Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

An annual ritual (disturbed)

Satisfied, yes even delighted, with what we had bought at the market, we made our way back to the car where we put the fresh food items in the cool box B. and J.L. had brought. Next stop, like it has been for the last 14 years (except in 2011 when I spent my annual summer vacation in Deal – UK), was the sidewalk terrace of ‘le Château’, the café at the foot the castle, for a refreshing aperitif. Food shopping can make you very thirsty!

Amboise: Le Café du Château with the red marquis.

But first I wanted to buy some postcards and stamps, while my friends went to get fresh cash from the ATM terminal. Just when I was about to enter the souvenir shop to pay for the postcards, an odd looking man came out of the café next door. He was wearing a semi-military outfit and big marching boots. Under his arm he was carrying a ‘vintage’ steel helmet. He was the kind of guy ‘one wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley’ (as we tend to say here). While I was in the shop, I heard the sound of an engine being fired. The noise was overwhelming, even inside. The man behind the counter rolled his eyes, as if to say: ‘Here we go again.’

A nice seat in the sun.

Back outside, I saw the man in semi-military outfit, his helmet still under his arm, standing across the road repeatedly handling the throttle of a weird contraption – a heavy motorbike with an oversized rear wheel. Conversations on the sidewalk terraces had died down, and people where watching the scene, annoyed. The man was clearly doing this to attract attention: making a hellish noise and sending combustion fumes in the direction of the terraces where people were eating and drinking. I joined my friends who were watching the ‘spectacle’ too. We settled down at ‘Le Château’ hoping the show would soon be over. After two or three more infernal minutes, ‘Lucifer’ finally decided to put on his helmet and to climb on his bike. A couple more ‘vrrmmm-vrmmm’s and off he rode, on ‘the highway to hell’!

You could almost hear the sigh of relieve that surged from the crowd on the terraces. By then we had found a comfortable seat in the sun. B. and J.L. both ordered a white wine and I had a beer. While we discussed the plans for the rest of the day, another group of bikers came driving up the road. They stopped and parked their bikes next to the long line of bikes that was already there. These people were more ‘civilized’ though. They were wearing the traditional protective leather clothing and had the decency to cut the engines immediately after parking their machines.

The  long line of bikes, belonging to the 'respectful' bikers.

Despite this group’s correct and respectful behaviour I felt sorry for the ‘Loire River’s darling little girl’. It was as if Amboise had lost its innocence. The 21st century had clearly found its way to this Renaissance town. And it wasn’t in a positive way! I wonder how long it will take before the town council will ban motorbikes from the Place beneath the castle. However! On the one hand I can’t imagine that the local shop and bar keepers are happy with this new phenomenon, as it will probably scare tourists away. On the other hand, the bikers need to shop, eat and drink too. So maybe the local tradesmen will tolerate these new comers. I hope that it’s just a trend, and that the bikers will soon lose interest when they find another or better place to rendezvous.

We stayed at the café till it was close to one o’clock and time for lunch at the Lion d’Or… Which means that I will be posting food photos soon … Time to prepare your napkins!


P.S. Just for the record, I don't have anything against bikers in general or the way in which they like to travel! I just don't like these 'outlaws' (like the biker driving the weird contraption) who find pleasure in annoying people on purpose by making a spectacle of themselves. 


Susan said...

Personally I'd be banning the sightseeing helicopters long before the bikes (and doing something about motos driven at their absolute ringdinging limit with no baffles). I should imagine most of the motorbike riders on a day out were entirely civilised.

GaynorB said...

I have never ridden a motorbike, and I'm sure that if Tim was still ridding one when we met I would have avoided him!

However, on balance I agree with Susan. I'm sure the vast majority of bikers are ordinary, law abiding folk who choose to travel on two wheels using an engine to power them rather than their legs.The poor reputation of a minority affects how bikers are viewed.

On a summer's day it is probably a lovely way to explore the beautiful countryside.

Looking forward to hearing about your lunch.

chm said...

When I was much younger, I traveled parts of France on my Vespa scooter. It was a great transportation tool and very comfortable to boot.

VirginiaC said...

I wonder what the odd-man's story is.
He was probably in the military and suffering from some kind of post traumatic syndrome to be making a nuisance of himself like that.
Here we are trying to keep the noise levels down on the island. There is a group called "The Society for a Quieter Barbados."
Too many loud "souped-up" bikes, cars, and all-terrain vehicles disrupt the tranquility of the island....all driven by inconsiderate youngsters.

The Beaver said...

Bonjour Cousin

Was the Vespa like this one:

chm said...

Bonjour Cousine,

No, mine was not that fancy! It was pale green. Here is how it looked:

As far as I can recall it was a 1954 model or earlier if that was possible. My travels in the Loire Valley took place in 1954. I was just a few months old! LOL

Autolycus said...

My part of London has been plagued from time to time by teenagers on unsilenced and sometimes obviously unlicensed "monkey bikes" and trail bikes, rather at the opposite extreme from the "Mad Max" wannabees you describe, but no less noisy. The worst I can say of myself is that I had a moment or two with a Vélo Solex in the 60s: not exactly The Wild Ones, eh?

ladybird said...

Susan, Most of them were very civilized indeed. It was just this clearly disturbed biker who annoyed everybody.

Gaynor, Did Tim have a motorbike before you met him?
One lunch coming up!

Chm, If your Vespa would have had a rear wheel like the one I mentioned, you wouldn't have gone very far ... :)

Virginia, Interesting theory, but I think it more likely that he was making a political statement ... judging by his mushroom shaped 'vintage' steel helmet.

Patrick, We have those 'mosquito' bikers too. They are noisy and a nuisance, but harmless. I guess most of them will grow of it. Can't imagine you as a 'wild one' on your Solex :)