As previously mentioned we visited France in April, the plan being to see friends and Tracey's father, although the trip was nearly cancelled when Tracey received a letter from her father confirming he would not be in France at the time of visit. Tracey was obviously very upset, and didn't believe her father's reason/excuse, this disbelief was confirmed after she spoke to her mother, who spoke to father's neighbours. The neighbours response when told of the reason given was "he's a lying bastard, tell them to come and stay here and we'll get him round for coffee". That was never going to be an option, as Tracey knew she couldn't be 3 doors away from her father if he was going to refuse to see her. Internet friends, we had never met, live about 20 minutes from Tracey's father and we had been planning on going over to meet them, when they initially heard we might not be visiting Haute-Vienne after all they had offered us accommodation there. After Paul had talked Tracey out of cancelling the trip they were contacted and told we would like to take them up on their accommodation offer, on condition they had some small jobs around the place we could help out with.
So trip back on Tracey continued to struggle organising transport, from Paris to Brittainy, and then from Brittainy to Charante - France does not seem to have embraced the idea of intercity buses and the website for SNCF is frustrating, to say the least. Luckily one of our previous French helpers sent Tracey a link to Blablacars, in fact she even offered to organise our inner France travel for us.
A Belgian guy who stayed here, and helped out, last year is now living in Sofia, with a girl he met when Tracey dragged him out for a day trip. We had arranged to meet them in Sofia for something to eat and a catch up, and although they had offered us a bed for the night we decided to go straight to the airport, after the meal, rather than disturb them at 3am (it was an early morning flight).
In Sofia Tracey started having minor panic attacks as her Postbank card was not working correctly, when she tried to withdraw cash. The Bulgarian currency wasn't needed until we got home - it was to pay the house sitter, but Tracey's need to be organised was being disrupted. We had a lovely time in Sofia with Geert & Nina, who insisted on accompanying us to the airport, leaving us with invitations to go and stay when we wanted to see something of our capital city. Practically the first thing Tracey did in the airport was find another bank machine, which also rejected her card, not good. Luckily we spotted a Postbank specific machine so Tracey decided to see if she could get it to give her a balance initially - pin number not recognised. We sorted it out when we returned to Bulgaria, the new/replacement card had not been registered on their system, banks fault.
Airport was fun, until just before the check in desks opened, with people watching. 30 minutes before the first desk opened things got a bit surreal - we had walked into the airport with our rucksacks, spent the night there unchallenged but now anyone attempting to enter ran the risk of being sent through a pre-security security check complete with bag scans. OK due to security threats cars are no longer allowed to pull right up to the doors, people arriving can be denied enter to the departures hall but ONLY if they don't arrive at least 30 minutes before the first desk opens. We're sure there is some logic there, somewhere.
We were dropped off at a car share car park (I love France) where Pauline and Guillaume were picking us up. Pauline and Guillaume, for those that don't know, are the french 'kids' who changed their plans after the fire staying to help us get over the worst and restoring sanity to our lives. They bought their own property in 2015 but took a break from it in June to come and visit for our 1 year anniversary roof razing party. Their new home is beautiful, even though it is a bigger building site than ours, Pauline could bring a sense of civilisation to a scrap yard. Paul & Guillaume spent a lot of time in Guillaumes workshop/barn/storage area whereas Tracey & Pauline seemed to spend more time outside with the animals or in the gardens. It might sound as though we were just doing our normal things in a different location but this is one couple we hope stay in our lives an awful long time - we seem to inspire and bounce off each other so well, both asking for the others input and both comparing ourselves (sometimes) unfavourably against the other. We did provide some practical help as well, with mud plastering one of the future kitchen walls, a skill Guillaume had first practised in our home.
Our time in Brittany came to an end too quickly, although Tracey has found the recipe for Kouign Amann which is basically a pastry using LOTS of butter and sugar, Paul is looking forward to the attempts to perfect this sugar laden treat.
