Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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12: France, 28th June

The next two days are more about getting across France back to the ferry than about sightseeing, but you can't go wrong with French roads and it's a morning of swoops and curves. Howard and I set off in advance of the others, only to have them all filter past in a horrendous traffic jam in one of the towns. (I could have ridden through and waited for the car somewhere more pleasant, of course, but one little blue hatchback is very like another and I was afraid of mislaying it.)

By lunchtime we haven't seen the rest of the group again, so we pull in at a roadside restaurant. To our surprise, this unprepossessing place in the middle of nowhere turns out to be serving gourmet three-course meals à la carte - delicious-sounding, but not what you fancy in the middle of a long hot day's riding. I ask if it's possible to have an omelette and chips, and the woman in charge, all smiles, accommodates us. Her two tiny daughters are waitressing angelically.

We're well into the omelettes when a bike roars past, then halts further up the road and U-turns. It's Roy, and we join him in the car park to wave Roger in when he follows a few minutes behind. Ten more minutes and John and Sandie are with us too. We join more tables onto ours and order more omelettes.

As soon as I get back on the bike after lunch, I have The Fear badly. The ride just feels off, and I'm taking corners as though riding on ice - slow and upright, by tiny degrees, my shoulders rigid with tension.

When the back end steps out in a turn I realise it's not just paranoia. Howard has twigged that something's wrong and pulls over up a side road, and I gratefully stop behind the car.

Investigation reveals that my back wheel has come loose again and the bike isn't going anywhere. I ring the breakdown people, hoping the hire car won't soon be acquiring a passenger (like last year).

The spot I've picked to give up in is a country D-road - very pretty, but somewhat lacking in amenities. There's not much to do but sit and wait for the breakdown lorry, which has been promised within the hour.

After an hour and a minute I phone again. "Ah yes, you're in Germany," says the operator brightly, calling up the details of last year's breakdown. I correct her and she informs me that help is on the way from 40km off.

Another twenty minutes pass, then a van towing a bike trailer rolls up and two nice Frenchmen get out. I wiggle my wheel for them and explain that it feels very bad and I have big fear.

They tighten the nut, watch while I ride it up the road and back (getting off to turn round, shamefully, as the lane is too narrow for my shaky U-turns) and follow me for a couple of kilometres to make sure everything is OK before departing with smiles and handshakes all round.

I'm still a bit cautious and insist on half-hourly wheel checks, but we get on much faster and more pleasurably now I have a fully-functioning vehicle again. Pausing at a hypermarket to replenish the emergency chocolate supplies, which have run low due to high incidence of emergencies, we arrive at the hotel after everyone else but just in time to have a really good snap at each other following the frustrations of the day.

The others are busy stalling the restaurant staff, as we need to take our seats by nine and it's getting perilously late. Eventually we all make it to a table and the feast commences.

For the last night of the holiday, John and Sandie have picked a hotel with a three-star restaurant. I'm a bit too tired and wound up by the afternoon's anxiety to enjoy it to the full, which is a pity because it's one of the most fantastic meals I've ever had.

There are delicious little amuse bouches - with cheese, which Roger doesn't eat, so I get more than my fair share - and a basket of bread, and a selection of seafood starters served with glistening pyramids of black and red caviar. After the main course there's a cheese trolley, then a dessert trolley (I pick unwisely from both these and am slightly disappointed, but the spectacle and the luxury of choice is a treat in itself), then petits fours with the coffee. I have to try all the different kinds and am careful about the order in which I eat them, finishing up with the tiny meringue as I'm likely to enjoy it the most.

I can't even remember what the main course was - I'm sure it was great, but it was much less interesting than what went on either side of it.

We all stagger upstairs somehow. Paying the bill in the morning, we discover we've spent far more on our meal than on our accommodation.

< Hier | Demain >
Tags: bikes, hols, scooters

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