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THE ONLY TENT IN THE VILLAGE (Tour de France 4)

 

The Only Tent in the Village

The Only Tent in the Village

We are approaching the end of our first week here at the Municipal Campsite in Kaysersberg, France, and most of our new friends have already moved on either to new campsites in other parts of France or Germany, or returning home at the end of their holiday. Hansel and Gretel (our German neighbours in the antique camper van) have gone. The McTavishes have gone (we don’t know if they have taken the ‘high road’ or the ‘low road’). The ‘Posh Brits’ have gone. William Tell and Heidi have gone. The Reallyelderlypersons and the Reallykindpersons have gone. The Frogzlegz are still here but the Escargots have gone (very slowly I might add)! They have all been replaced (for the most part) by the Dutch in their ‘all singing, all dancing’ caravans complete with the ‘magic’ caravan movers (operated by something similar to TV controls) that enable them to manoeuvre their caravans into the tightest corners. Walking round the site we think we should raise the Union Jack … we feel like we are the British Consulate in the midst of the Netherlands here … Little Britain if you like!  What is more … given that our campsite is kind of like a village … we are now officially ‘the only tent in the village’!?

We really like camping. The camaraderie of the different nationalities all finding common ground in the joys and frustrations of camping, speaking a common language made up of English, French, Dutch and German (usually about the weather) with a lot of sign language thrown in for good measure, the combination of both privacy and community finely but perfectly balanced without anyone teaching us how to do it. We also love the spontaneous fun that happens. For example, we have a baker who delivers bread to our campsite every morning … and he always comes ‘dressed up’ as something. On our first morning here he came dressed as a condom?! We wondered what we had come to? He has an impressive array of wigs of various colours – pink, purple and blue being his favourites. Last Monday (when the local children started back at the infants’ school next door) he wore a rather scary witchdoctor mask? The other day he turned up in his normal attire … which was even more scary! Julia went to buy some bread and asked him very cheekily in French where his wig was? With a sigh he went round to the other side of his van and came back wearing a huge black afro wig. He promptly embraced Julia in an equally huge Gallic hug, eliciting cries of ‘What’s the French for GET OFF’!’ from Julia. Fortunately he let go before he got a kick in the Ballons d’Alsace!

With all the vacant pitches suddenly appearing around our campsite we take ourselves off to Kaysersberg once again. We have a plan that involves an early breakfast, a walk down to Kaysersberg itself along the beautiful river side walk from our campsite to the town.  We then plan to climb up to the medieval castle that overlooks the town and the valley, visit a local museum, and then treat ourselves to a nice lunch at a posh restaurant that Julia has had her eye on since we first arrived! There is also an afternoon Farmers’ Market we are told … so we might have to fit that in as well!

The weather is very hot although the weather forecast suggests that it will break this afternoon some time. We climb up to the ancient castle and I even manage to climb up to the top of the tower … testimony to the success of my heart bypass operation just a year ago. The views are spectacular and we imagine what it must have been like back in the thirteenth century when the castle was built.  We are glad that we decided on an early start because the heat is oppressive. We take lots of photos and then descend to the town for a much needed coffee. We go back to a coffee shop we have been to before, The lady who runs it recognises us … probably because Julia wants decaffeinated coffee whilst I am ‘normal’?! We visit a nearby museum and then take ourselves off for lunch at a rather posh restaurant. The clientele are virtually all French … so we know we have made the right choice. The food is excellent and we justify the expense from the fact that we have made do with picnic lunches for the whole of the previous week! The waiter asks me if I enjoyed the meal? ‘Vachement magnifique!’ I reply … which reduces the waiter (and the rest of the restaurant) to hysterics!

The weather is beginning to close in so we decide to abandon the idea of visiting the Farmers’ Market and return to our campsite. A new German couple have set themselves up on the pitch next to ours. We call them ‘Willy’ and ‘Barbara’ (because that is their names!) They both speak very good English and are very friendly. They have a really posh caravan and a huge van to tow it. Very practical and sensible these Germans! And … wonder of wonders … another tent has appeared on site. It is the next best thing to a ‘pop up tent’ and belongs to a young German couple we immediately nickname ‘Elvis’ and ‘Wooden Heart’. He is tall and dark and handsome … and she is small and frail and blonde. The weather breaks as they arrive and the heavens open with torrential rain.  Elvis puts up their small tent while Wooden Heart (obviously extremely miffed) sits in their car, huddled up in jacket, coat, scarf and blanket, on her mobile phone to her mother!? We can just imagine the conversation? ‘He invited me away for a Romantic Weekend. I didn’t think that it would be a small tent in a campsite! And its cold and raining … and I want to come home!’ Elvis, very wisely keeps right out the way. Still … from our point of view … at least we are no longer ‘the only tent in the village’?!

Jim Binney

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