There’s no place like home…

Well that was it. Once I heard the smooth, soothing tones of my friend Nick’s voice, the homesickness flooded in. There was no stopping it. Except 846 miles (1094 km), torrential rainstorms in the middle of France, the fact that every French person alive was going in the same direction as me….and the English Channel.

I was in Avignon. Which is a medieval town in the South East of France. It wasn’t designed for cars to drive around, a fact I discovered when trying to get out and onto the autoroute. Yes, I had a satnav. But the satnav assumes that road signs don’t really change over time. It’s a bad assumption to make in a medieval town at the height of the tourist season. Every left or right turn that I had to make seemed to be blocked with a “no entry” sign. Frustration escalated as Mini and I were blocked at every turn. I seemed destined to stay in Avignon forever, and as much as it is a beautiful town with heaps of history and a nice bridge (it is nice but it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind at this point), I just wanted to get out.

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A little light shower through the middle of France… there was no stopping me. I wanted to go home and clicking my heels together wasn’t going to work…

 

 

Eventually I followed a French car which seemed to have a purpose in mind and I just hoped that its purpose was the same as mine, to escape the gilded cage of Avignon. Hurrah! After an hour of driving around, reversing around corners, 23 point turns and countless numbers of apologies to the ambling tourists that I nearly ran over, I was free and onto an A road which would eventually lead me to the autoroute (I hoped).

 

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My homies, Nick and Sukhi gave me a huge welcome home after my travels

 

 

 

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Amiens 19/07/14. The friendly city…

 

Amiens is within an hour and a half reach of Paris by train, and about 2 hours by car from Dieppe, avoiding the toll roads (if you’re English, driving at a slower speed on the wrong side of the road etc). It has a beautiful olde world bohemian area behind the Cathedral, down by the river which is well worth a visit (or in my case, several). It is not overpriced and serves local delicacies as well as more traditional tourist fare. For a local lunchtime meal try http://www.restaurant-tantejeanne.com/. Very friendly (English speaking) staff who welcomed my request for a solo table by putting me in a wonderfully shady little nook where I had a fine view of everyone in the restaurant and could indulge my favourite pastime of people watching behind sunglasses. I wasn’t even seated near a toilet! Luxury indeed!

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Tante Jeanne – worth a visit
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Ficelle Picarde – pancakes stuffed with ham, cheese and mushrooms. Tres delicieux
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Enjoying lunch in a shady nook, overlooked by the impressive Amiens Cathedral

Locals and students alike gather down by the canal, where the old town of Amiens – Ste Leu is situated. The solo traveller will feel at home here, wandering through the old streets, listening to snatches of conversation as each open window is strolled past, and finding a quiet step to rest on whilst watching swallows diving in and out of the guttering in which their nests are carefully hidden. The solo traveller notices so many things that can be missed when in the company of others.

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Amiens was all but destroyed during the Second World War. Luckily the Cathedral survived, and for me is more impressive than Notre Dame in Paris.

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Amiens Cathedral

Maybe I feel this because I had the privilege of wandering around its glorious gothic interior more or less by myself. It was 35 degrees outside, and humid. The relief of finding sanctuary within its cool walls was palpable. Amiens Cathedral was built to house the supposed head of St John the Baptist (which was served up on a platter to the wife of King Solomon). The head that is in the church (which I didn’t photograph out of respect) was very small and withered (I guess it happens to us all) and there’s no documentary proof of it actually being that of St John, however it is someone’s head and for me, that fact alone meant that a candle should be lit. After all, presumably there’s a body lying around somewhere, wondering (if headless bodies can wonder…) where the rest of it is….

The first thing that struck me about Amiens (especially as it was the first stop on my tour de France) was its friendliness. The city has a large student and migratory population, and is very welcoming to those new in town. I was made to feel at home here and enjoyed 3 nights in the city’s company. 

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My first  night was a fantastic introduction to Friday night entertainment, French style. A lively band playing electric and acoustic guitars, all 3 of them achingly beautiful, including the female singer/tambourinist. The songs were classic British and American (pleased to say most of them British – The Beatles, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Oasis). I indulged in a “Janvier” cocktail – my birth month and a nifty way to entice tourists to pay 6E for a cocktail that they wouldn’t ordinarily bother with. This was followed by several glasses of local beer and some delightful garlicky canapés which helped my stomach to cope with the rather large amount of cigarettes and alcohol that I was consuming, such was my enjoyment of the evening.

