Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Friday, March 23, 2007


After an unexpected 50+ mile/+4 hour day last week, I decided to take it easy the next day and cruised all of 15 miles to the nearest big town. Fed up with paying out for Hotels, I figured Cholet would have more to offer for your budget traveller. I was wrong, as it turned out, and had to settle in a town centre hotel for about the same price as everywhere else (non-town centre hotels were the same price and given the choice I'd prefer to be in the middle). Resigned to another 40 euros flying out of my wallet I decided to make the most of it and headed into town for an early beer to see what the night life was like - this was, after all, Saturday night in the biggest town I had been in yet. A few beers in a few nice little French bars, and a bit of journal writing, and things seemed pretty normal - i.e. non-descript. Then I saw the Guinness sign and decided to see how well it travelled. Not too bad, as it turns out, and after a pint of the black stuff (I think they had to dust the pint glass off for me) I felt...ahem...confident enough to stick a Euro on the pool table and test my French trying to work out the local 'rules'. It turns out they don't really have any, nor any pool skills (at least not in this particular bar), but I did strike up conversation with a few of them and we soon abandoned the pool in favour of the bar, and more Guinness, to discuss whatever it is that men discuss in pubs.

Jean-Christophe was the only other person in the bar drinking Guinness by the pint and we found common ground not only in our drinking habits. My normal limit of an evening whilst 'on the road' is two, maybe three, 'French' beers. That's halves, if you didn't know. After a good more than three I insisted on eating, so Jean-Christophe and I decanted ourselves to a nearby pizzeria where he, being French, insisted on 'a petite aperitif'...of whisky, followed by unusual quantities of red wine. The pizza was magnificant, as I suppose it would be, but after yet another beer in a club afterwards I had to homeward bound before I fell over. At somepoint in that last bar, Jean-Christophe mentioned that I should stay with him the following night.

That was about as much as I remembered the following morning when I woke, and I prepared myself for a day of (little) cycling, unsure whether he meant it or, indeed, if he had ever said it. At 11am sharp, as I was packing the last of my things up, I saw a familiar figure trudging down the road so I open the window to greet it with a 'cava?'. Jean-Christophe looked up at me with bloodshot eyes and replied 'non'. But he was there at least and we packed my belongings into his car and headed across town to his apartment.
I spent the day on the internet, phoning my family and occassionally watching TV. Jean-Christophe spent it on the sofa drinking Coca Cola, but it was a pleasant and relaxing day. My natural thoughts (that he was a murderer/psycho/wrongun) eased throughout the day and by the time we headed out for a medicinal beer and game of pool (about 6pm) such thoughts had completely gone. We chatted, played pool and joked as, I suppose, good friends do on Sunday afternoons - him in broken English, me in broken French - then we went and ate heartily at a restaurant and returned 'home' to watch a film then sleep.
The following morning he insisted on taking me to the local supermarket for my daily supplies and all I had to give Jean-Christophe as we said 'au revoir' an hour later was my thanks. I hope that some day I will be able to return the favour. Is this the nicest man in France?

He gets my vote.


  • At 5:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I saw this guys photo on the French equivalent of crime watch...he is wanted in connection with abducting English tourists


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