Our string of errands in Copenhagen is coming to an end, and we start thinking about what we’ll do next. We’re thinking it’d be nice to see a bit of Germany while we’re up this way, and I get as far as booking myself into an Apple developer event in Berlin, before Katherine’s emergency tooth extraction appointment ends up conflicting (d’oh!).
We think we should probably wander around Denmark a bit more and see some more stuff, but we’re both feeling like hunkering down for the winter instead. While things’re getting pretty chilly, and we’re aware that we’re really not equipped to deal with snow, the real reason is that we’re a bit over logistics and driving around. I feel perhaps a bit guilty, but quickly realise that it’d be silly doing the tourist thing if we were just doing it because we felt we should, and weren’t actually enjoying it! So, we make the decision to stick with our original plan — a winter in the south of France, where we have ready access to yummy food and wine, and it’s not quite so chilly.
The time for Katherine’s appointment arrives, and we drive back into Copenhagen and park in the centre. Katherine’s in and out extraordinarily quickly — just 20 minutes or so — and we walk back to Nettle via a pharmacy to grab some painkillers. Mission accomplished!
We spend a final night wildcamping by a park outside the city and, resolved to find a cosy spot in France with ready access to baguettes, brie and wine where we can get stuck into our respective projects, we begin the long drive south, across the huge bridge joining Zealand to the rest of Denmark, and down into Germany.
I spent some time over the previous days hunting through my various GPS databases for spots to stay, evenly spaced along our journey, so it’s just a matter of selecting the next one in Cartographer (the app I wrote pretty much for this exact purpose!) on my iPhone each day, and settling in for the drive with the audio book we’ve been listening to, Dragonfly In Amber. We spend a night beside a quiet lake in the Danish countryside, one in a little car park tucked into the woods outside a village in Germany, one by a river just on the edge of a larger German town, and one in a car park outside of the charming French/Belgian town of Bouton, near the French border.
We spend a little while wandering around Bouton while we’re there — there’s an impressive-looking fort towering over the village, which sits on the bend of a wide shallow river surrounded by post-autumnal sepia-coloured hills.
We’re heading to Provence, which seems to have the most kindly winters. Along the way we spend a week in Neuville-Day, at the pretty ‘camping a la ferme’ that we spent some time at earlier in the year — it’s fascinating to see how the place has changed with the season — the trees are almost bare, the ground covered with brown leaves. We watch the family of red squirrels we remember fondly from last time, busily burying acorns in the leaf litter around us in preparation for the winter.
Our next stop is beside a lake in the south of Champagne-Ardenne. We happen to have arrived right at the time the cranes are stopping here on part of their own winter migration path. All day, the huge birds fly overhead in long V’s, calling to each other. Their numbers are most impressive at dusk, when they form long lines that wander right across the sky.
We spend a relaxed week here, moving on around the same time the cranes do, driving down into Burgundy, beside bare vineyards that sprawl over the hillsides. Another stop for a few days just south of Dijon, and we drive on, quickly finding ourselves among orange, yellow and red hillsides, where the tendrils of winter have not yet reached, and clear, crystal blue rivers. There are occasional crumbling castles perched atop crags, and impressive-looking limestone escarpments in the distance — we must return and explore this area further sometime!
We pull off the main road, and follow a wandering road that trails up into the mountains, where we find our final wild camp, in a spectacular location looking out over a staggeringly pretty little mediaeval town surrounded by orange hills: Aubignas.
During the final leg of our southward journey, the scenery and architecture suddenly become completely Mediterranean, all orange roofs and whitewash, and olive trees, like entering an entirely different country. It’s hard to believe this is still France!
Our migration is complete — time to give Nettle a rest.