This summer marked an important event in my family’s life. Remember the atrocious dress shopping experience I wrote about a few months ago? Well, lucky for us we managed to resolve the dress problem as the big day arrived! That’s right, after more than 6 years in our lives, my mum has married her partner to become Mrs Pinder!
When we were told that the wedding would be in France, my boyfriend and I decided that this was an excellent opportunity to take our first road trip together. Fourteen days, Two thousand miles, One tiny Kia, what could go wrong?! Well… these are my ten commandments to surviving a two week road trip through France…
- Thou shalt not over pack the car.
We pitched the road trip to my mother by pointing out that when at said destination, the need for transporting people to and from the nearest city may be prudent. It also meant that Jon and I could keep up with my brother, Felix, and his girlfriend, Madara, as they interrailed their way down to the wedding. In each city, we would check into the hotel, meet Felix and Madara, go out for dinner and drive them back to the hotel. If we had packed the car full to the brim, we would have had to strap Wix and Maddy to the roof… Which, given that he’s my little brother, was mildly tempting.
- Thou shalt not judge the hotel rooms.
In case you didn’t know already, France is a big country, and driving from Bognor Regis to Carcassonne in three days is a tight stretch. We were lucky enough to have a budget to spend on hotels and decided to spend less money on hotels we spent less time in… So what if you could pee while you shower?
…Nobody actually did that…
- Thou shalt learn at least some of the native language
Our first night saw Jon crumble spectacularly at dinner time. We arrived in Saint Quentin four hours before Maddy and Felix’s train was due to arrive so decided to grab some dinner. Our first oversight was that it was Tuesday and EVERYTHING in Saint Quentin closes early on Tuesday. We didn’t have time to walk to the top of the town which, we found out the next day, was where all the restaurants were. We ended up at an Italian restaurant with waiters who spoke very little English. Now, I think my ropy french might had got us through the dinner, but Jon was another story. It may have been the moment in which a waiter asked him in fluent french where we would like to sit. It was like watching Bambi caught in the headlights as he sat at the closest table and almost cried when the waiter asked him if he’d like a menu. It wasn’t until I said ‘en anglais s’il vous plait’ that the waiter clocked on to Jon’s expression. I have included, for your pleasure, a picture of Jon on that fateful night:
From that day, Jon made an effort to know how to say ‘Parlez vous Anglais?’ (and took full advantage of McDonald’s self service machines)
- Thou shalt try to be cultural
A road trip with two art students and two religious people meant one vital thing: all the architecture and street art we could possibly see! Each city we stayed in would have at least one church and one art gallery to look around!
- Thou shalt not be afraid to be touristy (but not too touristy)
After Felix and Maddy left, Jon and I stayed one night in Saumur and three nights in a hotel just outside of Paris. I cannot communicate just how excited I was to see Paris! A few years ago, my mum, Simon, Felix and I saw the gardens of Versailles but that’s the closest I have gotten to the French Capital. This time I was determined to get into the centre of Paris and See everything I could. We went up the Eiffel Tower, Round the Notre Dame, sat outside the Louvre and managed to do all of this by taking advantage of the Velib Bikes, which are like Paris’ answer to London’s Boris Bikes. There’s something about cycling down the toe path of the Seine, seeing the sights Paris has to offer that makes you really feel like a part of the city! I’m so glad that we didn’t spend €50 on a hop-on-hop-off bus!
Full Disclosure: The Velib Bikes require a deposit so make sure you have extra cash!
…and yes we did go to Disneyland…
- Thou shalt always respect the driver
Jonathan Gath is a saint. There, it’s in writing. Most days we travelled over 400km with Jon as the only driver (I’m a month away from being able to apply for a provisional- touch wood!), so if Jon wanted to sleep and not go out then that was allowed.
I also learned that respecting the driver means comforting him when he is stung by a bee on a road just outside of Monflanquin, or giving the man in the car next to us at the Paris Autoroute tolls trying to cut in a very stern look, or letting him have a few minutes alone when his windscreen cracks just after we get through said tolls.
The Paris Autoroute Tolls are the busiest and most stressful thing I have ever experienced in my life…
- Thou shalt not forget to pee before you leave
It’s a long journey. Don’t forget to pee.
- Thou shalt not forget cash
We learned this one when Jon’s card was swallowed by a toll machine somewhere between Carcassonne and Monflanquin. Luckily mum was close by (about five cars behind in the chaos we caused) and supplied us with enough cash to get to our next stop!
- Thou shalt rest when possible
After three days of straight driving, it’s necessary to find some time to rest. The wedding venue had, perhaps, the best pool. Similarly, after the wedding we stayed with a family friend for two nights which meant two glorious days of late night swims.
Just don’t get tripped up by french sun loungers…And finally:
- Thou shalt not forget why you’re on said roadtrip
Congratulations Mr and Mrs Pinder! Here’s to many happy years together!