A Travellerspoint blog

France

From Provence, South France to Cheroscan, West Italy

Waiting for post and getting away from this coast

rain

Saturday 1st May

As the coast wasn’t very motorhome friendly, we decided to head inland up into the hills and have a look at the real Provence. We aimed for a village called Plan-de-Tour, as our motorhome book told us of some free parking, also this was allegedly the town in France where Johnny Depp lived. The countryside seemed typical Provence, with their lovely rustic houses. Also, there seemed to be a lot of money in the area, as we passed a private small runway containing a few private small jets. All the way to the village there were drives leading to large homes. You could look over the rolling landscape and just see the yellow rustic colour of homes dotted around. We parked up at the village and took a look around. It was a lovely little place and they seemed to be having a big boules tournament, Mr Depp wasn’t in sight though! We decided on driving out of the village and managed to find a little spot by a track off the road to park up for the rest of the day and night.

Sunday 2nd May

The rain put a stop to our plans of a bike ride! Instead we headed back to the coast and to St Tropez in search of a fast food chain, not for the food but for some free Internet. After this we had a drive around in search of somewhere to park for the night. Problem was, it was the same old story. All car parks had height barriers or signs saying no motorhomes! We eventually found a small free aire right next to a busy road, so didn’t get the best nights sleep.

Monday 3rd May

Headed up to Gassin, where I had organised for some mail to be sent. I had picked the town from the map as it was in the area we were heading. The town however, turned out to be a small village, but not just any village, apparently the prettiest in France! It was a lovely village sitting on top of the hill with views over the bay in the distance. The mail though hadn’t yet arrived and as it was raining we headed back down to get use the internet before going to take a look at the famous St Tropez! Parking was very expensive, but after a quick look around I’m sure for the clientele of the town it was nothing. The town was sickeningly rich, with millionaire yachts in the harbour and very expensive shops everywhere. Everyone walked around with an air of nonchalance and straight away we hated the place! How the other half live, what I need to survive on for the rest of the trip they would see as small change! Lorna also tried to pay our ADAC bill at HSBC bank, as she has a HSBC account, but this was unsuccessful. This self advertised global bank didn’t allow Lorna to pay her bill, as she didn’t have a French account! Mmmmm really global there HSBC! Then again it could just be a French thing as they are very anal about things! We’d had enough of the area at this point and didn’t really have anywhere nice to stay. As we needed to hopefully collect the post tomorrow from Gassin, we would stay up in a car park in the village for the night and then hopefully leave the area tomorrow.

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Tuesday 4th May

Last night there was a storm and this morning the rain was still coming down heavily, hardly the weather we thought we would get for the south of France. At 9.30am I headed to the post office to be told that their post didn’t arrive till 11am. So till 11am we sat around in the motorhome, in the rain, a little bored. After 11 I went back to the post office to be told there was no post for me! As the weather was still raining and we had enough of St Tropez area, we decided to take a small drive around the coast south of Gassin. It seems at present were not really travelling, as for the last few weeks we’ve just been waiting around for post. Money keeps going out, but we are getting no closer to Eastern Europe.

After a drive we found a spot to park by the sea and headed for a walk round a coastal path in a small nature reserve on the coast. It was nice to be in an area that wasn’t privately owned. As the rain had stopped it turned out to be a lovely walk along the coast, looking out to the rough sea. Also it made us feel a little better inside. Later we headed back to a spot below Gassin we had spotted outside a small sports complex where we could park for the night.

Wednesday 5th May

Woken up very early by bin men, as we were parked right in front of the recycling bins! After 11am we headed back up to Gassin to hopefully collect the post and get on with our journey. Disappointedly my post still hadn’t arrived. We were stuck in the area for hopefully just another day, so we headed off to a café, to have a hot chocolate and some internet use. We had found yesterday, that from setting up a credit card with Pay pal, in February, they had basically ripped us off by £30! After some research we found the problem was Pay pal’s fault and wrote them a complaint, also asking them to pay the charges we had received. This ended up taking a great deal of time and afterwards we headed off to find a lay-by opposite some vineyards for the night.

