Le French Excursion – a trilogy in 5 cars – Part 2

Sunday: Day 3

Packed full of good intentions, croissants and fresh coffee we left the hotel exactly as planned about an hour late. We had to do at least two tests and the first entitled “John McEnroe says” was a cracker. Basically we were given a route – emphatically NOT a map – with directions and distances. Same deal as before.. get to the finish having averaged exactly 30mph. Well Big Mike has a sense of humour and we did finally twig that the clue was in the test title. Witness the exchange in the purple Midget:

SNAKE: ‘There… THERE… turn right.. now, now.. NOW!’
TRICKY: ‘It’s a track you dickhead.. no way, we’ll trash the car…it’s a TRACK! You CANNOT be SERIOUS?!’
SNAKE & TRICKY: ‘Ahh I think we’ve cracked it…this is the right route’
SNAKE: ‘Faster….we’re late’
TRICKY: ‘It’s a bloody track and this car has the ground clearance of a snail!’
SNAKE: ‘Stop f***ing whinging and put your foot down’
TRICKY: ‘$*#@!

You can tell we had a lot of fun. We won that one too. I think.

Next we headed off to the riverside town of Montherme in Belgium. Now this was an absolutely beautiful place. An old Ardennes town at the foot of steeply sloping forests leading down into a winding river valley. Parked up by the bridge we went in search of loo’s and coffee. Yours truly filled up water bottles to counteract a slight weep from a head gasket in the process running the gauntlet of the local swans who didn’t look either impressed or friendly.

Now if we had thought Test 2 was a toughie…we were unprepared for Test 3. This one did come with a map though. Sweet, we thought, until the rules were explained: we were to drive the shortest distance between the start and a village about 10 miles away. But one village en route was out of bounds – and we had to visit three others, once only. And we had to plan our own route.

Queue much feverish plotting by navigators while drivers nervously paced up and down. Well to cut a long story short we were doing quite well – heading down another farm track when Big Mike jumped out at us with another impromptu early finish. So we waited for the others. And waited. Forty five minutes later we realized they weren’t coming. Well, at least not our way. They were all waiting in the destination village wondering where the hell we were….their view of the shortest route was different to ours….

A few recriminations later and we headed for our hotel – faded glory now adjacent to a paper plant… shame as once upon a time it would have been a fabulous setting. No matter, that evening dinner was special. Another – it wouldn’t happen here moment – as the owner and his wife opened on Sunday just for us. Ten hungry and thirsty travellers. We had a wonderful meal – not to the same standard as the Michelin 1* the night before – but much more relaxed and altogether we had a better night out. No idea how much we drank, but I recall a mid ‘70’s Armagnac towards the end.

At some point over dinner I believe results were announced…

Part 3 – with the results after the Rally!

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