Since Andorra, we have definitely been taking it easy in the south of France. We drove to Toulouse from Andorra, not venturing too far as we’ve got friends visiting in a week or so and the van could definitely do with a break after being brutally pushed through the Pyrenees.
On a couple of occasions we’ve made the half hour trip into Toulouse city centre, parking at the university and taking peaceful strolls along the picturesque river, stopping for a crepe or two along the way.
The city is so busy with students it’s ridiculous; the river bank is constantly heaving with people of all ages avoiding the expensive bars and cafes and having a drink on the grass. One thing we were surprised with is just how tolerated marijuana is over here. Walking through the park next to the river was just a surreal experience. The park is heaving and there are people of all ages and creed enjoying the sunshine and a joint or two, with families with young children not even batting an eyelid, and some parents even partaking in the passing of the spliff. Alongside this, and even more interesting to see, was that there were so many people practicing tight-rope walking as casually as we kick a ball back in England, and it would seem that everyone in France has a hobby of some variety, from practicing their technique for the circus, to the pensioners playing boules, to volleyball, football and god knows what else.
Obviously we’re waiting for Hannah, John, Joe and Renée to come out and so for the past the couple of weeks, we’ve been floating around the country side, staying at different aires and a campsite every few days for a shower and some electricity.
This place was called Maz d’azil and was essentially just caves with rivers and roads weaving through it, but it was good for a walk and we got the best crepes I’ve ever eaten in the village next door (goats cheese, burger wheat, spinach, egg, aubergine and tomato, washed down with home brewed mulled cider that apparently paired with the crepe, how fancy!)
Both the campsites we’ve stayed at have these cute little rivers running next to it (queue the dogs getting filthy!)
We spent one night at a local lake, and here’s some pictures of the dogs looking like they’re about to drop their first album next to it…
We stayed at a farm one of the nights, in a field next to about 50 chickens. All was well until about half 5 the following morning when every single bird began their cockle-doodle-doing, of course waking us all up and meaning the day started unwelcomely early. As a result of this, plus the lack of food we had and the boredom that was beginning to set in after being in such a rural area for a while, the farm became setting to a lovely morning row, ahhhh perfect. Although we’ve met some people along the way, majority of the time it’s just Rod and I to fulfil each other’s social needs, which obviously no matter how hard we try isn’t going to work all the time. Funnily enough, friends and family are important and we can’t rely solely upon each other for everything. Needless to say we’re both really looking forward to seeing our friends and partaking in conversations in which there are more than just us two or in which we don’t need to take guesses at what is actually being said. Just good old easy English comfortable conversation!
We got speaking to a guy in the park the other day and he recommended that we go to a place called St Girons a bit further back down south; there’s a big market there on Saturdays and a lot of travelling folk attend which will give us a chance to satisfy some of our social needs! And so we went, and it was everything we were told it would be.
I treated myself to a beautiful journal and Rod invested in a gay little head band for his now out of control locks. Being able to put it in little plaits means it’s time…
He now looks like he’s just rolled straight out of the 70’s and is most definitely rocking the ‘happy camper/peace and love’ vibes.
We got ourselves some food from a stand and got chatting to some guys who spoke decent English. He asks us if we want to go back to his house with his friends in the mountains and of course we accept! We head off, following them in their campervan to first, his friends house, collecting a massive speaker and some mixing decks, and then 20 minutes up the most meandery and narrow dirt track roads along the mountain, the van struggling of course, having to get into 1st to make the incline. But it was worth it, by an absolute mile. The view was literally jaw dropping. A whole panoramic line of snow capped mountains with a tiny village lying in the valley below. This picture does not do it justice but it gives you an idea.
Manu lived in a little house on a lot of near vertical land, which held little ledges for various little buildings; a toilet and shower ledge, a green house and a sort of communal living room building ledge, a few allotments, a chicken coop at the bottom and last but not least, a ledge with a bathtub built in so they can have a bath with one of the best views I’ve ever seen (sort of amazing but sort of weird too). After getting chatting more we found out that he’d paid about €15000 for all the land and the property’s built on it were included in that ridiculously small price and for a split second, we’re considering abandoning ship and moving to the mountains. He lives off his own land, growing and selling his crops, eating the eggs from his chickens every morning and chilling pretty much every day. Even his friend, Jeremy, only works 3 days a week clearing the roads of fallen trees on the mountains, and yet lives in a sweet little cottagey house in the valley of the mountain we were on. The neighbours from a different patch of land about a ten minute walk away join us and they have an even more surreal life. They have 3 horses, 1 of which is their 8 year old sons. He doesn’t go to school because he doesn’t like it and they home school him, teaching him the ways of the mountain world; he rides into town on his horse, catches his food out hunting or fishing with his mom and dad and basically lives the simple life out in the wild. The woman, (can’t remember the names, shocking I know, apologies), only worked on rainy days (seriously mental) and made her own cool beautiful leather bags of all kinds, and on sunny days she would help with the crops, the animals and their food. They had only lived there for a year or so and had literally travelled there by horse and full on carriage, the latter of which was now in the garden ready to use for shopping days or long distance journeys. The guy was basically a cowboy/Indiana jones man, sporting a knife on his belt and rope on his shoulder, which later became incredibly useful when he had to help us get the van off the ledge of a mountain.
We’d needed to turn the van around to be able to leave the following day, and when we had to move it so Manu could get his car out to go and collect petrol from the garage (the solar panel doesn’t cover the massive speakers) we figured we may aswell turn it around while we’re still sober. Unfortunately we misjudged it and ended up facing down a mountain with just a tree preventing us from falling down to our probable deaths. Every time we would try to reverse, the wheels and in turn, the van, would spin and sink us further and further into a problem, and we ended up being sort of held back from falling by the roots of the tree. To be fair to us, we were incredibly calm and I didn’t screech with nervousness even once, most likely because we were rather drunk and instead chose to see the funny side of this particular nightmare! It took a lot of rope, chains, trees, a weird wire device and man power to get us back up, nearly getting to the point of bribing the local farmer to help us with his tractor.
But we had a lovely evening drinking rum and playing darts on a ledge of a mountain, stupidly we barely took any pictures as a result of our intoxication. Manu is planning to move to Indonesia next year, after the arrival of his baby due at the end of the year, going out there to set up a diving school and renting out his land here in France – basically just continue to live the sweet simple life somewhere else, alright for some eh?! If we manage to get our shit together quick enough when we get home, we’re thinking of maybe popping out to Indonesia for a couple of weeks for a different kind of adventure; obviously there are other priorities but we can still hope!
We’ve just dropped our friends back off at the airport and are now feeling quite sorry for ourselves without them! I’ll post about our endeavours together in a couple of days, I needed to get this one out the way first! We’re gonna start heading out of France tomorrow but unfortunately with this disgusting hangover I’m currently nursing, we’re not moving far today, instead choosing to eat heaps and watch films, drowning our sorrows and hangover in wonderful complex carbohydrates and Coca Cola.