Stop! Look Left!

First stop 15km from Fougères

It takes a while to transition to this different way of living. To any different way of living. We’ve all had that experience over the past two years. It’s a bit different if it’s forced on you, through ill health, pandemic, war. We choose this different way of living and we packed for it and we looked forward to it and still we were dazed and stunned by it in the first few days. Then we did something we’ve never done before… we stopped, we rearranged, we walked and talked, we drank a little coffee and then we made a tiny little plan.

Yum! The bakery opens at 6.30am every day (except Lundi!)

We had landed in France at 4pm on Friday and started driving south/west towards Portugal. We were on our way to a town called Saint-Brice-en-Cogles which is north of the city of Rennes. It’s a Village Étape. These are villages near the motorways that are nice places to stop for a break, a meal, to shop or to stay over. You can see signs for them on the motorway showing the junction nearest to them. We have always liked them as unlike a lot of French towns and villages the village étape will always have a cafe/restaurant serving food and there will be plenty of parking nearby. We found the restaurant and got a delicious chicken, mushroom and wholegrain mustard pizza to takeaway. And went to bed.

Ice on the windscreen

Next morning we woke to sunshine and freezing temperatures. There was ice on the windscreen. And Denis had forgotten to bring his coat. I had brought so many books they were spilling out on the floor every time we rounded a corner. The water tank had leaked all our water overnight due to a safety “feature” (does frozen water in the pipes really need to be avoided? Yes, seemingly.) Our carbon monoxide alarm had disappeared. We also needed to buy supplies for dinner. Plus the quality of our internet connection, so far, was intermittent which was a worry as Denis need to connect with work. It was a lot for a first day.

When we started travelling one of the things that worried me most was crossing the road. How could that worry me, I learned to cross the road as a child, I’m good at it, I know how to do it right. Right? No, not in France. It’s all to do with thinking I’m right. Crossing the road is a skill we learned as children. Just look both ways and cross when the road is clear or when there’s enough distance between you and the car to walk to safety. Right?


Wait! There’s a small important first step that we miss if we’re crossing the road in France and every other country where they drive on the right. Look Left! The cars will be coming from the left. Sure, I know this is simple. Sure, I know that you will look left…eventually. But, we believe the cars and trucks nearest to us will be coming from the right so we automatically begin walking BEFORE we get around to looking left (and spotted the car zooming towards us.) Trust me this is a worry! And it’s nothing to do with crossing the road.

I know it’s not the biggest worry, it’s small but it always reminds me that I am missing lots of other things when I think I’m right. When I believe what I learned a long time ago (or even just last week) is still true. Things change fast but we can cope if we stop and just notice… and then move on.

They sell carbon monoxide alarms here!

Our tiny plan was to search on google maps for a Decathlon – for Denis’ coat, a supermarket – for dinner, a petrol station – for diesel, a hardware shop – for the carbon monoxide alarm, a campsite – for water, laundry and a place to empty the toilet and wifi. Doing all these things is easy when you know where they are and how to get there. But what is true right now is that everything takes longer and some supermarkets have barriers that we can’t fit under and some automatic petrol stations won’t accept our credit cards and some campsites have terrible wifi.

When we just notice what is true now and work with that, rather than assuming we are doing something wrong, most things become less stressful.

…what is true right now?