As I mentioned in yesterday’s photo essay, Bayeux is both charming and VERY easily walkable. But apparently some people don’t want to ramble around the cobblestone streets discovering fabbo little photo ops — or maybe they just have tired feet, eh?
The local tourism board has sorted that out then with this Tourist Train that departs from the Bayeux Cathedral and rolls you along in comfort though the streets of this very pretty town in northern France.
The tourist train in Bayeux, a lovely town in the Normandy region of France.
Whew — that’s a huge relief! I’ve been having a Planes, Trains, and Boats moment, but with a few exceptions, the ferry tickets, train tickets, and plane tickets for our around the world adventure from the UK to France to Belgium to the UK to Iceland to Canada to the USA and across from side-to-side, back to Canada and on to Australia to are all booked except for a tiny train trip from Washington State to Vancouver and an in-country flight from Sydney to Melbourne.
Tea-stained and crossed-through planning notebook for our marathon Europe to UK to Canada to USA to Australia trip!
I am exhausted and you will soon understand why. For the last 3 straight days I’ve been dealing with website after website since I needed to be saving money everywhere! This trip is costing us a fortune because (a) the round-the-world distances between countries are simply huge and (b) the USA itself is SO BIG and the relatives over there are scattered on both sides of the country. I’ll detail it all a bit so you can see how to save money on these huge trips as long as you are willing to do the legwork, take advantage of every promo code or discount voucher online that you can find, and sit still for days whilst inputting the same information again and again and again. (sigh!)
Here’s the final schedule.
1. Return from Newcastle to Norfolk on 27 March.
2. Shipping company picks up our household goods in Norwich on 30 March and we vacate our storage unit.
3. Spend a few last days with the family here and then head to Dover on the 4th of April for a ferry to France.
4. Spend several days in Normandy with our darling friend Polly and her two daughters. Polly knows our lovely little van and has purchased it from us for her own business and we are happy to deliver it to her and spend some quality time with that charming family.
5. Leave Normandy via Caen on the 10th of April on an express train to Paris for a 2-1/2 day getaway.
6. Leave Paris on a Thalys train for Brussels on the 13th of April for another 2-1/2 day getaway.
7. Leave Brussels on 16th of April on the afternoon Eurostar to London and spend the night in a hotel near Heathrow Airport.
8. Fly from London on the 17th of April to Toronto on Icelandair via a 2 hour layover in Reykjavik. (guess we won’t be seeing much of it!) Overnight in Toronto.
9. Fly from Toronto to Cincinnati on the 18th of April via Air Canada and my daughter Jennifer will drive up from Louisville and pick us up.
10.7-plus days from 19th through 26th of April in Louisville, Kentucky with my daughter Jennifer and her family.
11.Dropped back in Cincinnati on the Friday the 26th of April just before midnight for a 1:23 AM (groan!) 27th April departure by Amtrak for Chicago. And yes, we have a sleeping car for the almost 10 hour journey!
12. Arrive Chicago at 10:05 AM on Saturday the 27th of April and depart again at 2:15 PM for 46 hours on the Amtrak ‘Empire Builder’ to Portland, Oregon. Yes, another cabin of our own to relax in.
13. Arrive Portland on at 10 AM on Monday the 29th of April, have a 2 hour layover, then depart for Tacoma, Washington arriving just before 3 in the afternoon and my son Christopher will pick us up at the station.
14. 7-plus days from 29th of April through 6th of May with Christopher and his family in Tacoma.
15. Depart from Tacoma Amtrak station on 7th of May for Vancouver where we will overnight in the city prior to flying out the next evening.
16. Fly from Vancouver on the 8th of May via Air New Zealand.
17. Arrive in Sydney at 8:30 AM on the 10th of May.
18. 10th of May onward still being planned!
Now do you see why I am tired? There are so many segments to this trip and by some clever juggling and using multiple airlines and discounts, I have saved thousands of £££s off what I would have paid through a standard booking site or even a multiple-carrier-checker like Kayak or Opodo. AND I had to book apartments in Paris and Brussels and hotel rooms for the overnights in London, Toronto, and Vancouver.
