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Rennes-le-Château to Narbonne: Almost Adapting to Life on the Road

I sometimes find this motorhome lifestyle very difficult to adapt to. Driving a large vehicle on narrow roads is often stressful and, after living afloat, I am used to living in a small space, but not nearly as small as the space I have to live in now.

I spent six and a half years living on a narrowboat. Those used to life in a bricks and mortar home would probably find three hundred square feet of living space I had on my 62’ boat a bit of a squeeze, but there’s more space than you might expect.

The front deck was fitted with bench seats and a removable table for al fresco dining, on the one or two days in the English summer when the weather is happy to oblige. The front deck had a cratch cover which provided a considerable amount of dry storage space for items I didn’t particularly want on the boat; a hose reel protected from winter frost, Wellington boots, hiking boots, outdoor shoes, coal and kindling, garden shears for bankside trimming and a bucket, cloths and sponges for keeping the boat clean.

The wind and rain protected area was a very effective porch to use after a muddy towpath walk to shed wet clothes and dry soggy dogs.

Inside the secure fifty feet long cabin was a lounge area complete with a coal burning stove, a fixed dinette which would seat six people, a compact galley with enough equipment to prepare the most elaborate meals, and an even more compact utility area complete with washing machine and drying racks.

My work area was behind the utility room. I had a comfortable office chair, a large desk for my laptop and combination scanner/printer/fax and two spare bunks to accommodate the guests I never invited.

Then there was a bathroom with a decent sized shower cubicle and wonderful composting toilet, plus shelving for towels and toiletries. Our bedroom was at the rear of the boat next to the engine room. The room had a standard small double bed, 6’4” long and 4’ wide. We had a television and DVD player in the bedroom in addition to a television at the front of the boat which picked up 140 channels of garbage if we ever had time to waste.

The enclosed engine room was at the back of the boat with a copious amount of storage space for tools, mooring equipment, outdoor clothing, camera, binoculars, oils, paints and grease and a powerful suitcase generator which I rarely used.

The boat was solidly built. The steel cabin was insulated with polystyrene. Actually, the cabin was insulated with two layers of polystyrene after I overplated the original wooden cabin with steel in November 2011. The polystyrene prevented heat loss and dampened sound.

If you live with a significant other for extended periods, you need some space. Maybe you don’t, but I certainly do. On the boat I could sit on the front deck, in the lounge, the dinette, in my office or in the bedroom. Often, if I wanted a quiet place to work, I would sit on the bed with my superb Lavolta folding bed desk on my lap. Because there were a couple of sturdy ply doors between the bedroom and the rest of the boat, Cynthia could do what she wanted without having to worry about disturbing me.

When we travelled, I would often be on my own for hours at a time. Travel time was me time. I would sit on a padded seat on the cabin roof with the tiller wedged under my left leg, cruising at a very relaxing two miles an hour without a care in the world. I loved it.

Life is very different in a motorhome.

The boat was 62’ long, including fifty feet of internal living space. The covered front deck added another five feet.

Our Hymer B754 is larger than most motorhomes. Many motorhome owners try to stay below twenty feet (six metres) to save on ferry charges and road tolls and to make sure that they stay within the 3.5 tonne limit specified on modern driving licences. Our Hymer is 25’ long, 28’ long including the bike rack, and weighs a little over five tonnes.

The Hymer is a foot wider than the boat, but the living space is 28’ shorter. Finding some space to enjoy some essential time on my own is almost impossible.

I’m only a man, so I can’t multitask. I have to focus very hard on just one thing at a time. If I want to work on the week’s blog entry, or do any work on either the boating or the motorhome web sites, I need peace and quiet. Peace and quiet is difficult in a compact motorhome.

The most effective solution we’ve found so far is for me to sit on our bed with a thin concertina curtain drawn between the bedroom and galley areas. Drawing the curtain provides visual separation, but I can still hear every sound from the rest of our tiny home. Cynthia tries very hard indeed to stay quiet, but her task is almost impossible in such a small space.

I used to enjoy some hermit time on the boat when we cruised. I can’t do that in the motorhome. In fact, moving from place to place is one of the most stressful parts of our new life.

