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Cows and Calvados - 2nd July
6.07.06 by Buffalo Bill

2nd July Dieppe – Les Andelys (150k?)

The ferry was full of frogs, desperate to watch “L’Equipe de France” on the tele. They were tormented by two things: the very poor reception (I mean, we were on a boat, of course the picture was bad), and the English restaurant manager who made no attempt to communicate with them in French, his mock-Gallic shrugs and exclamations notwithstanding. They were biting their nails and bemoaning the picture, but the snow and bounce cleared long enough for them to see Titi (the naturalised Englishman, English team, English girlfriend, Englishman’s castle – English) score. All French nerves were turned to Gallic pride and chauvinism, taunts of ‘les Anglais savent pas jouer au foot’ (The English don’t know how to play football – yes, I know, we are shit, thanks for pointing it out).

The boat docked at around 0145. A few French were driving around the water-front, tooting their horns and shouting, but otherwise Dieppe was sleeping.

I needed to find a hotel. The first place I stopped at was full, but the night-porter that I might have some luck on the sea-front. That meant heading back into town, and I wasn’t psychologically ready to head north yet. I started up the long hill out of town, sign-posted ‘Paris – Rouen?’ and began to think about finding a ditch to spend the night in. 10 minutes up the road, I found an Ibis, hidden in one of those miserable ‘Centre Commercial’ that the French do so well. 125km ridden.

La Belle France - not always so belle

Later that morning I began what I felt to be my ride proper. No destination in mind, although I had a vague feeling that I wanted to ride to the Med (an unrealistic goal, given one mountain range and at least 900k separating me from the beaches of the Midi). But the main purpose was to ride, and in riding, work off the poison that was causing me so much pain. The mid-life crisis. To be alone, and to think, and to process and, if not forget, then accept and diminish my losses. Lost love, and loves, lost youth, lost identity. I need to become me again, and after 20 years of being Buffalo Bill, the fastest mouth in the West End, I am not sure who I am, if I have a life After Buffalo Bill.

Normandy is full of cows. I discern two different types, the rather more cunning bovines of the dairy variety, who look at me as I pass, and think ‘quel con de cyclist Anglais’, and the dumb beef cattle, who will be dead and on a hundred plates within months. Normandy is also full of apples, and apples make calvados.

The day was hot, perhaps 30º C, and I must have got slightly sun-stricken. When I arrived in Les Andelys, after 120k ridden, I managed to get lost, and turned East, when I should have been going West. Only after looking at the map 10 times was I able to work out my mistake. And this in a town with 3 roads.

This is Part 2 of my France travelogue, Looking for Km 83

Part 3

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