Tootling through Burgundy on a motorbike can be fun
Tootling through Burgundy on a motorbike can be fun.
Yes, for some stalwart souls, pedalling a bicycle is the way to enjoy every yard of the route, but at my age I believe that I have earned the right to cause a series of minor silenced explosions, suitably muffled, to propel myself along. The real reason for this is that hills can be a bit of a bind, especially on the way up. It is much easier to change down, twist the wrist and putter to the top on a motorbike.
Cycling along canals is better, for the reason that water in canals has nowhere to go and water likes to be flat. Consequently, the banks and towpaths along the sides of the canals are flat. Even I can be tempted, on occasion, to pedal along a canal in search of the next diversion, which in most cases is a picnic spot or a sign that says, “degustation”.
No, this does not mean “digusting” in French.
It means that ‘here is a vigneron who is so confident of his superlative wines that he is prepared to let you taste them in order to tempt you purchase a few bottles’.
This is a very good reason for a motorcycle to have panniers fitted, for there is nothing as sad as to find that ‘special taste’ and then to leave it behind in a cloud of exhaust, because you had not the capability to transport it.
So, with all these things in mind, Marlene and I set off to putter through the countryside, with BBQ kit on board, to see what we could find. Oddly enough BBQ is a French expression from the days when sangliers were skewered from ‘beard’ to ‘tail’ over a fire, or from ‘barbe’ to ‘queue’.
We are not disappointed.
The sunflowers are at their peak of beauty.
The farmers had harvested the wheat, leaving the stubble combine-combed into varying naps of spun gold that reflect the sheen of sunlight. In places, they had bailed the straw into great wheels that will feed the Charolais cattle through the winter.
In the forests, the woodsmen have cleared the scrub trees into neat stacks, all exactly one metre long, leaving the oaks to grow to their full size.
The roads weave with artistic French curves between pastures as though our destination is a wavering goal that changes position as we progress. Driving along rural roads in France is still a pleasure. Only the Roman roads are straight. The French country roads were, I believe, designed after lunch, so that, as long as your lack of urgency matches that of a ‘post-déjeuner’ French Road-surveyor, you will find that the weaving of your vehicle matches the weaving of the road, with perfect harmony.
You can imagine our surprise when we came upon a field of cannabis.
Acres of it.
We ease to a halt to survey the impressive green crop.
‘Why,’ I wonder, ‘would anyone need to find another method to relax, with so much good wine so easily available?’
“Perhaps it is for making rope,” suggests Marlene. “Or maybe they are growing it for medicinal purposes.”
“Maybe, but wouldn’t they fence it off?” I ask.
“Perhaps it is not the hallucinatory kind?”
“That’s a bit like not calling the pot, ‘pot’,” I answer. “I’m sure there is a quote about that?”
“Yes, kettles and suchlike.”
As we are examining the field, a herd of young cows amble over to investigate us. They are attracted to vehicles, because the farmers sometimes bring supplementary food to them, but a motorcycle is not a saltlick.
“I know,” says Marlene, “let’s test a bit on a cow and see how it reacts.”
Before I can stop her, she has hopped off the back of the motorcycle, pulled a young plant up from its roots and is offering it to the nearest animal. She is hard to stop when she has set her mind to a task.
The young cow sniffs and decides that it is not interested. Neither are the others.
“Just as well,” I comment, “what would happen if they decide that they like it? They would be over that fence in a flash, and we would have all the cows in the “grass”. Or, with a South African accent, “the Kettle in the pot.”
“Hmmm, but the meat would be tender!”
“And probably addictive!”
“Imagine if they were full grown dairy cows! They could be responsible for a whole new range of yoghurt and cheese. Just think how well ‘Bhang de Brie’ would sell, or ‘Camembert Kryptonite!’”
“What about ‘Comté de Cannabis’?”
“I think we better get out of here, before the ‘Dish runs away with the Spoon!’”
And no… I won’t tell you where it is.