We both crave tranquility. It’s not something we find in towns or cities, so to reach the places we enjoy so much we have to take minor roads. Minor roads in the Pyrenees often require total concentration, a head for heights, a strong grip on the steering wheel, and an even stronger grip on sphincter muscles.

Moving to a new location in the boat was both effortless and pleasant. Narrowboats travel at less than walking pace, and they’re bombproof. You have to try very, very hard to damage one. Collisions with lock entrances, towpaths, bridges and other boats are common. Claims on insurance policies are not. A gentle bump against the bow of another boat usually results in a philosophical shrug and a smile.

As you cruise in a narrowboat, nearly always more slowly than those strolling along the towpath, you can enjoy the scenery around you; a heron standing motionless on the canal bank, a tractor ploughing a canal-side field under a cloud of squabbling gulls, buzzards circling high above or kestrels plummeting towards unsuspecting field mice.

You’re close to nature standing in the open at the mercy of wind and rain and, in the English summer, both glorious days of welcome sunshine.

In the motorhome, especially on mountain roads, you’re always inches away from death, damage, disaster and discord, confined to a metal box, separated from the beauty around you.

I’m more relaxed now than I was on the road six months ago, but I can’t claim that driving this beast is ever relaxing. Cynthia is more relaxed than I am, but she has her moments too. A typical mountain journey will go something like this…

Cynthia: “Look at that beautiful ruin over there!”

Me:  “I can’t tell where it is if you’re pointing. I’m too busy concentrating on the road to watch your hands!”
Cynthia: “It’s at 3 o’clock, slightly above you”
Me: “I can’t look now. Have you seen how narrow the road is?”
Cynthia: “Of course I know how narrow it is. Your wheels are nearly over the side. Stay to the left!
Me: “If I move any further to the left I’ll hit the lorry trying to squeeze past us!”
Cynthia: Well, if you don’t move to the left, you’ll be in the gorge below us. Move to the left NOW!”

Both Cynthia and I recover quickly from travel tension tantrums, but they occur regularly. I’m nearly always the cause.

I found our lifestyle particularly difficult to deal with earlier this week, even though we spent it at one of our favourite locations to date. Gary Granville, the voice over artist we met last Sunday in Espéraza, told us about a magic mountain a stone’s throw away from our riverside aire.

Mount Bugarach is said to have inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth because of the extensive network of caverns and tunnels running beneath the mountain. Nearby Rennes-le-Château is thought to have inspired Dan Brown to write The Davinci Code. The village was also home to François Bérenger Saunière, a monk who allegedly discovered a vast fortune there which allowed him to live a life of luxury impossible on a monk’s salary.

We stayed at Espéraza on Monday night before setting off on Tuesday morning for a pleasantly brief five mile drive to our new destination.

We managed to reach Rennes-le-Château without damaging either the motorhome or each other. The drive from Espéraza was short, but hard on the engine. The final three miles was completed entirely in second gear.

We researched the area thoroughly before we attempted the climb. Google’s satellite imagery is a very useful tool for motorhome owners. We discovered that motorhomes weren’t allowed in the village itself because of the narrow streets, but there was official motorhome parking several tight hairpins below the village plateau.

Rennes-le-Château village centre

Rennes-le-Château village centre

The location was stunning. The aire has a dozen gravelled parking bays sloping steeply downhill. None of the bays were quite large enough for the Hymer, and the slope was too steep to correct with our ramps, but we didn’t care.

We were the only vehicle parked on the aire for three days, so we picked the most level spot we could find, drove as high onto our levelling ramps as possible, and happily endured the slight list to port which resulted in Cynthia falling out of bed every night. It was, at least for me, a small price to pay for the heavenly setting.

The weather, typical for December in his part of France, was wonderful. We sat outside on our folding camp chairs for a couple of hours dressed in light trousers and tee shirts lapping up the view sharpened by crystal clear mountain air.

