Planes, Trains and Vintage Automobiles : A Quinssa Trip to the South of France
Part Three: From Montpellier to the Motors of Millau
It rained all the way to Montpellier station. We spied an eaterie and settled in for lunch. Our waitress was THE most miserable woman you have ever seen in your life. We ordered our lunch and drinks and (silly us) asked for some bread. Our ever-helpful waitress then brought us a basket of bread and set it down on the adjacent table, so that it was basically unreachable. Thanks. She scowled at us throughout the meal and only became more human when it was time to pay up. A tip from us? Yeah, smile more at your customers from the beginning and they might leave you a decent tip!!
We hung around in the train station, watching with interest as all the trains going in our direction were showing delayed. There was only one connecting train to get us to Millau, so we started praying that our train would leave on time. Heading out to the platform we spied our train (destination Barcelona dont fall asleep BatQuin!). We got on and willed the train to move. BQ and Prof had the comedy train seats, which resembled a fair ride, moving backwards and forwards in a rather alarming manner. Off went the train to Beziers (yes, I know wed already been there but that is where the train to Millau goes from). Our train arrived at Beziers about 15 minutes late, and we were all praying that our connecting train wouldnt be several platforms away. We were in luck. We only had to sprint across the platform, and then found ourselves in a very plush train going to Millau.
It was a very pleasant train journey from Beziers to Millau. Lots of nice scenery and the very impressive bridge thats under construction across the valley (there are pics). Sleepy Hollow amused himself by taking numerous pictures of himself, proving that a self-timing device on your camera is a very entertaining feature. En route we were informed that Simon, Anne and Tall Sharon, despite booking a separate B&B miles from us, had actually ended up in the Campanile Hotel we were booked into. What IS it with these Frenchies?
On arrival at Millau, we were surrounded by the scruffiest bunch of people you would wish to avoid! The place looked like a Big Issue Sellers Convention, and the train station was obviously HQ. The weather had also taken a turn for the worse and it was persistently pouring down. A very bedraggled group of Geezers stood waiting for a taxi but sadly none appeared. Prof and Sleepy Hollow tried to find out how long it would take to walk to our hotel but decided against it in the rain, so Prof went off in search of somewhere dry. He came back moments later having located a bar that was open. Off we went to the bar, getting soaked by the rain, and trying to avoid the copious amounts of dog poo that was all over the pavements. On arrival at the bar we were told it was closed. Lots of grumpy-looking, wet Geezers now. On we travelled until we found an open bar and ordered a drink. BatQuin asked the barman for the number of a taxi firm. She duly rang and was told no taxis. Hmmm maybe theyd all gone into hiding due to the Big Issue Sellers gathering? SH then tried to ring Simon to plead for a lift to the hotel, but Simon had imbibed too much vino to drive, so he sent us some cabs. Two separate cabs could not be found, so one had to do two trips!!
Safely at the Campanile, we were then faced with another miserable French person. We got our room keys and toddled off to find our rooms, agreeing to meet up shortly to go off in search of sustenance (yes, Prof & BQ were on time!)
Our hotel was in, erm, an, erm . . . sort of industrial estate but shining in the distance was a sign that suggested drink, food and music, so we headed in that direction. Once inside we realised we had stumbled on a place which made the Ugly Car Park look stylish and full of atmosphere. The music was dire, the beer was OK (no bitter for the boys though) but there seemed to be a distinct lack of food. The place was also full of the strangest-looking people. It was suggested that in-breeding had obviously been going on for some considerable time. [You forgot that there was a Peter Stringfellow looky-likey in the bar Prof].
To pass the time, we went off to commandeer the pool tables. BaldRick and Sleepy Hollow went off in search of food. In the same way that a thirsty man in the desert imagines an oasis, one assumes BR & SH saw the word Ginsters in neon lights appear above the garage. Sadly they were not in luck. They returned empty-handed, with SH muttering, must be the only f***ing garage in Europe that ONLY sells petrol. Much drinking and pool-playing followed. TallSharon and BaldRick were the champions, seeing off Prof & BatQuin and Innuendo & Sleepy Hollow. Unable to take the excitement anymore, we retired for the evening.
