On Friday 24 February at almost exactly 1200 (noon) we crossed the border from France to Switzerland. Wasn’t much of a crossing–there was no one at the border station to greet us! We had passports out and ready to go. Oh well, no worries! We parked just across from the border station, and walked to a gas station a short distance away to buy our CF (Swiss Francs) 40 highway vignette that allows us to drive on the Swiss motorways.
I have considered Switzerland one of my homes away from home for a number of years, as I flew there so frequently during my tenure as International Flight Attendant. I have always felt comfortable there. And now I find myself feeling even more comfortable in France after spending the last nearly four months there.
I favor approaching every thing life throws my way as an opportunity with no expectations. I was overwhelmed with nothing but positive experiences in France. It was marvelous on so many levels. After our very short stint in Spain, we were both overjoyed to return to the south of France, though we knew we would be making a sacrifice of sorts because the winter weather would not be as warm as the south of Spain. No worries here! For the most part we had plenty of sun and some nice sitting outside and reading days. The only rainy weather we experienced came the last two weeks of our stay there. And the day we departed, Thursday, 16 February was truly a beautiful sunny spring day. We were even escorted out of the lagoon area by a sailboat bobbing along on the water.
The morning of our departure we had the girls bathed at a mobile unit that came to the open market in Peyriac where we had sort of stationed ourselves so we could receive mail and such. The girls loved their spa day and were pampered to the nines. The lady who owns the business spent well over an hour with each dog. We then stopped off at Narbonne Accessories to give Guillaume and Erik a bottle of wine to thank them for all they did to help keep our motorhome in good order. We can’t say enough good things about them
We enjoyed a nice trip to the aire we had chosen for the night, but about 15 minutes prior to our arrival, the red light for the battery came on, and shortly after we lost all our lights. Thank goodness for powerful torches! And as we settled into our spot at the aire, the engine just shut down! We knew it was either the battery or the alternator. Paul called our insurance provider and lined us up for a call back in the morning so we could do what was necessary to get things sorted out and be on our way. I had a deadline to meet for the following weekend, as one of my dearest Flight Attendant friends was having a layover in Zurich for two days and we were planning to meet him and see three more of my Swiss friends.
So. Friday morning we got hauled out of the aire, and were taken to a car wrecking facility in Montpellier and dumped in the yard—for the next 5 days!! Not one of our most inspiring spots, but with the abundant warm sunshine we made the most of it by sitting outside and reading. The second day we had some neighbors with failed brakes who were from the UK and so we spent some pleasant time chatting and sharing experiences with them. We also negotiated the confusing, traffic-filled and tangled roads of Montpellier to seek out a laundry facility and other stops. None of it was easy as there is precious little in the way of public parking.
On Tuesday morning we were greeted by the manager of the garage bright and early, just as we were finishing our breakfast. He moved us into the garage to replace the alternator, and we drove to the city to do various last minute errands and return the rental car. We had some near mishaps on the convoluted roads but made it back unscathed. When we returned to the garage, the workers were still at lunch. At exactly 2PM the garage doors were flung open, we paid the bill (less than the estimate) and set off for Provence. As a lovely aside here—at the garage facility in the yard was a kennel with two English Setters and a Boxer mix. We became fast friends with them and brought them regular treats. One of them reminded me so much a former English Setter I had owned and I hated saying good-bye to him, and I could tell he felt the same about me. A tearful farewell—I shall miss him.
We found a terrific aire in Fontveille (not far from Arles) that had been an old quarry. It was one of the most delightful aires we have stayed at, and the hiking trails around there were magnificent. We hated leaving there, but had to keep to our schedule and pick up my new (finally this saga comes to a close!) passport at the US Consulate in Marseille. And of course it had to be in the old part of the city which is another maze of tangled one way streets about as wide as your baby finger. Once again Paul and I proved to be a good team and managed to find the place and reconnect once I had picked it up, about 20 minutes later.
We then headed north to the Lyon area for the aire stop that night. I hated having to bypass the Provence area I so wanted to show Paul, but we will add it to our list of places to visit come next autumn on our return.
We needed food the following day, and Paul managed to do his as usual excellent sleuthing and found one of our beloved BioCoops in Lyon—which turned out to be almost an exact replica of the Marseilles street experience—only steeper! Our clutch was definitely challenged that day! We were lucky enough to have a parking spot right outside—which was for deliveries– but I made a mad dash into the place and gathered the necessities before we were caught and away we headed to Geneva.
Our stop that night was at an aire high in the mountains just north of Geneva but still in France. We did not expect snow, but found ourselves not only surrounded by it that night, but greeted in the morning by even more, as the rain had turned to snow during the night.
We waited until mid morning then set off up the mountain and on to Switzerland. What a glorious ride this was! The road was wider and the sun was shining and the alps and Lac Laman were just ahead of us.
So. We said our tearful good-byes to France and away we went on our next adventure!
I would love it if everyone we encountered and dealt with in France were reading this blog. I would want them to know how much they added to our love of France by going out of their way to be so kind and so helpful. I used my French as much as possible and was very well received. And it helped me gain confidence in using the language even more. I will be continuing my studies over the spring and summer with my Pimsleur CD’s so I can be even more proficient when we return next fall.
There was so much to love about France, it would take another 2,000 words at least just to touch on all the good things we enjoy there. And the opportunities to enjoy nature and take advantage of great walks was endless.
I know we will often reminisce about our time in France as we make our way into spring and summer. There is so much more we have to explore in this vast and impressive country.
I say Merci Beaucoup France for ALL the wonderful dreams you helped make come true. We love you and will miss you…..