Thinking Back Vol. 2 Home is where you park it

After having spent a couple of days at a bike park with friends, I was happy to hit the road again. I do feel way more safe in the van than on a mountain bike in the alps…
We wanted to visit my sister and her little family of four during the last days of our trip, since they were hanging out in the Normandie. Our route wasn’t really planned and our focus was mileage.

We drove all the way up from Les Deux Alpes to Etretat in two days. Two days spent on the road, driving steadily, listening to old music and talking, talking, talking. While usually, driving somewhere by car is more of a chore and you try to arrive as soon as possible, traveling by van, the journey really is the destination.
Again, we decided to take the country roads to both save money and take the beautiful nature in. We drove on only one road for most of the time. It was just straight, no hills and no steep curves, leading through vast rural areas, thousands of acres of wheat and corn stretching out next to us.

When the sun set, we stopped on a harvested field to capture the beautiful light.

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The mood was so capturing and when it was almost dark, we decided to drive onto some smaller roads until we found another harvested field bordering a forest. The area we were driving through seemed like an old, noble neighborhood. Here and there, we could spot huge mansions surrounded by high fences and parks that stretched out in the back of them. Somewhere between those estates is where we decided to stop, have dinner and sleep. But first, some coffee!

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After we turned the motor off, we realized how incredibly silent it was. Whether Yannick nor I had experienced such silence in a long time. No noise from distant roads, no city sounds, no nothing. The only thing we heard was a cricket now and then and we found ourselves whispering to each other, since it felt so unnatural to disturb the silence.
That night, the menu featured spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and prawns, of course accompanied by some French lager beer. Yum!
And this was the superb view out of the sliding door…

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When we started for the second stage of our journey to Etretat early in the morning, it started to rain. It was one of those beautiful, intense summer rains and we could feel nature soaking up every single drop of water falling from the sky. Our little flower kept the summer vibes inside the van alive and we had a relaxed drive towards north west.

We decided that we don’t need a five star hotel and room service to have a great holiday. What we defined as our need is freedom, relaxation and a homey feeling. With the van, home is where you park it. May it be on a camping site at the ocean or in the middle of nowhere on a pasture. In the rain or in the sun.

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Thinking back Vol.1 Redefining Values

Without being able to really cherish the memories of the amazing first holiday we had, our school and work life resumed and priorities were redefined for the semester ahead. There are so many untold stories that I want to put on paper… or rather on screen, so that I can remember them forever.

When thinking back to our adventure now, there are so many happy moments that I remember and that I want to share with you and the future me! A throwback to happy summer vibes is just what I need… Amsterdam is so damn cold and rainy this time a year.

Not cold and rainy, but sunny and windy was the weather that greeted us welcome on the Île de Noirmoutier; a strip of land off the French west coast.

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With the help of our friend Google Maps, you can see the road that stretches through La-Barre-de-Monts, leading us all the way up the island. The ride was beautiful; vast areas of flat, flower sprinkled moss-like land stretched out to both sides as we made our way further into the island. Piles of salt left and right and salt farmers working on extracting the water from the raw material that was once more valuable than gold.

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I stole this photo from http://www.france-voyage.com to show you guys 🙂

We stopped to get us some Sel de Mer and at some point reached the very tip of the island that, lucky for us, had a camping site right on top of it. How amazing is that?! Seawater splashing agains the rocks all around us, the camping site was quite extraordinary.

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Not only because of the amazing view, the salty sea breeze and the lively French crowd enjoying the outdoors was the campsite special. Also, the island had seemingly played a role in the defense of France during the second world war. On the camping site alone were about 10 old bunkers, small and huge, that kids were playing on top of. And of course… Yannick!

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The drive through the French coastal villages and cities had, once again, reminded us about the terrible things that happened there during the second world war. Memorials, American flags, military cars and tanks reminded of the brave soldiers that gave their life for the freedom of Europe. This made us stop and think about how amazingly lucky we are, childish and free, passing through with our camper van.

On this note, never forget to stop for a second and value life. No yolo-ing needed. Just reflect on what you want and need to be happy, but especially look at what you already have. This doesn’t mean you should settle for less, but not taking anything for granted is (in my humble opinion) the key to happiness and satisfaction in life. Vanlife and the community around it actually helped me reflect on the values that prevail in our western society. To go back to the mere necessities and realize- you actually don’t need much more to be happy- is what vanlife made me realize.

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Still creeping down the atlantic coast, we thought we should broaden our horizon when it comes to cuisine and try something new. With the offer of fresh seafood being so big, we decided we should buy fish and prepare it ourselves- including the parts that happen before something lands in a welded package in the supermarket.

