Lads' Tour in My Mouth

Katie normally writes the food posts and is the original creator of "In My Mouth" so this post might not be as polished as usual. A bit rougher around the edges, but that makes sense because this Lads Tour de France was generally that. Two (disgusting) men surviving in a van for nearly a week does not conjure up the culinary treats this blog normally gives you. However we were travelling through France, home of the Michelin man and his associated restaurants…of which we visited none.

We did have some great food though, starting with San Sebastian and its pinxtos. They were delicious and worth the parking ticket we received while eating them.

In truth, we didn't eat too many delicious meals. We had this one in Bordeaux, where I ate the Bordelaise in red wine sauce with onions and mushrooms. It had a great texture and the setting of this restaurant made it, with the typical French waiter and Led Zep playing throughout.

One thing that annoyed me in France, which was as common as baguettes, was the single toilet in a restaurant for all genders. I don't mind sharing a toilet with women... But I dislike large restaurants which only have one toilet, meaning you have to wait for ages. It's times like these I thank my large bladder and lack of IBS.

I would be remiss not to mention our main source of sustenance on this trip. It was a classic lads meal. A huge baguette with meat, cheese, and a Berocca washed down with some water. Without this combination, I doubt we would have survived the five days. We probably would have returned with scurvy, much like our expedition buddies before us.

Lots of delicious sweet treats were eaten on our many stops; muffins and coffees were a mainstay in order to keep our energy up so we could explore the cities and towns without murdering each other. The highlight of these sweet treats was this crepe after a night of wondering the streets of Bordeaux.

For our final meal in France, we thought we would treat ourselves. I had picked a restaurant about a twenty minute walk away and we arrived, shivering, to its dark windows and closed doors. Damn! Where to go? We walked back towards our hotel box room and found a shopping centre with a typical French "fast-food" restaurant called Flunch…

This would be an experience like no other. Look at their menu. Fancy a pack of raw mince beef? Or steak tartare, as they call it.

Flunch is the most confusing restaurant I have ever come across. It's madness. You walk in and must pick up the salad or drink that you want with your main. You then go and order and pay at the counter. You are given a ticket that you must take to the chef and they cook it for you. You have to wait the 5-10 minutes at the counter while they cook it for you.

It took us about an hour from deciding Flunch was our only option to actually eating our food. It was not the best meal we had… It did make us laugh though. This was clearly an institution in France because logically it made no sense. A simple electronic ordering system could cut out about 50% of the inefficiency. Flunch had clearly existed too long in the country and their ordering system is now baked into the hearts and minds of its loyal customers. It's what makes it unique.

What a decidedly average way to end the trip. Luckily we still had bread and meat for the ferry ride back.

What a last meal...

Final Stage of the Lads' Tour de France

We left Nantes early as we had a lot of driving ahead of us. After all, this holiday had a purpose: Get our Mercedes van back to the UK. On our final full day in France we visted a couple of places to conclude the whistle-stop tour of the country. 

The first place we visited was Rennes and it was unlike any other town we had seen on the road. The wood panelled houses were picturesque. These beautiful buildings that lined the streets, coupled with the now standard ancient French stone buildings, took our breath away.

While in Rennes we came up with the idea of a travel guide based around visiting a city in under two hours. After all, we had become semi-experts in our five night / ten town / 2500km journey. I'm not sure I'd advise people to do it this way but only having a few hours in a place does have a certain charm. You run around like a Chinese tourist snapping loads of photos, before being transported to your next destination. Neither of us are passionate social media fiends, otherwise we could have "checked in" to a lot of different places. One thing that amused me was how much harder this trip would have been thirty years ago, before Google Maps. And impossible a hundred years ago before proper cars and roads. Human society is developing mad fast.

Caen was next on the route and we were getting a little bored of amazing cities. The enthusiasm was fading with such quick movement between places. The level of architecture and history in France is truly remarkable. I had only been to our nearest neighbour (excluding west Britain, i.e. Ireland) once before, on a mini-break to Paris. I know France is steeped in culture and the rest of it, but this final city still managed to impose itself on my senses.


