Invaders. the history of France is all about invasions. It all started with the Gaulois. These folks were nomadic Celts. Their invasion lacked organization, so it took a few centuries.
At some time the Romans began to vie for the same land that the Gauls inhabited. Invading with his machines of war, Julius Caesar did his came, saw, and conquered thing until a great part of France found itself to be a Roman colony. In hindsight, this was an invasion that was good for France. Heavy-duty roads, new building materials, rules and education are just a part of the good life that arrived with the Romans.
Then Rome started its famous fall and there was another period of invasions from northern tribes. Constant fear pushed people to build and live in fortified villages.
Our area of France has known all of these invasions, as well as being host to the 100 Years War between England and France. A whole new generation of castles arrived, the French and British landlords waiting for good weather before arranging for their peasant subjects to go out and battle each other.
The last three invasions of France came from her historically bellicose neighbor to the east-- Germany. A distinguishing aspect of the invasion of 1940 was the speed in which it was accomplished-- it was Hitler’s blitzkrieg-- a lightning strike. We’ve come a long way from those plodding Celts.
All of this history lesson is so that you might better understand the plague of the current marauders spreading out their assault all over France. It is peopled by foreigners as well French men and women--- and even children! They come in cumbersome vehicles that carry all one needs to sustain a brief campaign. This army gathers at the edge of town, ringing in the village and holding us hostage to their needs. They await the good weather to invade. And then they come in swarms. Clearing out the bakeries before the locals can finish their daily chores. Blocking up the narrow streets with their modern day chariots. Speaking louder so that the natives might understand their foreign words better. Standing outside our front doors oohing and aahing and taking photos of us!
The new invaders are Camping Car People.
The scale of this popular French pastime is enormous. Every town has a public campsite, complete with a waste disposal system. (Bourdeilles charges two euros a night.) Lunchtime turns the campgrounds into a massive outdoor restaurant as each camp sets up linen-topped tables, chairs, wine and mountains of food. The post-lunch siesta finds the landscape transformed by dozing bodies splayed out on camp loungers.
With all the little upsets this army brings to town, they also bring us a charming breed of tourist. There are always some campers that are distinctive for their zest for life. They are not traveling simply to fill up retirement time. They are on the road to share an adventure. Their dogs sparkle with a friendly, eager excitement. Even a brief encounter with this rare breed brings a smile that stays awhile.
When the cold weather pushes this army away from our town we find ourselves looking forward to next year’s invasion.