It did start well, the ferry was on time, in fact I think we docked 15 minutes early – meaning I hit the french highways at about 11:45am (local time).

‘Yes yes yes!’ I was shouting into my helmet as I devoured French village after French village and by 2pm my tummy was shouting ‘where’s this famous French food?’.

As I hacked off the main roads and started to explore tiny villages my heart sank as I realized that virtually everything closed at 1pm and refused to open until at least 3pm… grrr. I finally found a patisserie open and purchased the last baguette before digging into the emergency rations (already) and slicing up some salami.

I love the French. As I sat there in the middle of the village devouring my lunch, several people sauntered by (doing what I couldn’t say everything was still shut) and everyone wished me ‘bon appetite!’

The evening didn’t progress so well. As I descended on Bourges it became apparent that not only did everything shut for two hours in the afternoon, at 4pm everyone goes home. Nothing was open anywhere, I’d failed the first test of the expedition – provide for myself! Once again I dug into the emergency rations, put up the tent and made myself rice, with sliced salami and leek and potatoes cup ‘a’ soup. Very nice it was too.

Fully fed and camp made I thought it would be wonderful to experience a little French bar, take in the local conversation and enjoy a little of the local tipple. I grabbed computer, book and phone and headed into town. Guess what; yes everything was shut.

Heading back to the tent I was overcome by an intense feeling of loneliness, that’s quite rare for me, and had the petrol stations around me not been shut I think I may well have packed the bike and headed for home. I can’t explain it, I’m back  on the road today and everything is great, the roads are beautiful and I finally feel I’m beginning to see the real France.

I’m sat now with quiche, coffee and sun being deafened by a test of the local air raid siren. Let’s hope tonight’s visit to Toulouse is better than my fleeting visit to Bourges.