Vacances en France, a holiday journal
Day 1 – Dimanche
The first day of our holiday to France: departure, six o’clock in the morning. We drove through Swampyland, Belgium and France for 10 solid hours. The wind howled around the mounts of the roof case on the car, a Fiat Multipla. Besides that it is the most ugly car human kind has ever invented throughout history, it is also a very noisy car. We had a break for breakfast and then for a pee and then for lunch and then one for a pee again. And it rained. In the evening we got lost finding our hotel. We went to the police station to ask for directions. On the floor at the police station was a white stripe with the word ‘derrière’ on it. It means ‘arse’ in English. Anouk speaks very good French, almost like a native French woman really. It did help us humongously to communicate with the locals but the police man and police woman didn’t know either where the hotel was, that’s how obscure this little hotel really was. It wasn’t called Bonsaï Hotel for nowt you know, very difficult to find. When a police man in France says « Toutes directions » it means « Whatever road you take, we don’t care ». And when we found the little hotel eventually we were very disappointed, it was a real dump. The WiFi internet was for free however. We then decided to go look for a restaurant nearby and found ‘Del Arte’, an Italian restaurant. The only Italian thing about this restaurant was a picture of Al Capone on the wall. I had a large vase with Heineken Lager and Lasagna and the kids had a char coaled pizza. It is nine o’clock in the evening now and I’m going to sleep. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 2 – Lundi
We got up in the morning and decided to leave. At the parking lot we ate the left over bread from yesterday and drank some milk and then we left. We were going to take the toll ways as it would save us at least four hours of useless driving. The toll booth was quite a treat: just a slot for a ticket and another one for a credit card. It took our money. We drove along the toll way for five hours and then another one followed. It took our money too and we drove around like mad to the exit. We had a break for a pee. In the south of France you can pee for free, in the north you can not pee at all until you have had a puke because of the stench. Mrs C. nearly puked she told me and she paid 50 eurocents for it. Then we went up and down through some really colourless villages (they were mostly beige or tan) and in the end we drove five times around the same roundabout because we thought we saw the entrance of the camping site. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, o please make up your mind! You either see it or you don’t! Then we went in and parked the car at the entrance. We had to wait for the key of our cabin for a very long time because we arrived at least an hour too early. It was hot and muggy, it had rained the entire day. All of us got a bright yellow band tagged around our wrist so we could prove we are legal tennants on this five star camping site. Yeay! We bought groceries. Then I made a great lot of Macaroni Bolognese in a very tiny kitchen in our cabin and I fell asleep. It was around eight o’clock I think. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 3 – Mardi
In the night a storm passed by and I closed the bedroom window. I went to sleep again. Our bed is five foot five long and I am six foot four-and-a-half inches, my feet are sticking out. Breakfast was quite plain, white crusty baquette with butter and strawberry jam. And Coffee too. I sat on the porch in front of the cabin until it was time to go to the shop. The children went to the swimming pool with the thirteen giant water slides. I went there too and they gave me an enormous transparent plastic beaker with icy water because I was afraid I would kick the bucket after that long walk in the hot sun up and down a steep mountain trying to find the swimming pool. Then we went to the shop and I bought a cap. Apparently when you don’t wear one here your head gets scorched by the blazing sun and then you die. After we were done shopping I sat on the porch for a few hours. I tried to read an e-book and then I tried to watch a French vintage movie without any subtitles on my iPad. That was interesting. I had a can of my favorite brand of Dutch Lager to prevent myself of getting home sick. And Mrs C. thinks it is too hot to have ‘fun’. I cannot wait til tea because we will be eating Ravioli just to tick the children off, ‘LOL’. Since there is no television in our cabin and internet access costs an arm and a leg I suppose I will have an early night in again and kill the hours with merciful sleep. Unless I get a treat of course because then I will stay up a little bit longer. I cannot find any alternative words to describe the joys of the remainder of this afternoon as nothing will be going to happen I think. We might play a board game later. It is almost five o’clock now. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 4 – Mercredi
