A hot, sunny drive in France recalled

15 Nov

newborough forest

Following on from yesterday’s supermoon, I had the moon on my mind. Then today’s murky and wet weather got me yearning for those dry, sunny trips we usually made in France each year. The way my mind works, this is what I remembered.

saint-clement-des-levees

We were driving ,leisurely, along the levee following the river Loire from Angers towards Saumur. Our trusty 2.0 litre petrol Talbot Excalibur was doing a sterling job in the very hot weather. At one of the bridges along the route, I waved a charming lady out, in front of us. She was riding a classic old moped, probably a Motobecane or Peugeot. She was wearing a summer frock which was billowing in the wind, as she obviously returned home, loaded down with food, perhaps from the local market at Saint-Clement-des Levees. her only consession to safety? Sunglasses, as I recall.

motobecane-mpoed

The levee, the D952,  had solid river-proof (?) walls on both sides and there was little space to pass on this scenic route. Most of the road was pretty straight and her speed built up and up and I settled in to follow at a safe distance. These mopeds are designed to top out at about 30 mph or so. Most kids in France, back then, illegally,tuned them with big bore engine kits, taking them out from 50cc to 80cc capacity. Hers certainly also had a performance enhancing expansion chamber and it sounded mor like a racing kart than a moped.

motobecane-expn-chamber

The speed crept up until she was  skimming the hot tarmac at an indicated 55 mph. A very comfortable , “French” scenic route touring speed for us in our coachbuilt family motorhome. I gave up all thoughts of overtaking. I pointed out the lady to our kids who were straining against their seat belts, behind me  with little necks outtretched like meercats, to witness this Queen of Speed. Then her skirt blew out from twixt saddle and bottom as she revealed her  huge cotton bloomers, bright in the sunshine.  The kids were howling with laughter ( a common occurence for us ) and enjoyed the spectacle for several miles. I felt a bit like Benny Hill in that scene from The Italian Job !

pam-ferris

When she turned off the road onto a little ramped exit to some farmland, she looked rather like the actress Pam Ferris. I would loved to have spoken to her. Did she tune that moped herself? I bet she could cook a good French meal. She looked very healthy and extremely well fed! Certainly somewhat larger than Barry Sheen but almost as good a rider.

Ah ! France. I can almost taste the chilled Rose D’Anjou, the baggette, cheese and tomatoes. A “relaxed” attitude to authority. Wonderful !

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