Friday, April 29, 2022

France: D Day + 78 Years

 


Recently on “The Bobby & Aleja Show” ….

We had lived in a vehicle together for years in South America. I’m fond of saying “We were given 2.5 years off for good behavior and allowed out of the vehicle”. We ended up in Bali and lived in a lush villa with servants in a tropical paradise. There was scant little to complain about and things were deliriously good. But eventually, the yearning for exploration becomes more than a mild itch and the mind sabotages tranquility. Inside me, complacency gave way to an urgency for adventure. Some don’t feel the clock ticking. I unfortunately do. We’ve come full circle and are now road hogs again.



Drip Drip Drip

Finding water in the winter in northern Europe to fill your fresh water tank is no easy task. Most public places shut them off so pipes don’t break. We were dirty, needed showers and had dishes to wash. My smart lady figured it out, “You know who always has water? Bomberos!” Of course, she was right. The fire fighters are public servants who are never at a shortage for water. We went to the closest fire department and they filled us up. We later learned that, as odd as this sounds, you can usually find an open spigot at a cemetery. So that’s what we’ve become: water scrounging filthies who accost fire fighters and steal H2O from the dead. I’m so proud of us. 

That is our cassette toilet. The most disgusting design flaw in Europe. When the rules of the road are built around weight you end up with a system that puts you in constant arms length contact with effluent. I love Europe but that is the biggest downfall to this lifestyle. In the USA we have enormous black water tanks on our vehicles and all dumping is done much more hygienically.

Winter In France

In hot weather you never think about your hands. We arrived in the middle of winter. Skin cracks and everything manual hurts the gnarled fingers in such cold. The last time I owned a French vehicle, it was a Jeanneau Sun Legende 41. I used to curse the French and their little hands all the time. I crawled beneath Encore to affect a minor repair to a muffler heat shield that had come partially detached. Working with steel in freezing weather sucks whatever heat remains in your naked digits “tout suite”. It was a busy parking lot and the lady who pulled in next to me was astounded to see a man half under a vehicle, lying still with his hands down his pants trying to get some feeling back in his fingers in order to finish the job. “Sacre Bleu”!


The Colombiana still finds snow and ice to be a novelty


Ahhh – The Cuisine

We went from a very inexpensive country with bad expensive wine and negligible cheese to a very expensive country with the world’s best of both and oddly the prices for both wine and cheese went down. The exhilaration I feel when viewing the cheese and wine selections in the giant Le Clerc grocery stores are on par with the vistas of Mt. Agung from Nusa Penida. 

Every French dinner setting is a still life worthy of being painted. With our friends Miguel and Marine


Raclette is my new favorite. Cheese? Yes Please!

Where do you park?

In France they have what they call Aires. It literally translates as “areas”. They are designated parking spots for motorhomes. Sometimes they are complete with a dumping and filling station, and are free. The French have embraced the “vehicle get away” because it’s a great childhood memory-maker for their kids and I think they really love their kids. Yes, every culture loves their kids but the French are a little special in this area. The nights were quiet and we always felt very safe. There were no loud roaming packs of youth. The French teens were all at home being raised correctly and we were left alone to enjoy their beautiful country. 



Faltering Eyesight

“Live like there’s no tomorrow” is a bit nihilistic for me. It leaves no room for future planning nor hope. I can’t agree with that motto. I can however subscribe to what I believe is the improved phrasing of: “Live every day as if you go blind tomorrow”. This succeeds in creating the same sense of urgency and leaves room for optimism while forcing one to savor the beauty of this spinning marble. We went from one of the world’s best examples of natural beauty to one of the world’s best examples of man-made beauty. The natural bounty of Bali and the architectural delights of France are polar opposites but equally magnificent. Plan your day so as to feed your eyes with splendid visions. Not day dreams – real vistas of splendor. France does not disappoint. 

The only trouble with France is the architecture. It's so distractingly beautiful. You're gonna step in dog poop

The Language

The French are stinking rich with letters and accent marks. They add them like fancy baubles to every word and generously pile them into their sentence construction. They lean hard into the accents though they rarely pronounce the letters. Silent “Ts” & “Xs” hang orphaned at the end of many words. The nasal murmur and soft “zzzzs” that serpentine around each phrase hypnotize and melt the cruelest of hearts. It’s narcotic. No wonder nothing gets done. I have a theory that those nasal murmurings have somehow stimulated a sinus growth spurt and their language is the reason their noses are so large. All the better to breath that delicious cheese.

The masks don't work for the Balinese because they have such diminutive noses and they don't work for the French because they have such gargantuan beaks

Ahhh – The French

The first month we were here. I constantly heard myself saying, “Look how French this is. Look how French he is. Look how French that is.” The second month I heard myself saying “Look how French we are. We are so French!”

We are from the new world, North America and South America, but inside each of us there is a Frenchie trying to rise to the surface. I imagine it’s the same for everyone. Embrace your inner Frenchie! Buy that black turtleneck, wear a beret, eat more cheese, drink more wine, kiss on the cheeks – twice!

The Schengen Zone Shuffle

As non-Europeans we are only allowed 90 days inside the Schengen Zone out of every rolling 180 days (it’s complicated. They make apps due to the complexity). We originally thought we would be dashing to Morocco but even though the borders are open, the ferries aren’t running, so we’ve changed course for our alternative escape plan. The clock won’t stop until we get to Croatia. The formula essentially becomes 88 days in the Schengen Zone (a conglomerate of 26 countries) and 92 days outside of the Schengen Zone (they count the day you exit and the day you enter). Our plans try to weigh the seasons against our allotted 88 days. The dream is to be in the north in the summer and in the south in the winter. It doesn’t always work. I’ve built multiple spreadsheets that run the gambit of our planned 5 years in Europe and in every case, we inadvertently end up in Lithuania in November or Greece in August, or some such other error of planning. This is going to be fun. But for now, let’s focus on the immediate: pour another wine and order the charcutier board. “Que sera sera”. I’m so French now!

Even in the freeze of winter we fell in love with France

Your man on point,

Blacktop Bobby


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