The priest's library tower in Rennes-le-Château

The priest’s library tower in Rennes-le-Château

The village, thanks to Dan Brown and François Bérenger Saunière, is a popular tourist destination during the summer. There’s very little going on at this time of the year. All of the villages cafés and restaurants are closed. A single bookshop offers the only opportunity to spend money.

Even though the location was draw droppingly wonderful and we didn’t have the additional stress of high mileage travel days, I still managed to blow my top on day two of our stay. I felt claustrophobic. Not once in all of my fifty six years have I spent so much time with one person, and spent it in such a small space.

Hiking a trail beneath Rennes-le-Château

Hiking a trail beneath Rennes-le-Château

We have been together for almost twenty four hours of every day for sixty days. In the past, I’ve been able to enjoy a change of scenery and company at work. I’ve worked for eight or nine hours a day for five or six days a week. I’ve been able to let off steam, enjoying workplace banter with other men who are similarly shallow. I can’t do that now.

On Wednesday, I felt the walls closing in on me. All of our joint possessions from Cynthia’s house and my boat are crammed into a space half the size of the lounge in my old house. Cynthia and I share what little space is left with two large dogs.

Tasha and Florence are wonderful companions. They have easy going temperaments and they rarely bark. A good day out for them is half an hour sniffing driftwood on a beach. They are loyal, loving and extremely likeable, but they are big dogs in a small space.

I couldn’t move without tripping over a dog or turning sideways to slip through a narrow gap between Cynthia and an inanimate object. I could stretch out my arms and touch the walls across the width of the Hymer. Four large steps took me from one end of our home to the other. I felt as though I was living in a coffin.

At that moment I didn’t enjoy our lifestyle at all. I told Cynthia that I wanted to be back on a boat. I hated the stressful driving, constant breakdowns, people stealing what we’d worked hard to buy and, most of all, living in such a tiny space.

I stormed outside. One of the few advantages that our motorhome has over the boat is that it has doors to slam. I slammed the habitation door as hard as I could and then stormed off into the mountains.

Mountains and forests always have a calming effect on me. After half an hour alone on a mountain trail worked wonders. I realised how incredibly lucky we are. Our home may be small, but our garden is limitless. We’ve chosen to stay in France for the winter. We could go further afield, but France alone offers over two hundred thousand square miles of beautiful countryside to explore.

We’ve stopped overnight in thirty six different locations in the last two months, mostly in France. Most have offered wonderful walks, sights and smells. The few we haven’t enjoyed, we’ve moved away from. If we don’t like our neighbours, we move. If we don’t like the view from our lounge window, we change it. If the weather isn’t what we want, we move to another location where it is better.

With my minor complaints well and truly in perspective I returned to the Hymer to do some apologising. With Cynthia, that’s easy. She never bears a grudge.

I'm SO sorry Cynthia!

I’m SO sorry Cynthia!

After a mostly harmonious three days on the mountain, we had to return to civilization. The aire had no facilities other than a single wheelie bin for general waste. As we only use eco cleaning products, were quite happy to let our grey water drain onto the gravel beneath us, but we had nowhere to empty our black waste, and no way of refilling our fresh water tank.

We returned to nearby Espéraza for the night, then drove to Narbonne on Thursday afternoon. Our TomTom suggested an easy to negotiate motorway route. Cynthia had other ideas.

We drove east along the D613 through the mountains for two hours. The journey was probably the most enjoyable leg of the 4,500 miles we’ve driven since I left Warwickshire two months ago. The narrow road twisted and turned through countless hairpin bends with knee high stone walls offering expansive views of steep ravines and high cliffs.

We spent two days in Narbonne. Both were delightful. We walked a mile and a half from our aire to the Place du Forum for the weekly organic market. The tree lined square was large enough for just two dozen market stalls. The market was small, but very busy. 

We bought fresh pasta, fruit and vegetables, a steak or two, aromatic spices and, thanks for some crafty marketing, three bottles of local wine. Many of the stallholders offered samples. It’s a wonderful way to capture passing trade. A local wine producer offered me a glass which he filled with at least half a pint of merlot from a bucket sized jug. The sample was larger than a standard wine glass in the UK. As I struggled to cope with a heavy red wine at 10am, he poured me another. Leaving without buying a bottle would have been rude, so we bought three.

