The European elections are almost upon us. We’re always hearing from the loud left and the rowdy right, but what about the majority of people somewhere in between?
I’ve been sofa surfing across the continent, staying with the locals to find out what's important to you. Filming the adventure on my phone, you’ve been sharing your stories of what’s working, and what’s not in the EU.
Wine and pigs
I began my journey in France, staying with Xavier Gerard, a winemaker just south of Lyon.
He put me to work on his vines in preparation for the new season. Xavier is reaping the rewards of frictionless trade, as his biggest market is in Belgium. But he's also worried about cheaper production in other EU countries undermining French food and farming. His second largest market is the UK, but he's not worried about Brexit, as nothing will stop the Brits drinking wine!
The next day Xavier took me to a ‘killing a pig’ party. How do you think he and his friends did in my Super Fun EU Quiz?
An icy swim
For my next sleepover, I went to Ireland. Conor O’Neill welcomed me into his pub, The Glyde Inn.
After a night of Irish music and dancing, we went off to visit some of his local suppliers, to collect some produce needed for the restaurant. It was clear that Brexit looms large on people’s minds, and that a huge majority have a lot of praise for the EU. But it’s not all positive, some people can’t bear the ‘red tape’ and just want to be left alone.
But then somehow I found myself going for a very cold swim in the Irish sea.
Take a watch:
The eastern frontier
Cyprus was a slightly different trip. Originally arriving without anywhere to stay, I went in search of someone who would let me into their life for 24 hours.
I followed the border between North and South Cyprus, quickly realizing that the division is still a sensitive subject. I ended up in the capital city of Nicosia, which is the last divided capital city in the world. Here I met up with Maria Eliade and Michael Mourao, a young couple who live just a few metres from the border.
They took me around the city and told me of the problems Cyprus faced after the financial crisis and the pain that the EU placed upon them. But on balance, they were still both positive about the union because of the freedom and stability it provided.
A hidden gem
My last sleepover took me to Lithuania. I drove across the country to meet my next unsuspecting host, Dalia Šmitienė in her rural home village.
Here I saw the other side to the free movement of people around the EU. Dalia told me how many of the young men and women have moved away to other countries in search of work. The money sent back may be providing more opportunities for people to live a more comfortable life, but it’s also splitting up families.
Dalia’s husband works in Norway and she didn’t want to be left alone in the village any longer, so she moved to the city of Klaipeda to work as a teacher. This is where we travelled that evening and spent the rest of our time together. It's also where I discovered one of Europe’s hidden gems…