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February 12, 2002
Last days in Crest (Russell)

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One of France's most scenic drives... in the fog

On February 7th, one day ahead of our original schedule, we left the Dordogne region and headed back to our home in Crest for the last time.  Because so much was closed in the dead of Winter, we were able to finish all of our excursions in three days instead of four.  Indeed, on the morning we left there was an immense fog that blanketed everything around.  This was unfortunate, because our last chance to drive the "scenic" route between Beynac and Carsac was on our way out.  We made a mental note to return again "some day."

As usual, we avoided the speedier autoroutes (and péages) for as long as possible, and instead took the slower and more scenic routes nationales.  Because we had gone from Crest to Dordogne via the northern route three days ago, we now opted to take the southern route for our return home.  This enabled us to pass through the area north of Languedoc and through small towns like Figeac and Rodez.  We even skirted the huge Massif Central mountains in the center of France.  This wonderfully scenic area reminded us very much of the American Southwest (an area where we may someday retire).  But by the time we reached Severac-le-Château, it was getting pretty late in the afternoon.  So instead of continuing along the back roads the rest of the way back to Crest, we decided instead to head directly south and pick up the autoroute at Montpellier.  This turned out to be a mistake, as the road to Montpellier had massive delays due to road construction that pretty much eliminated any time advantage we would have gained.  We finally pulled into Crest well past sundown again.

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Le Massif Central

But the next several days went by very swiftly.  We were due to vacate the house in Crest permanently in five days, as the owner would begin needing the house.  Even so, with the weather warming up, we were getting the travel bug again (our recent excursions to Languedoc and Dordogne had brought this point home).  Crest had been a wonderful nest in which to wait out the coldest part of the Winter, but it was time to move on.  (The boys did not necessarily agree.  Joss informed us that he "hates touring.")  Gail spent days cleaning the entire house so that it would look as if we had never been there.  Russell ran various errands into town, including mailing a few last boxes back to the US that we knew we wouldn't be able to fit into the car.  He also picked up a hot pot and an electric burner -- these will serve as our kitchen during the six weeks that we tour Central Europe.  The car itself was serviced (we have passed 10,000 kilometres!), vacuumed inside, and washed outside for the first time since we picked it up in November.

Cameron and Joss went through the dozens of paper airplanes and origami creations that they had built up, keeping only a precious few.  They also took advantage of their last opportunities to play with Loïc and Zoé.  Their father had been pruning trees, so all of the children constructed a tree house out of the branches (it looked more like a gigantic nest).  Cameron went around taking pictures of everything he could, including the dogs, Plick and Mabelle, and their beloved tree swings.

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Building a tree house

Russell and Gail squeezed in time to pay a last visit to Monsieur and Madame, the elderly couple who live next door in la grande maison (our own house is called "la petite maison").  We showed them our latest digital photographs (as well as the ones from Australia, Madame's dream destination), and in turn they shared some wonderful history of the estate.  During World War II it was used as a bivouac site by the invading Allies -- in fact, a rather intense battle was fought by the advancing Allies against the retreating Axis right here on the grounds.

We regretted that we did not have more time to spend with Monsieur and Madame.  Despite spending several months in Crest, there was much of France that we never got to see, as well as many people we never got to get together with: Brigitte's mother in nearby Étoile, Miriam and her children in Avignon (whom we had met in Tanzania), and Jacque's relatives throughout La Drôme.

But on the morning of February 12th, we locked the doors to the Crest house for the last time.  While Russell and Gail stuffed our remaining possessions into the already over-filled car, Cameron and Joss took one last ride on the tree swings.  Then we left Crest and headed south.  The sun is out, the sky is blue, and there are further adventures waiting to be discovered.

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On the road again


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