We were finally off to the coast in December, crossing the Channel from Dover to Calais by ferry, and began the drive south. It was either because; I was the only driver used to the right hand side of the road, or because I was the only one fluent in French (or because I got conned) – that I ended up driving the first leg.
Calamity struck when, driving through the night (and too many hours into the drive without a rest) we were hit by a drunk driver just outside of Le Mans. None of us were hurt, but a nasty chunk was taken out of the OLD BLUE TRUCK’s left front. We had been on the road for less than 6 hours!
It was late at night by the time we were towed into Le Mans, cold and raining. We were taken to a large garage where it was suggested that sufficient mechanical repairs be made for us to return to England, to complete the panel beating. Return to England? We had only left that morning and were planning to celebrate the new year in the South of Spain!
That first night we slept in the truck, in a garage on the side of the road. The next morning we awoke to discover that we were actually right on the 24 Heures du Mans (car race) circuit and ‘our’ garage was part of a complex attached to Le Cafe du Tertre Rouge.
Over the following days we were adopted by the owner and his familly, and many of the local community who gathered in the evening to eat and drink and play endless games of table football. We were introduced (by those who REALLY knew) to the wines and cheeses of the Loire Valley and that wonderful pork rillette of the Sarthe region! On student budgets and in very rough accommodation, but living like kings. We were woken early by the mechanics, bathed in oil drum troughs, and then banished to the cafe for breakfast, while they worked on repairs to the truck. We played so much table football that the locals challenged us for the “championship du monde”.
Each morning, David and I would set off on the long walk to see the insurance people. One day (just like in the stories) we got picked up by a nice doctor with two charming daughters. Dr Drouin, Florence and Sylvie delivered us back to Le Tertre Rouge and, after discussions with the owners (and a couple of phone calls) took us to the very large Seminary in the old part of Le Mans. We spent the following few nights in that seminary, and this could be a whole other story! The things we saw, late at night! It was a large, stark, very cold looking place, and even colder and starker were the little cell-like rooms the charitable priests gave us – but the price was right!
We breakfasted in a cafe near the seminary, where the lady wouldn’t serve any of us until David, Peter and John could order en Francais, and evening meals were hosted by Dr and Mrs Drouin and the girls.
Finally, repairs (as far as we took them!) were complete, our insurance payout arrived in the form of a ‘bundle of francs’ and we farewelled our new friends to head south. In search of the sun!
Help us find the Drouin Family again – Please… Alors, nous avons passé deux ou trois semains très agréable avec Monsieur le docteur et Madame et, plus important, Sylvie et Florence Drouin. Si il y a quelqu’un(e) qui connait la famille ou qui a leurs coordonnés, svp, laissez-nous savoir… We spent two or three very pleasant weeks with Dr and Mrs Drouin – and most importantly – Sylvie and Florence. If there is anyone (reading this) who has contact with the family or knows their current whereabouts – please let us know. In French or English to: kdebpercy[at]rogers[dot]com
Pictures: L-R: Dr and Mrs Drouin – Florence Drouin – Farewell – Peter and Keith in the old part of Le Mans.
Now go to: Le Mans to Torremolinos
We found them! Florence & Sylvie!