There were eggs and bacon on a white crusty baguette for brekkies this morning. And Lait Frais. The kids decided to go to the swimming pool with the thirteen giant water slides again. I fell asleep until 11:47 and then I tried to read an e-book, The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame. Yawn to the seventh power. I had a glass of cola on the porch. I went to the Bakery for deux baguette but the Boulanger had siesta and no bread. It seems completely logical to me to close the Bakery when people are hungry and then re-open it when they’re all filled up. We are now all out of biscuits too thank you very much. Mrs C. put her new bikini on just to make me go mad with lust. She is such a tease. There are numerous obnoxious crickets in the trees making noise. They need a little cricket conductor with a tiny cricket baton because they are not in sync. Or better, they should stop. I saw an eagle but when I got my camera from inside the cabin it was gone. Instead I took a picture of some pink flowers and Christa’s cleavage. Anouk thinks Christa and I are being way too frolic and she couldn’t handle it anymore. She went to sit behind the cabin with her book. Niels spent four solid hours in the swimming pool and came back for a drink. Joris hasn’t come back at all yet. Back to the boring e-book then. The eagle hasn’t come back yet or I forgot to look at the right moment which is possible. Crickets are a nuisance. There are three cows in a meadow on top of a mountain opposite to our camping site that didn’t move all day. I took three photographs of them and deleted two. In the afternoon Christa, Anouk, Liset and Joris played a game of Rummikub. E-book reading is up to speed now since there is really nothing else to do in this extreme heat, it must be 40 Degrees Celsius now. P.S. in the evening we played a game of Colonists and got drunk which was nice. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 5 – Jeudi
This morning we all woke up very early because we had planned a visit to the Musée de Bonbon at the Haribo factory nearby. We traveled for two hours so it was not as nearby as they promised in the brochure (the Fiat Multipla bravely withstanding the steep roads and hair pin curves like a Metallic Blue Stallion). At arrival we all got candy for free which was a surprise of course and very much unexpected. We each also received a token for the candy slot machines at the end of the tour for free. There were sweets everywhere, on the walls, the ceiling, the floor, in our bags, mouths, litterally all over the place. There were posters about sweets, documentary movies about sweets and glass vitrines with sweets. And you could smell the sweets too. After just over two hours we were done with the sweets, the history of sweets and the perils of Harald Riesel’s Bonbons shop and we left. The parking lot was hot like hell and we had a drink to prevent us from turning into ashes right there on the spot (but small enough a drink without having the need to pee again before we left). We then went home but after little over an hour in the hot car we decided cheerfully to look for a MacDonald’s. The French are not very keen on fast food as it seems because after two and a half hour non stop driving there was still no MacDonald’s to be found and so we gave up. We did come across some thirty-odd pizzerias however. After buying groceries it was just as well that we arrived at the camping site promptly because Mrs C. at that moment was nearly cracking up and so were we. There is only so much heat a person can take and in the south of France there is abundantly sufficient heat up to and above 38 Degrees Celsius here. So I think I now deserve a can of my favourite imported Dutch Lager (one of the very few things the French can do right) and sit on the porch again. It is now 27 minutes later and the garlic butter on a baguette and the Lager have done most of their work. I think I am alright although one can only say for sure after an entire second pint is consumed. The children and Christa went to the swimming pool again. 18:30 hrs: I am alright now. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 6 – Vendredi
After breakfast with yet again Baquette et Fraise Morango we drank coffee all morning to prevent ourselves from falling asleep again. Niels is suffering from the French food and after three rounds of puking he went back to bed. We were all out of underwear and handkerchief by now so we had to do the laundry. As there is no washing machine in our cabin to do it for us we had to wash our stuff by hand. I think I made a good laundry maid by shaking the bucket with our textiles inside in a very wildly manner. Niels is still asleep and Joris and Liset went to the swimming pool. Anouk is knitting a snail in bright red and brown. I read my model railway magazine for the fourth time now and I am pretty sure I haven’t missed out a single line or picture. I transferred the pictures from my camera to my iPad and took extra precautions so Christa wouldn’t see the one I just took of her cleavage. All the other pictures came out fine too, I might have to photoshop a face or two when I get home. Christa says there’s hundreds of bogeys in my hankies so she’s not doing them and I will have to wash those out myself. Which I duly did so. There are pictures to show for it. It is now 12:50 and it’s getting quite hot again. Better start doing nothing then. Two hours later: O dear, the kids have come back in a sombre mood on this cloudless day. The rubber band for the swimming pool is leaking and now I must move my overheated sweaty body to the swimming pool area to sort it out. Turns out it is a nobrainer, the girl is from Manchester and thinks I’m Welsh and she has a soft spot for Welshmen. So I get a new rubber band for free without any hesitation, I just didn’t say I’m not Welsh that’s all. Kids happy again. Anouk is knitting a tiny blue fish now, she has finished the snail. The cows are gone now, the meadow is empty. Back to the e-book then accompanied by a large Lager. Joris came back from the fox hunt with two blisters, one on each foot. But with the careful nursing of Sister Anouk and some plasters it was over in a jiffy. It is 5:30 pm and still 42 Degrees Celsius. The Boulanger said it was 45 around lunch time. It is impossible to move an inch without breaking sweat and this e-book is incredibly dull. It is too hot to make tea too, so we will have to resolve to Soup du Jour. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 7 – Samedi
