The Blue Beast Eight

Monday, 6 May 2002

Champtoceaux

The Blue Beast or le Grand Bleu celebrated its 60000 km birthday yesterday. Not bad for an 8 year old. Petrol consumption is around 21 mpg and apart from Cruise Control and the radio not working it seems in perfect condition. The scrape down the side received during a particularly torrid parking session in the Doha Marriott has responded brilliantly to T-Cut, a polish which removes scratches. 

For some reason, when I say the Blue Beast is a ’94 Cadillac, people imagine I’m driving some leftover prop from an Elvis Presley film. Do I look like Elvis? The Beast was owned by a cousin to the Emir and was chauffeur-driven, it is understated elegance on wheels. 

Understated Elegance

Cadillac De Ville Concours 4.6 Litre V8 300bhp one careful owner and one careless one.

Yesterday I was astonished to see an Elvis-style red convertible heading towards me on the narrow road that runs along the levee beside the Loire. Not being an expert, I am not sure if it was a Cadillac or a Studebaker or a Chevrolet but I was delighted to be ‘flashed’ by him. He recognised style! 

Later on another 50’s American saloon closed in behind me, this time a two-tone white and eau-de-nil number and we drove in convoy through the little villages drawing gasps of admiration from the peasants who lined our route. (I made the last bit up. It was pouring with rain and the streets were deserted, I doubt if anyone noticed our passing by)

My night-stop was an even cheaper Hotel Plastique, just £14 a night with bathroom and loo down the corridor. The rooms had paper-thin walls and not only could I hear what was going on in the room next door, I felt I was participating as my bed rocked rhythmically with theirs. The shower room had something I’ve never seen before. It was a body drier, like a hair dryer but set high up on the wall. When you turned it on it blew hot air all over you, like being in a car wash. Very comforting! 

I tried connecting to the internet this morning, courtesy of the elderly guardians of the reception but either the switchboard was bewitched or my laptop is malfunctioning.

My drive along the banks of the Loire yesterday was interspersed with rain showers which added an air of melancholy to the day. My eagerness to press on south was counterbalanced by a desire to slow down and enjoy every moment, knowing I would not pass this way again. 

I am using an old yellow Michelin map on which I mark my route with a highlighter. Occasionally I come across a page with roads driven on previous trips through France marked in similar fashion. Had I known then what I know now, I would have driven more slowly and enjoyed the view a bit more. Life’s too short for autoroutes, I’ve decided.

I have been warned that AFDs are bad for me unless I understand that the D stands for Daylight. This means that when bad light stops play it’s OK to have a drink. I now welcome those dark storm clouds that have been blighting my passage. 

The banks of the Loire

Sunday afternoon I picnicked on the banks of the Loire near Champtoceaux with the last baguette on the baker’s shelves and a little pate and cheese. Madame in the charcuterie where I bought the pate insisted I had a camembert as it would not be possible to enjoy a meal without cheese she said. As I had adopted the revised ruling re AFD I drank the remains of the wine from my Grand Bouffe. (Yes, there was some left after all, surprised? So was I!) 

Isn’t it amazing how things seem so much clearer after a couple of glasses of wine? 

I am really going to push south today. 

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