No more free wheeling

We’ve come to the end of the first two weeks of our month in
Europe.  The end of the ‘free
wheeling’ segment.  Planes, trains
and automobiles.  A week of racing
around to various sites and a week of relaxing near the ocean.

Can’t say goodbye to the car fast enough.  It’s been the only stressful component
of the trip so far.  Of course
after finally getting a feel for driving a standard again and getting
comfortable in those (%$&#!) traffic circles, it’s time to turn it in.  That there is no damage and I didn’t
run anyone off the road is a very good thing.  I’ll say it again for the last time, if you’re coming this
way and a car rental is part of the plan – ‘mini’ is magnificent.

The camping experience in the ‘wild west’ campground turned
out to be a hoot.  It looked kind

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of hokey but in the end was charming. 
Our last night they had line dancing lessons and most of the campground
took part.  Sorry westerners, it’s
still lame in my books, but the locals ate it up!  In a region full of campgrounds this one really has some

The town of Hourtin itself was great.  Located on a large lake for boaters and
only a short drive to the ocean.  
We spent two full days just hanging out on the beach ‘people  watching’.  I’m beginning to appreciate the devil-may-care attitude of
the French.  Most of them sport sun
tans that make George Hamilton look like Philadelphia cream cheese.  And they puff away non stop on
cigarettes.  Helmets on a
bike?  You must be kidding! How on
earth has this society survived centuries without every aspect of their life
being regulated for ‘safety’?  
(insert editorial smirk here)

Vive le France! 
Live for today and damn the torpedoes. 

Life on the ocean is a non stop circus.  Because the undercurrent can be dangerous
there is a designated swimming area. 
You have this wonderful beach stretching for kilometers and 500 swimmers
jammed into one tiny section riding the waves.  It’s like you’ve landed in the middle of the swim leg of a
triathalon.  Stray outside the
markers and you’ll be blasted by the lifeguards and their high pitched
whistles.  Two are on shore and two
sit atop a tall metal watchtower. 
Baywatch glamorous this ain’t.

Every half hour they have to pick up the tower and move it
closer to shore because the tide keeps creeping in.

Twice now we’ve had quick train stops through Paris
requiring connections using the Metro. ( local underground transit).  It’s a piece of cake and you can really
zip around town.  Buy your tickets
from the seller and ask for “un carnet de billets”. (oon car-nay de
bill-eh). It’s the best deal to get ten tickets that can be used whenever you
want.  One ticket is good for
riding the metro all day.  We
bought the ten, got to where we needed to be, and will use the remaining 6 when
we’re back again next week.

Just keep moving! 
We had a classic moment yesterday when trying to board the Metro to our
train station.  The train pulled
in, people got off, and Kandi, Laura and Liam made it on— but not Liam’s
luggage or dear old dad.  ‘I’ll
meet you at Bercy!” I yelled as the train pulled away.

It only meant I caught the next train two minutes later, but
it was dramatic!  Bottom line:   It’s nice to be polite and let
people on ahead of you…. Just be ready to push your way in at the last minute.

Tonight we catch an overnight train from Paris to Rome where
we’ll begin a two week ‘organized’ tour of Italy, the Swiss Alps and wind up
again in Paris.  The four of us are
in a 6 person couchette, which means we’ll soon have some sleeping company.  Friends for life?  Nightmare on the Rome express? 

Stay tuned.