Saturday, 31 December 2011

A tale of Sunflowers and a very sad Hotel

My article '4/4 to the Guggenheim' was penned for inclusion in the Morgan Sports Car Club magazine 'Miscellany' and was duly published in the January issue. Now you may laugh, it being a three page offering, but for reasons of brevity I had to exclude a highly shameful, yet amusing episode that occurred during our period in the Tarn region.

My sister and her husband live in Sete, in the Languedoc, and had arranged to meet us while we were staying near Realmont and had booked a two night stay in the two star Hotel le Mont Royal in the centre of the town.

On the day of their scheduled arrival we had driven up to Lautrec in the morning, expecting to meet them later in the afternoon at their hotel. So we had a coffee and a walk around the village before setting off back to our gite.

The road from Lautrec winds down, through fields of sunflowers, towards the main road from Castres to Realmont and it was while pootling down this road, as only an Englishman in a Morgan can, that I spotted a car parked at the side of the road and took the appropriate action to overtake.

I noted two things as I approached, an elderly man was opposite in the ditch, reaching up to 'harvest' a sunflower or two from the farmer's field and the car was a dark blue Peugeot with a terribly familiar lady driver waving vigorously out of the window. My sister!!!

It has to be said that my sister has lived in France since she graduated from Liverpool University and in that time has been consumed by a very french attitude towards the act of fair play!

The stolen goods, a touch of Van Gogh perhaps!
The Morgan screeched to a halt and instead of rushing up to her, flinging my arms around her body, I launched into a tirade of abuse, accusing both her and dear Gerard of being vandals. 'Oh,' she said with a gallic shrug,' there are so many flowers the farmer won't miss two or three, in fact they actually sell them in the market in Sete!'

Whilst coming to terms with the perverse logic of that last statement, I tried to point out that the farmer was growing them for that very purpose, in order to sell them to support his family. She never was very good at business matters and is in fact a quite well known local poet, so you get the idea, 'I wandered lonely, not only as a cloud, but up on one!'..........

Now for the Hotel, for that is what I am going to call it, but an hotel in name only perhaps!

After our discussion regarding the sunflowers and after presenting us with the three stolen items, they decided to go into Lautrec themselves and we would meet them at their hotel at 5pm.

At the appointed time we parked the Morgan in front of the hotel, a traditional, but very tired, building that was even then taking on the flavour of 'Fawlty Towers', as we viewed a scene of unkempness that had to be seen to be believed. We walked, with growing apprehension, towards where we assumed 'Reception' might be, passed overturned chairs and tablecloths that had been blown off the tables and lay on the floor. Even at this stage it's 2 star rating seemed generous!

I tried to open two doors, both were locked so I knocked vigorously on one of them. Out of the gloom appeared this shadowy, slightly frightening unfortunate figure, who slowly opened the door. The resemblance to 'Quasimodo' was staggering, as I launched into extremely broken french to ask him to let my sister know that we had arrived.

It was clear that my message was not being understood, even though my french is fairly understandable to most french people, but obviously not this one, as he started to phone, we assumed, 'the boss' to let him know that they had yet two more unfortunate punters! We must have disappointed him as we hurriedly left.

Walking away, who did we meet but my dear brother-in-law who told us that they had had to go to the chemist urgently because my sister had left all her medicines at home. We met up with her as she was leaving the pharmacist and she told us more about their accommmodation.

As they were shown to their room they noticed a dead Christmas tree on display still retaining a single silver ball dangling from one of its branches, a sight that apparently caused them some disquiet because it was after all July! The decor in the room was pretty grim, there was no hot water and the curtains wouldn't close properly. A decision was made, they would dine with us at our gite and we would meet them on the following day, which happened to be market day in Realmont.

In the morning we again walked towards the hotel and met them coming in the opposite direction.

The breakfast service was not good, they had endured an uncomfortable night and they had decided to cut their losses and checkout.

When completing her assessment of the place for the Logis de France organisation she told them that it was the perfect setting for the 'Hammer House of Horrors!' 

No comments:

Post a Comment