid and inviting. The spirit of it’s regular visitors fills the air like the well-used song books fill the shelfs on both sides of the main aisle.
Some days ago, I have met a nice gentlemen who proudly talked about his life. How he feels at the age of 80, how he likes the exchange with others and how much he loved his wife. It is by far not the only encounter of these holidays, yet I still hear his warm goodbye: Soyez heureuse! / Be happy! I figure this may be the best bottom line for a fulfilled life, and I am willing to give my best following his advice.
By now, I am en route with Hector for about 16 days and it still feels wonderful. Along the way, I have met friends and strangers, surfers and tourists, pensioners and campsite workers. I have felt adopted by my camping neighbours, and I have tried my best to pimp the beach sunsets with some ukulele chords. The conclusion is: the world is better with open borders and open-minded people of all kinds.
If not for conversations and encounters, a voyage would be nothing more than just sightseeing. I love the unexpected moments that enfold, such as the fresh fish offered by the camper-next-door – just because of a nice “hello” on the way back from his afternoon’s kayak & fishing tour.
Finally, my last island-day comes to an end. But not without the most spectacular sunset: Hard to decide which scene I like best, so here comes the inflation of red-golden light in umpteen pics.
And, of course, Hector is the heart of it all.
Tomorrow, we will make our way over the beauty of a bridge, heading East for some hundreds of kilometers.
The bridge Pont de l’Île de Ré is the most dominant object in and around Rivedoux. Picking up the coast line, stretching in a smooth curve over the sea, it is a nice piece of a monument. The instable weather rewards me with fantastic light, luring me out of my van, with the camera in one hand and the tripod in the other. The outcome is a series of unfiltered holiday extract: golden and promising, calm and exciting, with a wide view that may or may not exceed the horizon.
Rivedoux is the perfect starting point for a day at La Rochelle. The bridge is toll-free for cyclists and the pistes cyclables enable a relaxed visit. No parking fee, no traffic jam. While the route along the shore is closed down for construction, the alternative is pretty okay as well.
In the banlieus of La Rochelle, architects have proved that playing with colours, with different heights and with open space and some meadows or trees beware the inhabitants of the cramped feeling ever seen so often in apartment blocks. I pass by several examples of different styles and forms and little parks in between, approaching the centre ville from the backside.
My first glance at the older parts of La Rochelle is into the market hall: unfortunately, all closed down. So much for the recommendation of best food and choice of delicacies.
Leaving the market behind, I stroll around until I get to the most touristic part: the vieux port. Famous for ancient towers and known as “white city” due to the white stone of most buildings, it usually attracts thousands of tourists. June 2021 is different: despite some foreign languages here and there, La Rochelle is far from being overrun by travelers from abroad.
In the late morning, cafés and restaurants are still empty and hence inviting for a cup of coffee or two. Stress-less sightseeing at its best!
I continue my way along the old city walls and the basin of the old port. Having read a bit about the towers and their various functions over the time, I wonder if a visit inside one or another is worth it.
Given the hilarious prices (min. 9,- EUR for the small one), I skip it and rather invest my holiday savings in a solid lunch break.
With the afternoon, darker clouds approach. I admit that the ancient La Rochelle is pretty and vivid, yet I am not the most excited city hopper and rather get back to my island of happiness.
On my way back, a lady whose age is some years ahead of mine, takes a visible effort to ride an old version of a racing bike. With my super-speedy Brompton bike Prince Harry I overtake her easily. For about three times. I may be faster, but she definitely knows some tricks and abbreviations.
Back on Île de Ré, I realize that the rain clouds decided to keep to the mainland. Best conditions for a couple of hours at the campsite’s 20m pool, finally getting me into some swim training and a bit of a teint.