The Lads Tour de France was coming to an end but it would live long into the memory. On the last morning we had a three hour drive to Calais, and the gods welcomed us with snow. A lot of snow. 

We had left so early that even with the snow delay, we arrived to the port early and got on the earlier ferry - brilliant. Then my marijuana use throughout the trip came back to bite us. Remember, it's legal in Spain but not France or the UK. This particular strain was very pungent and although I didn't actually have any of it on me anymore, I was smuggling the remnant smells of cannabis in my rucksack. This meant we were searched by six armed French customs guards like I was Escobar. I wasn’t Escobar.

Like most people, the majority of the customs officers were polite and I honestly explained the situation of legality in Spain and that I had nothing on me because "I'm not a fucking idiot." (I may be an idiot but I'm not a fucking idiot and don’t forget it.) One customs officer was trying to prove himself a bit and tore the car apart looking for cannabis, and even threatened us several times. Eventually they were forced to admit that smuggling smells across a border is not illegal. I farted on their faces and left them with that memory. Okay I didn't. Who wants a pissed off customs officer searching your ass?

From Calais I drove to Birmingham and then eventually down to London and a few days after that, to Portsmouth. The van was now full of things and the overnight ferry to Santander would do most of the legwork on the way back. I spent 90% of the ferry journey lying horizontalyl, as it was the only way to not feel seasick. I don’t have sea legs…

It took an hour to get off the ferry because Spain only had two passport control guys despite the hundreds of passengers. I then drove for about seven hours from Santander to Valencia, through some beautiful mountains. When I finally arrived in Valencia I was greeted by my best friend and preferred travel buddy (sorry Rhys) and Morning Calm was restored. We unloaded the car with some help, and marvelled at the final "mileage" of 3500km. The trip was over...and I could take a few weeks off driving.

I hope you guys enjoyed this slightly different style of blog. There's one more to come where I discuss the food we survived on during this epic journey. It’s a shame we had run out of lembas and the elves refused to restock us… Anyway, until then.

Piss Off You Nantes

After our great evening in Bordeaux, we thought we'd revisit the same parts of the city in the morning. After seeing the city in its warm orange glow at night, it was disappointing in the cold grey light of day. Some of the magic was gone.

It also doesn’t help that the view of every site was disturbed by a white van.

I realised as we were leaving that we had brought cheap red wine from Spain into Bordeaux. I feel like this should be against the law, along with the baguette we had also taken across the border. Fuck free movement. 

Anyway, we escaped Bordeaux and headed to Rochefort because they have a cheese named after them (got this wrong, different city). There wasn’t too much to do. A small quaint town with some now standard French architecture. We were already growing complacent towards the beauty.

La Rochelle was twenty minutes away and was super gorgeous. A port town with imposing towers and winding, arching streets.

Definitely could have stayed in La Rochelle longer, but it was one of the old in-out, in-outs, so off we went. This was turning into a quickie tour around France, as we barely stayed anywhere longer than six hours. I felt like a right travel slut. But this was more about getting the van back to the UK than healing my travel self esteem.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice was how many people buy baguettes. I know it's perhaps obvious or a stereotype but by god, it's true. I saw hundreds of people carrying baguettes. 

After leaving La Rochelle, we spotted some interesting things on the way to Nantes. One thing I didn't get a photo of was the plethora (at least a dozen) of houses being transported on the back of a truck. These wide loads straddled the two lanes and added an element of danger to tight turns.


We arrived in Nantes at night and we only had that evening to spend there, before moving on. It was going to be another quickie but Rhys and I had become very talented at such things.

Nantes was stunning! The orange-lit squares were beautiful and the castle was the highlight of the city. Wowsers! 

There was just something about this city and the night we had there that was special and definitely not gay. We ended up at a busy (not-gay) bar where we drank and enjoyed the company of the young-uns in the city.

Love this statue!

Cathedral and Market

Park in Bordeaux

Bordeaux without a van