Day 1: The road to Madrid…

…is long. To our knowledge it takes about a 4 or 5 year journey to make it all the way there! On 20th August 2016, I finally set off from Lydia’s grandparents’ place near Cherbourg in the north of France on the drive to Spain. It was back in the early summer 0f 2011 that, whilst on holiday in Barcelona, we first sensed that we might want to relocate. In 2014, we visited Madrid with a view to moving there in the future to be a part of Cristo Salvador church. In 2015, we made plans to go and then changed plans when baby number two got involved! Then, in 2016, we finally did it.

It was 9.30am on a sunny day in Normandy and as I drove out of the gates of White Cross Manor, I felt a combination of nerves and excitement more intense than I’d ever experienced before. Lydia and the boys would be staying on in France to allow me time to find an apartment in Madrid, ready for their flight from Paris on August 31st. That gave me 10 days to find somewhere for us to live (more on which later – shouldn’t be a problem, right? Huh, we’ll see). So, the reason for driving our geriatric Picasso all the way to our new city was simple (humble) logistics. For a couple of years we’d been poring over shipping costs and travel + luggage prices trying to work out the best way to transfer our stuff to Spain. It had become clear that the best plan for us would be to save as much money as we could in England, sell as much stuff as we could and then start all over again in the stuff department on arrival in Madrid. This meant that we could limit the load, making it possible t0 take only one load of stuff with us – with the added bonus having to get rid of things we really didn’t need, helping us to live with less clutter . A hoarder’s nightmare, in other words.

As I drove further away from ‘home’ (England and France included!), I became more and more aware of the distance we were putting between us and everything we’ve ever known. For a few hours driving, I had an overwhelming feeling of being unsure – ‘what are we doing?’/’what’s going to happen to us in Madrid?’ – I’ve always been sure that we were well equipped for an adventure like this, but these were some of the biggest and clearest doubts I’d encountered. Fortunately, through prayer and sheer pressing on, those feelings began to subside around halfway through the first day’s driving. French roads are pretty good – generally long and straight, which for me, with the world’s longest ever Spotify playlist in full swing, was thoroughly enjoyable. However, I have to say that in comparison to what was to follow, the first stage of the journey was actually fairly boring. That was until a VW van overtook me, only for one of its tyres to blow out, yards in front and to the side of my car, travelling at 110km/h. The van swerved, steadied and then swerved again right in front of me, across 3 lanes, finally screeching to a holt on the hard shoulder. I took some deep breaths and continued on my way, grateful that no-one was injured.

Arriving in Bordeaux was really interesting – I really only knew of the place because of its excellence in wine. It is far, far bigger than I’d expected and I was sad not to have a chance to properly explore. Given its size, it was a blessing to find the stopover hotel I’d booked online was on the outskirts of the city, just off the motorway. I would be using this the following morning to head south and finally enter Spain. Resisting the urge to visit La Cité du Vin – Bordeaux’s impressive new wine museum, tasting and tours  – I went for the sensible option of heading to my room to: shower, watch FC Barcelona’s first match of the season, grab a quick dinner in the hotel restaurant (my last steak in France 😭) and get an early night. I thanked God that the car had made it this far and that Team Green were at last on our way to Madrid.

Bordeaux Lac – the view from my hotel including tramline



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