We stopped at the first hotel we saw, The Agriculture – part of the Logis de France group. Lou held the bikes as I went in. An over-heated little waiter acknowledged my presence then scurried off. I waited then went into the restaurant – a firm “Oui” from him and I waited some more. This went on for a few minutes before I went behind the counter and checked the register myself. All 15 rooms were accounted for.
We went into town, walking out the other side without spotting a hotel. We asked some teenagers who didn’t know of any hotels but suggested we try a bar or restaurant as they may. They didn’t.
I spotted a small road sign on the bridge to the Bel Air hotel. We cycled out of town and across the Loire on to a long road with auto repair places and residential homes. It didn’t look promising but we didn’t have any other options so kept going.
I saw a Les Routiers sign – hurrah! I tried to explain what Les Routiers was as we climbed a short hill but by the time I had we were at the Bel Air. It looked closed, with shutters down, but it was two buildings and the sign said ‘open’. We went in and a woman wearing orange tie-dye trousers showed us into the hotel.
The room was tiny with a double bed. The loo and shower were down the hall. We washed our hands and went down for dinner in smelly clothes. The starter was a buffet – tuna, veg and what I thought was pasta and peppers but the pasta turned out to be baby squid. I had a rose and Lou opted for beer.
The main course arrived – meat on aubergine. I scooped off the meat and gave it to Lou whilst she slid her aubergines onto my plate. We’d done it all surprisingly loudly and a small crowd had gathered to laugh. I was so embarrassed. The chap at the next table took pity and said “C’est comme maison” and kindly traded an aubergine with his wife to make us feel better. We had cheese but having eaten so quickly we had no room for pudding and coffee. The bill, which included the room, dinner, drinks and breakfast for two was around E50 – fabulous.
Lou asked the woman where she could buy cigarettes and the orange trousered lady said “Avec moi”, leading Lou out to show her whilst I polished off my wine. Lou came back in, bright red. The woman had taken her outside and bummed a fag off a fellow customer, explaining that “we’re all family here”.
We paid up and left, walking the two mile round trip to get cigarettes from a barman who pulled down shoe box from above the bar and offered us a choice of different packs from inside it. There are clearly some odd rules about cigarette sales here.
Another glass of wine on our return and after declining the offer from a trucker to go back to his room for drinks we went to bed and slept soundly, dreaming of the strange Johnny Halliday memorabilia that filled the bar.