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Thursday 6th May

Headed up again to the small post office with fingers crossed it would be here today. Thankfully it was and with a replacement tax disc and mobile phone sim card, thanks Mum, we headed off. We were extremely glad to see the back of the St Tropez area and to be getting back on the road. We headed along the coast in the direction of Cannes. As we drove through Cannes, they were in the process of preparing for next weeks film festival. We saw them setting up the red carpet, where all the stars next week would wonder down. Cannes was full of expensive shops and expensive hotels, so we drove through slowly having a good gawp !

We continued along the coastal road to Antibes, where I had been told there were many campsites, as I needed to continue my job searching. When we arrived it was not what we expected. It was overdeveloped and we could hardly find any campsites, let alone anywhere to park up. By this point we’d had enough of this part of the South of France and really just wanted to get out. The job hunting so far had been unsuccessful, I would have to borrow from Lorna. She had offered so we could keep on travelling. Maybe I might be able to find something in Croatia or Bulgaria in the resorts, but then the wages would be low.
For now we decided to drive into the hills and away from the coast, in the direction of Italy. Originally we had planned on seeing Monaco, but now we decided we had seen enough wealthy people wandering around. It wasn’t really helping our positive ness. After a few wrong turns in the centre of Nice, due to avoiding low bridges, we got away from the coast. We stopped in a nice car park in a town called L’escarere, in the hills.

Friday 7th May

Set off to Italy, up and along a lovely mountain road. The border crossing was through a 3km tunnel under a mountain. As we arrived we found the tunnel had a height and width restriction. Lorries and motorhomes had to wait for certain times during the day, to go through the middle. Luckily we arrived 15 minutes before one of these few times and joined a short queue of lorries, before being able to continue our journey. Arriving on the other side in Italy, not much changed, apart from the road signs! We continued north to a town called Cheroscan. On the way Italy seemed flat and industrial. Not what we were expecting, but still it’s a big country and we were only going to be travelling the north. On arriving in the town and finding the motorhome parking, we were pleased to find the parking was free and they had electric and water for free. This was a huge bonus as we thought most of the aires in Italy were paid. Just as we were setting up and thinking of going for a wonder the heavens opened and the rain fell. So we stayed indoors.

Posted by marklorna 02:28 Archived in France Tagged automotive Comments (0)

The Camargue National Park to St-Martin-de-Crau, France

Waiting for Mail

Friday 23rd April

After some showers in the motorhome, as we had finally figured out the gas boiler properly, we headed off to the nearest big town in search of an Orange shop. When we found one though, no one spoke English and our French wasn’t good enough too explain the problem. We were then informed one member of staff did speak English, but she was on lunch so we would need to pop back in an hour or so. After a wait we headed back and spoke with the woman. She informed us though, that it would need a replacement sim card and she could only give out replacements for French phone numbers. As mine was an English number she wouldn’t be able to help us. She wasn’t even able to phone Orange UK, for us to speak with someone. All we managed to do was use her internet to find the number ourselves for us to ring them from a payphone.

So even though the company is Orange, it doesn’t seem to connect in any other way, but name, to any other countries companies called Orange! So one company is in fact many separate companies, with no ability it seems to communicate with each other. Seems strange, as I thought Orange was a business dealing with communication! It seems just a case of a brand name, wow it’s wonderful how this globalisation thing works, very helpful.

So still with a broken sim card and no public phone box in sight, we decided to head further east towards the Camargue area. On arriving in the Camargue National park, we headed to the coastal town of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mar. While driving through the marshlands we spotted the white horses, bulls and pink flamingos the area is famous for. The horses I had in my mind were wild, these though were on ranches and waiting to be saddled up for trekking rides. Arriving in the town we found it didn’t like motorhomes either, as signs were everywhere saying you couldn’t park at night. Still we managed to buy a phone card and I could still call in to my mobile’s answer phone system to check my messages. At least if someone wanted me for work, they could leave a message for me to check, I had no messages mind.

