May 3rd, 2011

Orange Vespa Huskyteer

1: Portsmouth - Saint-Léger-de-Montbrillais

After a night at galahadwarhorse's, it was a bright and early 5AM start (sorry, Gally) to meet Howard and board the 7:30 FastCat for Caen.

We rolled off the ferry mid-morning into a warm and sunny day, extracted ourselves from the city and the main roads, and after a pleasant ride stopped for lunch in Domfront, famous for its cider and perry. It would have been rude not to try a sample with my croque monsieur:

Yes, I know it looks like a teacup full of wee, but it was delicious.

I was a bit sleepy after lunch.

It was Howard, however - who had stuck to tap water - who set off on the wrong side of the road after our meal and nearly got a car in the face. There's a moral there.

The air was thick with floating dandelion fluff. Stopping only for fuel, we made good time to our first night's stop at Holiday Loire and were soon enjoying one of Andy and Maggie's fine dinners washed down with local wine.

In bed I finished the first of the three books I'd brought and reflected that perhaps I do need a Kindle after all.

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

2: Saint-Léger-de-Montbrillais - Malbernat

As soon as we left the next morning, my bike's temperature shot to the top of the dial. I left it for a few minutes, hoping it would sort itself out, but the needle climbed beyond the maximum, and when I stopped in a layby we found coolant leaking. I cried.

I always, always take out European breakdown cover for these trips, and it was well worth it on this occasion. The scooter was whisked away and I was found a hire car (you never get a hire bike).

Now, bear in mind that since passing my car test two years ago I have driven my mum's automatic Clio perhaps half a dozen times, for a maximum of 9 miles in one go. Suddenly I had to pilot a left-hand drive manual 200 kilometers, some of it in the dark. I was frankly petrified.

(There was one good omen: the car was a Twingo, a model about which my best friend and I have had a running in-joke for the last fifteen years or so.)

It was a long, long drive. I must have stalled at every Stop line and traffic light between Poitiers and Cahors, including a hill start at a junction that Howard eventually had to get off his bike and do for me.

Howard coped exceedingly well with seven hours of bipolar behaviour (manic when I was driving successfully, depressive when I wasn't). We reached our final destination at 11:15PM, to the sound of barking dogs.

A late, fraught, bikeless arrival wasn't the first impression I'd wanted to give my longtime LJ friend wosny and her husband, but they welcomed us kindly and showed us to the gîte which would be our home for the next week.

I have seldom been so grateful for a drink as I was for the carafe of red wine which waited on the kitchen table.

< >