Biking Camino de Santiago France

Adios Espana, Bonjour La France

Blurred lines at the beach
Written by Stuart

Crossing Borders: Adios Espana, Bonjour La France

Stuart Profile SmallCrossing borders used to be a travel event. But the Schengen agreement has changed all that in mainland Europe.

Where’s the border?

It’s like a game of ‘are we there yet’, only worse. I promised the kids something that it seems I can’t deliver.

“Are we in France yet Dad?”

“Where’s the policeman?”

“Where do we have to show our passports?”

I am at a bit of a loss to explain as I can’t find the border with France myself. It’s marked on my map but it appears there’s nothing to show for it in the real world. Unless we aren’t where I think we are.

Marina in Hendaye, France

Is this in Spain or France Dad?

Crossing borders

When I first started cycle touring in Europe crossing borders was a travel event. Especially on a bicycle. It felt so dramatic, cycling up to the passport control, digging your papers out of your bar bag. The policeman inspecting. The anxious wait to see if you would be admitted. The stamp. The awkward ‘thank you’ from a phrase book you’d only just opened.  The smile. Well, sometimes.

Then customs. The worry about whether they’d want to look through your panniers. The potential embarrassment of customs officials rooting through two weeks worth of smelly laundry. The relief when you are waved through.

Then the difference. The money exchange. New signs. New language. New foods. New customs and traditions. New ways of thinking. New people. New experiences.

I loved crossing borders. The more, the merrier.

Which way now?

Which way now?

Are we in France yet?

“Is this France then Dad?”

“Where’s the policeman?”

“Don’t they want to sniff my socks?”

It’s not the same these days. No police, no papers or passports anymore. In fact sometimes there’s not even a sign or a line. That’s the modern way in mainland Europe. The Shengen agreement means open borders within the EU. No need for document checks or customs in this giant free trade area. Once you’re in Europe, all of Europe is open to you. It means crossing borders isn’t half the fun it used to be.

In fact if you didn’t look at your map, you might not even know you’d crossed one.

Except that when you do cross that line, invisible or not, everything changes. I know we’ve crossed from Spain to France when beer becomes wine, bimbo bread becomes croissants, and stale cake is transformed into divine pattissery.

But if this is so obviously France why do we keep speaking Spanish? You may be able to cross a border more quickly these days, but it still takes a while to adapt.

Blurred lines at the beach

When borders go missing, do lines get blurred? Or is that just in your head?

About the author


Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


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