From French to Fenomenaal

I can’t believe I’m typing this sitting in our study at home in little George. It’s been raining since I’ve been back and our house feels cold and empty. I came home to a new alarm system and a very excited little dog. My parents are still enjoying the Italian summer and will only be back late August, so I have to house to myself till then. It did feel a bit strange to come home after such an amazing 4 months, ready to share all my stories and have (almost) no one to share them with.  But I’ve had plenty of time to rest and catch up on the lazy life I’ve missed out on these past months. It’s been nearly a week since I returned but it already feels like a month. On Tuesday I go to Cape Town for my US visa interview. I’m super nervous but trying to stay confident.

But let me fill you in on the couple of countries we’ve travelled through since I last blogged. I think the last time I wrote was when we were in Montpellier. So quick catch up. We had to stay the first night in a hostel which took us forever to find. But after eventually settling in we went for a walk through the streets of this beautiful city. It was really great to have my own personal tour guide to show me all the little gems of Montpelier. Though it did take Will a moment or ten to find his bearings. We went to a magnificent park where we watched swallows diving at the water to take a drink and met a very friendly dog. The next day we met up with another of Will’s old friends and went down to the beach. I love the beach and had been itching to go relax on one since we arrived in Europe. That night I cooked us some chicken dish that I made up on the spot. I think I fooled everyone into thinking I’d made it many times before. The next day we decided to rent some bike and ride them to the beach again. Will suggested we get a tandem but I was a bit sceptical. After all, me and two wheels were not such good friends after India’s little incident. It’s all fine if it’s a normal bike but a tandem sounded scary. I folded and it ended up being so much fun!! After we got the hang of it we were cruising! Will still thinks I never pedaled.

After returning from the beach and resting our burnt bodies we got ready for the evening’s festivities. We were going to the annual Montpelier wine festival. There were live bands, amazing food (of which we had none for some reason) and great wine. The Slovenian wine festival was a bit more of a drunken mess but this one was great too. We met some great people and had a blast! The next day we did the familiar pack up routine and started on the long road to Chamonix at Mont Blanc. It was quite a drive but the scenes on the way were amazing, especially when we entered the Alps. I had never seen such amazing views. And when we finally rounded a corner and could see Mont Blanc peeking out above all the other super high mountains I think we both had to catch our breath. This is one downside of riding on a bike. You can’t really express yourself so well through a helmet going 100km an hour. Chamonix is a magical little village. Nestled between giant mountains and covered in lights. There was a very nice atmosphere in the town when we arrived. Bands were playing and people in all the streets. We met up with Will’s friend and had a nice cold beer to celebrate. That night we went to a bar, met more great people and sang karaoke to pay tribute to our Korean days. I our first song wasn’t such a hit bet second time round we chose right. I can not remember what song it was it we rocked! The next day we decided to hike up one of the mountains that surround Chamonix to a restaurant at the top where William’s friend worked. It was quite a tough hike and being the most unfit I have ever been in my entire life did not help either. Poor William was very patient to say the least. Don’t worry Will, I’ll be fighting fit and ready to climb mountains for breakfast one of these days. We eventually reached the top and treated ourselves to a giant cold bear. It was worth the 6 or 7 Euros it cost. The view was spectacular. To the left was the valley where Chamonix was and to the right was another valley with a giant glacier. Or what was left of it. It looked a bit grim but Will said it had probably been cover to preserve it over the summer months. There were the most amazing mountains surrounding both valleys. We just sat and stared for quite some time before it was time to start the hike back down. This only took half the time and was much more enjoyable. Our host Julie made a wonderful dinner for us and some friends and we hung out and chatted.

Next stop was Paris. We arrived the following afternoon in a very hot very busy Paris and started the big search to find our host (and a toilet for me). This was the usual routine when we stopped somewhere. Poor Will walked pretty far to find a phone and get the details while I waited and squeezed. We then navigated through some more crowed, hot streets and finally arrived at our host’s apartment. William’s friend Flo had such a nice apartment in a really nice area. We had a relaxed evening at home and Flo made us the most amazing salmon lasagne. The next day Will and I did some sight-seeing. We walked all over Paris and saw some of the famous sites. The next day was pretty chilled and we just went for short walks around the area. That night we met another of Will’s friends and some of her friends in return. The plan was for us to go to the Louvre the next day but because we woke up too late we decided to leave it for next time. we didn’t want to only go for a half day. Instead we walked around the little fair that was next to the Louvre gardens. We ended up spending much more time here than what was planned but we couldn’t tear our eyes away from a couple of young guys playing a coin machine and winning it big! That evening we met my aunt and cousin as they happen to arrive in Paris that day as part of their own European trip. We had a wonderful meal and some ice-cream to end it off.

The next day we packed everything up and headed for the Netherlands. The route there was just as beautiful. Riding on the back of the bike was proving to be the best seat in the house because I could just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery while William does all the hard concentration work. I did have to navigate though which can be very tricky at times. After a very long ride which included shooting through Belgium we entered the country that gave South Africa it’s kick-start. Netherlands’ beauty was the firs thing I noticed. I absolutely fell in love with the boat and bike culture they have there. Every house seemed more beautiful than the previous. We chose a nice camp site in a little town not far from Amsterdam called Noordwijk. I was very excited about the language and seeing how much I would understand. It felt good being the once who could understand everything for once. Even though there is plenty of English there anyway. This campsite we were staying at was rather fancy too. The Dutch love their camping so the campsite was full. We rented bikes the next day and spent most of it just riding along all the little bike tracks that covered this country. We were near the sea so we sat on the beach for a while. We saw some amazing cows that were completely black except for a big white band around their waists. There were two mothers and two calves and it was a really strange sight to see. The next day we headed for Amsterdam and camped there too. This was also a very nice campsite. It was only a short walk and a ferry ride away from the centre town and there seemed to be a lot of young and interesting people staying there. Amsterdam seems to be over flowing with young and interesting people. I quickly fell in love with the city and would love to return in the near future. We spent our days wandering around the streets and channels of Amsterdam, eating way too many stroop (syrup) waffles and sitting on the most peaceful and perfect bench watching all the boats and people go by. I know we were both quite sad to leave Amsterdam.

To be continued…


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