Last night I have dreamed of driving on the left side of the road, meaning that my mindset is ready for today’s adventure. With all the “Left!” signs pinned to my cockpit, it is hard to focus on right-side-driving when approaching the port of Roscoff.
Hector’s head lamps got some stickers that shall prevent dazzling of other cars. It looks strange and almost certainly, I got it all wrong – but in case of anyone controlling it, I can proof that I tried my very best. It is a pity that nobody bothers, all they check at the ferry is whether I hide illegal persons under my couch. As usual, it would have worked out with the bathroom as hiding place, but that should be kept a secret.
Once on the boat…
…no, really: once on the boat, I get lost between restaurant hours and continental versus UK time. In the end, Hector’s tyres touch British ground around 8:30 p.m. and we hurry up to find an appropriate parking place for the night.
All along the 10 km towards the “Seven Stars Inn”, I tell myself to keep left, no matter what the tomtom says.
At 9:00 p.m. sharp, we reach the parking of Plymouth’s oldest pub. Other places might be more charming, but everyone inside welcomes me with a warm hello (owners and guests) and a fart (the dog) and I am relieved to have reached my first milestone in the UK.
Tomorrow morning, I will try to lead Hector further towards Cornwall. Fortunately, I do not know anything about blocked roads, accidental junctions and other difficulties, I just fall asleep and hope for the best.
Time to follow some more of Comissaire Dupin traces: Approaching Tregastel as close as possible, my internet research reveals a campsite at the Côte de Granit Rose. While Southern and Western parts of the Bretagne have been blessed with low season, the Northern parts are far from developing anything like a season.
The rocks are less pink than expected and the sea options are: high tide = no beach at all, tricky rocks waiting for knee scratches under water; or: low tide, endless sands/rock-mixtures with the smell of dead sea weed.
Contrasting the rural landscape, the Camping Municipal of Landrellec is comfortable and brand-new. Hector has a nice view on the sea (a clear plus), but the range of activities comes with restricted dimensions.
Option a: Follow the coastal path “GR34” to the right.
Option b: Follow the path to the left.
The fun stops when trying to find an open restaurant for the next evening. The few within reach (two, thoroughly counted) are closed with exceptions to weekend-lunchtimes. Trégastel is a bit too far or requires car usage. Conclusion is that this region throws tourists right back on themselves, and all of a sudden I understand all the satellite antennas on the RVs around.
The next morning, I rather go for St. Brieuc with it’s Ville Historique, a shopping street and: a hairdresser with free timeslots.
Not only the Granit rock at the coast is supposed to be rosé/pink, the same shall be the preferred style on my head. Unfortunately, the hair stylist has no pink available, so we agree to try violet instead. The outcome is a bit less exciting than expected, but with sun + sea it will brighten up soon just the same.
However, the main reason for being here is the Train Station and the big hello upon Linda’s arrival!
We start relaxed in our common holiday week with sea view, sun and yoga.
Later, trying some more of the Northern coast, we reach Plouézec / peninsula of Paimpol. Again, this is supposed to be a nice region with a nice campsite – still, we are not the right peer-group.
In the long run, stunning views from Hector’s couch are not sufficient. Without getting too deep into details, let’s pretend this were tinder and the campsite/region a possible date – it is a clear non-match, after all.
We leave behind the picturesque views and seek a more suitable place. Assuming I had an idea for future stays, including a beach bay and surf occasions… add the coincidence of a new surfboard that fell out of Decathlon into my van… I wonder where we might end up!
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.