From Brittainy it was another Blablacars road trip, this time in a Mercedes C class. . We think Dave & Stephany were most surprised at our mode of transport, but the driver was a businessman who did lots of long distance driving and enjoyed the company on trips. There was some trepidation about staying with Dave & Stephany as although we all got along online, and seemed to share similar thoughts and views, people in real life aren't always like their online personae. Well that was a wasted worry, the only negative, seemed to be they hadn't taken our request for jobs seriously enough but no fear readers, we (mainly Paul) managed to make ourselves useful. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and almost immediately we were offered the loan of the car if we wanted to go out/visit anyone, an offer initially refused.
Possibly other people know Tracey better than she knows herself as being only 20 minutes away from her father was playing on her mind so after establishing the car would be available Saturday we went shopping and then on to Tracey's fathers village. Tracey had categorically stated she did not want to knock on her father's door but did want to go and see the neighbours, to an extent it was a duty call as they are the only means the family will find out if he's injured, in trouble. or even dead. Once we arrived the duty side of the visit quickly slide into the background as they are a lovely couple.
Obviously the subject of Tracey's father came up, Roy had seen him 2 days earlier (despite him saying he was out of the country all month) this resulted in much anguish (it still hurts) and tears. After an hour or so Roy offered to go and see if Tracey's father wanted to come round for coffee and a chat, Tracey was in 2 minds as to this being a good idea or not - obviously she wanted to see her father but was also anticipating how she would feel if he decided not to come. She still suspects Roy was lying, to protect her, when he came back and said the house was all locked up and he got no answer at either door. Tracey is still making excuses for her fathers abysmal behaviour but none of those excuses are complimentary to him. If he feels the need to distance himself from his family that is his choice but she feels he should at least be man enough to tell the truth rather than make up fairy tales. A sad realisation is that Tracey will probably not see her father again, as although he is welcome to visit her in Bulgaria she will not go to, try and, visit him again to be rejected so cruelly.
It must have been obvious, to Dave & Stephany, on our return that things hadn't gone well and their ignoring of the subject was much appreciated. We were sad to leave the following day whether this was because of the great people we visited in France or because we were headed to the UK is debatable. Dave & Stephany very generously drove us to Limoges airport for our flight to Manchester, where one of Paul's brothers collected us taking us to Paul's mum house.
Sunday evening was a great catchup just chatting with Paul's mum, although Tracey didn't get a great nights sleep as Paul got the one spare room and Tracey had to share his mums bed (mum's religious and we're not married). Monday morning we had a wander around town (depressing, Ellesmere Port is the inspiration for Zombie Apocalypse scenarios) and then spent the afternoon visiting Paul's eldest son and his family, after we had picked up the new car his brother had obtained for us. (Audi A6) We paid Paul's mum another flying visit, to pick up our bags etc before driving to the North east, Tracey's family via Manchester beekeepers at Heaton Park. We'd luckily organised our travel to coincide with the first night of the newbee training session, so Tracey could visit her friends there, thankfully no stings were acquired as she'd left her epipens somewhere in the car. More time than was anticipated was spent with the beekeepers so we arrived at Tracey's mothers very late.
The next couple of days were spent in a whirl of consumerist consumerism, including a family meal out at a restaurant one of the sisters had chosen. We nearly didn't make the meal as Tracey's youngest sister was driving and ran out of fuel half way there.
Thursday arrived and with it time to head to the ferry, via Paul's middle son (and family) then Paul's ex=wife and his youngest 2 children. Overnight ferry Dover to Dunkirk gave us the opportunity to grab a few hours sleep, before starting our cross Europe drive home. Tracey first drove the new car in Germany where Paul stupidly said 'if you can catch that Ferrari you can have it', after spotting one overtaking us. A few minutes later Tracey asked him if he required her to get any closer to said Ferrari, she is very impressed with the Audis acceleration and still waiting for the Ferrari to be delivered. The new car also has cruise control which Tracey isn't convinced about, she appreciates it means better fuel consumption but finds it making driving much less fun, especially on long journeys.
Although Paul's brother had serviced the car before handing it over one of the injector bleed off pipes was blowing so on route repairs were called for. As Paul is driving Tracey is dismantling a bic type pen and blowing the ink out - it takes a lot of blowing to clear the ink totally. Other than that the drive home was most uneventful, and we arrived home about 12 hours earlier than anticipated. .