Cigarette intake for me is a kind of barometer of emotional bouyancy. No smoking whatsoever usually means either 1. I’m not at work or 2. I’m not drinking or 3. I’m not either high or low. Just mooching about in the middle. However, if I’m as high as a kite, or in the pits of despair, you’ll find me chuffing for England, on some seedy little menthol number. Or 20. Yes I know it’s bad for my health. But so is banging my head on the wall, which is the alternative if I don’t have a smoke when I’m on a downer…

So much did I enjoy the entertainment that I awoke at 9 the following morning with somewhat of a headache. Still, it was worth it to be a part of the “scene”. Everyone was friendly and warm – although in these parts, not a lot of English is spoken and I appear to have forgotten every French word that I ever learnt.

 

“The men lived in slits in the ground…”

 

I imagine that the smell of the wild garlic would have got up my Great Grandfather’s nose long before the Hun did. For a man whose life before 1915 had been submersed in the iron foundries of the Black Country, central England, the sounds and smells must have been new and strange.

Driving through  the fighting fields of the Somme, it seemed as though the whole area was asleep, but not a peaceful sleep.  I switched my radio off. It seemed incongruous to witness acre after acre of battlefield whilst whistling along to “I get by with a little help from my friends” .  The deaths of so many men in such a small area have rendered the whole of this part of France to be permanently shell shocked.  A total of 1,304,000 men died here. The earth seems to scream silently at man’s inhumanity to man, yet only birdsong is audible. Whilst many soldiers were exhumed and reburied in war graves, the majority proved to be unidentifiable and indistinguishable from one another. This band of brothers lived together and died together. Nationality was no barrier to destruction. Everyone lost.

 

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2,263 British soldiers are buried here in one of many roadside cemeteries. Two thirds of them are “Known only to God”.

 

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A fraction of the numbers of those who died during the battle for Guillemont.

 

 

Farmers toil the land now, rich in the nitrogen left behind by the lifeblood of the fallen; providing nutrients for the crops. British ex-pats are busy converting barns into holiday homes. Local children go to school, and then move away with the need for employment and prospects. Life does carry on here, but a walk in the fields and through the woods surrounding the villages, and it’s easy to imagine the pounding of the machine guns, the screams of the men and horses and the groaning of the land, ripped apart and bleeding to death. I wandered how long it took for the birdsong to reappear…

There are few old buildings in the local villages. Everything is 20th century made. Each village has its own war cemetery, honouring both foreigners and locals alike. Monuments mark the sacrifice made by groups of  British guys who marched off to war together, such as the Manchester and Liverpool Pals. The only time I can imagine that these two fiercely rival cities would be happy to have their names carved side by side.

 

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My Great Grandfather fought to liberate Guillemont, an unassuming village but vital to breaking through the defences  of the German line on the Western Front. Little remains of the Guillemont that he would have marched/crawled into; the village was virtually razed to the ground thanks to the monthly pounding of machine gun fire and the constant shelling from both sides. On the crossroads outside of the village sits a memorial stone to the Twentieth (Light) Division who played a key role in the liberation. It took 4 attempts from July 1916, and the use of the new tanks between 3rd-6th September  1916 (and massive loss of life) to finally capture Guillemont from the German army.  By the end of August 1916, British casualties were 251,000 men. How my Great Grandfather survived, is a miracle. But with what consequences? The conditions were tough:

 

 

“Preparations for the attack were being pushed forward. Unfortunately just at this time, bad weather set in, and this, together with the continued and heavy hostile shelling in which gas shells were largely used, made the work extremely difficult. The trenches were deep in mud and water and were constantly being blown in…both No Man’s Land and the ground behind the trenches were covered with dead bodies which had been lying out for weeks, and the state of the whole line was foul.”

(Captain V E Inglefield “The History of the Twentieth (Light) Division”, 1921).

 

 

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Unassuming woodland surrounding Guillemont. All new growth as the entire area was flattened…

 

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Monument at a crossroads to the Twentieth (Light) Division and their role in the liberation of Guillemont. One of thousands of monuments. My great grandfather, one of hundreds of thousands of men…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hitching up with Aussies in the Somme… and trying not to get blown up…

 

For the solo traveller, especially one on a road trip with hundreds of miles to cover, it can be useful to break up both the solitude and the driving fatigue with an organised tour. I chose to hop a ride with a jolly bunch of Aussies, most of whom were in the middle of wonderful travel trips themselves. They were travelling through Europe having stopped off at London and Paris, and were making their way down to either the south of France or on towards Switzerland and Italy. 