Don't stand between a woman and her washing!

Don’t stand between a woman and her washing!

We left Narbonne yesterday, but we didn’t move far. We stopped at a Casino supermarket in Narbonne to do some laundry. Many of the larger supermarkets in France have washers and dryers in their car parks. We’ve used them before, but never on a Sunday. We won’t make the same mistake again.

Sunday is washing day for the machineless population of Narbonne. We competed for the two washing machines with several others. A young couple in an elderly Renault waited with a boot stuffed full of bedding. A shaven headed construction worker in his high viz jacket lurked nearby clutching a bag of dirty underwear.  Cynthia waited, quivering in anticipation, with her hands clutching the orange handles of our Sainsbury’s dirty washing bag. All of us watched the digital timers on the spinning washing machines counting slowly down to zero. All of us ignored the sleeping drunk on a concrete kerb behind a nearby shopping trolley shelter.

Cynthia moved with the speed of a racing greyhound and the authority of one born to command. She left a trail of weeping Narbonnites far behind her in the dash for the dryer. You don’t want to stand in the way of this woman and her washing.

We didn’t drive far. Narbonne was a bustling port in Roman times. Now it is 15km from the Mediterranean coast, but only 4km from the étang of Bages-Sigean. The former site of the port Is now a shallow lagoon.

We used Google’s satellite imagery and their Street View to check the lay of the land. I warned Cynthia not to get too excited. I was confident that the beauty spot would be filled with weekenders enjoying Sunday by the sea. As usual, I was wrong.

A room with a view

A room with a view

A large sandy car parking area was deserted apart from half a dozen motorhomes and a similar number of cars. By dusk all of the cars and most of the motorhomes had left. We parked twenty feet from the wind ruffled water.

A 40kph gale blew all night. The Beaufort scale describes it as a Fresh Breeze. Cynthia described it a little differently when the door was almost ripped from its hinges when she stepped outside this morning.

We’re going to spend the rest of the day here. We will return to Narbonne tomorrow to do a little more shopping. Cynthia damaged a hip a few years ago when she fell from a horse. Mountain walking now causes her some pain. The pain is very much reduced if she uses hiking poles. She has one already. We will buy another tomorrow, then make our way slowly inland along the Canal du Midi. We’ve identified several towns with accumulations of moored boats, thanks once more to the wonderful people at Google. We’ve now purchased a boat for summer cruising. It’s moored close to Amsterdam. We’re exploring the possibility of bringing it to the south of France next year.

From what I’ve written this week, and maybe in a few previous posts, you may have the impression that I’m not particularly enjoying myself. We’ve certainly had a few challenges over the last two months. One or two site visitors have suggested changing our lifestyle and returning to the tranquility of life in England’s inland waterways. We won’t be doing that.

Every change in life requires a little hurdle jumping. Our changes have been significant. Cynthia lived alone for twenty years. Now she lives with me. That’s enough of a challenge all on its own, but there’s far more. She’s left a wide circle of close and supportive friends behind. She’s moved continents, and moved from house to Hymer.

I’ve left a job which I loved, a business which was doing very well and the company of a group of guys I could depend on to offer help when I wanted it and advice when I didn’t.

Lots of changes for both of us, but changes for the better. Every day is filled with adventure, many highs and just a few miserable lows. I’m very much looking forward to more of the same over the coming years. Right now, I’m looking forward to a long walk on a sunlit and rather windy deserted beach.

Bye for now.

Tuesday Night 43.123726 2.994015 Bages

{ 35 comments… add one }
  • roger December 12, 2016, 6:03 pm

    Good to get your blogs mate…..perhaps you need something just a tad smaller and sharper….i am also drawn deeply to the motorhome life….this is an excellent webby..

    Safe travels mate. Keep the blogs coming

    • Paul Smith December 13, 2016, 6:08 pm

      Thank you Roger, but maybe you didn’t read my post properly. I actually need more space, not less!

