Travelling Adventures in the stone age..!
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, dangerous 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......
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.
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
That was just the start of the end, because the end of the end was that we all found
out that he was talking centimes, and not Francs!
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! Nowadays - once we had left the stupid areas
where the Euro didn't work (although nobody there EVER refuses it), we wouldn't
even need those so enjoyable "Bureaux de Change" - "Cambios" - and the like,
where we could give air to our displeasures...!
"Thieves, Robbers, bloody foreigners" and the like!
"Who won the bloody war, anyway"...........
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 – adventure!
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.
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 didn’t happen.
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
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" -
and we're not as healthy either!
(iwmpop) - mr. le Marquis, is from Scotland, and has lived in France and
Germany for more than 40 years.
You can read more about him at:
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