Travelling Adventures in Europe long before mass tourism.....!
I remember a time (like many of you, without doubt) not so long ago,
when a voyage was an adventure. In the space of a couple of days,
within Europe, we changed systems, languages, currency, standards
of living, among many other things. I recall when even a trip to
France was fraught with problems, difficulties, amusing situations,
Starting with the very vehicle we were using, which then were not
really up to scratch for such voyages. Their reliability was limited,
if you were coming from UK, the steering wheel was (and still is)
on the wrong side of everything (roads, petrol pumps, motorway
payment booths etc). Sometimes one wondered whether the petrol
was the same and the guaranteed breakdowns meant that we
(reluctantly) made contact with the indigenous natives, always to
be considered as dubious, suspect and not entirely trustworthy,
from the fact that the spare parts
required would not be immediately available, but (by hazard)
the owner of the garage either possessed
a hotel near-by, or someone in his family did, so there would be
no problem of overnight (or even longer)
accommodation, whilst waiting for the faulty pieces, and until then,
they would lend us a bike......It was guaranteed that even the simpler
things in life, like spanners, screwdrivers etc would not fit into the
Imperial scheme of things, and these episodes tended to end with the
hairy sight of an oily, garlic smelling French mechanic belting your
motor block with a hammer, muttering things about
“merde des Anglais!”
This could not work, one said to oneself, muttering things
(at one’s turn) about “frogs” and stuff. All very European.....
Europe Simulator (Photo credit: wigu)
had refused to even cough) suddenly started to splutter!
Greater was the astonishment, when after another couple of
hefty blows (generally with a larger and heavier hammer) the same
motor suddenly decided to start purring, like a contented cat,
and had never worked so well EVER!
Then the very disagreeable start of the end, Monsieur estimated the
price of all these physical efforts, hotel rooms, and talking about
“so many millions”. My God, thought most of us, not only is the
holiday finished, but we’ll have to sell the house, sell the car,
sell the kids, and even then we’ll stay highly in debt for the rest of
our 8 lives!
That was just the start of the end, because the end of the end was
that we all found out that he was talking in centimes, and not Francs!
Centimes of Euros, and we WOULD be in trouble!
However, those days were still in a distant future, and we finally
coughed up the millions required (always in cash, since
Halifax Building Society savings books were not acceptable) and
went off on our holiday route, singing a little song, pleased with
oneself, the motor purring along, just sufficiently to get out of
France, and into the really dangerous realms of Espagne,
where centimes became Pesetas, and the whole thing started again.
Nowadays, we would roll comfortably in air-conditioned houses
on wheels, from the outer Hebrides to the most Southern point of
Spain, on enormously expensive, enormously wide motorways,
with no bumps, not a hole to be seen, ready to break your front or
back (or both) axles!
Even if we crossed the demarcation line of Europe to Africa,
we would still continue to roll on the same style motorways,
and not even the colour of the people we see, would change!
Only when we finally hit the Sahara Desert would it be BINGO –
Well, that is – if we weren’t overtaken by one of the desert “raids”
or “ Safaris” or “motor Rallies” which have now replaced the Tourag
and their camels on 4 hoofs.
Even they have changed to a large degree, swapping in the camels
for 4 wheel drive Range rovers. Some of them regret it, because you
can’t eat a Range rover, and you have to give it both food and drink
much more regularly!
This is all called “progress” but are we happy with it?
No more contacts with the little Spanish guy who offered us all sorts
of things, from sheepskin bladders full of obnoxious (mainly) red wine,
more like octopus ink, to wash down something which we didn’t dare
ask the origins of.
following our noses – to relieve ourselves in the hole in the ground
behind the wooden building, beating off the flies with a rolled up
copy of the Times, or the Telegraph (old copy of course) and then
cleaning ourselves with neatly cut up squares of “El Mondo” without
realizing that the ink NEVER dried, and was full of lead.
We were happy, we didn’t know what could have happened, so it
Nowadays, an ice cube in the hotel cocktail bar is regarded with
suspicion-how many bugs does it contain, just waiting to attack our
(no longer sturdy) immune systems? Hotel toilets? No, no, we don’t
use them anymore, we get our key (or card) to go back to our room,
where we use our own – CLEAN toilet!
But we are no longer as happy and as carefree as once upon a time.
-mr. le Marquis is from Scotland and has lived in France for more than
18 years. You can read more about him at https://sites.google.com/site/ianwmitchellswebsite/
travelling-adventures-in-the-stone-age (look on the left of the page to
or email him at:
weather at Vauvert, France
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