In every grand European Adventure there has to be a day where you turn for home and start laying down some westward miles, and as we struck camp in Munich, we knew it was time to be heading for home. Well almost. If you are a knitter then Wollemeisse needs no introduction. If you’re not, then think of your favourite hobby and think of the very nicest materials you can imagine; that’s Wollmeise yarn.
The company has a worldwide reputation for gorgeous saturated colours and softer than butter base yarns and it is highly prized and very sought after. They also have a shop, open on Fridays and Saturdays, just to the north of Munich. Well I couldn’t come that close and not pay a visit could I? It’s yarn paradise, complete with a husband corner (comfy chairs, hot drinks) and materials for the bribery and corruption of small children (bottles of water and sweets!). We might have been a bit squished for space in the car but that yarn was coming home with me if I had to hug it all the way to Calais.
But first, we had one more stop. We left Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm at lunchtime and pointed to France, aiming to get as many miles in as possible, and intending to skip making our own home for one night. We rolled up to a budget Ibis by the ringroad in Metz at dusk, next to a whole load of cars also packed to the gunwhales with camping kit whose owners clearly had the same idea as us. It is obviously more expensive than camping, even in a budget Ibis, and because there are five of us we generally need two rooms, but £70 for both rooms for a night is pretty reasonable. It was clean, it was pretty basic and it did the job. And when we got up and away first thing the next morning it meant that we arrived at our final destination just around lunchtime.
Paris. The same campsite as last year, and almost the same pitch, on the banks of the Seine and shaded by the tall trees from the stifling heat. It was lovely to be back for the very last day of our adventure.
I cannot imagine growing tired of Paris, it’s such a beautiful city and as we can feel that we ticked off a few touristy landmarks last year, this year we were free to spend our time in our favourite spots, even if they’re not quite as highbrow as wandering the banks of the Seine and considering the meaning of life. For us a favourite spot is the art department at BHV where we swapped some of our Euros for pretty pens and a couple of little crafty kits that have been tucked away for Christmas, nor was I going to pass up on a chance to go to Lil Weasel, ostensibly to buy the last ball of wool needed to finish Pip’s birthday sweater, though the bag I came away with rather suggests a little more shopping than that, but with our two shopping destinations happily ticked off we could devote ourselves to full scale exploring.
And this year, more than last, it really felt like we had the space to explore. The city just wasn’t as busy as we remembered (though if anything, hotter) and the campsite was all but deserted. The French summer season ended the day that we arrived, and I’m sure that had an impact on the number of people around. But talking to other people on site who’d been around earlier in the season, it seems as though Paris was just quieter this year, for reasons that are as understandable as they are heartbreaking. The police presence was certainly more visible, and a little nudge to the memory every time you encountered them, and there were bag checks on the way in to BHV that were a new addition, but we never felt anything but happy and relaxed while we were there.
The weather was spectacularly scorching while we were there, hitting 34 degrees with ease, so we went to hang out at the Paris Plage, a gorgeous artificial beach on the low road on the banks of the Seine. Sitting under umbrellas and watching the boats go by while the children tried to make sandcastles and wiggled their toes is an unexpected pleasure in the centre of a city that’s hard to beat. What with surfing in Munich (watching not doing) and a beach in Paris, we seemed to be more than making up for having stayed decidedly inland this holiday.
But our final spot was the most special, the place that probably drew us to Paris and the one thing on everyone’s list. As the crowds poured out of the metro station heading across the road to the Eiffel Tower, to climb it or maybe just stand underneath it and stare up as it stretches to the stars, we crossed over and headed along the river bank to the Carousel.
Five tokens, a horse named Raspberry, a zebra, a princess carriage and another horse later, and we were whirling our way around.
And if it’s strange that a carousel ride should be emotional then I’ll embrace the strange. This carousel is Paris to me, and if we had to skip anything and everything else I would, because no matter how serious the children all look in the video, this was what they looked forward to from the minute that the P of Paris passed our lips. It’s a golden moment; a moment that you can hold in your hands and know with absolute certainty that you will never forget what you were doing and how you felt in this one moment. For me it was a feeling of being completely and blissfully happy and such a strong sense of the five of us as a unit, each taking as much pleasure from the moment as the next.
It may not be next year, but whenever we’re in Paris, I know we’ll be there again.
The carousel marked the end of our holiday; from there we headed back to camp, picked up the car and headed for Calais, while the car thermometer in the dashboard hit 36 and we embraced the air conditioning like a long lost friend. When we stopped along the way for fuel my glasses steamed up the moment I stepped outside. We came back by tunnel, on a crossing booked as we left Paris, and finally late that night we pulled up on the driveway home.
And so this is the end of my postcards home; the very last one has arrived, damp and bedraggled and so much later than I planned on writing it. I’m going to be updating our How to Travel around Europe page with all of the nitty gritty of this year’s trip, so if you’re planning on having an adventure of your own, do go and check it out.
If you’d like to read some of our other postcards home from this year’s adventures check out: