Comment ca va, Grand Meaulnes? - 19 September 2005

Inspired by the Fournier's novel and the Sideways movie me and my good ole flat mate Rob decided to explore some hidden regions of the mysterious France... to discover that the Village People of YMCA fame should have been stopped a long time ago.

Mademoiselle Mathilde, moustaches and the secrets of Tours

Back in the castle!The next morning , after a sleepless night  because of someone snoring at level beyond the noise produced by the sinking Titanic, I managed in some way to drive  back to the previous day's castle, in La Chapelle d'Angillon.

MathildeThis time the castle was open and we were welcomed by our tour guide, Mathilde, a sweet French girl who could speak English (ze chateau iz tres old).

Secret rooms in the castleShe obviously knew a lot about the castle and Alain Fournier. While we weren't much interested in the royal rooms where two kings slept (my joke "So two kings slept in this bed uh? Together?" wasn't much appreciated), the room in the tower dedicated to Alain Fournier was very interesting.
With all the walls covered in original pictures and postcard from the early century (1900s, not 2000s), plus many documents written by Fournier, Robert probably found the treasure he was seeking for. The sheer amount of information was too big, and soon he and Mathilde spent some time talking about the books, while I was just watching the pictures and thinking about the next meal.

Fournier's moustachesOne thing struck me though. The moustaches. Back in the early 1900s every real man had a real pair of moustache. Long, short, hairy, not very hairy: didn't matter, moustaches were a sign of manhood. And then two people destroyed that great fashion: Hitler and the Village People.
In my last trip to Poland I saw some pictures of my granddad and he was sporting a nice pair of what you would call now "Hitler moustaches".
They were great looking on those pictures, but thanks to the German dictator now there probably more forbidden than a Nazi flag (I've seen more Nazi flags in my life than this type of moustaches on someone's face!).
Rob looking at the picturesAnd then the Village People came with their gay anthem YMCA. And after the video, being a policeman or a biker or having moustaches was just too gay (Freddie Mercury didn't help it either). Only people born long before are now allowed to have a moustaches (my dad had a Hulk Hogan style, now, just like my uncles and his friends, he settled down for a Magnum PI).
For example, I can't wear moustaches.
Neither can my friends.
Too gay, unfortunately.
Village People, shame on you! I hate you so much.

Robert McKeown and MathildeAnyway, after saying goodbye to Mathilde, who was probably falling in love with my Irish mate (and vice versa I assume) we drove for more than 3 hours to reach our next destination: Bourges. The view from the motorway was great: this medieval city has been built around the main hill with the spectacular and very, very big cathedral at the top of it.

Bourges CathedralSome luck: because it was a celebration day, the ticket to climb the top tower was free. And, with a gargantuan effort, we climbed the 60.000 stairs (maybe less, but memory can fail me) to reach the top of the tower. I think I've never been so close to the sky, God, clouds and the big bell.

Olaf and RobSoon after climbing down the tower Rob and I stopped in the first restaurant to be finally disappointed after so many good meals. We ate some French overpriced crap in some tourists' restaurant. Well, it was coming. It was the classic tourists rip off and we fell for it. Again, we ran away from that dreadful restaurant and decided to move to our last destination: Epineul Le-Fleuriel. This was the last place to visit in our trip before going back to Tours.

Rob's helpFew hours later, with Rob still sleeping in the car (the dude just love to be in the navigator's sit), we reached the small town.
Alain Fournier used to live there and the school where he studied has been converted to a museum, keeping everything the way it was. This time, for the first time, I left Rob alone.
The schoolI understood the emotional importance of finally arriving at the end of his exploration and I let him go inside the museum by himself. We didn't have enough changes for two tickets anyway, and I wanted to get some rest in the car before driving to Tours.
1 hour later he was back, satisfied with what he saw. And then it was time to go back.

We reached Tours probably 3 or 4 hours later. We tried to avoid motorway and look for some vineyards but luck wasn't with us this time, and we arrived in the same city from where we started in the early evening. After finding a place to stay in a cheap hotel (we're 2 stars kind of guys, everything else is too expensive) we explored Tours, looking for some place to end our night, maybe getting drunk.

Rob in the restaurantMore Wine!Looking for such a place was a nightmare though. Tours, on Saturday night, seemed to be another ghost city. Where were they? Where do boys and girls go if they want to have some fun? After following 4 girls for quite a lot, we found the secret Tours' Piccadilly Circus.
A great area with many restaurants and pub and young people. Another bottle of wine and some divine mussels later, we hit the local Irish pub to, in a great Irish style, drink some Jameson whiskey to celebrate the successful trip. Robert McKeown and Olaf Olgiati. Great craic.

We were back in the hotel just before the hotel a bit drunk, but happy.

Robert McKeown: true irishOlaf Olgiati: trueThe next morning, with a light hangover (even the hangovers are better in France!), we left Tours to drive to the airport, give back the car, and leave France. I forgot how the French don't like to get out of their houses on Sundays. Everything was closed, shut down, even the petrol station (and the 24/7 didn't accept my credit card obviously). The car renting place was closed too, and I had to leave my car with a not too full tank and a small scratch (not my fault!) in the parking. Lazy people.

We left Tours in a sunny Sunday morning and arrived in London in a grey and rainy afternoon. Being used to it after so many travels I didn't really care, but for Rob probably was just too much: he now wants to leave in a country with better wine, food and less traffic (and Mathilde). Would you blame him?

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