Friday, 4 April 2008

Of Monts and Molehills

Well as Kate has done a fine job letting you know what happened while still in England, it falls to me to let you know what we've been doing since getting to France. If you are short of time, here's a summary: stayed overnight in Cherbourg, drove to Mont Saint-Michel, took photos, drove to Dinan, checked into hotel.

Thanks for reading, do check back soon.

For those of you with more leisure time or a more pressing need to avoid doing any work, it's slightly more complicated than that. Our French is taking a while to warm up, so trying to first find a mechanic and then explain that we needed our headlights adjusted, straight off the boat while trying to get my head around the French traffic system was a bit of challenge. However we did it - sort of; we've put stickers over a section of the headlights to avoid blinding those on the other (left-hand) side of the road. So armed with a handy map of Cherbourg from the tourist office we decided (as it was now 3.30pm) to stay in Cherbourg rather than to push on to anywhere else. Priorities: a shower and to sort out the arrangement of luggage in Sheena. Last night had been comfortable, but cramped.

The Map pointed us in the direction of a campsite. After a few obligatory wrong turns we found it, only to find it was closed. Well, actually it was open, but all the shower and toilet blocks were locked up. Still there was running water on site, flat ground and it was near the beach, so we just decided to stay - if anyone turned up we'd offer to pay, but the unlocked gates seemed to suggest that they weren't too bothered. Well we'd always intended to do some free camping. This still left the issue of showers.

We solved this by going swimming. Not in the sea (tempting, but probably more than a bit nippy this time of year) but in the piscine next door. The plan was, have a dip then use the changing room showers. Brilliant. As ever, nothing was quite that simple. The next problem was that I only have Bermuda Short style swimming trunks and, for reasons unclear to me, these are banned from French swimming pools. Hmmmm. After fronting it out with the receptionist ("oui, oui, j'ai le malliot correct") I decided it was safer to go through in my boxer shorts, which, handily, were black and close fitting trunks. Had to tuck in the Calvin Klein waistband - could have been a bit of a give away - and felt unable to risk using the water slides, but otherwise Kate and I very much enjoyed our little dip, feeling buoyed up by our problem solving skills.

Suitably refreshed and cleansed we headed off in Sheena back into town to Carrefour, one of those gigantic French supermarkets, to buy a picnic dinner and the most obscene chocolate patisseries ever. We were both feeling much better by now, having managed both breakfast and lunch on the ferry. We felt great, sitting out behind Sheena in the warm evening sun eating bread and cheese with fruit and salad, sipping Champagne (thanks Jon and Sarah!) and toasting our good fortune. Later, after a romantic beach side stroll we retired to bed, feeling like we had just about everything worked out.

.... oh dear.
If the presence of countless molehills was anything to go by there used to be a pretty healthy mole population at the Collignon campsite before we arrived. After some rather fluid bowel movements the following morning this is probably no longer the case. I felt like I was committing mammal genocide as I madly dug with my shovel and squatted, intestines heaving, in the early dawn. All yesterday's optimism at our returning health - mine in particular - vanished pretty quickly. Kate's stomach was at least holding up, though the poor darlings lungs were behaving like those of a 60-a-dayer after a 3 mile swim through treacle. It was in rather duller spirits that we made our way through splendid sunshine and rural roads to the glorious Mont Saint Michel.

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