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|Southern France, June 4, 2001
We made it! At long last, France! It is hard to explain to friends back in the States how it could have taken 4 years to drive the equivalent of oh, I don't know, maybe Columbus to Denver..... But somehow, something has always come up when we have tried to make a vacation to France. We were beginning to think that there was a mysterious cosmic block on Hofschen travel across that particular border. Two years ago we had the car packed, had driven a half hour from home and realized that we didn't have our passports. We turned around, a little annoyed with ourselves, went home, got our documents, headed off again and got as far as the rail road tracks where we heard an odd clanking noise under the car. Our exhaust system had lost a connection piece and was sagging in the middle dangerously low. Normally, that wouldn't be such a terrible repair. However, the first day of the Easter vacations. Nothing was open. We drove around Freising desperately for an hour or so looking, looking. We finally, found an open gas station with a service garage. The mechanic was on vacation, but the assistant confirmed our fears. No driving to France with this car. We drove home, unpacked our vacation. That was my birthday, 2000. In 2001 we got another great idea. Friends from the States should fly over, we''' we'd find a big old French Farmhouse, somewhere in Provence and stay there for a week or two. Drinking local wine, feasting on hearty French country fare. We did lots of research, found a great looking farmhouse, booked it, and then our friends vacation got cancelled. Just like that. The boss said, "Nope, you simply can not take a long vacation this year".
|Back to the travel agent I went, paid the cancellation fees, "un-booked" the farmhouse. Packed away the Provence books. And felt generally blue for many weeks... So, when we got this idea to maybe spend the Spring vacations camping in southern France, we were a little wary about putting too much preparation time into the whole thing. Matthias had been to the south of France on a bike trip many years before and|
|remembered the area a bit further along the coast form
St. Tropez as being lovely. We decided that would be a good destination for us. Specifically, a small town called Ramatuelle.
And look, photos from France! We made it! No broken cars, no flu, no problems. And the coast was beautiful beyond my hopes and maybe even a little more beautiful than Matthias' memory. The last bit of the drive from southern Italy into France and then along the winding coastal highway seemed to last forever. We were all feeling rather nervous about whether we would find an open camping spot so late in the day. It was after 7 when we finally found Ramatuellee. And later still when we found the camping ground. But we were in luck, a nice little corner was free, under a big pine tree right across from a small playground. Perfect.
We set up our tent, folded out the camp chairs and found a nice branch to hang our lantern on just as darkness fell. Or I should say Matthias got back with a fuel bottle full of benzine just in time for me to fill our lantern and find a branch for it. I'm mentioning this because finding an open gas station, or any gas station in the area was not an easy task. But because I had practically burst into tears at the thought of no light for the evening and no coffee for the morning (I mean, it is DARK at night without any electric lights....), Matthias sighed many sighs and then drove bravely off into the twilight to find some stinky stuff for our fuel bottle. In the morning we woke to the sound of giggles and playing from the play ground. Katie and Anika wandered across still in their pajamas to check out the selection of French playmates. Matthias walked up the camp office and came back with an armload of heavenly smelling fresh baguettes. And I struggled with our Colemann camp stove, determined to make coffee. After many failed attempts at lighting the temperamental contraption I finally got the hang of it. Wreaking of benzine I proudly produced a fresh thermos of fire brewed coffee.
The week sped by all to quickly. The first weekend we were there was a long holiday weekend in France.
After Tuesday the camping ground was significantly emptier. Each morning we would brew some coffee and fetch some
fresh baguettes and then plan our days adventure under that big tree by our tent. The beach was just a 5 minute bike ride down the hill from our
camp ground. A wild rocky, flower covered sort of coast. We spent a few days looking for signs of pirates. We collected bike baskets full
of melon sized pine cones and made a garden with them all around our tent. At night we could place dozens of
tea lights among them and fantastic shadows. One evening on our way back up the hill Matthias and Katie saw a Wild Boar and her
young on the road. We took a break now and again from our cook stove and sampled some of that famous French cooking. No complaints.
We even rode our bikes into St.Tropez one day to see the upscale boutiques and expensive cafes. That wasn't much fun. The roadways were narrow and
and jammed with fast driving cars between Ramateulle and St. Tropez. It was nerve racking pedaling along them with the kids. St.Tropez was interesting
and beautiful but not a great place for the kids. We toured around for a short while and then took a "short cut" along the beach back to Ramatuelle.
A 6 hour short cut, pushing our bikes along through the surf! But, we had our bathing suites with us, and a big bag of very ripe cherries from a fruit stand
we had passed on the way out of town. After a swim and rest on the sand the tight traffic and hot pavement of the morning's ride faded away.
On our last night by the coast we took a bottle of wine, some honey, some bread and fruit (and a very stinky can of sardines) and climbed out onto one of the large flat stones along the shore for a picnic. Just us and the sea gulls (and maybe the wild boars, but we couldn't see them). My first trip to France leaves me longing for a second...
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