Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Joys of the Journey

Woods are scary, well sleeping in woods is scary if you have and overexcited imagination; thoughts of Hansel and Gretal, wolves, and the Blair Witch Project jump around in my subconscious. Staring up at the stars from the warm cocoon of my bivi bag the trees tower above me stark agains the night sky.

I'm not exactly sure where we are though. It's about ninety minutes since we got off the ferry and  we've driven well into northern France.  In an attempt to cut the cost we've taken the decision to follow the old D roads to Fontainblau rather than dash madly down the Peage's. By two in the morning and with close to 300miles from Leeds behind us sleep was calling relentlessly. Dom managed to locate a quite back road through a forest where we could pull off and bed down.

Not fancying a night squeezed between gear stick and steering wheel I spread out the bivi and bed down. Dom takes one look at the creatures of the night scurrying about the forest floor and jumps straight back in the car (this is a man who can lead E7!). The noise of crickets is astonishingly loud but eventually fades into the background along with the dull rumble of traffic on the nearby highway.

Then the screaming starts. Being shocked violently awake is disconcerting, sleep banished in an instant by a huge dump of fear and a clenching of the heart. Then I hear it again, a piercing shreak, disturbingly human followed later by a sinister answering cry. Even when logic re asserts itself (it's and owl..... probably) the noise is still disconcerting and however hard I try I can't push the sound into the background, sleep comes fitfully until tiredness battles my subconscious into submission.

Next morning and were on the road again more relaxed having had a good rest and able to look around for something other than a place to stop. It was the right decision to take the back roads it fits with the spirit of the journey being part of the adventure. The trip is made by the small encounters that you experiance en-route. A beautiful church, a pretty river crossing, that little bit of character with every turn of the road opening a new vista, every new village each subtly different but with it's own unique character. 

I also love the way the French have lined their roads with avenues of trees giving the road a bit of theater as you grandly process along. Then there is the way these old roads flow, taking the line of least resistance through the landscape moving with the dip and roll of the hills not carving blindly through them like a modern motorway where all you see are cuttings and embankments.

Then comes one of the most surreal driving expiraiances of my life, were pottering allong the cobbled streets of a small village and pass through what I take to be a ruin of an old town wall. Suddenly it appears I'm on the set of the Three Musketeers because we find ourselves on an avenue beside and ornamental lake across which is a magnificent chateau. I just bust out laughing. France is awesome!

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