Twenty-two years ago when we arrived in France with two bikes, a dog and very little else, we had no idea it was the life changing event that it turned out to be. For us moving to France, was more a case of falling Into a French dream rather than, Falling for a French Dream, the title of my new book.
All those years ago we thought we were taking timeout to re-charge our batteries and decide what to do for the future. We’d been through a very bad patch financially, we were basically broke and our home was up for sale. Once sold we would be left with very little, nowhere to live and nowhere to go. Two middle-aged people with their life in tatters basically. So when Richard casually said, ‘How d’you fancy cycling the canal paths down to the South of France?’ I agreed with an enthusiastic YES without a second thought! (Well I am an Aries!) It would be a small adventure before we settled back down to the rest of our lives in England. It’s proved to be an ongoing adventure.
We bought two bikes, a small tent and a trailer for Holly our old collie dog to travel in behind Richard’s bike. At that time the quarantine laws were still in force and we debated about leaving her behind, with family or friends. Taking her with us meant there would be no turning back in a week or a month if things went wrong as the quarantine laws were still in force. It seemed she was keen for a last adventure too because she took one look at the trailer, jumped into it and curled up happily. That decided it – she was coming with us.
Because we were in Devon the easiest channel crossing was from Plymouth to Roscoff, which also decided the fact that we‘d ride down the Brest to Nantes Canal paths, catch a train to Bordeaux from where we’d pick up the next canal and then the famous Canal du Midi down to the south. We arrived in Roscoff on May 28th. Sometime in late July (I forget the exact date but it was around the last week) we arrived in Antibes having cycled approximately 800 miles. For somebody who hadn’t ridden a bike for over thirty years I’m quite proud of that mileage!
On our way south we saw a lot of France, made new friends and had one or two minor mishaps (and one major) but overall it was a fantastic experience that neither of us would have missed for anything. In the beginning I know family and friends thought we were mad when we told them our plans. Maybe we were. We had a naive faith I suppose that things would work out and they did – mostly. Deciding to cycle down the canal paths on the western side of France has truly turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever taken.
It certainly gave me a lot of inspiration for my writing, and still does. Falling for a French Dream, my new book set in the countryside behind Nice certainly draws on my experiences of that time in my life.
Read Falling for a French Dream now!