Monday, August 18, 2008

Tours Fawlties

Basil Fawlty seems to have moved from Torquay to St Girons, France.

We have just been away for the weekend to the Country Rock Festival at Prat Bonrepaux. Lots of concerts, almost everybody wandering around in cowboy gear for 3 days. Hundreds of linedancers - these always amaze us - it seems that they don't know when to stop, they just go on and on for hours - we have never seen people enjoy themselves so much.

Prat Bonrepaux is exactly 100 kms from our home in Puivert, on the same road, the D117. This road used to be, before the advent of the autoroutes, one of the main roads across France. Fortunately, it is generally quiet these days, although less so in August.

There are no hotels in Prat (somewhere else we could have used the projected battlebus), so we stayed in St Girons, which is about 10 miles nearer to us. There is a wonderful market at St Girons on Saturday morning.

So, on Friday morning we drove to St Girons, had breakfast there and a walk around town. We had parked outside of the hotel which Gay had booked a couple of months ago, but we thought it would be too early to check in. Not fair on them, better if we came back in the afternoon.

We toddled off to Prat and enjoyed the first concert, which started at 1400. The next one started up at 1530 and was not so much to our liking, so we thought this would be a good time to go back to St Girons, check in to the hotel, have a read, snatch a bite to eat, then return to Prat for the first evening concert at 1900.

Shortly before 1600 we were trying the doors of the hotel and its associated restaurant. All locked. We rang the bell. No reply. We telephoned the hotel. No response. Other people were also trying to effect an entry.

After an hour we decided, charitably, that some calamity must have overtaken the hotel, its owners or its staff, so we went away to try for accommodation elsewhere. Because of the concerts in Prat, the brocante (antiques) fair in St Girons itself and the fact that this was not only the main holiday month in France but a public holiday weekend as well, everywhere was fully booked. We returned to "our" hotel.

Still no response. Prospective guests came and went. Some, like us, decided to tough it out, because what was our other option - to return home? At 1805 yet another couple arrived looking for a room. Their knocking and ringing produced a result - of sorts. The head of a young man appeared at a window on the fourth floor. We found out later that he was a cook. Under questioning, he revealed that "somebody" would come to open up in another 15 minutes.

And somebody did! Presumably he was the owner. Other people were nearer the door and got in first. He told a girl, who had also miraculously appeared, to take them up to a room. He looked doubtful, and aggressive, about us having booked, but ungraciously conceded that this was so, after looking in a handwritten notebook. We had to virtually pull him out of the kitchen for this. He was stuffing his face, apparently not giving any importance to his customers, and not being interested when told we had been waiting for over 2 hours "The hotel is always closed in the afternoon," he said. So why not tell us that when we booked? Why not have a note on the door saying so? Why not show any interest in all the potential customers who had come and gone, muttering "Bizarre! Bizarre!" He told us to follow the party who had already gone upstairs and to tell the girl that we were in room 15.

The staircase was in absolute blackness and the lights did not work. We groped our way to the sound of the other guests rejecting the room they had been given. Also the sound of the girl telling them that in that case she would give them room 15. A confrontation ensued, with Gay baring her teeth and hissing that room 15 was ours. By this time, the girl already had the other party in that room and they had accepted it. More confrontation and a retreat of the French party.

The room was pretty basic but with other choices unavailable we decided to stay.

On Sunday morning we got up to leave. We are early risers but we waited until a more reasonable time, 0800, to descend with our worldlies and to pay the bill. No sign of life, except for a French couple who were trying to get the breakfast for which they had already paid. They wanted an early start so on Saturday night they had paid for their room and for breakfast. We wrote a cheque and left it with the room key. The other couple, who had also been up early but had waited until the traditional breakfast time, went back to their room.

So what has all this got to do with Vic''s Big Walk? Well, I very quickly got to imagining how I would have felt about all this if it had come at the end of a 30 or 40 kilometre walk. Another one chalked up for the battlebus idea.

No comments: