* WARNING: Contains miscarriage, medical and coronavirus events *
After 9 weeks of quarantine in Spain it was such a relief to arrive at our friend’s house near Dinan, in France. It had taken three days of non stop driving from southern Spain to finally be with people that we knew & where we would be safe. Unfortunately it wasn’t the end of my personal woes though, with more appointments necessary after my miscarriage in Spain. The Spanish doctors had all been so kind and attentive, explaining everything that was happening to me and why they were carrying out each procedure. It had certainly helped ease the awful situation. We hoped the French medical staff would be the same.
It started off reasonably well. Our friend’s local GP was recommended so we set up an appointment about a week after arriving in France. Unfortunately, she was on holiday so I was booked in with a new, young, male doctor. He was very helpful although inexperienced and we had an amicable appointment where we both tried to communicate in our relative broken French or English. He booked me into the local hospital the next week to see an English speaking female doctor there as they didn’t have the scan equipment at the little surgery. The next week arrived, we borrowed our friend’s car and headed for the hospital. Coronavirus regulations meant that masks and hand sanitiser were needed at the hospital; whilst waiting and during the appointment. We made our way through reception, booked ourselves in and waited for our appointment, watching each female doctor walk past, wondering if they would call our name. They didn’t. Our doctor was an older African gentleman who spoke very little English. Thankfully the young GP had written a cover letter in French so the doctor understood my situation and we awkwardly explained the rest with the help of Google translate. After a scan and embarrassingly entirely trouser free examination (no gown was offered, like in the Spanish hospital) he told us that the awful medicine from Spain still hadn’t worked fully to remove everything so I would need more medication. I grimaced and told him how horrible it had been “Don’t worry he said, it’s just like having contractions.” Oh, is that all?! “Just contractions”!! I wanted to kick him in the ‘bits’ to show him exactly what it felt like!
Another week past and we headed back to the hospital this time to be seen by an older female doctor who spoke even less English and had an even worse bed side manner. She had misread my notes somehow and thought we were at the hospital about fertility treatment. The doctor proceeded to reprimand me about having so many ‘abortions’ (I have had zero!), didn’t I want children? And lecture me about how I’ll “never have a baby after I am 40”. She wasn’t at all taken aback when I got over the shock and explained that this was in fact a miscarriage and her ‘advice’ about my ‘fertility’ at this time was completely unwanted. Thank you very much! What followed was possibly the worst handling of this situation I could think of. Callum and I were ushered into a side room for the scan, she told me to take my trousers and underwear off (again, no gown was offered). Callum was standing in front of the door so that no-one would walk in whilst I was in a compromising position & asked the doctor about locking the door. She stood up, moved him out of the way and flung the door to the waiting room wide open, whilst I was stood there with a completely naked bottom half. Callum quickly grabbed the door and shut it. The doctor couldn’t see what the problem was. She then asked me to lie down on the table and very matter-of-factly completed the examination without explaining anything at all about what she was doing or why. As I got up she said “pantalons on” and started to walk out of the room, opening the door again whilst I was still half naked. Not a great experience at all but the good news was that would be the last appointment for me.
The weather in France was glorious for the four weeks that we were in Dinan. We were able to set up a proper ‘camp’ with our awning, chairs, table, mat and even our hammock which we never can do whilst we’re wild camping. We could spend time with our friends and walk or cycle around the lanes. Theodore was also enjoying being in one place for a longer time. After discovering his newfound love for being outside during our time in Spain he was longing for more freedom. Gradually we started letting him outside by himself. After a couple of weeks he would wake up with us in the morning, have breakfast then go off out around the farm all day returning to the van in the evening for dinner. He’d pop back to us a couple of times a day to use the litter tray, have some water and a cuddle then go off adventuring again. Life was pretty good but after the all clear from the hospital it was time to move on. We are full time travellers after all, but we were worried. Had we ruined our travel cat? Would he be OK with being in the van and driving around again? There was only one way to find out.
By the second week of June, France was allowing movement within it’s borders which meant we could start moving around again. Since international borders were still closed & British tourists were not yet allowed into France, we did get a few strange looks from French motorhomers as we drove around, but we had no problems. We stayed next to a lake for a couple of days readjusting to living a nomadic life with no indoor plumbing once again. It was great to be back in the motorhome and we started planning the next part of our travel adventure. France is excellent for motorhome travelling with free Aires, nature park up places and service areas (for emptying waste & filling water) available in nearly every town.
