Across Continents

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French hospitality

I arrived in Etables-sur-Mer on the Brittany coast unsure as to exactly where the campsite was. Just like Troon in Scotland back in May. But this time I had much more success. Venturing forth to ask directions in the village square, I was able to order the ’gauche’s, ’droite’s and ’descende’s and find the delightful Camping l’Abri Cotier campsite.

Tim was very patient as I introduced myself in my rather dodgy French. Originally from Dorchester, he suggested things might be a bit easier in English. You sensed he’d done this before.

I was struck by the warm, friendly atmosphere – nothing was too much trouble. Over an ice cool beer that evening I mulled over my plans for the next few days. I had intended to head further east towards Dinan, resting up for a few days to take stock for the first time in quite a while. But, I thought, why leave such a pleasant location, with all the facilities I needed, for the uncertainty ahead? By the following morning I had decided to stay for a couple of days.

Tim’s wife Pierrette was curious about my expedition, having recently read an account of a French couple who walked the length of Africa. We chatted at some length over a cup of tea in the garden, enjoying the autumn sunshine. I too was curious – what had brought them here to run the campsite? We stumbled onto the topic of the remote South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha. Tim was surprised to find someone who’d actually been there, almost by accident as it happens.

I soon found I had a new neighbour. Scott was originally from Taunton, close to my own cottage, but had moved to France with his parents whilst still very young. He spoke English with a distinct Somerset accent, but not even a hint of this when speaking French. I was impressed. In earlier times, I mused, a candidate for SOE.

A quite unexpected offer of lunch from Pierrette and her mother, as I sat tapping away on the netbook in the shade, was the catalyst for expanding a little further my limited vocabulary – ’Le repas etait delicieux. Je vous remercie’ (The meal was delicious. Thank you very much).

That evening Pierrette’s mother kindly prepared me a hearty meal, typical, I was told, of the central region of France. She wanted to make sure my first impressions of France were positive, memorable ones. Having been shown such selfless hospitality there could be no doubt about that. Alas, my as yet still limited grasp of French forestalled what I am sure would have been a thoroughly fascinating discussion.

As I retired for the evening I wondered whether such a welcome for a perfect stranger would have been reciprocated back in the UK….

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