Across Continents

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Poles apart

The rain didn’t help. South of Chartres the landscape was largely flat and featureless. Endless open fields. Just the odd small wood to break up the skyline. The occasional village provided brief respite from the unrelenting headwinds, but otherwise these were drab and lifeless places. Only the rivers provided relief, cutting deep, fertile valleys into the otherwise bleak landscape.

The campsites were increasingly frequented by migrant workers, Poles mostly, or French road contractors. Tatty caravans, some cheap plastic chairs dotted around, or tents long faded by the sun. I felt sorry for them.

Further east, beyond Etampes, the road towards Nemours and the River Seine lifted my spirits. The same pop-up villages – they disappeared from view as quickly as they had appeared – but somehow it was different. Avenues of trees beside the roads. You felt someone cared. There were hanging baskets. Moret-sur-Loing, on the banks of the Seine near Fontainebleau, resembled Henley-on-Thames. This was the France they wanted you to see.


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