Saturday, my favourite part of the week as it is my day off. So today it is my day off from holiday. Fat chance of course, the women want to go shopping in a large city nearby. But since everybody is in a cheerful mood today, who am I to object? We all step into the Fiat Multipla happily and on our way we go. When we arrive at Montélimar we see a mall and we decide to buy groceries. There is a very large superstore where they sell everything from raisins to LCD TV’s. We also find a green Casio fx-92 2D calculator and since there is no green one available in Swampyland Liset wants to have one for school. She’ll be the only one with a mint green calculator (the only school-approved model) in her class, very posh. I am happy for her. We then move along to the city centre and start walking. In Montélimar they are very fond of nougat as there are numerous nougat shops, there’s one in every street I think. After over two hours walking we sit down for a drink at a terrace in front of a Brasserie. The waiter knows what we want, « iets te drinken » he says in fluent Dutch, something to drink. I bump my head into one of the parasols, apparently the French are a little less taller than the Dutch. The waiter also gives us the ice cream menu as he seems not to understand my fluent French « boissons pour six personnes c’il vous plaît ». But the use of the toilet is for free and it is an immaculately clean toilet too. We then walk around for another hour without buying anything. There is a fabulous nick knack shop which I fancy going in to but the women think it is not and start to behave impatiently so I get nervous. I say it’s tactics, send one woman into the shop to fetch the man and tell him the Mrs gets fed up waiting, that’ll make him nervous! Anouk is very good at that so she draws the shortest straw. On our way back we go in to the mall again for the fresh stuff and then it’s back to the camping site. Since we are in France it is only natural to eat chips the Dutch way with ‘mayonaise’ and ‘Frikandellen’ and we make it a feast. It was a cloudy day with a strike of thunder at noon but now the sky is clearing up and even though it is around seven o’clock it is getting quite hot again. But one of the very few things the French are good in is importing Dutch Lager and now there are four cans in the fridge waiting for me. Luckily for me there is about three foot of shadow on the porch and that is exactly where my chair is. But first a nice large mug with Douwe Egberts coffee. It is eight o’clock now. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 8 – Dimanche
Joris and Liset were sick throughout the night and took turns for puking. Since I am a sympathetic vomiter I could not help myself and nearly joined in. I was able to compose myself however. Christa stayed awake the entire night to help Liset and Joris. So we’re all back in bed now on this beautiful Sunday morning. I am afraid we will miss out on church today. My stomach hurts. Joris is getting better now, I can hear him being happy with his Nintendo DS. We had a late breakfast as you can imagine and even though it was tempting I didn’t make any scrambled eggs and bacon this time. That wouldn’t be fair on the others. We’ll have to save that for tomorrow then. The crickets have the day off too I think, at least I haven’t heard them in a while now. Well my friends, it is time for that Sunday afternoon kip now. Zzzzz. And it lasted a little bit longer than expected. The e-book was not to my surprise not holding any surprises for me and it went on like water in a creek. The temperature is just fine, not too hot this afternoon. Ah! The crickets have woken up! Still not in sync though. This afternoon it’s mostly Nintendo DS games and Solitaire on the iPad. Christa had a power nap and now it’s time to eat all biscuits judging by the scrunchy noises around me. High time I make some tea then. Fried eggs, bacon and lots of mushrooms. I volunteer for washing up. In the evening it got chilly outside so we went inside the cabin to read and listen to The Proclaimers. Not much to tell about a Sunday in France. A Lager and off to bed then. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 9 – Lundi (again)
We woke up after a sleep in. In spite of the clear blue sky it wasn’t really hot yet. Today we are all going together from the giant family water slide at the swimming pool. The suspense is killing me. But first I must finish my e-book as I haven’t planned anything else for this morning. … Something actually happened! A cricket came and sat on the grass so I could take pictures of it. After lunch we all went to the swimming pool, I went down two of the thirteen giant water slides in a big rubber band with the children and Christa together. They were made for people weighing up to fourteen stones so I was afraid I had to lie a little about my weight but nobody asked. I survived the slides and then we went for a long swim. Anouk took lots of pictures whilst we were in the water. Apparently I make funny faces without realizing but they are now all caught on camera (Nikon D70 + 55-200 VR lens for all sharp pictures). I made chicken nuggets for tea and after that it was Christa’s turn for the ‘little bug’ and I gave her a bucket, she went to bed. No connection between the chicken nuggets and Christa’s bug for the records. The children then played a few matches of badminton and then a game of Rummikub. I put Love Songs by The Beatles on and the music had a calming effect on everyone. So the game ended without a Third World War at the end of it. As there is no limit to the Dutch Lager supply in the intermarché nearby I had the pleasure again of drinking one this evening. Actually the combination of The Beatles and Bavaria 8.6 Blonde is excellent and I take extra care to enjoy both. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 10 – Mardi
