We were so relieved to be leaving Spain that we stopped for a short while at the border on the French side and bought some doughnuts for breakfast but when we opened the sellophane packets they turned out to be past their sell by date and starting to go mouldy so they had to go straight in the bin. Except for Anthony who declared himself so hungry that he could eat his own arm so he just nibbled carefully as close as he dared (which was alarmingly close in my opinion) around the green bits. So much for French haute cuisine!
At last we were in France and now we did some serious non-stop driving to try and catch up time. We were short of cash so avoided the motorways but this didn’t hold us up at all because the French N roads are of a really high standard and as this was Saturday the traffic was very light. The sun was out now and the first stretch was through the last of the Pyrenees. Anthony was driving and this presented the next problem. He had very bad eyesight and wore reactalite lenses, which were fine on the open road but presented a real problem when they responded only very slowly indeed to the changed conditions when we went through tunnels cut through the mountains, and this presented a few moments of sheer panic when it would have been handy to have a change of underpants close by.
We simply didn’t stop as we drove relentlessly north. First we passed Bordeaux, which we were delighted to discover had a by-pass and then Angouléme and then Poitiers. This was like the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race and we kept switching drivers at regular intervals while others slept to be ready for their turn. And as we drove north the weather deteriorated and we left the sun behind and the sky became overcast and cloudy. We just kept going and going and going and then, when we reached the city of Tours, we could go no further so we pulled into a motel on the southern outskirts, booked in, went to our rooms and rested for a while on comfortable beds and clean linen. It was heaven.
Next to the motel was a fast food place and the others would have been happy to eat there but I couldn’t handle the shame associated with dining in such a place when I was in France so I argued my case for something indigenous and the others finally gave in. Somewhere just out of town we found a restaurant that looked suitably Gallic so we parked the car and went in.
It was a strange place that had only one option, which was raw beef and boiled potatoes but we were too tired to change our minds so we agreed to eat there. The beef was being cooked over a 30-watt light bulb but the trick was to pick up a scalding plate and when the thin slices were cut and handed over the heat in the ceramic would complete the cooking process. Actually it was delicious and we all went back for a couple of second helpings.
After our meal we sat chatting and looking back on the journey and a Rastafarian French student enquired if we had a cigarette, we said no and apologised and he tutted and shrugged his shoulders disapprovingly in that very French sort of way, threw out his arms in disgust and went to the cigarette machine to buy his own. He went back to his table and sulked in a Charles de Gaulle sort of way and I noticed that he didn’t offer us one even though he must have known that we were non-smokers and would surely say ‘non merci’.
We had done really well today and we had driven nearly a thousand kilometres and now we were only four hours behind schedule, we had caught up a huge amount of time but now we were really, really worn out with travel fatigue so we were all glad to get back to the motel for a well earned good nights sleep.