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(>Pictures at the bottom!)
After the last night among wild boars on Spanish soil, another crossing followed, which brought us to Portbou/Spain. With great tension we climbed up to the border pass “Coll dels Belitres”, where we expected a large control and many officials. Chantal was also prepared to do all the talking with the officials, as she speaks French much better than I do.
Almost a little disappointed, we soon realised that the former customs buildings were deserted, more like condemned buildings, and far and wide there was not a soul or any official person to be seen. So we carefully drove down to Cerbère, where there might still be something like control or instructions for transit. Wrong! Although the bistros and restaurants were closed everywhere, the catering for the guests was virtually maintained by selling “through the alley” and there were many people everywhere.
Was this the strict French “lockdown”?
For us, the situation we found was very relieving and so we chose wonderful side roads as a transit route and once again followed the coast, first in a northerly, later north-easterly direction. The strong wind and the weather moods along the sea were fascinating, but we did not make any longer stops outside our heated jeep; it was simply too fresh and at times very wet.
In contrast to Spain, in France you are not allowed to drive everywhere there is a path or a road. Too many prohibition signs and other obstacles prevented us from freely choosing the way north. For the few nights we spent on the southern French coast, we also had the same problem as we had already experienced in Spain and had to drive to or look for the places to stay very early in each case. The tourist infrastructures were all closed and in addition, access to the sea was mostly blocked. Surprisingly, there is a car park for motorhomes in every larger town or tourist highlight, where you can spend the night for a few euros. These were not the first choice for us, because sanitary facilities as well as other comforts are in vain and, if there are any, they were locked with thick locks when we passed through.
Despite the wintry weather, the trip along the Mediterranean was a final and wonderful experience. Where thousands of people are on the road in the summer months, we were alone on the road. To say “goodbye” to the sea, there was a detour across the “Bouche du Rhône” to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where the wind blew strongly over the beach and the town. Our stay was also correspondingly short and we were literally blown back inland.
Soon we were able to sing the song “sur le pont d’Avignon…” and we were already wending our way through the pre-Christmas traffic chaos of the city of the same name. Apparently “Corona” had a break here too; the parking spaces at the shopping centres were overflowing. Despite the wonderful centre, we moved on and postponed our visit until later; some time it will be warmer again and more inviting for an extended sightseeing tour through the old town.
We continued our journey and now definitely switched to the motorway. Besides the rain, we were tired of driving through the villages and small towns; from one roundabout to the next, we were also fed up with the threshold of traffic calming. In addition, we had also planned to visit the manufacturer of the Gazell cabin, who has his workshop above Annecy. We spent the last night in a wooded area in the same region, where the thermometer dropped well below 5°C during the night. We only admired the twinkling stars for a short while and soon we were tucked away under the warming blanket.
The rest is actually very quickly told and no more special features on our part. The area we had travelled through was familiar to us and suddenly we wanted to reach our destination as quickly as possible. Before Lausanne, we left the wide tarmac for the last time and followed the lake, passing through the vineyards of Lavaux, before finally heading north to Basel, or Aesch.
On the total distance we covered during our return journey, the last part was really only a very short stretch. Still in daylight we parked in front of our temporary “home”, where we will be for the next time. It was also the third time we returned from our round-the-world trip and when we switched off the engine, a bad feeling came over me; I felt like a failure and the question of “how” and “when” we will continue was more open than ever.
But we keep at it and we have more than enough ideas. There is still a long way to go around the world. We are excited about what the Corona pandemic will allow us to do in the near future.
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