Wow! Talk about a blogging hiatus from your old pals Blondie and the Beard, huh!? Well, we’re back and plan to keep this blog regularly updated with exciting, adventurous and sometimes funny posts until we ultimately decide to check back into reality in the United States.
When we left you last, Blondie and the Beard had just wrapped up their time in London with Ed (We miss that guy lots!) and were off to couchsurf in France. We were lucky enough to meet a very generous lady, by the name of Catherine, a couple months back while staying at the YMCA hostel in Bath, England. Catherine had a bunk in our ‘dorm room’ at the hostel and after a friendly chat swapping travel stories in broken French and English, we quickly became friends. Catherine was leaving Bath the next day, but offered up her home to us in Montélimar, France, should our travels ever take us her direction. We exchanged email addresses with the promise to keep in touch.
Fast forward a couple months as we planned out our arrival date for Switzerland, traveling from London to Switzerland and how we would fill the gap of time in-between. We scanned the map, while Brit suddenly remembered Catherine and her couchsurfing offer in Montélimar. Neither of us knew exactly where in the h-e-double hockey sticks Montélimar was, but with a swift Google Maps search, our problem was solved. Montélimar is conveniently located in the southeast corner of France and approximately 238 miles away from Vevey, Switzerland. We knew this would be a perfect resting point to spend some time before making our way to Matt’s uncle and aunt’s house.
Catherine was more than happy to accept our couchsurfing request for 10 days. The airline and train tickets were purchased and Blondie and the Beard were off to France. We see a trend here… making travel arrangements on a whim, no concrete plans – just the way we like it!
For those unfamiliar with couchsurfing.org, you’ve got to check it out. It’s a great little community, everyone sharing a common passion and love for travel.
“Couchsurfing is a global community of 9 million people in more than 120,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey. Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.”
“We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.”
Cultural exchange is exactly what we encountered at Catherine’s house. After our flight from London to Lyon and a one-night hotel stay in Lyon, we grabbed a train into Montélimar.
Catherine rides her bike to work every day. After work, she swung by the train station and ‘picked us up’ with a fresh baguette in tow. Walking toward her home, we tore off pieces of hot baguette and chatted about what we’ve all been doing since Bath.
After arriving at Catherine’s house, learning the ropes and eating dinner together, we hit the hay after a long, exhausting travel day. In the morning, Catherine was planning to take us to The Ardèche.
The Ardèche River is approximately 78 miles long and is very populated in the summer with avid kayakers and happy, camping families. As we drove along the twisty, steep road, the river below turned with us.
The opportunity to drive along the river is not something we ever expected to have, a privilege offered to us by our gracious host. We can’t say enough about how fortunate we were to find a host so excited to seamlessly work us into her daily life. Catherine was just as happy to see the river panoramas as we were, which seemed to widen after each turn in the road.
Catherine was a helluva driver, too. Her hatchback would hug each switchback as her lead foot raced against the sunset. For this reason, we implemented a strict shotgun-seat-rotation as the back seat rider was essentially guaranteed nausea.
Certainly one of the more impressive sights along our drive was the Pont d’Arc, a 60m wide and 54m tall natural bridge formed by the impressive Ardèche river. Created from years (probably thousands) of incessant impact and erosion, the Pont d’Arc is a tribute to the relentless force of nature and is a marvel of terrestrial beauty. Catherine and her kayak crew use the Pont d’Arc as a put-in point, floating another 20kms down the river.
We walked along the bank, noting evidence of the overflowing tides which had encompassed the riverbed in recent weeks. Loose leaves, sticks and other debris clung to tree branches as high as 20ft, indicating massive river levels from heavy rainstorms.
Just up from the Pont d’Arc is a kayaking school. Man-made passages alongside the main river route to practice maneuvering the rapids. It’s safe to say the French take their kayaking very seriously here at The Ardèche.
For us, traveling is just as much about the people we meet as the sights we see. Distance and language be damned, it’s not hard finding commonalities despite our differences. Forming friendships we’ll cherish forever has been an unexpected reward throughout our journey, likely more lasting than our snapshots or selfies.
Blondie and the Beard