Back in August 2006, Sean and I were due to fly to London and then drive to South West France the day after the liquid bomb plot was foiled. My parents called to persuade us to cancel the trip. I understood their concern but thought that airports would be the safest places on earth that weekend. As it happened, I was right. Dallas-Fort Worth airport was eerily empty, there were security guards and police officers absolutely everywhere and there were practically no queues as many passengers did cancel their tickets.
Sean’s cousin picked us up from Heathrow and drove us to his place in Tunbridge Wells, where we picked up the Yellow Peril, Sean’s 1965 Alvis. Our plan was to cross the Channel and drive to his brother’s house in Bourg-de-Visa, in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in southwest France. It looked feasible on paper. The actual deed was another matter.
We set off immediately to Folkestone, where, after some delays, we got on the train to Coquelles and then drove south. Our first stop was Limoges, where we spent the night. The eight-hour drive was brutal. We didn’t factor in the exhaustion after an overnight flight when we planned this road trip. We nodded off quite a few times on the autoroute and were lucky not to have crashed!
The bright yellow Alvis got a lot of attention. Entire families would wave at us on the autoroute, men would ask what make and model it was and, best of all, it was easy to find in big parking lots.
Refreshed after a good night’s sleep, a shower and a delicious breakfast of café au lait and croissants, we left for Bourg-de-Visa. We didn’t have a GPS at the time and had to rely on maps. And on good luck. We decided it would be fun to take a detour –I think we mistakenly called it a shortcut across the country. We drove along winding country lanes, past vineyards and fields, and fruit orchards and ended up in the charming little town of Castelnau-Montratier, where we stopped to get our bearings.
We finally made it Bourg-de-Visa, right after Sunday market finished. The balmy air of that après-midi in the French countryside held the promise of roses in full bloom, freshly picked fruit, lazy afternoons lying in the sun, visits to medieval bastides, freshly baked baguettes and delicate pastries and, above all, great memories.