  • Gordon December 12, 2016, 6:06 pm

    Love reading your ‘blogs’ (I think they are called), as motorhomers ourselves we appreciate all. Your location at the moment we know it well, and myself I appreciated the ‘ oh look at that ‘ when you are negotiating a mountain pass, with your eyes closed.
    We are mainly based in Spain but if you want to travel further I can recomend Czech Republic and Bulgaria for great motorhoming.
    Kindest regards to you both,
    Gordon

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 9:59 am

      Thank you Gordon. I think we’ll stay in France until the beginning of March, and then take a month to return to our new boat in the Netherlands. We plan to go via Switzerland so that Cynthia can show me the mountains there she loves so much.

  • Stuart rose December 12, 2016, 6:15 pm

    Hi well I’ve read this and feel for you there is nothing I can say but been there done that. Come back get a boat get a life of PEACE And tranquility. ?
    Stuart

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 10:01 am

      We’ve bought a boat Stuart, but we won’t be coming back to the UK. Not yet anyway. We will be based in Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. We’ll explore the Netherlands in 2017, then France the year after. I agree with you though, boating is much more relaxing than driving a motorhome on narrow roads.

  • Jean December 12, 2016, 6:50 pm

    Hi. Your tales make me smile. I have enjoyed both a narrow boat and motor home and love both. You do seem to have a number of problems at present but what a great way to enjoy your life.
    Hope you both have a wonderful stress free Christmas wherever you are

    • Paul Smith December 13, 2016, 7:07 pm

      Hi Jean,

      Life isn’t nearly as bad as I make out. I don’t want people who are thinking of adopting the lifestyle to think that it’s all a bed of roses. I admit that driving causes me stress sometimes, and living in such a small space for extended periods can be a little claustrophobic, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. We’re currently parked twenty feet away from the Mediterranean at a free aire in a beautiful coastal town. Christmas day is less than two weeks away, but we don’t know where to spend it. Do we go into the mountains and walk mountain trails after our Christmas dinner, stroll along a beach or walk through a forest? So many choices!

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 10:03 am

      Christmas is looking good Jeans. We can’t decide whether to stay in the mountains or on the coast. If making that choice is the most stressful part of or Christmas planning, we’re not doing too badly. I hope that your Christmas is just as relaxing as ours is likely to be.

  • Tony December 12, 2016, 7:04 pm

    Great articles, always worth reading. Always wondered if it’s possible to get a Houseboat from the UK into Europe.

    • Paul Smith December 13, 2016, 6:57 pm

      Hi Tony,

      What do you mean by a houseboat? Houseboats are often homes floating on the water which can’t move under their own power. There are plenty of powered boats which can cross the channel from the UK to France. Narrowboats can manage the trip, but only on very calm days and with an escort vessel. The more common route for narrowboats is to have them shipped by lorry across the channel.

  • Phil December 12, 2016, 7:14 pm

    Noticed the name General le clerc. In Spain I bought a pear of this name and I have been searching for another one ever since. It was delicious, if you get the chance buy one I don’t think you will be disappointed. Take care Phil.

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 10:05 am

      The name was in regard to a road rather than a variety of pear, but I’ll keep an eye out for them. I’m always keen to try new food.

  • C Murphy December 12, 2016, 9:15 pm

    Nice blog paul hope you and cynthia chillax for the rest of your time over there by the way are you going to get back on james at some point ???

    • Paul Smith December 13, 2016, 6:59 pm

      Much as I would like to return to James at some point, I think the new owners might object. They will be living on board full time from early next year, so I think they would object to me moving on board as well!

  • peter mace December 13, 2016, 9:15 am

    I do love reading your stories but this one is not your usual jolly self . Come on smile and make your next few days great . You and Cynthia deserve it after all the problems that you have had over the last few years . Good luck to you and Cynthia and hope it starts getting better for you both / pete

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 1:43 pm

      Hi Pete,

      I don’t think I was as despondent as I made out. I felt a little claustrophobic for a while, but getting out in the hills has resolved that little issue. I managed to walk 17km in total yesterday, all under a clear blue sky. The weather isn’t quite so good today. We’ve had our first rain for a fortnight, but I hope to get out with Cynthia for an hour this afternoon and then a couple of hours on my own after that.