May I just say it again — whew!!!
My next post will give you some money saving tips for everything from plane flights to accommodation to train travel and will include links to ALL of those fabbo sites that saved us money. When you are in THIS MANY COUNTRIES in a 6 week period, saving money is essential!
The light was thinning as we left the house on Friday night. We hadn’t realised that there would be an opening night parade — a teaser — prior to the multi-hour Autrefois Le Couserons spectacle that was scheduled on Saturday morning. But we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time once again.
Three generations of a French family watch the small opening night parade for the Autrefois Le Couserons festival in St. Girons, France
Up and down the streets of St. Girons, people gathered in the windows overlooking the small parade and they followed it on foot in some cases. The night was fast approaching, the temperatures were thankfully dropping, and there was an air of excitement all along the route of the parade.
Hundreds — seriously — I took almost 200 photos last night (in spite of the people and cyclists who stepped right in front of my proposed shot again and again!) and well over 600 today. So I have a lot to wade through! Those numbers don’t even take into account the several hundred photos that Mark took, too.
Musicians in traditional dress at the Autrefois Le Couserons festival in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France
It’s been a glorious two days of vintage vehicles, traditional music, and people in historical costume and we are all quite relieved that the weather stayed clear and bright. As the parades went through St. Girons on both days, people clustered high above the street in front of their windows to watch the spectacle pass by.
Watching from above as the Autrefois Le Couserons parade passes through St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France
I think I’ll create a couple of slide shows of the (turn down your volume if you don’t want to hear the music track on this link!) Autrefois Le Couserons festival here in St. Girons in the Midi-Pyrenees of France. This is an annual celebration of traditional rural life in the Couserons.
Shepherd on horseback with his dog tucked into his arms at the Autrefois Le Couserons parade in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France
We now live in such a fascinating place with layers of history and settlement over the centuries since its pre-Roman origins.
Stay tuned for more pictures from this activity-packed weekend!
So I bought a new-old little Peugeot 306 today from a friend of a friend here in the Midi-Pyrenees. Yes, it has a few dings in the doors from encounters in the local parking lots, but it’s an appropriately inexpensive option for our frugal lifestyle — a very basic little getting-around vehicle that I hope will serve me well over the next few months as we get sorted out here and I begin to look for a more permanent place to live.
The front of the new-old Peugeot 306
The back of the new-old Peugeot 306
That should all be quite straightforward — right? Trust me, there is never, ever, ever anything straightforward in France if it involves paperwork. I have been on the phone and online for over 5 hours at this point just trying to get insurance for it that doesn’t cost half of the total value of the car per year in premiums!!!
Our insurance agency that has our previous policy is headquartered in the outskirts of Paris and they take a lunchtime break on Friday that lasts from noon until — wait for it — four in the afternoon. And THEN they re-open for business. It took me ever so long to get anyone to even answer the phone, then I hung online for almost half an hour, and then they gave me a list of documents to scan and attch to emails. I had to send 6 different emails with one piddly attachment (at a greatly reduced pixel size, I might add) on each one.
So here I am now now — waiting, waiting, waiting to hear back.
If it goes smoothly, I will be driving the new wee beastie this weekend. If not (mustn’t even think that!), it will be Monday before I can get on the road. Let’s see, how many really rude French expletives can I think of to mutter as I walk around the house? (sigh!)
P.S. It’s 7 hours later and after 6 PM now — so I guess I won’t be out and about this weekend. And did I fail to mention the mini-heatwave? That certainly wasn’t helpful today either!
Perhaps I should title this article “Life In A Tiny French Village — For Now”?
The Midi-Pyrenees village of Engomer
We arrived in the Midi-Pyrenees almost 4 weeks ago and have settled — temporarily — into a house that we are renting in a small village. It’s a pretty little bend in the road, I won’t deny that. But this particular village is so small that there isn’t even a village shop or bakery or any kind of amenities.
