It's our third night in Strasbourg, Alsace, and tomorrow we cross the Rhine and make our three and a half hour journey back to Munich.
I've forced myself upon several unsuspecting people in Strasbourg over the last couple of days in a bid to speak just a little more French before I return to Australia. So the receptionist at this camping got it. She's Venezuelan and speaks French with an odd accent but she's amazingly fluent. She, like everyone else, complimented me on my accent, that even I have to admit is pretty damn good. I keep crediting my French professors and teachers, and they've played their part. The big thing is though that I have a musical ear, am a good mimic - can rip off just about any accent after a few minutes exposure - and I studied drama. I'm a ham, and ham it up I will. That all equals good accent. Pity about the paucity of my other language skills, like being able to find the right word when under a bit of stress. Sometimes it happens.
Back in 1985, when Al and I first came to France, we had an accident on our second day here. Yes. Some cross eyed long haired fool in a rickety old Citroen pulled out in front of our little orange combi unexpectedly as we were going up a mountain. Al slammed on the brakes and the guy driving a minibus load of schoolgirls behind us slammed into the back of our van. He immediately blamed us and seized upon the opportunity to escort us to the gendarmerie - the cops - to sort it out.
When we arrived at the police station, this young fellow started to explain that we'd caused an accident. I understood this, unbeknown to the young guy. In archaic sort of French I interrupted. "Excusez-moi!" I said in a wobbly voice. "En Australie, quand on frappe dans la derriere c'est votre faute!" (In Australia, when you hit someone in the rear it's your fault.) The young fellow quickly changed his tack and bowed his way back out of the cop shop. He then made it his business to help us fix our van as best we could.
But back to today. I've bought bread that we don't need just to have the interaction in the boulangerie; I've befriended the owner of a restaurant and told him our life story and how 'triste' - sad - I am to be returning home after seven weeks in France. A couple of days ago a beautiful young waiter in a restaurant gave me an impromptu French lesson - I was trying to work out a conjugation. That earned him a five euro tip. He reminded me a lot of my son, Pete; such an obliging young man; polite.
Anyway, I really am triste to be leaving. It's been an amazing holiday, and ride, literally, given it was a cycling holiday.
Think we're planning to be back here in two years for the fete du velo, the highlight of our time away.
Dare say I'll shed a few tears as we cross the Rhine tomorrow, but it's best to leave wanting more.
On Wednesday we have to face 'the inspection' by McRent, the company from which we rented our van. Last time we were charged 100 euro because the delightful young frau who inspected the van - that I'd scrubbed on my hands and knees - pronounced - after inspection, 'Zis van is not clean. Zere is a hair and zere is shampoo.' This time I'm ready for her and she will be challenged!
But that's Wednesday. Prior to that we have to find our way from our camping in a suburb thirteen kilometres out of Munich back to the bike shop to get our refund. Hope Sat Nav Jane's up for it.
So, til we meet again, la France. Missing you already.