      I think that you’ll find this week’s post far more positive.

  • Aileen December 13, 2016, 2:44 pm

    Another great read from you both, thank you! Despite all the downers, you still make me laugh and I look forward to your adventures each week 😉 You know, so many people say, “I’d love to do that – but….!” There’s always a but, BUT you two have had the balls to do it!! And it does take balls; new country, new language, new currency, new spouse!! Everyone has their moments and they just seem a bit more momentous when you’re in a foreign land, living in a cramped space. Even on the boat, if one of us has a tantrum it’s a case of, “I’m going for a walk!!” then when the walker gets back, it’s all fine again. Our tantrums are few and far between, but we have the luxury of living in 57ft of space 😉 We are now in France, moored up in Auxerre for the winter, so if you are passing through Burgundy, do stop by for a cuppa (or something stronger) and a ‘fix’ of narrowboat 😉 You can see our move on our blog, http://www.nbquaintrelle.blogspot.co.uk We spent January and February this year in Carcassonne (not in the boat, in a house – which was palatial by comparison!), and it’s a lovely area down there and I’ve enjoyed reading your experience of it. We spent a lovely day in Narbonne ogling the boats moored on the Canal du Robin. We’re planning to cruise in this central area for the next couple of seasons and then head south (depending how scary the Rhone looks!) and do the Canal du Midi so I hope we bump into you – can’t wait to hear more about the new boat!! Take care meantime, Aileen (and Mike), NB Quaintrelle.

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 1:59 pm

      Hi Aileen,

      Thanks for the positive comments. I’ve had a look at your blog. Your no slouch when it comes to adventure either. I admire you for having the courage to bring a narrowboat over here. I looked at the waterways and decided that we needed something more capable of handling lively waters. My old 62′ narrowboat had a 42hp engine. Our latest purchase, a 32′ long, 10′ classic steel cruiser, weighs a third as much as my narrowboat, but has a 106hp engine to power it. I think we are going to invest in a pair of water skis!

  • bob harper December 13, 2016, 3:37 pm

    “We’ve now purchased a boat for summer cruising. ” Bit of a throw away sentence. pray tell more.

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

      You’ll have to wait for my next post Bob. All will be revealed!

  • Helen December 13, 2016, 7:43 pm

    I am enjoying your blog, Paul and Cynthia. Thank you! Could you tell me what the picture is of – the ‘I’m so sorry ..’ one?

    • Paul Smith December 16, 2016, 6:59 am

      Hi Helen,

      I’m afraid that I don’t know the name of the picture. I did a Google search for “contrition” to find an appropriate image to fit the caption. I couldn’t find one of myself crawling on my hands and knees begging forgiveness. I should do by now. I’ve done it often enough!

  • Andrew Reynolds December 13, 2016, 8:00 pm

    Paul
    I now really look forward to your posts. Fun, informative, entertaining and now very honest.
    I was taken aback, not by events, but by your honesty in sharing them with us. Strange thing is this post just fits and adds to the story. Good work.
    On a different subject. Rennes-le-chateau is also immortalised in another grail book by Christopher Dawes. Rat Scabies and the holly grail. Rat Scabies was the legendary drummer of punk band the dammned.
    Just adding to your observations. It’s a great read.

    Take care
    Andrew

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 2:07 pm

      Thank you Andrew. My intention is always to tell our journey as it is. I think it’s possible to look far too often through rose tinted glasses. We are blessed to be able to do what we are doing, but life on the road isn’t idyllic all of the time. I have completely recovered from my temporary blues now. The solution was as simple as it was effective. All we had to do was agree to drive less and walk more. I spent a couple of hours on my own tramping through the hills, and then returned to a home parked next to the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean. What’s no to like about that?

