For six weeks, Bruno and I were apart. While I was off gallivanting about the US to visit old friends and spending quality family time at home in Eastern Canada, Bruno was having his own adventure in Europe. This post is a second-hand account of that adventure.
He Reconnected with Old Friends, Too
A few days after we parted ways, Bruno received some visitors that are very well-known on this blog: Josu and Ana, our Basque overlanding friends! They’d spend the last nine months or so remaking and homologating the cell on the back of their Toyota Hilux and were finally hitting the road with their new beauty! They were en route to Iceland for the summer, and so stopped in at our house along the Mediterranean for a visit.
It turns out it’s a good thing they did because they had a bit of a hiccup to their grand departure and needed to do a few days of mechanical work. Once that was fixed, Josu and Ana guided Bruno into the first couple of nights of his own overland [re]departure, and they camped and hiked around Lac du Salagou near Clairmont-l’Hérault.
He Gave Totoyaya a Makeover
Lac Salagou is close to some of Bruno’s France friends, so Michel and Béa popped over for a visit. Somehow the discussion came up that Michel knew a guy who could repaint the facade of our camper van, Totoyaya.
And so, Bruno made his way to the nearby village of Nébians, where he set up shop in the garage of Michel’s neighbour. It took Bruno a few days to detach various items on the façade of the vehicle, strip the paint, and cover the areas he didn’t want painted, and then another day to paint.
Then, he headed back south, to St-Thibéry (about twenty whole minutes away from our house in Agde!) to get the front of the vehicle repainted by a friend of Bruno’s father.
I guess Bruno had a bit of a false start to his own departure. But, my goodness, did the work pay off – Totoyaya is an absolute beauty now!
He Discovered the Wonders of France
It had been over three months since Bruno had lived in his camper van on the road, and during the interim, life had been stressful. The thing he wanted most of all during his time in France, then, was to slow down and reconnect with nomadic, overland living.
He’d been worried France would be jam-packed in its touristy high-season, so he was very pleasantly surprised to be able to find such peaceful campsites. Bruno managed this by traveling inland rather than right along the coast, and by sticking primarily to farms and nudist campsites (family-oriented, of course!).
I received loads of photos through What’s App those first few days on the road. Bruno was obviously very happy to be sleeping among trees and birds with nothing more to do than swim in the campsite pool, cycle around the villages, and read books while sipping on red wine!
What’s more, Bruno was pleasantly surprised by the natural beauty and architectural charm of his country (especially Rocamadour, voted 3rd most beautiful village this year by French people). Bruno’s always been a bit down on France, but driving northward through the center of his country showed him that France does, in fact, have a lot to offer. I think he began to understand why it’s the most-visited country in the world! I think his trip may just have convinced him that France is a worthwhile country for us to visit together someday! Score!
He Lived it Up in the Hotels of Belgium
Bruno’s destination during this road trip was Belgium, a brand-new country for him (which is so, SO rare – the last was Djibouti in late 2014 and the next one will likely be 5+ years from now!). We had made a reservation to board Totoyaya on a ferry from Antwerp to Halifax. I think Bruno could easily have spent his entire summer roaming around the farms and villages of France, but he had a date with a port. (I’ll talk about the ins and outs of our shipping from Europe to North America in my next post.)
Once Totoyaya was safely dropped off in Antwerp, Bruno moved himself into a hotel and became a tourist for a week. He spent a few days in Antwerp, itself, while waiting to hear that all had gone well with the ferry’s departure, and then he moved himself to Brussels for a few nights while awaiting his flight to Halifax (and me!).
Bruno didn’t do nearly as much tourism as he would have done had I been there, but he did take a bunch of photos of beautiful buildings for my benefit (and yours!). He enjoyed the architecture a lot and the food well enough. What he didn’t enjoy so much was the heavy security everywhere and the obvious fear with which people were living their lives on the city streets. While he completely understood the need for the high security alert, he felt it created a profoundly sad and negative vibe to his experience of Belgium.
Bruno arrived safe and sound in Halifax on the evening of August 2nd, and into the arms of his happy awaiting wife! Reunions after six-week absences are oh-so-sweet! I’ll surely be blogging about Bruno’s introduction to Eastern Canada over the coming weeks, but right now I’m a little too busy enjoying having Bruno here to write!