I had the pleasure of their company for a whole day, lunch included. I also had the interesting addition of seeing the First World War from the Australian perspective. The tour was excellent, organised by Terres de memoire (www.terresdememoire.com). If you think that you know all there is to know about a part of history, try taking in a tour catering for visitors from a country other than your own.  You will soon find that your view of history is very one dimensional. Where yesterday, I had visited the places that my great grandfather, Arthur Greenhill had fought alongside his British comrades, today I learnt about the vital roll played by the Anzacs in breaking through the German frontline. I also learnt about the appalling loss of life on behalf of a nation which volunteered to fight alongside its Motherland, and how it marked the transition from a nation  being tethered to the British apron strings, to one creating its own history. They played their part in the theatre of war which occurred  along a 30km line, for a gain of 12km of ground, killing around one million people. 

1916 saw an impasse between Germany and Britain. Trench warfare had set in, with neither side being able to break through the other’s defences. Loss of life was high on both sides. Approximately 60,000 men died on the first day. The Australians came to relieve the beleaguered Brits whose numbers were dramatically depleted. Pozieres was the place that would see the Australians’ finest hour. 

Attacking during the night, from the low land up to the German high land vantage point, the Anzacs succeeded in breaking through the defences. Here stands the  Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. From here it can be seen just what a magnificent tour de force the troops must have been.

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From the memorial, even on this misty morning it’s easy to see what a triumph the Australian breakthrough was…
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70,000 missing Australians have their names engraved on the walls of this memorial…
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Sylvestre showing us the headstones of 2 soldiers. One died on 11th November 1918 (Armistice Day), the other the day after. Many continued to fight after the end of the War, as communications were poor. Many continued to die of injuries or disease…

The German army could see for miles across the French countryside, and as they were always in a defending position, and as they had prepared for months in advance, with carefully constructed trenches and defence mechanisms, the Australian victory cannot be underestimated. It also marked a psychological change in the German army. It demonstrated the fact that they could be beaten. In all, around 624,000 Allies and 500,000 German died at the Somme. The numbers are unimaginable. Environmental studies show that iron levels in the fields of the Somme and other battlefield areas continue to be significantly higher than average, due to the large number of casualties and the intensity of the shelling.

It was a joy to travel on a bus (luxury – being able to stare out across the countryside, and no trying to overtake tractors) in the company of those who shared my history but a different one. The French guide was friendly, informative and genuinely seemed to take delight in discussing all matters war. They were as curious about this solo female traveller as I was about them travelling halfway around the world. A wonderful lunch hour was spent in the company of people who thought I was a little bit crazy, but full of guts. 

One of the highlights of the day was when a lady found her great uncle, buried in one of the many Commonwealth and German cemeteries that we visited (she had emailed the guide beforehand with details and they managed to find him), and share in her tears of sorrow and pride. This was a memorable day for us all…

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A read of “All Quiet on the Western Front”  by Erich Maria Remarque  will show just how horrific the war was for Germans as well as the Allies…

 

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Many German soldiers were repatriated after the War. Those families who could not afford to pay for repatriation of the body had to leave them in France. There are 4 names on each cross. German cemeteries are not commemorated and are usually down side roads, away from the public gaze.
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German cemeteries have no flowers. They more closely resemble forest and woodland rather than gardens of the British/French custom… Here, a Jewish soldier is buried next to his Christian comrades. Anti Semitism had not yet reared its ugly head…

 

 

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The “Iron Harvest” continues to churn up WW1 relics on a daily basis.

Mooching through one  of the farmer’s fields, I came across some shrapnel.  The fields continue to give up First World War artefacts, with soldiers being found and sometimes identified, on a regular basis.

