We set off for the next part of the trip with a sobering thought- we are now officially half-way through our adventure! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME……… HALF WAY!!!!! I don’t know whether time has gone really quickly, or really slowly. Sometimes, England seems so very far away, and it seems an age has passed since we set off for the ferry. At other times, it seems as though we’ve only just begun. At the moment, we have only booked accommodation up until the end of August; but with no jobs to return to and having stayed well within the budget we had set for ourselves, we may well stay on into September. I’ve completed one whole journal with my ramblings and have started on the second. Not sure I should come home before it’s finished! OH……. BUGGER I FORGOT ABOUT THE HAVING TO GET A JOB BIT WHEN WE GET BACK. THANKS FOR THAT BUBS. We are loving France so far; which has come as a welcome surprise to us both. Apart from a school trip for Steve many moons ago, our only experience of the country before now has been day-trips. J’ADORE FRANCE, I NOW KNOW WHY PEOPLE GO ON ABOUT WHAT A FANTASTIC PLACE FRANCE IS. This week’s road trip saw us following the Pyrenees right along to the Atlantic coast, passing Tarbes, Pau and Lourdes along the way. Fabulous landscapes aside, we noticed more and more birds of prey; buzzards and vultures mostly, and the houses became more Alpine chalet style. The house we stayed in this week was one of these; we had the ground floor, which was spotless, modern and very comfortable. The huge IKEA store 5km away had obviously provided much of the inspiration and feels very familiar. Our hosts, Nicholas and Leititia, and their two young sons made us very welcome. We were obviously a novelty for the boys, who enjoyed letting us practise our blossoming French with them. One of the advantages of using AirBandB is that, when you are living in close proximity to your hosts, you get the opportunity to see what real life is like for people. THE KIDS KEPT GIGGLING WHEN I TRIED MY FRENCH, I DON’T THINK MY CUT GLASS ENGLISH ACCENT LENDS ITSELF TOWARDS THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION OF SOME OF THE LINGO. LOVELY PEOPLE AND A GREAT LOCATION. (TO BE HONEST DEAR READER I SOUND LIKE BOB HOSKINS DOING AN INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU IMPRESSION, NOT GOOD.) Time to explore: Our first stop was Bayonne- a beautiful city, full of tall, narrow, 17th and 18th Century buildings; now mostly galleries, tabacs, boutiques, cafes, patisseries and restaurants, which spill out onto the cobbled streets. The Basque culture is proudly displayed everywhere, from flags to signs, food to decoration. We went out for dinner here one night, and loved the buzzing, yet chilled atmosphere. GREAT PLACE BAYONNE, HOWEVER THE PLACE IS A NIGHTMARE TO DRIVE AROUND IN RUSH HOUR. VERY BUSY PLACE AND DENSELY POPULATED. STILL MY FRENCH HAND SIGNALS AND VERBAL SKILL ARE COMING ON IN LEAPS AND BOUNDS, I’M PLEASED TO SAY. Next stop was Biarritz. How very chic! It was full of buzzing cafes, very expensive designer shops and beautiful people. We didn’t stay long! The whole coastline is lined with fabulous beaches: Wow! The Atlantic pounds the wide, sandy beaches; the sea was full of surfers and body-boarders, like a scene from Hawaii 5 0. THERE IS SOME MONEY IN THIS AREA, LOADS OF BRITS IN RANGE ROVERS, MERC’S AND EVEN THE ODD ASTON MARTIN. YOU COULD SPOT THE BRITS SITTING AT THE TABLES OUTSIDE THE RESTAURANTS; LINEN SHIRTS AND TROUSERS, ALL DESIGNER -GEARED –UP, JUST FOR LUNCH. YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE LOOKS I GOT WALKING IN DRESSED IN A TIE-DYED PINKISH COLOURED LFB TEE SHIRT, FLIPFLOPS AND SURFER SHORTS. (AND THE STATE OF MY BARNET SINCE I’VE GONE FERAL. 🙂 Hendaye, a huge port and resort on the border with Spain was absolutely packed with yachts, motor-cruisers and gin-palaces. Tapas bars line the promenade and you could barely see the sand for bikini-clad babes. I had to drag Steve away- he said it was the boats that caught his eye, but I’m not so sure! NOPE- IT WAS THE BOATS!!!!!!!!! (I THINK I GOT AWAY WITH THAT ONE.) Our favourite beach though was at Capbreton. It still has the crashing waves, which brings the fun- seekers, but it has more of a chilled, hippy vibe. We spent a lovely day, soaking up the sun and people-watching. This is our last coastal region, so we thought we’d best make the most of it. CRACKING PLACE- CAPBRETON, I JUST SAT IN AWE ALL DAY, WATCHING THE KITE SURFERS AND SURFERS, DOING THEIR THING OUT ON THE WATER. IF ONLY I WAS FIT ENOUGH TO HAVE HAD A GO. I DON’T THINK ANY OF MY DOCTORS WOULD ALLOW ME TO GIVE IT A GO. IN FACT I THINK THAT THEY WOULD HAVE A CLUTCHER