So, my epic roadtrip across the continent has come to an end.
3 countries (one by accident but I’ll explain later), 5 days, 7 tanks of fuel, 2 trains, 2381 miles, 41 hours in the car and 2 mountains climbed.
The purpose of said roadtrip was to do the necessary research for the ending of book 5, and it delivered by the bucket load. I have seen places which I will unscrupulously bastardise together to be the Sanctuary I’ve been imagining, and a few surprises for you too.
So, what did I learn last week? In no particular order…
- Deciding to climb two mountains in one day turned out to be a mistake (John Wayne walk)
- The Paris ringroad is either a) the most hostile and dangerous environment known to man or b) the secret film set for the remake of Death Race. Seriously, I got overtaken by a guy on a moped who was on Twitter. Literally using twitter as he weaved through traffic. Twitter for flip sake!
- French speed cameras are suspiciously difficult to detect; I await a significant amount of correspondence requesting me to donate generously to the pension fund of the Gendarmes.
- I survived a whole week on my own!
- There are no, and I mean none whatsoever, restrictions on driving a foreign registered car across international borders in some places. Even when the driver of said vehicle appears to be utterly (lost) geographically misplaced.
- Andorra is stunningly beautiful, only has 2 roads and sells the cheapest high-octane fuel I’ve ever seen. Most of which I used up on the tunnel out making loud exhaust noises with the window down.
- The feeling of just how small you are when you look down on the clouds and across to snow-capped peaks is incredible. Humbling, in fact.
- My French pronunciation is almost as awful as my Spanish.
- Heated seats, when bored, can provide an interesting challenge to test a person’s tolerance for pain.
- There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying driving a section of mountain road so much that you turn around and do it again. Twice.
- I’m struggling to come to terms with the undefined relationship between myself and the navigation system in my car. We’ve spent so much time alone recently that I’m not sure how we feel about each other.
- It turns out there is such a thing as ‘too much’ cheese.
- Coffee is the lifeblood, the sweet nectar of heaven which makes me work.
- I go slightly crazy when I spend too much time in the car alone.
That said, now I’m home and my voluntary isolation has ended, the temporary insanity has abated. A shower, a proper cup of tea with a ginger biscuit. Uploading the pictures from the camera to the computer took me right back to the amazing places I’ve seen, and the people I met.
One of these happenstance meetings was with a woman with such a self-proclaimed ‘Pollyanna’ approach to life that it made me question my own deeply ingrained cynicism.
We spoke of the concept of paying things forward, and it got me thinking. A smile to the person you pass in the street, returning a dropped wallet with all the cash still inside, even doing something small like offering to swap a battered €5 note for one of your own crisp, new ones because the coffee machine won’t accept theirs.
Let’s just say I understood the need for coffee more than I understand what the man said in return.
It doesn’t need to be anything big, it’s just needs to be a positive change in your own attitude. Your attitude towards others. Your attitude towards life. An act of random kindness with no expectation of thanks or reward. Do something different, just for the sheer novelty of it.
Enough with the life advice, back to books. The expected release date for Sanctuary still stands at ‘around Christmas’ with paperbacks available via the interwebs hopefully to follow in the New Year.
As always, keep reading.