On the way to the largest British Memorial to the 70,000 British soldiers still unaccounted for, in the Somme alone,  we met a lovely 82 year old lady called Madame Christine. Her late husband was a farmer and would regularly come home with empty shell cases that he had ploughed up:

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Thiepval Memorial
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Mme Christine’s (empty) shell cases…

 

 She also had 2 live ones:

 

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Mme Christine’s (not so empty) explosives… Sylvestre adopting the “So what?” pose of the French macho man…

The Département du Déminage, an arm of the French government operates in as much secrecy (to allay citizen concern) as possible to eliminate the unexploded shells which litter Northeastern France. This department has, since 1946, collected eighteen million artillery shells, ten million grenades, six hundred thousand aerial bombs and six hundred thousand underwater mines (this figure does, of course, include ordnance from W.W.II) and cleared and reclaimed two million acres. The department also receives about two million calls for the pick up of unexploded devices per year; these include grenades, mines, shells and bombs.

Mme Christine spoke no English but seemed to be able to understand me when I asked if she would mind having her photo taken with me, and adored the fact that my name is Victoria. She lives alone, her only regular contact with the outside world being the occasional group of tourists that turn up to admire her collection of war memorabilia, courtesy of the lovely tour guide Sylvestre. I would have loved to have shared a French brandy with her and discussed past times (with the help of a translator…Sylvestre perhaps?)

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Ah, Victoria, your French is excellent! (At least, I think that’s what she was saying…)
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What a wonderful lady 🙂

Veni, vidi, vici…

So Florence it was. I visited in May, 6 months after Mr T died; when it’s not too hot to walk around but lots of sunshine in between the showers. Kind of what I was looking for in life, really.

The first thing to think about when solo travelling,  is how to keep yourself occupied. We spend so little time alone that, after the first half an hour of amusing ourselves by playing “spot the nationality” of other tourists (baseball cap, shorts, socks, trainers – American. Unless he’s Japanese…never was much good at stereotyping), the solitude can become wearing, not to mention the uncomfortable feeling that everyone thinks you’re a loser because you’re sitting alone. So I tried a little experiment in Florence.

After balling my eyes out at the first sight of the stupendous green and white marbling of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistry where Dante was baptised – both because of their beauty and because Mr T wasn’t with me to share the magic – I stood in a shop doorway, blew my nose, checked the face for mascara runs and sat down opposite the cathedral for my first Italian beer. Actually, it was German but that’s not really relevant. I was in a fine spot to do some people watching. I decided to count how many people were, just like me, alone.

 

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Florence Bapistery

 

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Florence Cathedral – as beautiful at night as during the day

 

By alone, I don’t mean they’d left their significant other whilst they went off to the ATM machine, or to pick up cigarettes, or to find out where the nearest public toilets were. I mean actually alone. Carrying a map or a guide book, staring at the architecture, taking photographs, soaking up the atmosphere, minding their own business (which wasn’t what I was doing). Then I watched how many people were sitting outside cafes, having drinks or meals, chilling, watching me watching them (and probably wondering what Alice Cooper was doing in town). There were loads of people. I can’t say hundreds, but there must have been around 30-40 people, just minding their own business, doing their own thing and not worrying in the least about being alone.

 

I again looked around and realised that I was the only person who seemed to be the slightest bit interested in looking at people alone with their thoughts, or their iphones, or their books/laptops/coffees. In other words, no one cared that I was sitting alone. So why should I? The waiters didn’t avoid my table “Oh God, watch out, lone woman at table 28. Look, she has no friends, obviously a loser”. No one even batted an eyelid. And no one has ever batted an eyelid since. Unless I’m attempting my “mysterious lady” impression with my sunglasses, sun hat and book about existentialism which has never been opened but looks cool. So go on. Just do it. Quick. Whilst no one’s watching.

The following day I joined a tour of the Uffizzi Gallery and the Academia, had a good nosey around Michelangelo’s David and all in all felt extremely cultured. Florence is full of solo travellers, just mooching about. I spotted a couple trying to take a selfie on the Ponte Vecchio and, having just sampled a limoncello so feeling a little brave, I mimed the offer of taking their photo in return for them taking one of me. Bingo!  First proper photo with me in the picture!

 

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A selfie at the Boboli Gardens

 

 

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Proper photos are so much better than selfies!
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Getting the hang of asking strangers to take photos!

 

 

All by myself… or not.

 

My first night in Florence was a bit surreal. During the day I had been busy, booking into my hotel, crying and smiling intermittently at the beauty of everything and the sorrow of my broken soul. I had drunk some beer and eaten a salad. I can handle solitude during daylight hours, when the world is up and about, and there are hundreds of us solo travellers milling about. Night times are a different matter however. The night belongs to groups of friends with good food and wine. Or lovers. I was in neither camp.