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We chose two beautiful dorades and while Yannick tried his hand at gutting, I gave our new oyster knife a shot. I was quite scared after having read an article about the rate of accidents in France rising drastically around Christmas – because Frenchies stab themselves with oyster knives ever couple of minutes. Well… let’s go!

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The camping site we stayed at was brilliant. We had understood that we should stay away from spots that have three or more stars. Two or even one star sites are the best- just like this one. When we saw a rusty sign saying ‘camping *’ at the side of the road, accompanied by a little arrow, we knew we had found our spot for the night.

When driving up into an old farm, we thought we had missed the sign until we spotted a 1,50m tall granny waving us to step outside the van. After a calculation adding up to 9,70€, she showed us a beautiful space beneath the trees. Underlining the theme of the day, a little sign in front of it said ‘Allée des Pecheurs’ (Alee der Fischer).

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With a little teamwork, our seafood DIY worked out and it wasn’t hard at all! Gutting is better done outside and make sure to throw the trash out right away but when you’re careful and a little courageous it’s no biggie!

IMG_9987IMG_0012We even had some veggies! 😉 We bought black tomatoes, which were a little pricier but super tasty and also looked great in contrast to the white mozzarella- Yum!

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P.S. If you ever want to know where exactly we were and camp there yourself – please let us know and we’d be more that happy to share all info that we have and help!

The world is our oyster

After spending a semi-great night at some overly expensive camping site, we hit the road as early as possible to head further south- hopefully towards blue skies and sunny weather.
The ride was more than beautiful. Avoiding costly highways we took the quickest way south until we hit the southern coast of the Bretagne. We had another destination in mind, but when we drove past a picturesque little village right at the ocean, we had to stop. Left and right, little oyster stands lined the street. To the right we saw an amphibious vehicle (able to swim and ride on land) and stopped to follow it into the tideland.

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IMG_9947Getting back on the road, we headed further south but stopped again 10 minutes later when we discovered a little shop that belongs to one of the many ‘mussel farms’. We thought we had to try some of the regional specialities. Just an oyster or two, since they’re quite pricy- at least that’s what we thought…

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We ended up eating 6 oysters with some bread and a glass of white for 5€!!! And those were the very best oysters we ever had. Is this real life?

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If you get the chance, you should definitely check it out. Here’s the little shop that was located right at the beginning of the little beach village Le Vivier-Sur-Mer. That’s where we also bought mussels for dinner…

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Further down the road in Saint-Benoîd-Des-Ondes we found the best ‘camping site’ yet. It was more of a parking spot for camping vans, where we had water and electricity but no sanitary facilities. Located right at the beach, we were able to finally enjoy the sun and the sea breeze. The charge of 6€ was collected by a chubby old woman and we felt at home.

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dZ0xBP…dinner time with a cup of wine!

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When life gives you apples…

What were we even thinking? Buying a 32 year old bus to road trip through France for 3 weeks. Experience with cars? 0. Experience with camping? 0. French skills? Maybe a 1.

“Wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt” is what a probably very smart German once said. Who doesn’t dare doesn’t win – so off we went yesterday.

When quickly stopping at a hardware store to get some last supplies, we started off exactly how we didn’t want to. Parking backwards, we scratched somebody’s car. Yay! Waiting for the police and solving the whole thing kind of delayed our departure a tiny bit. Oh well… it’ll all be fine. About half a day later than planned we finally hit the road. Destination: the coast somewhere in France. No plans.

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Weather: rain. Thinking positively, we started our journey, taking the quickest route towards the Atlantic. Since the weather pretty much didn’t change, we kept on going until we stopped about 2 kilometers from the beach on a parking space on top of a hill in Criel-Sur-Mer. The food we had planned for dinner was postponed and after eating some bread, we passed out immediately. The 600km of road we had mastered made us sleep like babies.

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Waking up to this amazing breakfast made me forget the -still- shitty weather. Yummm… and then back behind the wheel again! Kasi (short for Kasimir) started without a problem and was purring like a cat. He proved all our worries wrong and we hit the road again. This time we headed for Utah Beach.

Taking the scenic route, we avoided highways and rode through the most beautiful little villages. Seeing a crafty, old sign saying “Cidre”, we left the street and drove onto a bumpy road that was so tiny, we could barely fit onto it. When we arrived at the old farm, a probably 100 year-old granny hurried behind the desk of her little shop, where we bought our first (of many) bottles of Cidre.

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When life gives you lemons…. ehhhh apples… make Cidre and be happy!
We’re still on the road through France for the next 2.5 weeks. Our tank is full and we’ll have many more (hopefully sunny) stories to tell…

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