Our first day in France involved the longest single drive of the holiday.
We had to drive from Roscoff in Brittany down to Poitiers, which as everyone knows, is a French town named after an American actor.
I love driving in France. The roads are excellent, the signposting is second to none and French drivers on the whole are very courteous and disciplined.
I hadn’t bothered examining maps or memorising routes. Frankly, I didn’t even know what towns we were supposed to be driving through. I just told Roger up on our satellite that we wanted to go to Poitiers and left the rest to him. He was brilliant. Not only did he give excellent directions, but he even warned us of any speed traps that lay waiting for the unwary.
Herself was quite concerned for Roger. She pointed out that he never seemed to take a break and always seemed to be cheerful. She said that she wouldn’t be so damned cheerful if she were stuck up on a satellite and that it must be very lonely for him up there. I pointed out that there were hundreds of Rogers up there all cheerfully giving directions, and that if anything, it must be quite crowded up there. She was happy after that and went to sleep and snored through most of the trip.
We arrived in Poitiers without any problems. I will be honest and say that I probably wouldn’t have found our hotel but for Roger. He knew exactly where it was and unerringly directed us the wrong way up a one way street and into the hotel car park.
The French are great for hotels that cater for the person on the move. We find they are very efficient and have great facilities and we get exactly what we pay for – a bed for the night and good food. This time though, we discovered they had fallen in line with the anti-smoking nazis and had banned all smoking in the rooms and the restaurant. Fuck that.
We had an excellent meal that evening and afterwards brought our bottles of wine out to the patio for a smoke.
I lit up, and as is my habit, I produced a huge cloud of smoke. A strange thing happened – all the smoke rose in the air, formed one compact cloud and immediately was sucked straight in the door of the restaurant. As a result, we were sitting outside in a smoke-free environment, while all the patrons inside coughed and choked on the cloud. There wasn’t a thing they could do about it! They had to close all the doors so they baked in the heat while we relaxed. Serves ’em right. Fucking sanctimonious bastards!
There were four other people out on the patio. There was a Dutchman and his wife and an Englishman and his wife. So far, so good. I would have ignored them but for the fact that the Englishman was the type of bollix that I abhor. He was a loudmouth, thought he knew everything and also thought that he was hilariously funny. He had to laugh loudly at everything he said and he had a laugh like an asthmatic donkey. It was hate at first site as far as I was concerned.
Within a minute or two, we [and the rest of the hotel] learned that he was a salesman [quelle surprise] and that he spent half his life in France and was therefore an expert on every place and every aspect of French culture. He was also the type that believes firmly that if you shout loud enough at any Frenchman, they’ll understand you.
The Dutchman was doing his best to be polite and listen but it was a losing battle. He had a glazed look in his eyes that I get when Herself is telling me about her dreams. The Dutchman’s wife was crying softly into her glass of wine. The Englishman’s wife was sitting with a contented smile on her face but then she had two empty wine bottles and an empty Valium bottle on the table in front of her.
I can only take so much of a bad thing.
A brief scuffle, and peace descended on the patio.
The five of us had a grand evening. The Dutch couple were very pleasant to talk to. The newly widowed Englishwoman enjoyed her new found freedom and Herself and myself had a great time.
It was a good start to the holiday.