The views at breakfast would have been quite nice if not for the units on the industrial estate! We perused the local papers to check details of our match the following day. The kick-off time was uncertain to say the least! Even Scotty didnt have a clue because he kept getting conflicting information. The French reporter, bless him, had translated half of Andres name, so in France our lovely captain because Andrew Vos! If hed done the whole lot, I guess that would be Andrew Yours! On the back page was an article about Quins former player, lemblamatique Keith Wood. It has just GOT to mean talismanic hasnt it?!
We had expected Neil to have joined us in France by this time (who is Neil he looks like a strategically shaved Ewok came the uncharitable reply) but there was no sign of him. A Geezer was dispatched to go and ask at reception if they had a message from him. Said Geezer returned with a smirk on his face. Apparently the hotel was expecting Neil, he was to share the room with the large, blonde, tattooed man so that would be BaldRick then, but how did the chambermaid know that BaldRick was blonde?! It turned out she walked in on him naked so should BaldRick now be called BlondeRick? Neil never did turn up, whether or not the chambermaid returned to Ricks room is a secret we shall never know!
Whilst waiting for Scotty so we could head off to the Roquefort caves, the geezers lazed around reading. On Scotty's arrival, we all piled into cars and went off for a bit of sight-seeing, and hopefully some cheese.
The very informative film showed how cheese used to be made and the accompanying music was hilarious. We decided that the film should have been narrated by Mr Chomley-Warner, along the lines of . . . . and this is how foreign Johnnies make cheese. . . . Much sniggering from the back of the room. Into the caves we went. Sleepy Hollow kept banging his head on the lamps, BQ resisted the urge to try to hang upside down from the beams and everyone appeared to find something to giggle about. The tour guide appeared to have some props for the last segment of his tour some wine bottles and some cheese! Prof, BQ and IA made sure they were closest to the said items in case any got handed out. Tight-fisted French guide didnt give us ANY wine at all! Boo Hiss Boo. On exiting, we were all handed a minuscule piece of bread with a minuscule piece of Roquefort on it. For SH to have been sated, he would have needed to do the tour an extra 30 times.
Feeling hungry we set off for a very nice lunch (around 3.30pm) and after that ambled back down to the cars. Prof, BQ, BaldRick & IA managed to lose the second group, but on their return found the two cars in the carpark still, so breathed a sigh of relief. The other group had the drivers so they knew they were safe too!
A short walk into town later on, dodging the poo, and we found ourselves (eventually) at a restaurant for dinner where we took bets on what time the match would actually kick off against Castres. Innuendo was adamant that Quins would kick off at 8.53pm!
We got up and headed off for breakfast. The group dispersed to do their own thing. Prof, IA and BQ sat reading their respective books. For some strange reason they all sat at different tables! We arranged to meet up and head into town for a late lunch/early dinner and then to cheer on the boys as they set off from the Town Hall, supposedly in vintage cars. On the way into Millau we were accosted by Pookie who had cycled in from the teams training camp, looking fresh as a daisy. The local gendarmes commented on our fine attire and waved at us as we made our way to the town hall.
The boys arrived by team bus and congregated on the steps for a photo. Josh waved :o) Simon was looking puzzled at some of the initials on the backs of the t-shirts. Whos CS? he asked. In a thoroughly blonde response, BQ says Simon Keogh? Erm, several embarrassing hours later and BQ just about manages to redeem herself by spotting that it was Cameron Steele!
The vintage cars turned up and the boys were squashed into the small cars in what resembled a French version of Whacky Races. Roy drove past in a sporty red triumph. Room for a little one? shouts BQ. No, grins Roy. HA! You wait until you need a lift anywhere Mr Winters!! As there were no more cars, the remaining players got into the bus and drove off. Then, as if by magic, three more cars appeared! The geezers looked at each other and then set off at a sprint across the busy road just think of a Le Mans start and youll get the idea. What about us? they say. Cant have empty cars can we?? In the ensuing confusion first one driver then the rest said OK and in we piled. Simon and Anne, followed by Prof, AJB and Rick, followed by IA, TS & BQ got driven round the town like the celebrities they truly are and then joined up with the players convoy, much to the astonishment of the players. We then expected a short ride to the ground but no, we were taken through the town centre twice before heading off to the stadium. Through the gates of the ground we swept, waving regally at the former chairman of the HSC. The look on the other travelling Quins faces present was priceless especially SleepyHollow, who had made his own way to the ground, and Evs who just turned away with a colourful metaphor on his lips and a look of amused surprise on his face. Around the pitch we went, the spectators clapped, we waved (and laughed). I am not sure if SimonC and Innuendos flip top head smiles have gone even now. What a TOP bit of blagging, lets just hope we havent peaked too early in the season.
