Europe Loved and Lost: A Farewell Road Trip from London to France

Europe Loved and Lost: A Farewell Road Trip from London to France

Before the 31 January deadline for Brexit rolled around, one photographer drove 620 miles across France to enjoy the continent for one last time as EU citizens.



Although
I’m from London, I’ve always felt a certain
connectedness with Europe. I felt heavy with sadness when the UK
resolved to sever ties with the EU.

Before the 31 January deadline for Brexit rolled around, a friend and I drove my
old German car 620 miles across France to enjoy the continent for
one last time as EU citizens. The thrills of travel would be
dampened by poignance.

The White Cliffs shone against a gloomy sky as we approached the
Port of Dover, where we boarded a ferry to Calais alongside
truckers and holidaymakers.

On French soil, we stocked up on wine and crème caramels in the
small town of Ardres before navigating the quiet roads towards
Boulogne and, later, Paris. En route, we were kept company by the
melodies of Charles Trenet, Jacques Dutronc, Françoise Hardy and
Serge Gainsbourg – alongside a thick, foreboding fog that obscured
our view.

In the capital, we braved the Arc de Triomphe roundabout before
cruising down the Champs-Éysées and over the Seine, where we met an
old friend for lunch at Stohrer, Paris’s oldest bakery. In the beautiful
Bibliothèque Nationale, I couldn’t help but dwell on a portrait of
Shakespeare displayed alongside other titans of European
literature. As evening drew in, we holed up in Bar 228 at Le
Meurice and marvelled at the hotel’s original features, relics from
when it served as Nazi headquarters in 1944.

Our road home took us through Rouen in Normandy, a place famed
for burning Joan of Arc at the stake and making cider, which we sip
late into the afternoon. The architecture here is etched with
history. Medieval streets lead to a huge cathedral pockmarked by
bullets and shells from the Second World War. I have a Proustian
moment as I tuck into a baguette with jam and coffee the following
morning, as if recalling a forgotten memory.

Back on the ferry, as the distance between myself and the
mainland grows, I fix my gaze upon the receding shores. The drive
back to London is horrid. It’s dark, wet and dangerous,
and I witness several crashes. After three days on the road, I’m
exhausted but feel enriched by having experienced Europe one last
time while still officially being part of it. Better to have loved
and lost than never loved at all, I suppose.

@jameslovedayphoto | jamesloveday.com

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