Travels with Tinkerbelle
– 6000 miles around France in a mechanical wreck
by Susie Kelly Smashwords Edition Reviewed by Ceridwyn Parr
If you are planning a trip around France, this is the book to keep loaded on your Kobo or Kindle. You will also need an accurate road map which you have carefully annotated beforehand. Even then you may be still mystified about some localities. But , as Susie describes with whimsy and honesty, this is part of the charm of travel.
Susie Kelly and her husband Terry are an English couple resident in France, living in Poitou-Charentes, an area so idyllic that the locals rarely move away. But the spirit of wanderlust invades their paradise, and they decide to drive the 6000 miles around France in 6 weeks. Quite a tight time frame means staying only one night in each place, so they have the anxiety every afternoon of where to stay, and where to eat, and where to exercise their huge and capricious dogs, and how to get the washing dry.
Their route is an anticlockwise circle around the borders of France, portrayed in the prologue as a torn piece of fabric with dotted lines around the outside. The light hearted tone of the introduction draws the reader into what proves to be a much deeper exploration of history, French idiosyncracies, and enticing meals on the cheap.
There are some endearing characters in this story- Tinkerbelle of the title, a clapped out old campervan, whose inner weaknesses make driving over the Pyrenees extremely nerve-wracking; Terry who comes across as the dream travel companion – mostly unflappable, handy with a screw driver, happy to go where he is told, most of the time, and willing to walk the dogs; and the dogs. The dogs are not dream companions, but they are the stuff of humour when they steal pieces of clothing, and horror, as when they turn on the gas in the van. The adventures are told with a light hand and a deft descriptive brush by Susie, navigator, cook, and most valuably, French speaker .
A night in each place could mean a very superficial trip, but Susie has the gift of extracting a huge amount of local information and history at each turn of the road. Napoleon features frequently, as do the Resistance . There is a painful time as Susie and Terry explore the Normandy landing sites, seeing the impossibility of survival in the sand dunes and rocky beaches.
Recent military history is balanced by visits to ancient castles, which often carry legends of maidens locked in towers, desperate family feuds and dastardly tales of treachery. The gloomy atmosphere of so many of these castles leads Susie to believe that an appropriate overall legend for these castles is ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’, but she can still take the reader through these buildings with charm and humour.
At the end of every day there is a meal to be found – not always easy in France if you don’t eat meat. In coastal towns they feasted on oysters, mussels and other fish, and endless freshly baked bread, coffee and hot chocolate, but occasionally have to retreat to their campervan for instant soup and stale pastries. The variety of their travel experiences makes this a great read.
Susie concedes that circumnavigating France in six weeks was more difficult than expected, but that they would do it again, ‘ropey vehicle, destructive dogs notwithstanding’.
I read this book as a Smashwords edition, on my laptop, as I still have not worked out how to get it on to my kobo, and I was very keen to get reading! Laptop reading is fine, just a bit heavier than the kobo. I note that ‘Travels with Tinkerbelle’ was first published as ‘A Perfect Circle’ in 2006. Much better title this time!
- www.smashwords.com – publisher of independent Ebooks
- Photo Album of Tinkerbelles Trip
- Sarah Reads the World – has plotted the routes of Tinkerbelles travels here