I have noticed in Europe, Morocco and England before we left, that public phone boxes no longer accept that standard financial tool of cash! Gone are the days that if you were stuck and needed to make a phone call, all you needed was some change. Now it seems you first need to actually find an establishment that sells phone cards(not always as easy as it sounds), to then part with a minimum of between £5 and £10 to then be able to make one call. Is it me, or is it a pretty silly way of doing things? It doesn’t really make it a useful tool, in times when you need to make a quick call. Still I suppose most people have mobiles now, but surely the old change way of public phone boxes was a lot easier and useful? I suppose though it’s better for the phone company and not the public. They get to not have to pay anyone to collect the money from the phone boxes and instead of someone paying only 20 pence for a call, they make at least £5 from the sale of a phone card, progress hey!

Anyway, we decided to head away from the coast and back again to the canal, this time in a town called St Gilles.

Saturday 24th April

Headed into the town to find a phone box and contact Orange to sort out my sim card problem, hopefully. I believe I went through to India, to then get put on hold till someone answered. So many companies these days out source their call centres to foreign countries. This way they are able to pay lower wages I suppose and make more profit. Only problem I find as a customer, is I’m not getting the best customer service. The person in the call centre is doing their job fine, I suppose, it’s just that you can tell they have scripts they are reading from. The company would have come up with some standard questions that would be asked and they have the replies. Most of the time though I find the questions I need to ask involve an exchange of idea’s with someone. Where you are trying to find out the best solution to the problem you have, I find that most of the scripted questions and answers don’t really meet this need. I find I’m paying for a call and being told simple things that don’t really relate to the problem. Also my explanation doesn’t seem to match the confines of their script. Most of the time a problem will in effect be resolved, but not really by the way you wanted it, just which ever fits close enough. I find it leaves you feeling rather frustrated at the lack of a fundamental conversation taking place, or is it me? Just don’t’ feel like companies anymore really care about their customers, although this is what we are led to believe by their constant advertising departments. Anyway, the resolution to my problem was just that a replacement sim card would be sent out to a UK address. This in the meantime used up about €5 of credit.

Anyway, enough of me moaning. We drove off to a quiet part by the canal in the countryside and went off for a lovely bike ride. Before spending the rest of the day reading and writing overlooking the canal in the sun, watching the wildlife, boats and fishermen.

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Sunday 25th April

After a Sunday morning snooze, we got up to a hot sunny day. Relaxed in the sun reading and playing guitar while canal boats and cyclists passed by. Later in the afternoon we set off in search of water and somewhere to stop on the way to St-Martin-de-Crau. We were heading for this town to pick up some post we had got sent there, as well as looking for work we had heard may be available on the farms. We had no luck with the water, but we would have enough for the night. After driving down lanes, roads, over rivers and canals we found a small car park near a lake just outside St-Martin -de-Crau. Tomorrow I would go job hunting again around the farms and if no luck, back to the coast for campsites as we head slowly to Italy and Eastern Europe.

[b]Monday 26th April[/b]

Up early and straight to the post office to collect our parcels, we had got sent using the Poste Restante. This gets letters and parcels sent to a post office in most European countries. All we need to do is pick out a location we will be heading to and then if we need anything sent, get our kind family back in England to post it to the address. Part of what we were receiving today though would be the bill from ADAC for the windscreen we had sent to us in Morocco, so that wasn’t really anything to be looking forward to. Lorna on the other hand was receiving some books she had ordered online. I received my parcel and Lorna only received one of her two parcels.

We then went off and found the farms we had been told about might have work. All I found though was that they were already full for staff. This was the same story for the other farms I tried.

After we headed back to the town to check the tracking of Lorna’s un received parcel on the internet. The post office website was telling us the other parcel was still in Britain being processed for delivery. This despite the fact it had been sent the same
time as the other one, over a week ago! We would have to now wait around the area for Lorna’s parcel and there weren’t really any more places for me to ask for work. We decided to head 20 miles away down to the coast, hopefully there would be more campsites I could ask at. Also Lorna’s hay fever was getting bad and normally the coastal air is better for it.

We arrived in the town of Port-saint-Louis-du Rhone, to find it was more of a working port town than a tourist destination. This meant there were no campsites for me to ask for work at. Still we headed off a couple of miles further to a large stretch of beach with cars and other motorhomes parked right on a sandy car park, virtually on the beach. It wasn’t the prettiest of beaches, as all we could really see was huge tankers and cargo ships docked just out at sea awaiting loading or unloading. We were going to stay on the beach for the night but decided against it as it was swarming with insects trying to get in the motorhome. Instead we headed back towards the town and found some parking with other motorhomes along the old docks by the river.