  • Brigitte Del Grosso December 13, 2016, 11:38 pm

    ahhh poor Cynthia. You better make it up big times Paul. She is my friend. But at least you admitted your shortcomings. I think I told you that my husband, who died 3 years ago, have traveled in a trailer, which got stolen in Italy by the way, far worse than a bike. Sorry to say that. things can be far worse than it seems at the moment.
    We did canoeing, white water, rivers and lakes, wilderness camping/canoeing. I so much would love that we could do this together again. I have so many beautiful memories, priceless. I have a 86 VW Vanagon and I travel by myself now. But speaking of space. We traveled cross country with our 2 teenage daughters and a dog in that VW Van. What fun it was and how less we needed. But you are right. Nature itself shows you how to relax and enjoy. So please be kind to Cynthia. Promise. We are only humans but we have to be kind to each other. Cynthia is very positive so that is a good thing. Enjoy each other. I am alone now but I had a wonderful life and I am very grateful.

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 2:12 pm

      You are so right Brigitte. The best way of being kind to Cynthia is for me to spend some time along now and then. Life’s all about balance. Now that both Cynthia and I have agreed that I should spend more time hiking on my own, I feel much happier during the rest of the day when we are together.

      Cynthia told me about your disaster in Italy. Unfortunately I have heard similar tales a number of times. Cynthia’s bike will be relatively easy and cheap to replace. We were both grateful that nothing else was missing, and that no harm came to the dogs.

  • Susan December 14, 2016, 2:27 am

    Thoroughly enjoy your articles, have done both Motorhomes and Narrow Boats loved both of them. Not abroad though.
    Hope you and Cynthia, Trisha and Florence have a lovely Christmas.

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 2:24 pm

      Thank you Susan. I have to say, the continent is far easier in the continent than it is in the UK, especially in France where there are almost unlimited places to spend the night, often with services and often free of charge.

  • Mike December 14, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Hi Paul – this latest sums it all up – I admire you for what you are doing, but have to say it would drive ( excuse the pun ) me nuts. The Canal and all it offers has to be the way – for me.
    Keep up the good work- good luck – and keep em coming.

    Mike

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 2:23 pm

      Cynthia and I both agree that we’re happier on the water, but the motorhome allows us to see places inaccessible by boat. I know I have been moaning about various aspects of the lifestyle, but the good far outweighs the bad. We spent yesterday parked next to the ocean. Today we are on the Canal du Midi at Homps, checking out the live aboard boaters here to see what the winter mooring situation is. We may bring our boat down here at some point.

  • pat Oshea December 14, 2016, 2:26 pm

    It is always brighter on the other side
    Glad to hear do have boat.
    Keep Tom Tom for shorter adventures.
    You may want to keep boat in the Midi. I think you will enjoy camp along the canal…You will be helpful person for the Germans who rent tour canal boats..that seem to go aground .
    Yes French have it right park car outside of town..use local bus or a short walk into town.
    Concerns of the over crowded Amsterdam canals…may want to consider Rotterdam..the new Amsterdam…good canal area..less crowded.
    Rennes is one my favorite cities…visit student university area..nice cafes. The Beux Arts Museum is well worth visit.
    Encourage again to seek out the cabin camp grounds..check them..give the driving a break…stay safe.

    • Paul Smith December 15, 2016, 2:14 pm

      Hi Pat,

      I don’t think we will be spending time on the boat in either Amsterdam or Rotterdam. There are far too many quiet and pleasant waterside towns and villages to explore before we will consider tackling a city.

  • Paul Mac December 16, 2016, 6:20 pm

    Yo Paul & Cynthia,
    I do enjoy your blogs when i find time to read them, always interesting. Really pleased you have purchased a boat, not too bothered about all the spec., a boat is a boat and can always be turned into a home, altered, tweeked and far more relaxing and pleasurable than a tin box on wheels, might take a while longer to get from A to B but you cant eat a breakfast with a cup of coffee at the wheel of a motorhome. All the best to you both.

    • Paul Smith December 19, 2016, 8:58 am

      I understand what you are saying Paul, and agree with you completely. Still, there is room for both motorhomes and boats in our lives. I can’t deny that I have found this lifestyle far more stressful than boating, but it has allowed me to visit far more interesting places than I could on the water. We are both very much looking forward to transferring our belongings from bus to boat in March. How much we look forward to doing the reverse six or seven months later remains to be seen.

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