JUST AT THE THOUGHT OF ME GIVING IT A GO. Irun, in Spain. Yes, we were close to the border again, and couldn’t resist spending one rainy day taking a trip back to Spain, in search of Brandy. Oh, and Burger- king a guilty pleasure! HAPPY DAYS! CHEAP SNOUT, BOOZE AND A BURGER!!! But the highlight of this week for me was a trip up into the Pyrennes. Now, anyone who knows me will be aware that I am not a natural hiker. My idea of exercise is a bout of vigorous kitchen dancing. So, despite enjoying mountain views, unless there is a way to transport me up the bloody things, I’m looking up at them, rather than down from them! So imagine my delight when I found that there was a train-ride that takes you to within a whisker of the Pic-du-Midi. (Highest peak of the Midi-Pyrennes) It’s called the Petit train de la Rhune; an old, wooden train, which winds its creaking way up to a height of nearly 3000ft and offers breath-taking views across Basque country- both France and Spain. We arrived at the small village where the journey begins after winding our way through practically empty country roads, until we reached the station……… where the car park was packed with 100s of cars and there was a huge queue at the station! Feeling despondent, and unable to find a parking space, Steve asked me to pop over to the ticket office and try to buy a ticket for the next day, as it seemed obvious that we weren’t going to be travelling today. However, despite my improving French, when I asked about tickets, the girl offered me tickets for the ‘next’ train. I thought this was a result, believing that we were going to be able to ride on the train leaving in about 45 minutes, and said “Oui, merci.” Then, realised, to my horror, that the tickets were for the train leaving in 7 minutes! Panic! HMMMM, THAT WENT WELL, DIDN’T IT? YOU HAD ONE JOB TO DO!!!!! HOWEVER, I CAN MOVE PRETTY FAST FOR A BIG FELLA, WHEN I HAVE TO. Let’s just say that, after hastily parking the car on a steep verge and dashing back up the hill to the station, Steve and I were ever so slightly stressed and sweaty (It was a hot day)! But, we made it to the platform just before the train set off- to find that there appeared to be no room for us. The train was packed to full capacity, so we prepared ourselves to be told that we were going to have to wait for the next one. No worries, we thought, there was a lovely café just metres away, where we could wait. Luckily, at the last minute, we were told ( in French of course), that “ Voila”, it was fine, but we would have to separate. I was jammed into a crowded carriage, where I was squashed in next to a very resentful French lady, who huffed and puffed and refused to meet my eye for the whole 40 minute journey. On my other side was a rather fat and sweaty French man, who leaned against me for the whole journey. I spent my time trying to take photos through the gap between people, clenching my thighs to avoid the smelly fat guy and worrying that Steve would be silently cursing me from wherever he had ended up. But, oh no! The jammy git wasn’t squashed in a cattle truck like me- he was riding on the platform at the front of the train, with the driver! He was enjoying perfect, unobstructed views of the mountains, plenty of room, fresh air and a fag! When he stepped off the platform, laughing and shaking hands with the driver- “Au revoir, Stephen- Au revoir Jerry.”- I could have slapped him! ALL I CAN SAY IS- WHAT A RESULT!!! JERRY WAS A GREAT BLOKE. HE LET ME DO ALL THE CONTROLS TO OPERATE THE TRAIN: RAISING AND LOWERING THE PANTOGRAPH AND SETTING THE SPEED OF THE ASCENT. WE EVEN HAD A FAG, WHICH PISSED OFF SOME GERMAN WOMAN 🙂 . WE CONSTANTLY TOOK THE MICK OUT OF THE OTHER PASSENGERS, WITH HIM POINTING AT ME AND SAYING I WAS A V.I.P. (MUCH TO MY AMUSEMENT.) WHHEN WE ARRIVED AT THE SUMMIT, SOME OF THE PASSENGERS EVEN TOOK PICTURES OF ME! WHISPERING SOMETHING ABOUT V.I.P MRS LETHAL’S FACE WAS A PICTURE WHEN SHE SAW ALL THE FUSS AND THE PICTURES BEING TAKEN. I JUST NONCHALANTLY SAID “ALRIGHT BABE, HOW WAS IT BACK THERE IN CATTLE CLASS? “ FUNNILY ENOUGH, SHE DIDN’T REPLY AND JUST GAVE ME THE LOOK!!!!!!!!! Luckily for him, the view from the summit was so amazing, that he was quickly forgiven. Despite the low clouds, you can see miles of coastline on both sides of the border. It was busy, with hiker (Nutters) and a large school trip, but it didn’t detract from the fantastic experience. On the return journey, we managed to sit together, with outside seats, and I finally got the chance to see up close the wild horses, mountain goats, eagles, buzzards and vultures. A fabulous highlight of our adventures. Next stop- the Dordogne. A two week trip this time, as there is so much to see and do.