French people, Irish bars and fast cars

This time last week I was absolutely exhausted after my trip to the French GP and a long day travelling.  But let’s start right at the beginning.  On the Friday night we travelled over to St Malo on the ferry and that was a really nice crossing.  I discovered some very cheap wine in the duty free which I would proceed to consume over the next couple of nights.  Also the beer on the ferry was exceedingly cheap too so a couple of cans of Grolsch were most enjoyably sunk whilst chilling out catching some rays at the back of the ferry.

When I say rays sadly you’ll have to use your imagination – in fact i’ll have to use mine too since it was weeing down out there, but still nicer than sitting inside.

Got to St Malo fine and for some reason since the last time I was there a few years back they’ve now introduced this little coach that takes you over to the ferry terminal which is oooooh maybe 20 meters away.  I’m sure there’s a good reason for it but its beyond me right now.

On to the coach then for a 6 hour drive down to the town of Bourges in France, which itself was about 90 miles away from the circuit but obviously someone somewhere thought it was a great town to stay in.  Not sure why though since it’s about as sleepy a town as I’ve ever been to in France, but more about that in a bit.

Half way along the way we stopped at this motorway services in Le Mans.  Nothing enormously exciting about that, other than of course the connection to a certain 24 hour race but I don’t think this services was actually anywhere near the circuit.  But still stopping off in Le Mans is a nice detail to add to the story.

We arrived in Bourges at about 6pm in the end, although 10 mins later we seemed to arrive back where we started in the town, around by this funfair that had been set up.  The natives were getting restless by this stage and one of the more drunk members of the group (who had found what must have been the only can of lager in the service station – and proceeded to be late back to the coach drinking it) asked the courier how long it would be to get to the hotel because he was tired – ahhh bless.

She was apparently taking us for a sightseeing trip around the town.  Unfortunately, her cunning plan was rather foiled since I was sitting right behind her and being a reasonable French speaker I knew straight away both her and the driver hadn’t the faintest idea where the hotel was.  Another half hour of fumbling about followed and we eventually arrived about 7.  I wandered up to my room, had a shower then thought about wandering into town to see what was going on.

That was a mistake – apparently just about everyone in our group either stayed in the hotel bar until some pathetic early hour or just had a meal in their rooms.  Poor show I say.  I came down about 8-ish and had the idea that I’d wander into town find some cafe bar and sit down, maybe have a meal but certainly have lots to drink and maybe find some people to chat to.

It didn’t work.  Firstly the town of Bourges is actually tiny.  We were given these maps of the town and it didn’t take me long to discover than you could walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes.  First shops you come to in the town is a kebab house on the left – gave that one a miss – then a stupidly named pizza delivery place on the right (Speedy Rabbit Pizza!) – let that one go too.  Then past the sex shop on the right and finally you can see a bar.

A rather less than traditional French pub that made a big fuss about selling Guiness and which still had last New Years Eve’s merchandise from Guiness on their walls.  Very odd really but was good enough to quickly get back my confidence speaking the local lingo and good enough for 3 pints of murky beer.  Then onto the next cafe bar – except none of them really appealed so I just wandered around for a bit, got familiar with the town layout and went back to the hotel.  Not to bed though, watched something on Eurosport for a bit then went down to the bar.  They had some magazines about the GP down there to read and of course there was much more to drink.  Went up to my room about 11 and soon realised I was a touch tipsy, but it was fine really.

Woke up next morning feeling good.  Then onto the coach the next day for an hour and a half coach ride down to the circuit.  Again the driver was lost arriving there or quite possibly the travel company hadn’t bothered to pay for a parking space.  Either way it was all a bit of a mix up, but we still arrived in time to catch the final practice session for the F1 cars.  Just in time in fact for a red flag brought out by some astroturf being pulled off by the circuit.  Then we watched the Porsches qualify and then a break during which Michael Schumacher took Zinedine Zidane around the circuit in what looked like a Ferrari Enzo.  Only trouble with that was that the commentator must have been so excited about it since he read those two names out about 40 times during a two lap ride.  Very strange.

F1 qualifying was quite an experience – the circuit is that much less crowded than during the GP itself so you can see the cars clearly and the noise they make is something you just don’t get a feel for on the telly.  It not so much the sheer volume but they just sound so much more real – stating the obvious I know but I’m not sure I can explain it better – the TV sound just seems very much like it could have been created by computer.

Then after qualifying they had the GP2 race or at least they should have done.  There was a stupid crash at the start but then a nastier one around the back of the lap, just out of where I could see it, although I was looking in the other direction at something that was going on further along the road.  You can see a video of the crash here.  In that clip if you go along to 31 seconds into it you see a Vodafone board – I was standing about 5 rows back in line with that – in case you’re curious.

Anyway, that resulted in a red flag and because the coach driver had to get home or something we couldn’t stay to see any of the race, which was a pain in the arse really.  That evening really involved much of the same as the night before but avoiding the “irish” bar.

The next day was of course race day and this time we arrived too late to see any of the second GP2 race, mainly because the driver parked in the same non-parking area and because we couldn’t use the same entrance as we did the day before we had to walk all the way round to the other side of the circuit to get in – not good at all.

We did see the Porsche race in pretty horrible rain but it was funny watching a lot of nasty handling cars with drivers making lots of mistakes.  It dried out for the GP and other than the noise thing already mentioned not much new happened.  It was so so much busier on the Sunday though – obviously all the French Renault and Ferrari fans only turned out on the Sunday but they were all there in fine voice and complete with air horns.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric even if the race wasn’t – apart from watching Alonso trying (and generally failing) to overtake people.

After the race we got to have a wander around the track itself and right now sitting in the lounge is a little souvenir – a little bit of rubber picked up off the track which will take pride of place until we forget what it is and chuck it out since it looks like some naff beaten up piece of rubbish – which quite frankly is exactly what it is.

And apart from a meal out on Sunday night with a bloke I watched the racing with that was about it.  Same trip back on Monday stopping off once again at Le Mans services and another nice boat trip back.  All good but very very tiring.

Would I do it again?  Maybe – the travel agency really did make a mess of the arrangements but I think I’d be tempted to make my own way down and camp at the circuit itself.

Well that’s the end of a very long blog and more than enough for any of you to read i think – next time I’ll tell you about our next little adventure off the island, planned for the end of the month.  Catch you soon

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