Tuesday, 1 September 2009

To Win, or Toulouse???


Bob had visited Calais so often that the
transformation seemed to him very gradual


How does a Frenchman play poker? What exactly is a fox dog? Is my 5 iron cursed? Not fundamentally vital questions to most, but all highly relevant ones during what was a beautifully varied, and more than a little sweltering seven days holiday in Southern France.

Two families, united by marriage and the common goal to seek refuge from Britain’s barbecue summer, boarded the 12.30 flight from Gatwick to Toulouse; “Wait” said the wisest of us all, “maybe that’s the arrival time.” Oh God...

We were all grateful then, that EasyJet ensured the flight was delayed for over two hours. Once En France we headed to our remote cottage in the heart of the Gers region. By remote, I mean that the few houses that huddled together between the Triffid-like armies of sunflower fields, constituted the second largest settlement on our local map.

No shops for miles then, and so immediately my vision of the bicycled, bereted Frenchman lost his baguette and garlic string. Nevertheless, we hastened to the nearest store, and performed a large shop with the mindset that only ever possesses the holidaymaker. Out went the staple goods and fresh veg, and in went the wine, cheese and cooked meats. Our good health ensured then, we proceeded in a purely British fashion to ‘planning’ our relaxing holiday. Slots were allocated, schemes hatched and requests placed for numerous activities that, considering the soaring temperatures, were questionable in their sagacity, as the conspicuously absent locals during mid-day hours proved.

By far the most audacious of these was the golf trip. The men’s day out was planned for an early morning departure to avoid us being labelled mad dogs, or worse, Englishmen, later in the day. This early start was made absolutely impossible however, as the breakfast croissants didn’t arrive until after 10am.

It was almost certainly the hot weather that led to my defeat in the inaugural ‘Chambord Open’. I have tried but failed to fathom any other reason why my swing would desert me on the 4th, and come crawling back, panting, as a mirage on the shimmering horizon of the final hole, by which time my score card read like a cricket innings. Plaudits go to my brother James, who (somehow) kept his game and romped to victory, really pulling it out of the cool bag.

The ladies’ day sounded much less exerting, with a tour of the shady local ch√Ęteaux wine cellars followed by extended tasting. Why didn’t we think of that?

A large part of the holiday was spent preparing food, and much of the remaining time spent eating it. If barbecuing is an art, then we were treated to the Sistine chapel by what can only be described as brother-in-law Nick’s ‘creative vision’. My donation to the culinary gallery was the ‘Rustic Risotto’, although even the alliteration couldn’t sway the critics from the barbecued masterpiece.

It was a week of intense competition, and the crushing disappointment of losing out in the Chambord Open spurred me on to narrowly take the Poker title. Five year old nephew Sebbie swam a personal best to usurp the swimming crown, which although thoroughly deserved, speaks volumes about exertion levels the rest of us were able to produce in the sweltering conditions.

Genetically incapable of failing to seek out a bargain, Lily and Lara managed to find a car boot sale/market in the midst of the arable surroundings, and it must be said that even a Frenchman’s cast offs can seem more stylish than the British High Street at times. This rural rummaging was juxtaposed with myself and Nick roaming the streets of the largest town in the area feverishly searching for a Wi-fi connection. We found one, amazingly, but not without some very confused looks from the locals. What exactly is the French for Wi-Fi?

My thanks and regards go out to each and every member of the vacationing clan. Here’s to next year!!! (Although maybe somewhere with air-con, hey Mum?)

I have hitherto neglected to mention that we were staying near a town called Condom. The very place that modern day contraception was born (or rather, wasn’t). It has been hard to sidestep the gags, and accept the applause that my restraint deserves. Merci, et bon soir…..

1 comment:

Nick said...

Great write up on an authentic French holiday. Appreciate the accolades on the BBQ piece. My lasting memory is of you all looking up at the expanse of sky discussing the universe and the merits of time and space..Boff