We took our seats and bantered with the friendly local supporters. Prof compiled the match reports, but it was very funny to see JK and PT being sent off by the referee. They were not amused though. The ref was, it was suggested, a right petanquer. We were cheated out of three points by the visually challenged officials, but stayed around to cheer the boys off the pitch. We were concerned for Matt Moores safety at one stage, when he appeared to have been accosted. Indeed, a little ditty was sung to him:
Matty Moore, Matty Moore, sprint off down the wing
Matty Moore, Matty Moore, save your precious skin
Run, run away; from _ _ _ (youll have to fill this in yourself . . . )
Matty Moore, Matty Moore, Matty Moore
The Mayor of Millau came over to say hi and was duly geezered by BQ. Then a cameraman and a guy with a microphone turned up. Anyone speak French?, they said. We all shook our heads violently (well I did), but then the others all pointed to BatQuin. She does, they said. Cheers! Thanks a lot! Love you all too!
Une etoile de TV was born . . . NOT! BQ tried her best to make sense in French, which, given that she cant manage it in English, was pretty hard going. The Franglais interview would have been very enlightening for the viewers, Im sure. I told them how wed been cheated out of 3 points; I told them we didnt care though because we were on holiday; I told them how the beer was OK but Prof would much prefer London Pride; I told them . . . nothing. I didnt venture any more information at all!
We spent our time chatting and drinking after the match as you will be able to see from the photos. BQ then accosted a guy behind the bar to enquire about a taxi number to take us home. Dont worry, he said Ill give you all a lift in my lorry. Now, we were used to more stylish transport by now, but we gladly accepted the lift. So, we all got into the back of Eduards (aka M. No Trousers) van while his young daughter, Christelle, navigated. They came to join us in a couple of games of pool back at Le Millau MadStad and then went on their way. Top people!
Time to leave Millau and head home :o( We got taxis to the station and sat on the platform waiting for the train. Sleepy Hollow took some very atmospheric shots of himself . . . before AJB, Prof, BQ and IA ruined a couple of his snaps. Wondering why the train hasnt appeared, SH went off to check and found it was because the train was in the car park, masquerading as a coach. So, on we got and headed off to Rodez, taking a short nap along the way everyone (except Prof who stayed awake to photograph this exciting happening). A quick coffee in Rodez and we were back on the train on the way to Toulouse. SH seemed intent on breaking his camera, by balancing it in precarious places to take stylish shots! The other travellers were looking at him slightly non-plussed.
On arrival at Toulouse, we headed off on the airport bus to the airport. We passed all the lovely architecture that had caught SHs eye on our arrival and waved au revoir to France.
Checking in at the airport went well, and we sat around waiting for our flight. SH went off in search of food for the flight (well, you never know with BA do you?). Commenting on the eating habits of the sveltest of geezers, AJB commented Were bulimic, honest, we just keep forgetting to throw up!. On that note, we boarded the plane and came back to old Blighty. We were treated to a sandwich from BA (not enough to keep ME going, let alone the boys!) and an uneventful flight.
Managing to get through customs unaccosted, we said our goodbyes and headed off!
Many thanks to Will (SH) for organising the Quinssa trip and for chivvying us along during the holiday. A large merci to all my travelling companions who made it such a fun trip. Thanks to AJB for the lift to and from the airport (and for dealing with my first blonde moments!), and, of course, particular thanks go to the Mayor of Millau for providing such marvellous (and obviously appropriate) transport for us on our last night.
Oh, and will I do this again? In true BatQuin stylee I shall say NO, NEVER! and see you all in Valladolid!
The Match Report