Coming from Jersey, we had often holidayed to France in the car or on the motorbike but it’s a huge country and we had only seen small parts of it. We made plans to meet up with friends from Belgium as soon as international borders reopened so we had about a week to ourselves to find cool places. We decided to head south down the west coast, mostly because I love La Rochelle and the aquarium there and we’d heard about Dune du Pilat from other full time motorhomers, Wandering Bird (check out their site, it is FULL of helpful motorhoming information!) We found a car park in La Rochelle that was close to the aquarium and a fantastic tapas bar. Callum had some work to do so we stayed there for a couple of days and did some laundry at a laundrette (we were getting back into the #vanlife routine). After La Rochelle we headed to Dune du Pilat which is just south of Bordeaux and is the biggest sand dune in Europe. It did not disappoint! The 140 stairs to the top of the lowest sand dune are a bit of a hike but the views from the top are absolutely incredible! On one side is a forest and on the other side is Arachon Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The sand dunes are so huge that it really feels like you’re in a desert. There’s so much to see with the views on all sides, people trekking through the sand and hang gliders swooping through the air all around the ocean side. It is definitely one of the places we would recommend that anyone visit. We parked at the beach up the road and spent a few days relaxing, having dinner on the beach, watching the sunset and eating moules at the cafe. This was more like our old travel life. It was good to be back!
Over the next couple of days we made our way up through the French countryside via Bergerac, Limoges and the Loire valley whilst dealing with the hottest weather that we have experienced during our time living in the motorhome. We followed our own advice & tried to park in the shade, drive during the cooler parts of the day, keep windows open for air flow and blinds closed to keep the sun out but it was still scorching hot! Theodore was not coping well. We gave him his cooling mat that had been in the freezer, made sure he had water at all times, put on the fan and even had to bath him in cold water in the sink. He was not at all amused but it did cool him down. We found several wonderful nature spots to park up at along the way which meant that he could come out of the van, explore the area and spend time with us outside or sleep on his bean bag. We’d been worried about how he would adjust to being back in the van but he was living his best life!
By the middle of June, international borders had been reopened so we headed towards Champagne, where we were going to meet our Belgian friends. We’d bought a Passion France membership which allows you to stay at farms & vineyards around France. It had worked well for us so we met our friends at a beautiful champagne vineyard surrounded by corn fields in the French countryside. It was so nice to be able to hang out with other campers again, have dinner together and just chat late into the night. Theodore was in and out of the van and he settled down next to us on his bean bag as always. It had started to get dark so we moved to bring him inside, as we always did, but we couldn’t find him. He wasn’t on his bean bag or under the van where he likes to hide. We couldn’t find him inside the motorhome either. The weather was turning and a storm was on its way, where could he have gone? We weren’t too worried and kept reassuring our friends that he ALWAYS came back when it got dark to sleep in the van with us. But this time he didn’t. Bedtime came, it had started to rain really heavily and the thunder was rolling in. More searching and calling his name but there was still no sign of Theodore. Our friends went to bed but we stayed up. Callum sat up all night with the habitation door open, whilst the storm thrashed outside, just in case he would come back. He didn’t.
By the time it was morning we were both exhausted, we hadn’t slept at all and there was still no sign of Theodore. With our friends help we searched everywhere on the farm, shaking his biscuit box and calling his name but there was still no sign of him. What were we going to do? Our friends had a champagne tasting booked in for 12 o’clock so we said they should go and we’d just have to wait with the motorhome in case Theodore came back. By 3 o’clock we were both distraught and wondering how long we could possibly stay at this site waiting for his return. Days? Weeks? How long would it take, if he ever came back at all? We had just messaged our friends to say “he’s still not back” when he trots happily around the corner and jumps up the steps into the van, as if nothing had happened. He used the litter tray, had some food then fell fast asleep. We felt like the parents of a teenager who had been out partying all night! We were so deliriously happy to have him back but also thoroughly annoyed that he wasn’t the least bit bothered about the stress his nocturnal antics had caused. He was now under house arrest for the foreseeable future & after that would be heavily supervised at all times… if we ever let him out at all!!