[b]Tuesday 27th April[/b]

Lorna spent the morning getting on top of the washing by hand. After hanging it up around the outside of the motorhome, we took a walk into town with the laptop in search of internet to track the parcel. After a walk around we found the library, we had found that we could use their internet or pick up their wifi for free. Rather than paying an internet café or buying drinks in a bar with wifi. The French though had other ideas, as we were told we weren’t allowed to use the computers, as we didn’t have a library card. Not a problem we had found in any other country, but then again the French seem to love their paperwork. Crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, is I suppose the best way I can put it. After another walk around we found a bar with wifi and ordered two beers. The parcel was apparently still in the UK, according to the post office’s website! We were now really in limbo, as we needed to stay close to St-Martin-de-Crau to pick it up when it came, but there was not really much about in the way of campsites or work, and we didn’t want to spend money going further a field to then have to drive back. All we really wanted was to get out of expensive France and get over to Eastern Europe. I though still needed to find work, as my pennies were getting very very low. This meant really going further along the coast asking at campsites. For the present moment we were a little stuck and unsure what to do, with ourselves.

Later on Lorna made a call back home to wish her mum a Happy Birthday and ask Steven to contact Royal Mail to find out what was happening with the parcel.

Wednesday 28th April

Decided to head away from the port town, back near St martin-de-Crau and the city of Arles. A city made famous for it’s Roman ruins and the fact Vincent Van Gogh lived there and painted many famous pictures of the town, including the café at night painting. Before getting into the city we took a wrong turn and ended up at a lovely old bridge over the river made famous by Van Gogh. It was a lovely setting and we decided we would probably head back here to stop the night. We carried on into the city and found some parking by the coaches. The sun was out as we wondered around the old part of town. Through the lovely streets and past the roman amphitheatre, which still looks like they use it for bull fights. We headed around famous Van Gogh areas and the scene of his café painting, although now it was a very touristy square full of lots of cafes. The old town was pretty small so it didn’t take too long to see, before we headed back to the river we filled up with water. Then settled ourselves by the river for the night.

[b]Thursday 29th April[/b]

Headed around the out of town shopping complex’s trying to get internet from the fast food chains, but with no luck. We also had no luck in managing to get fuel from the cheaper supermarket garage’s as they all had height barriers. These were too small for us, something we have found occasionally on our travels! Our kayaks on top making us 3.4m. We decided to head back to St-martin –de Crau with the hope the parcel was now there, but no such luck. We bought another phone card and Lorna contacted Steven and we found the reason we hadn’t had the parcel was that the post office hadn’t sent this one air mail, even though that’s what we had paid for. They had told him though that it would most likely be here tomorrow. So we would stay around here for another night. I also made a call to ADAC, as all the invoices and forms they had sent me were in German and I hadn’t got a clue what I needed to fill in. After being passed over to several different departments and given different numbers to call, I finally spoke with someone who could help me a little. By then though most of the 5 Euro credit had been used up. We then headed off back to the original parking by the lake.

Friday 30th April

Headed back to the post office, to find the parcel still hadn’t arrived. By this point we decided we had had enough of waiting around, so Lorna contacted home to get them to get the parcel returned to sender. By this point we had a sneaking suspicion that they had probably lost it, as the website still said it was in the UK being processed for delivery abroad! We drove off in the direction of Marseille, with the intention of spending the weekend by the coast on the other side of the city. On Monday I would start again job-hunting at the campsites. The journey ended up a long one, as we went down a long country road that suddenly had a bridge that was too low for us, so we turned back around and drove all the way back. When we arrived at the coast it was the same old story for the south of France, they didn’t like Motorhomes and we couldn’t find anywhere to park near the sea. After much driving around we ended up finding a small aire by a roundabout and settled down for the night.

