Tonight is my last in France, for this trip anyway, I certainly hope it’s not really my last in France ever!
I’m staying in a wonderful Château nestling the heart of the beautiful Pays de Bretagne. It’s a place I know well.
Today has been lovely, Baby and I have covered 305 delightfully easy miles as we headed towards France’s most Westerly Région. . . and now I feel that I have come home. This is the region where Mrs Dookes imparted to me her love of France, the people, the language and the culture; d’ya think it rubbed off? This Château is owned by our friends Ann and Denis and they work bloody hard to make sure it’s perfect for their guests, but their friends get treated just that little bit, très spécial!
After arriving, I grabbed a quick coffee and headed for the swimming pool to get rid of the road dust.
Later I wandered into the bar adjacent to the dining room and sat talking to Ann when Denis arrived from the kitchen. “Hey Gallois!” He boomed, grabbing my hand, “Ça va?” His open smiling face lighting up the room. “Oui, ça va bien, et tu?” “Bien aussi, mon ami!”
We exchange further pleasantries, each comfortable in the others company, I hold his shoulder and he grabs me by the back of the neck. Ann laughs and smiles with us.
“Gallois, I’ve got a surprise to cook for you tonight!” He grins and I translate. “No arguments, I’ve decided what you are having and yes you’ll like it; then we’ll drink to the health of the Chef!” We laugh and I know that this is going to be good, not a bit good, bloody good! Denis puts a beer in front of me then sweeps off to his kitchen, filling the air with laughter.
Ann ushers me into la salle à manger, the most important room in the Château and a plate of fois gras with a compote d’oignon is set in front of me! Look away now if you are of vegetarian persuasion.
A bottle of Château des Tourtes, a nice Côtés de Blaye, appears. I hope Denis will be helping with that, the days of Dookes drinking much are long gone, but quality over quantity is better. I ask for a Badoit to slow things down a bit, it’s my favourite French mineral water to have with a meal, though I do like Vichy as well.
My cleared plate is whisked away and after a suitable polite pause “Le Plat” appears. Two, shall we say substantial, Entrecôtes d’agneau appear and they are still cooking on a Pierre de Table; a one foot square lump of stone with a spirit burner underneath! To accompany are petit pois, carottes, baby new potatoes, button mushrooms and a delightfully steamed small squash. There’s an échalote dressing to accompany, oh my! An elderly French couple who appeared during my entrée look on enviously from across the room. Oh well better get stuck in I suppose!
Ann bustles by, some guests have chosen to eat outside where the midges and moths are busy distracting them from their food, she smiles at me and I place my index finger and thumb together and kiss them. She doesn’t need to ask if it’s good, she knows, and winks back in the unspoken language of the love of good food.
It’s eight thirty nine now, Denis will be appearing soon. The restaurant is only open until half past, that’s an hour and a half, Denis reasons that if people can’t be bothered turning up early then he can’t be bothered to cook good food for them! Fair point I say, and there he is circulating through the small restaurant, dropping in on the tables grasping a small glass of some sort of fire-water, this is hands on customer service! Now he appears in front of me, ” C’était bien eh Gallois?” “Non, Denis,” his face falls, “C’était le meilleur!” It was the best! We laugh and grasp each other’s hand, it’s a very French thing to feed your guest so well and I am truly honoured.
I sit pondering the past eleven days, it’s been quite a trip. Rain, sleet/snow, thunder and lightning, then almost too much sun and heat. Then there’s that new girl of mine; I haven’t told you before, but I thought we had a big problem part way into the journey. She began to really misfire badly at low revs and just felt awful, keeping the revs up around 3000 helped but it wasn’t right. Fortunately my mate “Moth” at Plymouth Harley Davidson helped out and hence the visit to Alba Harley in Italy, who found a defective spark plug, e problema risolto! Since then she’s run like the true lady that she is! I’m not going to make comparisons between my two Harley’s, because they are different and so will their adventures be; they can compare notes when back in the workshop at Dookes H.Q. I’m certainly not going to interrupt that! Let’s just say, that the beginning for Baby is right up there with Harls and that takes some living up to, but it ain’t a bad kick off!
And then there’s me. . . Well it’s not every day that you complete a road trip that’s been to celebrate your retirement is it? Yeah that’s right, I’m quitting the rat race! I may be a tad young, but looking at the DNA pool that I come from, there ain’t many real old ‘uns around, well not males anyway . . . the females are indestructible and go on forever!
So I intend to pace myself and put the emphasis on enjoying life and being around for Mrs Dookes rather than working myself into the ground. I’ve lost too many friends and old colleagues over the past couple of years and eventually you realise that you ain’t indestructible!
We will be on the road again and I hope you are going to ride along with us, but as ever it’s been a blast thanks for your company! We’ve got about 150miles to ride tomorrow and it’ll be, as always, cool to know you are riding with us. Thank you everyone for your comments, feedback and company during this last trip, it means I’m never alone.
“I’m not looking back, but I want to look around me now. See more of the people and the places that surround me now. Freeze this moment a little bit longer, make each impression a little bit stronger.”
Catch you soon.