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14

France - Le Touquet
10th July - 8th Aug

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time
T.S. Elliot

Whilst my ferry from Dover to Calais was on the 10th July, mentally I left on the 1st May. So my trip is already two months in but only now am I about to hit a new continent. To remain consistent, despite expecting to arrive at the ferry an hour ahead of schedule, I successfully managed to whittle this down to 2 minutes.

My intention upon arriving in France was to keep a low profile and just "drop my anchor". Presently, as I have so many options, I will stay put until I have more clarity as to what my next steps will be rather than dashing off in any one particular direction. I fully intend to leave myself plenty of space to see what materialises. Hence, I am not cramming in as much of France in the shortest period of time possible. I have found an inexpensive site 5 Euros per night (£3.50) with all the facilities I need, namely, electricity and water. Le Touquet is a 5 min's bike ride and the internet cafe 20 min's. So here I will stay until I feel it is time to move on.

In the grand scheme of things it feels as if the clarification process could take in excess of a year before I will have a better understanding of how I will be utilising the time I have made available. I am treating the next 12-18 months almost a settling in period, perhaps an apprenticeship, where I have the opportunity to build up my "Toolbox" with skills/knowledge that will be used later.

So in the meantime I am working hard on practicing the language, tying up all loose ends and bringing up to date this site. Before I left it was important that the shell of the site was in place, I knew how to update and make any changes. Stage 2, building in more of the content and finalising a format I am happy with, as this was going to be time consuming, was reserved for the first foreign leg.

Le Touquet itself is a lovely little Northern French town. Geared up mainly for the tourist, the bars and restaurants are in abundance. It is thought of as a French Hollywood, so as you might expect, not cheap. Especially for a vagrant. But the people are lovely, extremely friendly and helpful, and they have some customs which make us appear less than civilised.

I have put together a budget spreadsheet to ensure that I keep on top of the expenses. Unfortunately that doesn't allow much scope for paying 18 euros for a salad and a glass of wine, but it was always my intention to prepare all my own food. Which, being a vegan in France may be a good option as it seems that little thought is given to them at the the menu planning stage. I realise that this is a sweeping statement and it may prove to be inaccurate. However, one afternoon on one of only two visits to a street cafe they had on the menu pasta with a tomato sauce; one of the few dishes that I could eat. I asked if they could chuck some vegetables in that as well, the waiter dashed off to the kitchen and returned apologetically saying "they didn't have any vegetables!".

As far as the language is concerned I am making more than my fair share of mistakes............. So my phrase book, dictionary and notes never leave my side. One of my most dangerous errors must have been in my second week. I told a 10 year old child that I loved her............in front of her mother! I wasn't too far away from what I was trying to say but there is no recovering from that one!!

Possibly even more worrying though, they have invited me to stay with them at their home? Frederick and Betty from Anzin. After I had explained away my minor error we played the French version of Dominos and Ludo until midnight. Which as they spoke no English was great practice for my French. Of their two daughters, Justin and Morgan, only Justin spoke a little English which was useful to act as a bail out. So between us we made ourselves understood.

A matter of concern though, if I have this much trouble when I have had the benefit of pre-arrival lessons I have no idea how I will manage in a country where I have not. In particular in the Middle Eastern countries. This is something I will need to work on and find a way of being able to communicate. Apart from the obvious practicalities you are also viewed differently if you make the effort to learn some of their language.

Cont on page 6

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