The Big Trip, Day 2, later: Made of Orleans

Distance covered today: 130 miles

Total distance so far: 433 miles

I like this blogging from anywhere lark. I’m currently sitting in L’Hendrix Pub in Orleans, having finally found a good bar to drink in. There’s Mahalia Jackson on the jukebox, and a minute ago it was BB King.

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I napped for a bit in the van in Rouen, but I leave at about 2pm, on a journey south through Normandy that will take about three hours. I’ve finally got a decent phpne signal, and I tell Google Maps to avoid tolls.

That means about half an hour longer on the journey, but what the heck, I’m in no hurry. Plus it means I get to drive through towns instead of featureless boring dual carriageway across featureless flat farmland. The downside of that being the roundabouts. SO. MANY. ROUNDABOUTS. It’s worse than Milton Keynes.

But at least it’s daylight, which means I can actually see what I’m driving through, and it’s fun. Little French towns and villages pass me by. Allaines. Chevilly. All look simultaneously fantastic yet familiar, the distinctive architecture calling to mind every French movie I’ve ever watched. And let me tell you, that’s a LOT.

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As I drive, it occurs to me that I’m roughly following the allied advance after D-Day, and I can picture these peaceful fields torn up with artillery shells and tank tracks. Then I tell myself to stop that, lest I take on the World War 2 nostalgia of the Brexiters.

I avoid Paris – Patton and Montgomery never had to deal with congestion charges and low emission zones, and I don’t want to either. I’ve marked out a potential pitch on Park4Night, and this time I get precisely where I intended to. It’s nowhere near as nice a pitch as the Rouen one though, being basically a municipal car park right next to a tram station. I can look forward to tram bells roughly every fifteen minutes tonight.

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I started out early enough that I arrive at about 6pm, and I’d quite like to go out on the town. Trouble is, the town won’t cooperate. I’d kinda hoped to check out the gay scene, on the basis that it might sort of help bridge the language barrier. But Orleans has precisely one gay bar, and it only opens Wednesday to Saturday, so I’m out of luck there. There’s a gay sauna (which the Americans more honestly refer to as a ‘sex club’), but that shuts at 8pm, and by the time I’d get there I’d be paying 18 Euros for 90 minutes. I don’t care how many naked men I’d see, that’s not worth it.

Dispirited, I head back to the van intending to have an early night. But then I realise – I’m parked next to a tram stop. The trams go into the town centre. So a bit of Googling reveals a few bars that sound cool, and I pay 3.20 for a return ticket, and hop on the tram.

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I sort of wave my ticket at a scanner, and I’m not sure if I’ve done that quite right. But no-one challenges me, so I ride the tram to the stop by the Cathedral de Saint Croix, which is the nearest stop to the bars I’ve identified. It also means I can take a few photos of Orleans by night – tomorrow I want to get an earlier start on the three hour journey to Limoges, so I’m unlikely to have any time to spend in Orleans by day.

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Gotta say, even by dark, this cathedral is way more impressive than the one I visited in Rouen this morning. That’s fair enough – they may have killed Joan of Arc there, but this is where she’s from.

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But I’m here to drink rather than sightsee. I find the first bar I’d identified easily enough – it’s called L’Antidote (good name). I order a Vette IPA in my fractured French, and luckily the barman understands me. Unluckily, by the time I’ve finished it I’m the only customer left. So despite an advertised closing time of midnight, they shut up shop at about 8:30. That’s fair enough, no reason they should stay open just for me, and it’d be pretty boring to sit in a pub drinking alone.

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Fortunately, the second bar I find – the one I’m sitting in now, L’Hendrix Pub – is not only still open but fairly thriving (as Sunday night goes), They’ve even got Lagunitas, one of my favourite American craft beers. And excellent blues on the jukebox. I practice my fractured French on the barmaid, but even as I get out the phrase “est-ce que le vapotage permette”, I say she’s puffing away on a vape herself. This’ll do, I think, and pull out the laptop. And I think that’s where we came in – more tomorrow 🙂

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