We hadn't originally intended to go to France, we just wanted to concentrate on a few countries and not complicate things. I mean...France! There is so much to see and do there that we thought to just save it all for another time. Europe can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially for us Australians who live on an island so far away from the rest of the world. You can go a little crazy one you hit a place like Europe where everything is connected by land....and is thereby accessible!! It can feel tempting to try and see everything, especially since it costs a fortune just to get there in the first place!
But that wasn't what we were trying to achieve in our new life. We didn't want to just quickly whizz by countless other cultures and ways of life. No, we wanted to soak things up, feel them, experience them, understand the world a little better. We were making our way up to the Netherlands to visit with some friends, and our route took us up the western part of Germany. Great! It was an absolute must to visit the Black Forest. There was no way I was going to drive on by that part of the world without seeing where all those wonderful creepy Grimms' fairytales originated from! Just type Black Forest Germany into Pinterest and you'll see what I mean, magic! Plus, one of my 3 European treasures was waiting for me there, my very own original cuckoo clock.
This all sounds great....but the problem was that is was peak season, and the Black Forest is a popular tourist destination. We simply couldn't find any accommodation anywhere around the Black Forest that we could afford. Nothing. Ok, no worries, we're good at new plans, so we found a place just over the border in France. Our new plan was brilliant; stay cheaper in France, then pop over to Germany to visit the Black Forest for a day trip...
Well, as it turned out, this was actually not a stoke of brilliance, but a rather dumb plan. The place we had found at a bargain price turned out to be located somewhere on top of a very long, very winding mountain. On a map it looked right near the border, but we soon discovered that no quick trips were going to happen!
But before I get to any of those adventures, first we had to get there.
In the interest of saving money, we decided to drive straight through from our day at Neuschwanstein in Germany to our new place in a town called 'La Bresse', in France. It had already been a very long and exhausting day. One of those extreme travel days. It had been extremely amazing and wonderful to see some of Germany's beautiful castles, and it had also been physically and emotionally exhausting with all the walking and kid wrangling going on. We had hoped to begin the drive early in the afternoon, but in the end we didn't leave till about 3:30.
It was also about 1000 degrees.
I think that for the first time in history the temperature reached 1000. Well, it felt like it.
We all piled into our hot, stuffed-to-the-brim car, rolled down the windows, and prayed that we would survive the next 7 hours.
Thankfully we did survive. After a couple of intensely hot and loud hours bonding together in the car, and four countries later, we arrived in France!!
Despite the long day and the drain on our tired bodies and emotions, it was pretty exciting to be in France! Not long ago, I never would have believed that our family would make our way to France!! Life can be full of adventures and surprises sometimes. It was a huge leap of faith into the unknown coming on our journey to Europe. It was so difficult to let go of our old life and leave our comfy comfort-zones behind and try something so completely out of the ordinary. And so completely unknown. I had worried that we didn't have accommodation organized, we couldn't speak the languages, what would it be like to try adventurous type travel with so many kids ?? But things always worked out. The Lord looked after us. And even though it was really really hard sometimes just getting through the big effort of some of our days, like this epic drive into France, I honestly believe that all the best things in life require great effort.
So yeah, it was pretty dang exciting to drive into France!!
It got dark shortly after crossing the border and we still had about 2 hours to go. As we traveled, we were relieved that Bo fell asleep for this part of the drive. One of the great dilemmas that we dealt with on our journey was the issue of toilet breaks. Aaarrrgh!! Always such a drama! We'd had constant frustration so far in this department. It was fine if we were in a museum of something like that, but even parks often didn't provide a place to pee. On the road...it was pretty much gas stations only. But...we had to find one at the right time...
Side of the road anyone?
The other drama was that if some bothersome child suddenly needed to pee while on the road, and Bo was asleep, he would inevitably wake up once we stopped. And cry. For hours.
This time though, it was bothersome me. I needed to go, and I was NOT going to have my first act in France to be squatting on the side of the road peeing!!! I was hot. I was severely bothered. And I wanted the luxury of a toilet!
No. Toilet. Anywhere.
It was very dark. It was actually quite creepy looking because there were hardly any outdoor lamps, and we were in a new foreign country where we had no idea how anything worked! My poor bladder was screaming at me. I grumped, I scanned the road, I think I even prayed....
I mean, what were our options? Could we stop and go into a bar or restaurant and ask to use the toilet? Can you even do that in France? Maybe, but emotionally I just couldn't drum up the courage and internal strength to find out. And anyway, everything looked shut. And dark. And no-one seemed to be anywhere in sight.
My prayers were answered, by a golden beacon of hope that I had hitherto rejected in my past life...
Let me preface this by saying that I kinda hate McDonalds. I think the food is fatty sugary crap and I'm one of those people who tend to believe the stories on Facebook about how chicken nuggets are really made out of toxic pink cancer causing sludge and that the soft serve is made out of pig fat. But when I saw those golden arches rising out of the night, like a beacon of hope and relief for my bursting bladder, I tell you that it was love. My whole family cried out "McDonalds!!!" with unprecedented joy! So now I have changed my general feelings about McDonalds. There truly is a place in the world for that American fast-food franchised billion-dollar dodgy giant corporation; complete with toilets, playgrounds, and French fries!
After our relieving and happy stop, Bo woke up.....and proceeded to cry for the next hour as we wound our way up and up to our Airbnb bargain. Some of those turns were very tight, and we found ourselves increasingly concerned that we would have to come back down the dratted mountain anytime we went anywhere over the next few days. Oh well, onward and upward. 'Find a dummy, ignore the squawking, try to stay positive, don't get sick, keep your eyes on the road, we will make it, this won't last forever....'
Finally, finally we made it! What a day!!!!
We arrived at the house, located in a random French town on the top of a mountain, NOT particularly close to the German border, but which turned out to be quite nice. We unloaded the kids, met the host and unpacked the car.
It was late, close to 11:00 pm, I was exhausted and frazzled, and so when the male host (who was possibly a bit tipsy, not sure ) went in for a kiss on the cheek, I was like; "what the hell, back off man!"
I didn't actually say those words, but I think my face conveyed something along those lines. My arms were crossed, and there was no way! Ross later said that he thought it was hilarious.
The Frenchy guy was like; "Ah, bonjour madame...." lean in for a kiss,
and I was like; No. Just no....or you die.
Hahaha!! It wasn't till the next day after I'd had some sleep that I remembered that French people kiss as a greeting.
After some sleep and a new day had dawned, France looked beautiful instead of creepy. Charming instead of forbidding. It was fascinating how different things looked. We had crossed an invisible border and we were in a whole different country. New culture, language and kissing customs.
Vive la France, Hurray for France!!