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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Through France to the Pyrenees One: Drug smuggling and finding our way

Carol fell while in Orkney, ten days before we set off for France, and while taking part in the extreme sport of self-timer photography.  The resulting pain at the bottom of her rib cage had not eased by the day before we left and so Salford Royal’s Emergency Department was consulted.  Damage to her Costal Cartilage was diagnosed, painkillers prescribed and rest was recommended for three or four weeks to allow it to mend.  Carol came away from Salford Royal with a month’s supply of Codeine and unsure how rest fitted in with a walking and cycling holiday.

A perfect lunch stop
The Codeine seemed a bit of an over-kill so we packed it and decided to stock up on Paracetamol and Ibuprofen and try taking these combined three times a day and carry on regardless; for three and a half weeks we needed over 75 of each.  Supermarkets limit the number of Paracetamol to 32 in one purchase but self-checkout allows anyone to get around this.  Buying enough 400mg Ibuprofen needed the two of us to separately buy a pack of 48 to get past the Pharmacist regulations.

Having managed to purchase such large quantities of pain killers we reached Hull and here the customs officials picked out our van to search.  While one official checked the engine compartment with Anthony, Carol had a body search and then had to show the contents of the cupboards in the van.  We wondered if the supermarket had tipped them off but apparently they were only looking for people and we managed to smuggle all the drugs in to Belgium without being caught.

From Zeebrugge our first stop was Sezanne in the Champagne Region.  The weather was already hot and sunny; we were enjoying eating outside and only needing shorts and t-shirts.  A new toy for 2014 was another sort of tablet, a Google Nexus, on to which we had loaded the OsmAnd maps of Belgium and France for driving, walking and cycling navigation.  We had tried various free open-source maps before coming on holiday and we had found that OsmAnd suited our needs best.  It quickly showed its usefulness when we found a lovely spot by a ruined abbey for our lunch break on our first day.

Auxerre river front

Excited by the possibilities of the new toy we changed some of the settings including asking it to navigate the shortest route, rather than the fastest.   We left Sezanne on a pretty country lane that got narrower and narrower until we reached a gate beyond which access in to the forest was prohibited.  We back-tracked, sneaking past the camp site and put the diversion down to a learning experience.

OsmAnd knows the speed limits of the roads and gives a warning if they are exceeded, calculates our time of arrival, uses GPS to tell us where we are, locates the shops and parking for us and gives us confidence to drive in to towns and cities without getting lost or hopelessly confused.  On our second day we used OSMand to drive in to Auxerre, find the parking by the river and enjoy a few hours exploring this beautiful town.

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