Today was a day of rest for our weary bums. No bikes were started this day.
A leisurely breakfast, and it has to be said – a mild hangover recovery in my case – was followed with a wander into the medieval centre of Le Puy-en-Velay.
The weather wasn’t kind and we rather grumpily shrugged into our waterproofs and headed for what I remembered as the busy, thrumming centre of activities in the main square. Well last July it was anyway. Today there wasn’t a sun canopy or a bustling café to be seen. It was desolate. Empty. Not a soul to be seen. Am I making myself clear? France can be such a seasonal place.
I so wanted the guys to like this town but after dragging them up the steep hill to the cathedral (where at least it was warm & dry) I gave up and let them head back to the centre to find a bar while Gordon and I climbed up the steep puy to admire the huge statue of the Madonna & child fashioned from 800 tons of melted down cannons from the Crimean War. The views were incredible from such a high vantage point.
After our climb we caught up with the other four who – to my surprise – wanted to try a Salon de Thé we’d spotted earlier. Picture the scene, six fat baldy bikers perched genteelly on rickety antique chairs sipping exotic teas from delicate porcelain cups in a hushed chintzy atmosphere, surrounded by confused old ladies and trying so hard not to swear or burp or f*rt. So difficult.
Thankfully, from the window, Dave pointed out a sign for ‘British Fish & Chips & Beer etc.’ I’m not sure what the etc. was but my goodness, the chef, who was from Lahndon did us proud with a massive portion of cod & chips, the like of which we’d never seen before. Lovely.
There was only one possible option after that. It was our one day off so we adjourned to the hotel for a long snooze. A 6pm walk was in order to try to wake up again; the sun had come out at last but we soon found ourselves in a shady football bar full of shady Portuguese fellas talking about shady Portuguese matters. The bar fell silent as we arrived. When we timidly asked for six beers, the barman was nowhere to be seen so one of the customers just wandered behind the bar and poured us all a drink! A bit of an attempt at communicating in French soon had them relaxed and we were absorbed into the general ambience of the bar.
I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t make it to a restaurant or diner at all this evening. Full of fish & chips we couldn’t eat any more so our sustenance comprised purely of Guinness, Carlsberg, whisky, gin and a lovely local liqueur called Vervaine made from verbena. It was lovely.
There may be more hangovers ahead.
Tomorrow is the sad parting of the ways as Ken (the other Ken) Pete and Gordon head for Orléans prior to their ferry departure from Cherbourg on Saturday. Paul, Dave and I set off for Sisteron in Provence for one more night of revelry before we split three ways. Dave to Italy where he’s having a week with his partner who flies down at the weekend, and Paul to Germany (I think) and I have two more stops on the way back to Calais for my ferry on Monday.
It’s been a blast but it ain’t over yet. Just one day off and I can’t wait to fire up the Green Machine in the morning – hangover permitting.
Chat tomorrow 🙂