By the evening of my first day, I was a little tipsy and tired. I wanted to be where other people were. I wanted to be laughing with friends. I was too scared to  move out of my room. I was feeling very sorry for myself. So I went to bed.

The following night, after a day of museums, art galleries and people watching, I went back to  my hotel room. I dressed for dinner, had dinner, sat on my bed and wondered what next. Then I gave myself a telling off. I was in Florence for only 4 days. What the hell was I worried about? I wasn’t going to find any life in my room alone. I’d find some tourists to chat to, and pass the evening in pleasant company, over a glass or two. So I headed for the hotel bar.

Perched at the bar (where I feel safe as a solo traveller), in my 5 star hotel, I felt eyes on me. There was a group of tourists (American I think, or maybe Canadian. I haven’t got the hang of the different accents yet) probably in their 60’s. Husbands and wives by the way they were talking.  I felt furtive glances yet no attempt to acknowledge me. Sitting on a stool in my black dress, black heeled boots, red lipstick (Mr T’s favourite), I looked around the hotel bar. Everyone was in couples. No one saw this sad, lonely widow, desperate for some interaction.  Who knows what they saw? A confident business woman? Someone waiting for their significant other to join them in the bar? Maybe they thought I was a whore. Women do not sit alone, at the bar, dressed up. This was an exclusively “couples only” club and I was no longer eligible to belong.  “Sod this”, I thought, and sauntered out.

 

alone in florence

 

It was a  damp evening. It rains on and off in Florence during May. It’s warm but an umbrella is needed. I walked up and down the glistening streets. There were very few people around and even fewer in the restaurants. I stopped in a nearby church and listened to an organ recital for  a while. This just made me feel more sad, so after a while I got up and moved on. I was restless and lonely.

I walked down an unprepossessing street. Minding my own business, with my umbrella up as it was drizzling, I suddenly heard a voice. “Madam, would you like some food?” I peered around my umbrella and saw a chef. I knew this because he was wearing chef’s whites. With a chef’s hat perched jauntily on his head. He was smoking a cigarette outside a trattoria. “No thank you, I’ve eaten” I said, and carried on walking. “How about a glass of wine?”. The guy was the first person I’d spoken to all day, and the two glasses of red gave me a devil may care attitude. Sod it, I’ll have a bloody drink. I also liked the fact that he was smoking. I badly wanted a cigarette and a glass of wine. And a conversation.

I crossed the road and immediately he set about getting a bistro table and a couple of chairs set up. Amused, I sat down. Il Italiano disappeared and then reappeared moments later with a glass of Prosecco, and no whites. He had changed into a t shirt and jeans. He was friendly and well trained in the art of chatting up tourists. But his conversation wasn’t the cheesy kind that makes you want to run. He was good at genuinely appearing interested in who I was and what I was doing, alone in Florence, on a drizzly Monday night.  Aware of my situation as a lone woman, I had prepared my story in advance. My husband had gone off somewhere and I was planning to meet him later. I thought of this story as the Prosecco went down and the truth came out.

Florence in the rain

 

Il Italiano asked me if I would like to go inside and watch the rest of a football match that was on the TV.  Napoli (Naples) was beating another Italian team in the Serie A.  Il Italiano, and in fact many Italians in Florence come from Naples, which is considered the fag end of Italy, so people leave to do low paid jobs in Northern Italy, which turns its nose up at them whilst being happy to hire them for the jobs that no one else wants. I  decided to watch the match. It was in a public place and I felt safe. I enjoyed a brilliant game. Il Italiano’s team won and in typical Italian fashion, he tore around the trattoria, shouting my name (which incidentally is Victoria – appropriate for the Napoli victory) only stopping to refill my glass.

The rest of the restaurant staff  were also celebrating and thought nothing of including this English lady, all in black, with not a word of Italian to her name. There were no diners in that evening but everyone was chatting and gesticulating excitedly, the way that only Italians can do. They made me laugh and smile. When Il Italiano asked me if I would like to go somewhere else for a drink, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. So I did.

