Saturday, June 16, 2012

Memories of France

Image: Sam Osbon

I didn't travel much before 2010, which is part of the reason I went so full-on with it, in my typical binary on/off, black/white, glass-is-full/glass-is-instantly-empty-and-you-didn't-see-any-transition-got-it? way. But I did have a few notable experiences on family holidays, school trips and excursions around Britain in my adult life, which are memorable either for being fantastic or incredibly awful. Like I said, I don't do half measures.

Today: France.

Paris, 1997

Image: Wikipedia

Some time in the mid-nineties, I was in my dad's car when we were involved in a road accident that miraculously wasn't caused by his own drunk driving, and my father's scheming mind quickly set about squeezing this golden opportunity for everything it was worth. I'm not saying that he didn't legitimately have whiplash, or that the video camera and other damaged electronic goods he claimed for under warranty weren't actually in the car boot during the crash, but whatever the case may be, he came out of the incident with a few extra thousands.

As fellow victims, his three children ultimately benefited too, as we were taken on a surprise trip to France during a custody weekend that I might have been more enthusiastic about if I hadn't been looking forward to losing myself in a weekend of retro Amiga games. Maybe the collision affected me more than I realised.

Our first trip to France was actually pretty good - we all had separate rooms in a decent hotel, I went up the Eiffel Tower on my twelfth birthday and my dad reminded us that he could actually be an alright dad when he tried.

Paris, 1998

Image: Wikipedia

Unfortunately, a second spontaneous trip to Paris the subsequent year spoiled everything and forever tarnished this country for me. I think this visit was planned at the last minute so we could see the solar eclipse, but apart from sitting in a park during the stellar event (where my dad seemed more interested in leering over sunbathers), we didn't do anything.

I'm a fan of budget travel, as you'll know if you've read pretty much anything on this blog, but here the budget was so low, we didn't even have a grubby hostel and had to sleep in the car (not the same one that crashed - he wasn't quite that cheap). The eclipse was quite impressive, but more memorable was when I got diarrhoea from whatever budget roadside food we were being fed and I had to go in the bushes in the car park, cleaning up using some A4 paper I'd just been writing and drawing on.

That unpleasant image is probably overflowing with symbolism. I haven't been back to France since.

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