River bend in the village of Engomer in the Midi-Pyrenees in France
Pretty and quaint is all well and good, but you know a place is wee-tiny when the post office is only open a few hours in the morning, and only for 4 days during each week. The woman who runs the place was actually quite put out that I wanted stamps for cards and letters to Australia and the USA instead of to other locations in France. Sheesh!
Village post office in Engomer & it is only open 4 mornings a week!
The picture below is of our way-too-large house as seen across the village tennis courts. We rented this house sight unseen at the recommendation of a friend here since she knew we’d be arriving with no place to live and no time to search because Mark would be starting work a mere few days later. It’s charming and fully furnished, but thank heavens we have a month to month option!
Our rented house seen across the village tennis court
For those of you who have followed my writing for years and were familiar with our darling little eco-cottage back in Australia, you will know that a big barn of a place like this is not really our style. The ground floor of this house is as large as our entire little house back in Australia! We are firm believers in a frugal lifestyle with low energy consumption, and this house may be charming, but it certainly won’t be energy efficient. If we want to splash out a bit, we’d rather invest in a new piece of computer or camera or sports equipment — not an electric or fuel oil bill!
A plan is being formulated. Twenty minutes from here is the larger town of St. Girons and that is where I plan to aim my search. We are going to look for a house with a much smaller footprint and a lock-up garage for Mark’s tools and supplies. We are putting the wheels in motion for our household goods to be shipped from Australia as soon as the shipping company can pick everything up within the next week or so.
We had hoped to manage with only one vehicle. But Mark needs the van every day for work and there is no public transport in this tiny spot. In a similar way to our life in Australia, the distances between each village or town means that we are going to be forced to purchase a small car for me. We may have that sorted out in the next couple of weeks and then I can begin the search for another house to rent.
St. Girons is a lovely and old-fashioned market town, but it has quite a lot of amenities. There are narrow streets and tall old houses pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, market squares, and lots of cafes and pretty little shops. It’s the kind of place where you can get out and walk to the shops, the hairdresser, the bookstore, or to a cafe for lunch or dinner with friends. How fab would that be!
As always, I will keep my readers apprised of our progress as things unfold. And thanks for all of the charming off-site notes that you have sent to me privately expressing your happiness about our adventure in resettling in a new country.
Finally, enjoy a slideshow of more village scenes including two shots of the snow covered mountains as seen through our livingroom window.
It’s official. We’ll be leaving England again during the first week of October and we’re headed back to Europe for the winter. Onward to some new adventures!
Part of our long term planning involved deciding where we thought we’d be spending the most time — in the United Kingdom or in Europe. It was a decision that needed firming up because we had two vehicles — one for driving on each side of the road — and it was silly to keep paying insurance on one of those when we only planned to use it half the time.
Diesel is king in Europe and more cars over there use diesel than petrol. Also, since our travelling strategy for staying out on the road between countries involves carrying more tools and equipment than we originally began with 9 months ago (not to mention clothing for multiple seasons!), we decided that we’d be better off purchasing the newest diesel van that we could so we’d even have the flexibility to carry bicycles if we wanted to.
We have now traded in our UK right-hand-drive Ford Fusion AND our precious little European left-hand-drive Kia Picanto. And here’s what we purchased last week — a four year old diesel van that we can customise to our own purposes. We’ll be able to get well over 50 miles to the gallon instead of the 40 mpg we were getting with ‘Katie Kia’ on those long drives across Germany and France in the spring. That certainly assists with our favourite mode of travel — the frugal or budget style!
Mark checking the front of the new van.
Back of the new diesel van.
I can almost hear some of you saying, “So what’s the big deal? It’s just a basic white van.” Ahhhhh — but the possibilities that it offers are quite wonderful!
We’re headed back to France soon and we’ll be working in Normandy again for several months. So you’ll see stories and pictures from there once I get past the backlog from here in England! I’ve been ‘off the air’ for weeks at a time as we finish the renovation of a house in London prior to moving on.