This weekend between lunch and dinner we went to visit the neighbours next door. For this trip instead of sailing we took the Catana Green Machine our fantastic van and our credit card. France in the morning, Spain for the arvo and back to France for dinner. (I still get a huge thrill out of crossing borders even if no one else seems as excited as I am). The reason we cross from one frontier to another is because alcohol and cigarettes among other items are significantly cheaper in Spain than France. It’s all about stocking cupboards as we prepare to set sail for Turkey and meet our friends in Greece mid June. We have learnt our lesson, that if something is good to buy now you need to strike while the iron is hot, the opportunity may not arise again as we move across the seas. Plus cruiser forums suggest you stock up on goods before you leave France and Spain.
A Quickie Across The Border
As we crossed into Spain the streets narrowed and wound like they belonged to a small village not a major thoroughfare and nothing like I expected. In my mind I had the Mexico/US border system just like in the movies. Instead this town could be from a spaghetti western with old town buildings, narrow roads and large numbers of people walking both sides of the streets as they moved from shop to shop. As we cleared the narrow street we saw lines of parked buses that brought shoppers on masse from I do not know where, but the intent was clear, this place was all about the exchange. As well as buses there were rows of empty custom booths that looked long abandoned but not out place in this Spanish border town. We quickly passed through the first town as we planned to go a little further to La Jonquera a town only a few kilometers on. Just before we entered the town, on my right I spotted two pretty women sitting on the side of the road. It crossed my mind that such young pretty women would not take long to be offered a lift. Then as we entered the town of La Jonquera around a massive round about more women stood to the side. Each one incredibly beautiful, with long legs and huge high heels and very little clothing. It was then that the truth registered that these young women were part of the towns current law of supply and demand, representing value or access that was not available across the French border. As I drove past I couldn’t help but wonder what path had led each girl here. What level of force, deceit, desperation or need meant such stunning girls were being traded on the streets like animals at an open market. This exchange made me feel sad as I parked our car. My sadness was not from judgement, more from compassion. I bet a safe $100 that no young woman wishes to sell her wares (if at all, but especially) from the side of the street. I don’t care what anyone tells me I believe this to be true. The other piece of truth I will share for free, is that our futures are as much about the bed in which you are born in as being able to seize opportunities as they come our way. I am not throwing stones, instead I question the story for each girl wearing the heels as well the men who probably have wives and daughters and who pay for this trade to continue or instigate its delivery to market. I have since been told most girls come from Romania, Poland or Russia and many are forced or tricked into prostitution, much of their custom comes from truck drivers and clients from both France and Spain….
The Big Cha Ching
The bargains were abundant and we were not the only ones looking to buy once we entered the major shop in the centre of town, for as we arrived a bus load of shoppers had gone in just before us and the race was on to fill trolleys with booze and cheap food. To put it in perspective when I say cheap a bottle of shampoo would be 8 euro in the French store, in Spain it was 4 euro. Re the alcohol a bottle of rum was 11.90 euro in Spain whilst in comparison 24 euro in France. In Australia that same rum would cost you $50 AU. We too shopped and exchanged our coin for trade. As we drove away with our goodies we drove past new girls with new faces and just as long legs having replaced the girls on offer as we entered the town. I now know that this town is about the big stop as well as the big shop. The French don’t allow large trucks on the roads on Sunday so hundreds of trucks and drivers were parked waiting out the time before they could legally pass onto French highways. A sobering departure from this town of the fast shop and cheap commodities. Not for the first or last time on this journey of ours, I counted my blessings. Cheers the Miss PS Once back in France we were also told we were lucky there were no custom officials on the border enforcing quantity restrictions. Phew!