29.08.2010 - 06.09.2010 30 °C
Well, it’s the end of our second week at the Arc-en-Ciel camp. It’s been a tonic for the two of us; touring around Europe has been an adventure, but it’s been exhausting. Staying put for a couple of weeks has given us back some normality.
We’ve been able to chat to the campers, most of whom come down year after year and stay for weeks at a time. Their familiarity with the place adds to the sense of permanency that has been missing from our lives for the past five months. In fact I’ve joked to some of the campers that this place should be renamed ‘Hotel California’ – you can check out any time you like but you can never leave!
We’ve been joining in the social activities here. We won prizes at the boules competition last Wednesday; and last Friday night we attended a party for the mainly Dutch and Brit guests (music accompaniment provided by a long-time Dutch visitor playing my least favourite musical instrument – the accordion!) The average age of the campers would be in the low 70’s; so the musical repertoire fits the age group – ‘We’ll Meet Again’, ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’ and ‘Lili Marlene’, that sort of stuff. No point me taking my guitar along – while the oldies would recognise most of my material, I’m sure they’d rather sing along to ‘Roll out the Barrel’ and ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’.
We chatted most of the evening to Jim (Gwen his Scots wife accompanied the accordion player on her fiddle), and to Fiona and Elma, mother and daughter and long-standing visitors to Arc-en-Ciel.
We went down to Marseilles for the afternoon last Thursday; it hit us for the first time how much we are both suffering from ‘travel overload’. After three hours of walking around this very vibrant city we realised how exhausted we both were and how much we wanted to retreat to our little camp. We’ve seen so many cities and towns in the last five months that nothing seems particularly novel or eye-catching anymore. There’s a fabulous cathedral high on a hill looking down over Marseilles - no doubt a magnificent look-out for tourists – yet we never even thought about going there.
We had an exorbitantly priced citron pressé drink at a quayside bar. Ann did her mandatory, but for me extremely tiresome, trawl through the shopping streets; then we came home.
Before going to Marseilles I’d toyed with the idea of staying for dinner and enjoying the town’s most famous cuisine, Bouillabaisse. But after being told the ridiculous prices you pay for it even in the cheaper food haunts, we decided against it. After all, it’s only bloody fish stew! A Scottish couple we bumped into when we arrived off the coach (and who amazingly had lived for a time on the same little street I do in Perth) said they strayed into a restaurant on the foreshore for a bouillabaisse supper only to emerge with their wallets considerably lighter. Apparently (and unknowingly) the bottle of wine they ordered was 58 euros! (about $95). When one considers how cheap good wine is here in France, those kind of inflated prices are at best criminal.
Anyway, Ann and I settled for a really nice mixed entrée dinner at a Lebanese restaurant back in Aix – the weather was perfect as we sat on the street watching the passers-by.
Since buying some cheap DVDs off a stall a couple of weeks back, Ann and I have amused ourselves in the evenings by watching movies. So far we’ve seen ‘Ali G In Da House’ (hilarious), The Sixth Sense and Minority Report (seen them both a few times before), and LA Confidential (I do like Kevin Spacey).
Ann has been devouring novels at about the rate of one every two days. I on the other hand read more sedately. But I tend to read three books at a time. I’m in the middle of Ben Elton’s ‘Inconceivable’, I’m coming to the end of my fourth French translation of Harry Potter – ‘The Half-Blood Prince’; and I’m studying my Portuguese grammar book.
I play guitar quietly to myself in the van, we take naps during the heat of the day, we take the bus into Aix to visit the thrice weekly markets, and we look forward to meal times when I try to conjure up a masterpiece using three small gas rings and a toaster oven.
We’ll probably stay at Aix for another week – this will allow us two months in Iberia, most of which will be spent in Portugal. December should see us heading back up through France where we will stop for a week in Paris. Elma (Fiona’s mum) has twice asked us to spend Christmas with her in Portsmouth, which might be nice. If we do, then we may even pop in to see Helen, Steve, Sophie and Joe in Axminster at New Year. We’ll see.