We visited bars, restaurants, and finally a nightclub. Everyone knew il Italiano. And I felt, for the first time in 6 months, alive. We laughed at anything and everything. Mostly at our complete inability to understand each other, so that we had to do silly mimes to try to get our messages across.  He was a breath of fresh air in my suffocating existence. So when he asked if I wanted to be walked back to my hotel room, or if I would like to go to his apartment (right next to the Cathedral), I knew what I wanted. I didn’t want to be alone. Not that night…

He shared an apartment with the General Manager of the Uffizi Gallery. Conveniently, he was asleep. We crept in, giggling like a couple of teenagers. We spent all night making me feel new again. Forget bereavement counselling. This was the kind of therapy that I needed. To be held, and kissed and made to forget all the pain and the fear that had haunted me since November. It went against all my norms and values, yet it felt so right. It could have been so wrong. But it wasn’t.

When il italiano finally did walk me to my hotel the following morning, the group of tourists from the night before were waiting outside. They stared at me. The red lipstick had long since been kissed away, leaving only a huge smile on my face. And a triumphant look in my eye. I had found my own entertainment for the evening.

 

 

 

Nifty gadgets for the solo traveller (in a British car, on foreign roads)

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Photo by David Jakab on Pexels.com

Ok. So I’m British. I drive a British car, right hand drive. I drive on the left hand side of the road. However, what happens when I take my car to France as I will be doing in a few weeks?  In Europe and various other places they, for some inexplicable reason, have decided to drive on the wrong side of the road. What does a solo traveller do, when trying to overtake that tractor on the French country road? How does one remember to drive on the right when bombing along, listening to “I feel free” at top volume? This will be a continuously updated list of nifty gadgets that I have come across for the solo traveller (or, I guess, any traveller).

 

Where possible I will include websites of where the products are available. I tend to use  websites where possible, as I detest going into actual shops where I might come into contact with people. Never my strong point. I also like to get excited when the postman knocks at the door with yet another parcel of stuff. This is especially thrilling if I’ve ordered lots of stuff and so I don’t know what’s in the actual parcel.

 

The page will be continuously updated as more nifty gadgets are found…

 

 

1. How to overtake those pesky tractors/caravans/lorries bringing tomatoes from Spain to the UK… This is a nifty gadget I found on ebay. It’s produced by an inventive Polish company and is very simple to use. It consists of 2 mirrors which stick to the windscreen on the passenger side. They act as a periscope. One mirror does the job of the imaginary passenger, looking out of the left hand side of the windscreen. This image is then reflected on to another mirror which faces inwards. The solo driver simply looks into this mirror, and hey presto. One can see around the pesky traffic.

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/KRUGOZOR-UNIVERSAL-MIRROR-SYSTEM-FOR-RHD-AND-LHD-CARS-/181447207589?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item2a3f18

 

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2. Remembering which side of the road to drive, and keeping to the speed limit. Those johnny foreigners use kilometres instead of miles. What to do if you don’t know your left from your right, and you’re number dyslexic like myself and unable to convert mileage into km? These handy stickers will help. Simply stick them to your windshield and you need never worry about where the hell you’re going again (well, they won’t stop you getting lost but at least you’ll get lost legally).

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008D20LEM/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003GU6I2K/ref=pe_385721_37986871_TE_item

 

Right side of the road stickers

 

 

3. Bloody toll booths on toll roads. How to pay the money when in the right hand seat and the booth is way over to the left?   Avoid doing yourself a mischief with this nifty gadget. https://www.saneftolling.co.uk/articles/enjoying-the-benefits-of-telepeage For a small outlay, a gadget can be stuck in the top of the windscreen which will automatically pick up a laser beamy thingie (never said I knew how the science works). Sanef, the French motorway operator has now extended its Liber-t automatic toll payment service to UK motorists. To use the service all you need to do is register online and they will send you a small electronic transponder (or tag) that you attach to your windscreen just behind the rear-view mirror. As you approach the barriers, a device by the barrier will read your transponder (or tag), securely extract your unique reference and then automatically open the barrier without you having to stop.

 

You will receive an invoice the following month for your tolls and then around 15 days later they will automatically collect the payment in £ (GBP) from your bank account by direct debit from your UK bank account. Look for the lane with the enormous “t” printed on the road, and “telepeage sans arret” on the signage. Then drive through triumphantly, smirking at the other poor British drivers, fiddling about with Euros, cents and a crick in the neck, trying to reach the little French guy in the booth.

 

 

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