Always before when we have crossed the Channel we’ve been going on holiday. This time, we went under it instead of over, taking the Channel Tunnel for the first time, which was much quicker in every way. But this time, we were carrying a full car load of all the things we think we’ll need for the next few weeks, before a fuller load is brought out from the UK by our movers. And this time, as we kept reminding ourselves, we were not going on holiday.
Northern France was like southern England as far as the weather was concerned. We drove on the autoroute (the toll road) through the vast hedgeless fields of rolling Picardy under lowering cloud and drizzle, passing many names from the First World War: the Somme, the Marne, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai. Further south, the road went through great forests, where high fences at the sides kept deer (and wild boar) from getting onto the road.
All this first day the cloud cover stayed in place. We stopped for the night in the middle of Burgundy, true wine country. Vineyards were everywhere and lapped round the village we stayed in, where every other building seemed to be one for the production of wine. We didn’t actually see the sun until we got much further south, although already the slate roofs of the north had given way to the red tiles of the south.
Other signs of the south are the change in trees to acacia and sweet chestnut, and the appearance of black kites. But once we got to the region of Avignon, we saw fields of sunflowers and lavender. Slender cypress trees and the Mediterranean pines appeared. And we really knew when we were in the south when we got out at one picnic area and heard cicadas chirping.
So finally after all the planning and preparations and travelling, we reached our destination. We have started settling into our little apartment and we are getting to know the others in the A Rocha team. Thank you to everyone who has supported us, advised us, prayed for us and encouraged us!