Across Continents

Ken's Blog

One eyed cat and other tales

East of Troyes the landscape was more undulating, long straight roads that gradually rose and then slowly fell. Rhythmic. I reached Froncles quite late in the day, just enough light remaining to pitch camp on the outskirts of what seemed to be more a large village than the small town the map suggested. I was there because I liked the name. Annonville, 20 miles to the north, had also intrigued me, it sounded, well, nondescript. But it didn’t have a campsite.

An ice cold beer seemed like a good idea. After some searching I found the only place still open, a small kebab shop. A few youths sat outside, drinking and chatting as the warmth of the evening finally ebbed away. A drink and some frites. Some salt would be good. I went inside.

The owner was finishing an order so that two young men might disappear into the night on their tinny motorcycles. His daughter stood by, watching behind the counter. I greeted her, expecting her to serve me. But no, this was her father’s place. I waited a short while before it was my turn. Conveniently, everything cost whole numbers of Euros, which the owner indicated with his fingers. He wrapped the frites with a refined flurry, as any craftsman would when making the final touches to his creation. Fortuitously, the final bill matched exactly the note I’d already removed from my wallet. Must have ordered the finest frites in the house. I wondered what I’d get for a single Euro.

Retreating into the darkness with my purchases, I eventually found a park bench, a street lamp above it, on which to sit and enjoy them. It was then that a sad looking tabby appeared, its one remaining eye looking rather forlorn. I’d have offered him a chip but doubted if he ate that sort of thing. Besides, he seemed content just with the company. And I’d paid for the frites.

The village woke slowly the next morning. It had been a bitter night and the first warming rays of the sun had yet to reach this small valley community. A lady was delivering baguettes, placing them in stockings hung on doors. The postman with a heavily laden push bike, just starting his round. I visited the nearby ’8 a huit’ (’Eight to eight’) supermarket to get some breakfast. You’d have thought the opening hours were a bit obvious, but that didn’t wash with one disgruntled customer, clearly irritated that the place hadn’t opened sooner.

Hanging baskets

I had my camera with me, attempting to capture the early morning light. Back out on the main street, a lady gestured towards one of the many hanging baskets dotted around. Since reaching the river Seine I’d become increasingly aware of ’Village fleuri’ – a sort of Britain in Bloom en Francais. They took it very seriously. Froncles had a theme. Red. Floral displays adorned the civic buildings, or hung from lamp posts like giant baubles. Private window boxes joined in. Like so many places they had been awarded two stars, but were striving hard for the much coveted third.

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