Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Lost In Translation

Jackie and I were surprised by Chablis. Yes, we knew it is where the wine comes from, but we had pictured a small quiet town, surrounded by vineyards.

Yes, it was small. Yes, it was surrounded by vineyards, but quiet, absolutely not. Many towns and villages in rural France seem completely deserted, with just barking dogs and the occasional car driver breaking the silence.

We rolled into Chablis looking for somewhere to get a drink as it was hot on the bike and the morning ride had been a long one. It was Sunday and an important day in France. Many of the war memorials throughout much of France were decorated with the Tricolour, the French flag, as part of the celebration of VE day. In Chablis we saw the end of a formal celebration, with a brass band playing and the mayor dress in his best suit. A crowd had gathered and we cut the engine of the bike as early as possible to not disturb the proceedings, but the service ended just as we got off the bike. By the time I grabbed the camera the people were dispersing, so I took a picture of the memorial instead....

Suspecting the town would be quiet, the huge Sunday market came as a complete surprise. It was a bustling, seething mass of stalls selling everything the rural French might want or need. There was lots of cheese. We found a bar and gulped our drinks pretty quickly a chatted to some English people who had a house close by, with their two dogs. One of the dogs had a passion for eating bread and the other, a Labradoodle, was very cute (Jackie's words).

The vineyards are plentiful and stretch as far as the eye can see. Long low strands of wire, with ancient vines clinging row after row on the slopes. These are some of the most famous grapes in the world and go to produce some of the best wines...

Overall, the countryside is green and lush. White Charolais cattle lie under the trees to keep cool while their calf’s enjoy the sunshine. The back roads are winding and sometimes narrow with few cars. Every biker waves to every other biker, irrespective of make or style of bike. Some of the roads are spectacular....

How about this for a spiral staircase....

Sometimes, you look at something and just cannot work it out. Faced with part of a wall, arches and high columns, with a road running through it, this one had Jackie and I stumped....

We saw a menu this evening that just led us to believe something got lost in translation. We have no idea what Frog Cream is, but some images come to mind that are not great....

We have two more days on the road before we get to St Tropez. Vive La France!


Rhonda said...

Your trip reminds me of when McGyver and I did our honeymoon trip...11 countries and 10 days. We rode through the Burgundy region of France, stopped at a chateau and instead of ordering wine, we ordered the local beer. Matter of fact we probably had 4 beers each and not a drop of Burgundy wine. Maybe a sad waste of a stop in Burgundy, but when you are thirsty sometimes wine doesn't fill the bill. When you are hungry sometimes frog cream doesn't fill the bill....what the hell is frog cream???? I don't even want to take you where my imagination is going!

Beck said...

I am probably wrong but I think it is creamed spinach. Anyway, here is a little story I found. Hope you enjoy!


Two frogs fell into a can of cream,

Or so I’ve heard it told;

The sides of the can were shiny & steep,

The cream was deep & cold.

"O, what’s the use?" croaked Number One,

"’Tis fate; no help’s around.

Goodbye, my friends! Goodbye, sad world!"

And weeping still, he drowned.

But Number Two, of sterner stuff,

Dog-paddled in surprise.

The while he wiped his creamy face

And dried his creamy eyes.

"I’ll swim awhile, at least," he said-

Or so I’ve heard he said;

"It really wouldn’t help the world

If one more frog were dead."

An hour or two he kicked & swam,

Not once he stopped to mutter,

But kicked & kicked & swam & kicked,

then hopped out...

via butter!

Charlie6 said...


I really liked the shot of the town on the hill with the road leading to it!

Re the wall that had you stumped, it could be the remnants of a Roman aqueduct structure...

Good stuff, wish I was there riding with you.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bobskoot said...


I notice from your road photo that there are not many places to pull out to take a picture. I like small towns too and often stop to see what is there. Dom might be right about that structure, may have been an aquaduct. Looks like you have good weather on your side. Enjoy your travels

Riding the Wet Coast

Brady said...

The French will drown anything in cream. It's usually pretty damned good.

Behind bars - Motorcycles and Life

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. France:

I have been to Europe quite a few times and have come to love the uniqueness of France, Ireland, the UK, and Germany. I am always astonished, and a bit dimayed, when I hear Americans complain about France. I have found the French to be courteous, pleasant, and helpful — even in Paris.

You cannot have a bad meal in the entire country. There is nothing as bland nor as nondescript as "American" cheese (basic yellow) in the whole place either. Touring Paris, a friend took me to the "Train Station" (I forget which one.) for dinner. The meal was an unbelievable cut of beef in a mustard sauce. (I didn't forget that.)

I struggled with the language, but had no problem with a knife and fork. I envy your trip. I had an interesting time driving a rental car in Ireland. While I found it challenging to a degree, my girlfriend was terrified that I would kill us both. (My defacto father-in-law — the world's smartest man — routinely found himself on the wrong side of the road.) I wouldn't attempt to ride a motorcycle in London, nor Dublin, unless there was no alternative.

I believe the arched facade in question is the remains of an elaborate gate, going back to the time when French towns had walls. While Cardinal Richelieu was instrumental in removing the walls from many French cities, this one may have kept the gate. As is to be expected, the town has grown beyond the gate in the past 300 years. That is my best guess.

Somebody there knows.

Great post.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad
Twisted Roads


SonjaM said...

I spent some time in France on business and for pleasure (rides!!!) but I would never dared to eat something involving frogs in cream. I'd rather eat some crisp grasshoppers dipped in barbeque sauce. French game is pretty good though, and everything slow cooked in wine ;-)
Aaah, and the cheeses... so pleasantly different from yellow marbled stuff they call cheese over here. Visit a cheese 'production' if you can, and don't forget to tast the wines. But I guess you are a connoisseur de savoir vivre anyway ;-)

RichardM said...

Beautiful photos of the countryside. I especially like the one with the road and the village on the hill. I've never been to Europe before but one of these days....

Thank you for posting.

Gary France said...

Rhonda – Wow , 11 countries in 10 days is quite a trip! Wine is good. Beer is good too. As for frog cream, I am not so sure.

Beck – I love the poem and it was very clever of you to find it.

Charlie6 / Dom – The town on the hill was also full of bikes. Natasha would have been very at home there! You might be right about the aquaduct.

Bob – You are correct, as the back roads are generally narrow and do not have many places to stop. Having the time to look around towns is a luxury sometimes on a road trip and we only managed it a few times.

Brady – The food in France is generally excellent.

Jack – I too have nearly always found the French to be really nice people. I am often astounded about eating in France. You can walk into the smallest restaurant in the middle of nowhere and the food can be supurb. Driving or riding in Europe can be a challenge for those not used to it. Having lived in or around London all my life, big city traffic doesn’t bother me, but having to drive on the wrong side of the road in the rest of Europe, the USA and indeed most of the rest of the world, still causes issues for this particular Brit. It would be so much easier if the world all changed to driving on the correct side of the road! Yes, I suspect a walled gate is the answer.

Sonja – Stop it. You are making me hungry! French food, wine and cheese – I want to return there already!

RichardM – A most curious thing. I received an e-mail that showed you had written a comment on this post, but it doesn’t appear on the blog. How odd. I hope that you do get to Europe one day too.