Posted by marklorna 16:16 Archived in France Comments (0)

Carcassonne & Canals to the coast at Valras Plage, Farnce

The French canals and Job Hunting

[b]Friday 16th April
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Woke up to a knock at the door, after getting out of bed I opened the door to find a woman from the Marie’s office asking for payment for parking at the aire! As we were now awake we decided to head off towards the old walled city of Carcassonne. It ended up being another day of travelling around, finding out aires no longer existed and the one we found was right by a noisy main road. After filling up there with water we decided we didn’t want to spend the night, so drove off to find somewhere nicer to park up for the night. We ended up finding a lovely spot down a very quiet small road on the Canal du Midi.

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Saturday 17th April

Got up to a lovely sunny day by the canal, we decided to head to Carcassonne down the canal path on our bikes. Before this though I went up on the roof to try and replace the roof vent cover. This ended up being a lot longer job than I had expected, the screws were very rusty and didn’t want to budge. After spraying some WD40 the screws still didn’t want to budge, all I was managing to do was rip up the heads. Lorna knowing the job was taking a while decided to give inside the motorhome a deep clean. The problems I was experiencing ended up a blessing in disguise though, as we met a lovely British couple in the Dutch barge moored up by us. Graham leant me a hand and his tools, after a while we managed to remove the screws and I fitted the new cover. During a tour of their lovely self built barge, we learnt they had been commercial divers and were both musicians. Before their barge, they had sailed around the Med and also over to South America. Now they lived on their barge around the canals of France. The journeys they had been on seemed a lovely prospect, it must be lovely to sail and well life on the canal, always seems so tranquil. They were a very friendly, lovely couple and very interesting to chat to.

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We eventually got on the bikes and headed off down the canal to Carcassonne, 8 miles away. The medieval old walled city was a picturesque place and very lovely to walk around within the walls.

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As one might expect the place is very touristy but apart from all the shops full of tack, it’s like it would have always been. We ended up wondering into the cathedral while a four man choir was singing some traditional classical vocal pieces. The acoustics of the cathedral and the harmonies were something special. The type of music I wouldn’t maybe pay much attention to on record, but here in these surroundings it was hairs on the back of your neck stuff. By the time we left and cycled back the sun was setting.

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[b]Sunday 18th April[/b]

After the red wine last night, we had a slow start to the day! Before we left we chatted to Graham and his wife, about our travelling and looking for work. He said it might also be worth trying boat hire companies, as the boats always needed cleaning after they are returned. It was an option I hadn’t thought about, so he let us know where all the hire places were along the canal. They also told us of places where we could get water along the canal. We hadn’t really thought about it before, but the canal seemed a great option for parking up. It is always nice being by water and generally there are small quiet roads we could park up on, alongside the canal. The area we were in was beautiful, full of vineyards and the canals seemed a great option to stay by. We said our goodbyes to them and headed off.

After a stop in the new town of Carcassonne at the laundrette, we headed off down the roads along the canal stopping at Terbes. Here I went to the boat hire office to enquire about available work. As the season hadn’t really kicked off I was told non was available, but I might have better look further down at the bigger boat hire places. We carried on along the canal to the village of Puichein and found a spot by the canal for the night. I decided to put together a basic French CV and also learnt how to ask for work in French.

Monday 19th April

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Continued further along the canal to the village of Homps and found a spot by the canal mariner with several other motorhomes. The day was sunny and hot so we got the chairs and table out, to have lunch by the canal. Homps had two larger boat hire offices, so after lunch I went over and with my practised French phrases asked about work. I was understood and I also understood their answers in French, which were basically no. I would need to keep looking, still the sun was out and the spot we had was nice, so we decided to stay where we were today and continue the job hunting tomorrow. It would take a while, I’m sure, asking in places before I got lucky with any work. No doubt more work opportunities would be across in the Province region by the coast.

We are all under the money god I suppose, like Orwell says in one of his books, some more than others. I suppose a trade always helps, being qualified in something means you always have something to fall back on.

To start to travel has opened the fact that there are many places to travel to. Also I would like to maybe find a niche and an opportunity to enjoy a lifestyle somewhere nice. Maybe even a campsite somewhere warm and by the sea, who knows maybe I’ll find somewhere travelling. As long as you can get by and enjoy time, rather than working all the hours and enjoying the time later in life. Still it all requires money to make money, or at least buy somewhere! I suppose though if there’s a will there’s a way and just a short while with your head down working and not spending can a crew enough.
In the motorhome its surprising how little you need, there are no bills just food and fuel.
There is a path I will find at the end of the road, I’m sure.

