As my feet pounded on the hard concrete, my desperate need to urinate heightened. The initial thrill of the first foreign stop on the road trip, paired with the beautiful scenery of the ocean and silky soft sand soon became overtaken by an overwhelming urge to find a toilet: any toilet. Typically, as soon as we’d hit the beach, we’d stumbled across a perfectly good public lavatory, however it was being policed by an elderly French woman, a collection pot and zero sign as to how the ‘system’ worked. We were only just into the trip, so my social anxiety (paired with a very basic knowledge of the French language and very little foreign currency in change) was still at a high.
This is something that thankfully depleted rapidly over the four-week stint as being pushed out of my comfort zone quickly became less terrifying and exhaustion prevented pretty much any other emotion other than adrenaline-fueled euphoria. Or maybe that’s just how I remember it!
The joy of (finally!) finding a cash machine was only matched by my relief at getting to a toilet in a quaint French café and was not dampened by my accidental use of Español, rather than the required Francais (this would, as we crossed between countries on an often several-times-daily basis, become a regular occurrence). Will, having family living in the country, and a ridiculous ability to blag his way through life, saved the day as the waiter approached the table and Adam and I (still perturbed by the ‘gracias’ incident) froze-up at the language barrier.
For somewhere so steeped in British history, it was quite bizarre to see a place that looked so… well… normal. I don’t know what I expected really, maybe a plaque at least, but I guess we weren’t in the right area for it. All I know is that, being there, I felt a little like this photo of the Normandy invasions. It was a place that was, in my mind, stuck between two stark, juxtaposing moments. Berlin, later on in our journey, felt this way too, and the difference between the city between the day-time and evening was bizarre.
Having said that, I did still enjoy kicking my shoes off and posing with our tour mascot, and as you’ve seen, I was soon distracted by my bladder!
Thankfully, this was the first and only day that we got stuck in any serious traffic over the four weeks (until we next reached British soil at least, but that’s a story for another day!), the cause of which was a protest by local farmer’s, where they’d driven their tractors onto the motorway!
Of course, these things are going to happen (well… perhaps not this exact thing!), so it’s important that you’re able to find the funny in any situation and, more importantly, that you’ve chosen your travel companions carefully! If you’re going to be cooped up in a car for the best part of a month, then make sure you’re with someone who can keep you entertained and that won’t put you behind bars for a good 10-to-life by the end of it!
Another thing that helped in this situation was that we’d just stopped off at a service station, so the car was suitably filled with provisions. I’d recommend making sure that you’re always stocked with at least water, in case of emergencies.
My sleeping bag and travel-pillow (necessary as over a quarter of our accommodation would be our pop-up tent) also lived in the back of the car with me for days when exhaustion/hangover/illness completely overrode my desire to experience the open road.
Next Stop: Ghent, Belgium!