After a pretty reasonably hard day in the saddle, only 290 miles though, I just had to go check out the facilities at the latest hôtel.
…oh yes i nearly forgot, air temperature at 17:30hrs was a mere thirty degrees Celcius! Life can be a b+++h!
The Dookes suite is on the second flood of the west wing, so it’s the open window at the top right. This is the back of the château, the view from the front window is this.
With today’s mileage we are now just four miles short of two thousand since rolling of the ferry in Santander…and that seems a lifetime away! It’s sometimes hard for me to put trips into context whilst I am away, I need to sit down in the quiet, without the tinnitus singing in my ears and take it all in again. Sometimes I think what I ask that Harley of mine to do is bordering on the cruel, but she does it nonetheless. Looking back we have cruised Autoroutes, braved gravel roads in a desert, tackled sleet and snow in the Pyrenees, scraped pipes and gearbox on hairpins everywhere and crested the highest pass in the Alps! Not bad for a carburettor fitted bike that owes more of its design to the 1920’s than the 2000’s and a pilot that is definitely past his best!
And now I am doing what I enjoy, almost more than anything on my travels, sitting in the corner of a restaurant enjoying wonderful food and people watching. There is a noisy group of Belgian bankers on a golfing holiday, they were passing round the schnapps and now are boisterously happy, but their entrée has just arrived and they go quiet whilst they eat. To do anything else would insult the chef, and the food is too good! I am enjoying liver on crepes with a marmalade of onions de Roscoff. This is Britanny after all!
Across the room two elderly couples occupy a table, the men talk together as do the women, comfortable in their mutual presence but largely ignoring their spouses of goodness knows how many years. They order two bottles of wine and one of water, the men drink the wine and pass the water to their wives!
I finish my starter and after due polite pause waitress Ani collects my plate. “C’est bon?” “Oui, très, très bon!” In fact it was bloody great!
The bored couple on the adjacent table ask to sit outside, the Belgians are getting too noisy! I can’t understand why they need to move. He looks like Maurino, the Chelsea manager and sits reading a sailing magazine. She just stares vacantly at the ceiling, she looked ok by the pool, but seems to have chosen to wear old curtains to dinner….
My Magret du Canard arrives, first the duck breast still cooking on a hot stone over a spirit burner is delivered by Head Waitress Marie. Next le plat, dressed with sautée potatoes, lightly fried girolles and bâtonnets of yellow and green courgettes with carrot. I leave the duck breast to cook for a few minutes longer, turning it halfway. I like it rare but this might still have a pulse! Then I begin to enjoy….
This is seriously good food! The waitresses do not fuss around, but leave you to enjoy the food…they know it’s bloody good so why bother asking mere customers! The Belgians chatter excitedly, their guttural language making the waitresses giggle and the rest of the restaurant exasperated. Hell, this duck is fantastic and I’m not going to rush!
The head Belgian proposes a toast, the others all ignore him and keep talking and eating! Ani walks by and clocks that I have only one mouthful of wonderful duck left. All too soon it’s gone and Ani arrives to collect my empty plate and the cooking stone. “C’est bien aussi?” “Non, c’est ne pas bien, c’est le mieux!” No, it wasn’t just good, it was the best! And that’s true, I’ve eaten that dish all over France, even in its spiritual home of Mamande and trust me that was the best by a country mile, or kilometre as we are in France.
The Belgians are now getting excited and declare that they will win the World Cup, oh Lordy here we go! Time to have coffee on the terrace and as special treat un petit Calvados…I’m gonna regret this in the morning, but hell we don’t celebrate riding 2000 miles every day!
The two elderly French couples join me outside and we talk of football and rugby. They know all about my Harley and I, seems that in the hotel we have become minor celebrities. Marie pops outside to check all is ok, I think she just wants to go home, but she insists on looking at some of my photos from the Alps.
Everyone drifts away, the Belgian noise drops to a murmur and I am left alone with just the sound of a thousand crickets chirping away. The warm evening is lulling me towards bed, or is it the calvados?
All I know is that I am, as les Français say, “Très Heureaux”, very happy. I am in a country that I really love, amongst people that I really like. All that is missing is Mrs Dookes, and she gave me permission to do it! “Merci beaucoup, mon amour, je t’aime!”
Let’s you and I go do one little bit more tomorrow, before we catch the ferry, it’ll be cool.
“So put me on a highway and show me a sign and take it to the limit, one more time…”