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Leucate, Surfing and Tristan the Tramp

Motorhome laundry in a Leucate laverie

Another day of chores ahead of us; hand fill our one hundred litre potable water tank, empty the grey water tank and empty our toilet cassette. Fill up with diesel, buy more petrol for the Honda generator, replenish our depleted gas supply, and drive to Leucate and our favourite laverie to meet Tristan-the-tramp.

We met Tristan two weeks ago. A stack of dirty clothing littered a sheltered corner between a supermarket and a laverie, a launderette, in a small shopping centre on the edge of town. Tristan sat at a small table inside the launderette with his whiskey bottles, rolling tobacco and cigarette papers lined up neatly in front of him. He smiled as we entered and offered us words of encouragement as we washed and dried, occasionally lurching from his improvised bar to volunteer more advice or assistance. Despite his circumstances, he seemed a happy chap. We left him with an au revoir and a bag of fruit. Both Cynthia and I looked forward to meeting him again.

Replenishing our potable water supply this morning was a cold affair. An icy twenty knot north-westerly tousled the heads of the pine trees towering above the rundown water point. Shallow ice-crusted pools dotted the uneven ground around the small manhole covering the rugby club’s changing room sewage outlet. Skating over the frozen surface trying not to drop a twenty-kilo plastic cassette filled with fetid brown slurry wasn’t easy.

The coast road south to Leucate offered an entertaining experience for the drivers of high sided vehicles. The area is renowned for its wind. There was plenty of it about today. Waving at fellow motorhome owners is customary on French roads. The passengers did all the greeting today. White-knuckled drivers held on for all they were worth as sudden gusts pushed tall but light motorhomes into the path of oncoming traffic.

Leucate village was even windier. The area is a Mecca for windsurfers. The first of three thriving surf shops opened for early season business this weekend. A pair of rubber-clad and barefoot surfers left the store as we passed. Cynthia and I shivered and turned up the Hymer’s heating.

I dropped Cynthia off close to a village centre boulangerie to buy some fresh croissants. Leucate’s streets are as narrow as they are busy. There’s rarely anywhere to park for large motorhomes. I drove in circles for ten minutes along narrow streets, trying not to catch an avenue of roadside plane trees with the Hymer’s wing mirrors.

We spotted Tristan-the-tramp as we left the village. The local gendarmerie had moved him from the relative comfort of the laverie. His new home was a sheltered wall next to a post office. He smiled and raised a half-empty whiskey bottle in salute as we passed.

We’ve finished our chores now. We’re parked by the water, rocking gently in the gale as we watch the sun go down.

Our beachside view at Leucate

Our beachside view at Leucate

An interesting sky over our Leucate wild camp site

An exciting sky over our Leucate wild campsite

Oh the glamour of life on the road. It's our twice monthly wash all we own session.

Oh, the glamour of life on the road. It’s our twice-monthly wash all we own session.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • john February 11, 2018, 2:36 pm

    I sympathise with anyone wholly or partially exposed to the elements at this time of year. Presumably you have scoured the continent for Hymers being broken, or other vehicles with the same windows?
    I see the dvla record your vehicle as being a Fiat – could this be a reason for the difficulty in finding spares?

    john

    • Paul Smith February 12, 2018, 6:42 am

      The vehicle cab and chassis is Fiat, but the body was built by Hymer. The vehicle is fifteen years old. Windows for it aren’t kept in stock, so we need to have one made to order.

      It’s not so bad. We get a bit of a draught coming through the window if the starboard side is exposed to the wind. We can either move the Hymer or use the over cab bed instead. We have options. We’re happy.

  • Pat leng February 11, 2018, 4:46 pm

    Oh Paul, Where are the pictures of the surfers. Being one myself I was drooling at the thought of those big waves etc. On reflection – weather pretty cold for onlookers – much warmer in the water or INSIDE the motorhome.

    • Paul Smith February 12, 2018, 6:45 am

      These are kite surfers Pat, so there are no big waves, just a large expanse of water and a lot of wind. We spoke to a couple of them yesterday. The wind is strange here. It comes in bands. They were waiting in the calm before the next band. They told us that the forecast was for 70mph gusts. After feeling the Hymer rocking the previous night, I believed them.

      I didn’t take any photo’s because I only have an iPhone these days. They aren’t good for taking action shots of distant subjects.

  • Brigitte February 12, 2018, 12:10 pm

    I saw a doku about surfers in the winter in Iceland. Can you believe that? But the picts with a surfer and the Norther Lights riding a wave was
    (for them at least) worth all the endurance, just getting to a bay on icy and snow covered roads catching huge waves.
    I think the tramp was happy b/c of the whiskey?! At least that keeps him warm. But everybody should have a shelter.

    • Paul Smith February 13, 2018, 5:54 am

      The tramp (we now know he is called Fabrice) is a hopeless alcoholic. The village supports him in any way they can. At one stage they gave him a small apartment to live in. He moved out, back onto the street. I’m sure he has deep-seated emotional issues, but he always has a smile on his face and a friendly word for people he meets.

  • Ian carrington February 12, 2018, 3:07 pm

    Winter here in southern Spain has been mild this year, it was 20 degrees on the beach at Vera in Almeria yesterday.
    Did you finish the book you were writing, you have a talent with words and I was looking forward to reading it?

    • Paul Smith February 13, 2018, 6:03 am

      We may try Spain again one winter. As we’ll be driving north to Belgium in six weeks, I don’t think we’ll get there this winter.

      I’m three-quarters of the way through my book. Creating my online narrowboat course – and some form of income – has been the number one priority recently.

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