So after Christa it was now my turn for that bug and tea went ‘Toutes Directions’. I haven’t felt this bad in years, didn’t know I could puke that much. I also have the French D. so I just stay at the toilet for a very long time, it’s more convenient. Anouk has had it too and we took turns making awful noises throughout the night. The kids put their fingers in their ears, that’s how much noise I made. Men are a bit silly when it comes to being sick and for some reason the mere thought of chicken nuggets make me feel sick again by association. I won’t be eating those for the coming years. I slept through most of the day and it is now four o’clock. I did eat a Wasa cracker however and a Loperamidum capsule. I drank enough water. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 11 – Mercredi
Well, up and about again but not well yet. Stomach still hurts and I’m feeling weak. Should have eaten a bit more yesterday. All the others are fine again and they stuffed themselves with croissants. Today we’re going to pack our bags because tomorrow we want to go canoeing. And Friday we’re heading home again. The evaluation form was filled in by Christa and it must be devastating for the cleaning ladies. So far we seen one smoking two cigarettes on a porch and leave and another one going into a cabin for no more than five minutes and go away again. Beds were terrible and too short and there were dead flies in our cabin when we arrived. The personnel in the snack shack had their fingers where they weren’t supposed to have them. Good thing Christa didn’t tell us before tea or else I wouldn’t have eaten the chips. Canoe trip for tomorrow is confirmed. Away with nausea, here comes fun! Joris got another rubber band for free for the swimming pool since this one was leaking too. He did it all by himself, I’m very proud of him. We had a nice meal in the sun this evening and we shared our meat. Some of us even shared it two or three times ha ha! Do not buy Turkey Gordon Bleu in France, it keeps moving from plate to plate. And so it is now time to kill that bottle of Vin Rosé. As it was unanimously decided that it is my turn to sleep in the living room on the air bed I am now ready for my first decent night of sleep this holiday. Stamina is essential. Lights out! Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 12 – Jeudi
03:06. Whoohoo! That was a class 1 nightmare. See if I can fall asleep again. Zzzzz. Yes I can, the rest of the night went smooth. The air bed sleeps a lot better than the beds in the cabin. I woke up rested and without any sore muscles this time. The German neighbour looks just like a WW I captain, I can see him gloating at the sight of us. I can almost hear him thinking: « Oh, their brrreakfast table is one disorderly mess, my plates and jars are all arranged in neat rows. An organised brrreakfast table is essential. ». Gutenmorgen my German neighbour, seen enough? Ha ha! He is re-arranging the stuff on his table, I am so right. ‘LOL’. Canoo trip in the afternoon. When we drove to the river the Drône we came across some serious mountains and hairpin curves. We were taken to the entry at the river with our canoes, life vests and paddles in a mini bus, an ancient Renault Saviem. Liset and I went first and after a few minutes our canoe went upside down and we were wet. We were a bit frightened at first but then we had to laugh. We rowed the canoe along seven miles of river and had a lot of fun. Halfway I swapped placeswith Christa and I had Joris in front of me. Joris is very tough and he helped rowing the canoe until the very end. We did fell over several times and I have a sore body, bumps and bruises everywhere. My hands hurt too. Anouk can’t find her iPhone charger. She says it’s not lost, only ‘seriously misplaced’. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 13 – Vendredi
Cabin check early in the morning, approved. I snitched on the cleaning ladies because we had to clean the entire cabin because she only smoked two ciggies on the porch instead of mopping floors. We are now on our way home on the toll ways. Some people should not be allowed to drive, especially those with a large A on the back of their car. We had traffic jam in Lyon and it is hot in the car. My body hurts all over from yesterdays canoe trip. Traveling on along some other toll ways. We had a couple of pee breaks and we ate incredibly expensive baguettes with ham and cheese (€ 4,90 each). Joris has explained for the thousand time that it is important to keep a promise and we must go to the MacDonald’s before we arrive at home. By now I have figured out how the car radio works and we finally have normal music on. Instead of a MacDonald’s we found a Pizza Hut and we all had two slices each. It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry or not, Pizza Hut stands for stuffing yourself with delicious pizza with an awful lot of cheese! Nothing happened. Utterly boring.
Day 14 – Samedi
Back home. Nothing happened. Utterly boring.