If you plan too much, you’ll miss the present
But if you plan to little, you’ll mess the future
It’s about a balance I suppose, life is always about a balance.
At the present I’m enjoying life on the road, travelling and experiencing places and having the time. I am finding where my future lies, maybe?
Many idea’s, either creative or business, I suppose again there’s a balance….

Tuesday 20th April

Headed further along the Canal du Midi to Capestang, along the way stopping at boat hire companies asking for work. In Capestang I went off to the tourist office to ask about locations of organic vineyards for work. I thought at the organic vineyards I might have more luck, as they normally use more manpower. They pointed me in the direction of a local organisation called CIJ who help people find work.

The man at the CIJ office was extremely helpful, correcting and improving my basic French CV, then printing me 40 copies. He told me unless I had a degree in wine production, there was no point trying the vineyards at this time of year. Campsite work or farm work would be a better option, as my French isn’t great. He showed me how to use the basic French job website and we found a job at a campsite, only problem being we didn’t have the details just the area it was in. Never the less, he printed me off a list of all the campsites in the area and I thanked him for his time and left.

It was now late in the day, but we decided on heading down towards Narbonne and the coastal tourist area where all the campsites were. That way in the morning I could get up early and head round them all, CV in hand looking for work. The place wasn’t motorhome friendly, with signs everywhere saying no motorhome parking and the only options were paying. After a drive around we managed to find a spot by a harbour on a road where we could park for 24 hours.

Wednesday 21st April

Woke up early, although we hadn’t got much sleep, as it had been very noisy all night. Headed off with my CV arriving at the first campsite for 9am, by midday we had managed to do the lot. With mostly all of them taking my CV and a couple sounded like they were looking for someone to work. All I had to do for the moment was wait for a call, hopefully. The last campsite was at a small place by a saltwater lake, called La Nautique, so we found a spot by the lake with some other motorhomes. As it was a good day and we were tired from last night’s lack of sleep, we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the lake in the sun.

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By nightfall some motorhomes had left, but us and a few others stayed for the night by the lake. Just as we were drifting off to sleep mind, a few cars pulled up and then blasted out their music for the next few hours! I suppose that is the problem with free parking sometimes, you never know what is going to happen. Still it’s better than paying for the privilege of parking.

Thursday 22nd April

Got up early again to head further along the coast to Valras plage, where I had been told there were a lot of campsites. We spent the morning and early afternoon heading around the many campsites the area has. Most of them were not as friendly as yesterday’s, with only three or four places taking my CV. Still I was trying to find work as we moved on, the problem was really the season hadn’t kicked off as yet. I suppose though it only takes one place to say yes. By the afternoon we’d had enough of campsites and this stretch of coast, so headed back inland to the canals. We stopped for a night down a track along the canal, by a village called Villeneuve les Beziers. The canal seems so peaceful, I now have it in my head I want to live on a boat on the canal!

By the end of the day I still had received no calls regarding work, but it was still early days. My phone however, while in my pocket, had decided on ringing some English numbers and had used up my remaining £4 credit! It seems to have a trick of unlocking itself and dialling numbers while in my pocket, but not normally wasting so much credit. I decided to try to use a pin number to lock my phone, so it wouldn’t happen again. This turned out to be a very very bad idea, while trying to type in a new pin code, my sim card got rejected. No matter how many times I turned it on and off, I had the same message, my sim card was not registering. My card was now no use, and neither of us had any other number we could use. Our other two phones had gone over to pay as you go and we needed to register our credit cards to be able to top them up. Simple enough, but it would take seven days for the cards to register! All the CV’s I had been giving out had this contact number on, so if anyone did want me for work they would now not be able to reach me. I felt like it had been a waste of time. Still tomorrow I would try and find an Orange shop and hopefully they would be able to fix the problem. Now though I needed a few glasses of wine.

Posted by marklorna 16:09 Archived in France Comments (0)

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