On our first night in Angers we were kept awake for quite some time by multiple groups of locals enthusiastically practising for that little known new Olympic event – loud talking, shouting and singing in the streets in the middle of the night. If that event does actually make it into the next Olympics, then the residents of Angers will be the white hot favourites for the gold medal.
Somehow we managed to finally get to sleep in spite of the commotion outside and we even had a little sleep in until 7 am. Our main task for the morning was to catch up on what was happening with Carol, as well as try an make some inroads into the enormous pile of dirty clothes that threatened to take over our luggage. After breakfast Maggie and I joined Sally and Eugenie in search of the Holy Grail – a Laundromat. Sally studied the map and said that there was one about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. I staggered along behind, dragging a huge Santa sack of dirty laundry.
I suppose the walk would have taken 5 minutes if we had been in a motor car, and also if all the women did not stop at every shop window to look at what was inside. About 30 minutes later we were in the Laundromat looking for vacant machines and trying to decipher the French instructions. We crammed our loads into two machines and hoped that the motors would not blow under the strain. A pocketful of Euros disappeared into the controller and the women all went shopping, leaving me with the exciting job of watching the smalls go round.
I carefully calculated the duration of the wash and went to look for a nearby coffee shop. After ordering a nice coffee I sat in the sun to watch the people and enjoy my coffee. My plan half worked. Somehow, after one lovely mouthful of coffee, I accidentally knocked the tray and sent the rest of the coffee pouring all over the table and onto the footpath. I tried to look nonchalant and pretend that it was OK. It wasn’t. At least I could enjoy some of my pastime of people watching.
We had already deduced that there were some very interesting people in Angers. In the middle of the main plaza we watched a very well dressed man wearing a set of headphones. He was dancing his way around the square, oblivious to all those around him. Even more surprising was the fact that no one else seemed to notice. That is one thing we have seen time and time again in France – people embrace individuality.
My watch finally told me that it was time to remove our loads from the washing machines and put them in the dryers. When I arrived there was no sign of the women, although they did arrive about 15 minutes later. The loads were dragged to the dryers, more coins were dropped into the abyss and the women disappeared again. I sat and waited while the world went round and round.
Every washing machine was in use at this time and there was a young girl waiting for a vacant machine. A load of washing belonging to an eccentric middle aged Frenchman (is there any other kind) with dyed hair finished the end of its cycle. The man then proceeded to take each piece of washing (sock, handkie, underwear, etc) carefully from the machine, shake it vigorously and fold it precisely. It was obviously a process he had done many times before. Gradually the machine was emptied, but it took a good 15 minutes. The young girl just sat and waited patiently. If the scenerio had been happening in Australia, I reckoned that the guy would have found himself covered in his washing.
When he finally removed the last article, he then proceeded to feel around the inside of the tub, carefully probing each dimple of the agitator for some elusive lost item. I thought he was about to climb inside the drum, but finally he seemed satisfied that his job was done, picked up his load and walked out. The girl took over the machine and started her load.
After what seemed like a geological time span, my load finally finished in the dryer. There was still no sign of the women. I tried ringing Maggie. No Answer. I tried ringing Eugenie. No answer. I wasn’t sure what to do. I eventually removed all of our washing and tried to stuff it into the Santa sack, but had no idea of what to do with Sally and Eugenie’s huge pile which was now just sitting in the dryer. Too bad about those waiting to use it. I tried several times more to contact them on the phones. No answer. I waited for about another 25 minutes before finally spitting the proverbial dummy and heading back to the hotel.
About an hour later I got a call from Maggie, saying that they “had lost track of the time” and were wondering where I was. I explained that I “had grown old waiting and was now spending my twilight years in a French Nursing Home”. It was a shame that my “rest day” in Angers had mostly been spent in the Laundromat.
In the late afternoon Maggie and I walked to the hospital where Carol was waiting for her operation. The place was huge with a capital H. With its myriad of outbuildings we would never have found our way without being told to head for the huge dome in the centre. While some buildings were obviously new, others looked like they belonged to a bygone era of dinosaurs. I half expected to see Florence Nightingale emerge from one of the dark corridors, carrying her famous lamp.
We finally located David and Carol and were able to spend some time with them. Carol appeared to be in good spirits, although they were obviously both very shattered at not being able to complete the ride. The doctors had said that they may be able to operate later that afternoon. We made the long walk back to the hotel and prepared for dinner. In the meantime the riders from Group 2 had arrived in Angers and would also be sharing the meal with us.
Our designated dinner location was at the nearby Brasserie du Theatre, an impressive three story restaurant right in the middle of the main plaza. A waiter met us at the door and disappeared up the staircase. We followed him up the stairs to the top but there was no sign of him. Perhaps he was a street magician as it certainly was a good disappearing act. We looked around but he had gone without trace. This was probably a good indication of what was to come later.
We finally located him on the second floor and our large group was directed to sit at three tables in the corner of the room. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, another waiter appeared and took some drink orders. It seemed like Eugenie must have upset him for some reason because he ignored her order and then ignored her again when she repeated it some minutes later. You know what they say about a woman scorned…..
The waiter then sat nearby and busied himself scribbling something on a piece of paper. I think he was making up the menu, because the place apparently did not have any printed ones. He then proceeded to come to each table, mumble a few words of French and expect us to make our decisions. There were no explanations and certainly NO courtesy either. Several of our table were a little upset and asked if he could make up salads instead of whatever options he had mumbled into Ross’s left ear. When the meals were finally delivered, those that had ordered salads were given a small saucer with two tiny lettuce leaves on each one. I had to agree it was a rubbish meal by anyone’s standards. This was even more disappointing considering that there were three places that had been prepaid for people that would not be eating. Following this additional insult Sally and Eugenie stood to their feet and headed to the nearby Macdonalds for a real meal deal. Compared to the other restaurants we had visited over the past 12 days, this place really was a disgrace. When we added up the drinks bill we certainly made sure that there was no tip included. If I had my way I would have deducted quite a few Euro from the total to compensate for the way we had been treated there.
Back at the hotel we met David who informed us that Carol had been operated on earlier in the night and that she would probably be released in two day’s time. Our time in Angers had been rather mixed. Soon after we went to bed the local Olympic Shouting Team resumed their raucous street shouting routines. They continued for most of the night. I will be glad to ride to our next stop at Montjean.