The Kindness of Strangers

Shortly after we tore ourselves away from the tranquil and beautiful paradise of St. Antonin Noble Val, we realised that neither one of us was too excited about the day ahead.  Going to a fairly large city (Toulouse) was not exactly what we wanted to do, but we found it a necessity.  We were in need of LPG gas straight away, as well as making a stop at an organic food store, which we had found online, and a pet food store.

Our first stop was for the LPG.  As soon as we spotted the LPG dispensing station we knew we had some careful manoeuvring to do—there was a van parked by it that we would be blocking.  We proceeded to hook the nozzle up to our connection when the van owner appeared.  My first thought was oh-oh, he’s going to want us to move so he could get out.  But, no, he wasn’t a bit put off, he said to take our time.  Well, a few minutes later we were still having difficulty with the connection.  So the van man went inside and came back escorted by the owner of the Total station himself!  He couldn’t have been nicer, showing Paul how to connect the pistol to the nozzle.  He went back inside and then Paul found he couldn’t get any more gas to come out.

At this point the kind gentleman in the van came over to try to help again.  He even spoke some English!  We ended up moving the van forward so he could get out.  We waved good-bye and thanked him for his assistance and patience.

We finally got the gas filled and I went to pay.  The shop was as neat as a pin, and the owner was so kind and smiling as he took our money and wished us a good day.

Our next stop encompassed an organic food store that looked quite new and inviting and we drove to the back to park. Just as we were gathering our shopping bag and stepping outside, a smiling lady came over to us and said she was most sorry, but the store was closed and they wouldn’t open until the following week.  She did point us in the direction of another organic store a couple of blocks away.  There was also a pet food shop I had spied on the way to the parking area.  We stopped in there hoping they would carry grain free dog food.  And, once again, the proprietor couldn’t have been more upbeat or kind.  He was helpful and even spoke some English.

I must say, Toulouse did not impress either one of us aesthetically or architecturally in any way, but then again we did not see the old part of town.  We did cross over the Canal du Midi and I spied some rather run-down (to put it mildly) barges and boats.  Not a place I can imagine us stopping on our explorations of the French canals!

We made our way to Samatan after a diversion in Toulouse through a deserted industrial estate, and settled in for the evening.  Paul had read that someone came around to collect the money for the Aire.  Sure enough, a gentleman showed up about thirty minutes after we arrived.  He had a big smile on his face and he fell in love with our girls.  Another kind stranger!

The next morning I meandered into town to do a bit of shopping and poking around and the people at the food market couldn’t have been nicer.  This happened no matter where I went over the course of the day.

Around 2:00PM Paul had finished his work for the day, and we decided to try to find the Renault dealer we had passed the previous day on the way to Samatan so we could have our troublesome headlight replaced.  As it turned out, it was a Peugeot dealer.  We walked into the cavernous indoor work area and in a few minutes the owner came over to us and I explained in my limited French what the problem was……and at this point I hand the story over to Paul which I hope you read and laugh over as much as I did!

To conclude, I really am enjoying the kindness of all the southern French people and find myself somewhat reluctant to leave, because I feel comfortable with the language and the vibe here.  I will certainly be challenged once we arrive over the border in Spain, and not knowing the language should provide some interesting situations.  I just hope they are as understanding, helpful and kind as the French have been!

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Cynthia Smith

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
bob Harper - November 10, 2016

There is a movie in here somewhere. I am not exactly sure where but its somewhere.
Undewrstand you are going to Spain. Police are very hot currently on mandatory equipmant you must have in vehicle. I dont have the full list but definatly two triangles, spare bulbs, spare glasses for the driver. hi vis vest. im sure if you havent all ready done so you can find this on the web. If you are down near Malaga there is a lot of free overnighting. i would be sure the same is true of all the coast line judging by the numbers of dutch who travel and you will have learnt that they know the value of a euro. I think you have to be prepared to play cat and mouse with the policia local but its just a game. i am enjoying the blog good work from you both. Are you missing your narrow boat or trhe reed cutting. ??

    Paul Smith - November 13, 2016

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the advice. I think we have all the required equipment on board but I’ll double check. I’ll be interested to see how France compares with Spain. We have been completely enchanted by what we’ve seen of France so far, and we’re eternally grateful to the French for making touring by motorhome so much easier here than it is in the UK.

    Do I miss the boat? Strangely, no I don’t. However, I miss boating very much indeed. We are very close to finalising a deal on a boat currently moored close to Amsterdam, so we should be boating again by next April after a six month break from life afloat. We are both VERY excited!

Audrey - November 14, 2016

I’m really enjoying your blog, thank you both for taking the time to make it interesting and entertaining. I recognise many of the places you have visited recently in The Netherlands as we toured over there for a couple of weeks in September in our Hymer too and being previous narrowboat owners ourselves we loved exploring the many waterways. We also love France, touring in the van is a joy with an aire in most of the towns and villages & fantastic markets what’s not to love? I am laughing out loud at Paul’s remarks in his current post about your flimsy summer dress, woollen socks and balaclava combo Cynthia ?. I wish you both well in your travels towards Spain, hope you get the passport sorted out and look forward to your posts.

    Cynthia Smith - November 15, 2016

    Many thanks Audrey for your kind comments! I am somewhat loath to leave France–especially the south where everyone has been so very helpful. My French seems to improve a little every day as I gain more confidence. Unfortunately, once we are in Spain, I will be back to square one!

    Our market day here in Castlenaudary was quite a disappointment from what we experienced a week ago in St. Antonin Noble Val. Mostly tat and very little that was appealing in the good food department. But we did find a few things. Hopefully the next market will be an improvement!

    Thanks for taking the time to write and for following our blog!


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