Gascony Trip

La Grange

5-9 May 2004

The long table was set immaculately. Two French caterers busied themselves making final preparations for our first feast. Sixteen of us had travelled down to Charlie Pearch’s charming old French house set deep in the Gascony countryside. What a spread. Foie gras and confit - how often d’ya get that.

The Guys who came in from the Cold. Travelling down south through France had not been its usual sunny procession. This was cold, very cold and very wet. And, at times, painful. Open face helmets and hail do not go together with anything other than an icy grimace.


How many people do you know selflessly open their house to 15 other Harley riders? Heck, how many people have that room! Charlie, you’re a star. What a gaff, the landing’s as big as my ground floor. Stone turrets, corbelled eaves, shutters, wrought iron, thigh-made clay tiles, open fires, big bathrooms... big men - big bathrooms. Reaching La Grange after that ride was undiluted relief... add Charlie’s open welcome, the ear to ear said it all.

How quickly it is all forgotten when hot showers, open log fires, good mates and a feast are set before you.

I guess the combination of a hard ride and the odd glass of wine combines to make sleep very easy. However, never, had I bargained for a house to echo to the snores of riders trying to reach their Screamin’ Eagle decibel rate. Hmm, Terry, Nick, Conor?

Our first ride the following morning got off after an Alka Seltzer start. A quick stop for petrol and coffee in the local village, giving time for Charlie ‘Buzz’ Lewis to eventually drag himself out of bed and join us, we headed off into the damp and verdant Gascony countryside.

C&F Armagnac

Marijn, Charlie’s Gascon neighbour, is quietly spoken, but set him astride a bike and he is thunderous poetry in motion. Leading us up into a hilltop village, we parked-up in the basement of Hotel Bastard. A quick skirmish into the local market before quietly padding into the sumptuous restaurant under the scornful eye of the maitre d’. Velvety wines, foie gras and confit again. No. no-one complained... utterly delicious. John Warr picked up the tab - bonhomie exceptionale.

Satiated and happy, our leather and chrome train snaked through the quiet villages - a smile and a wave everywhere we went.

Back to the comfort and cosseting of La Grange, we prepared ourselves for a champagne reception with Edward (family friend of Charlie) in his most charming chateau. Suitably primed we made our way to Cox - yet another captivating village for dinner, local style. Wine, bread, soup, dinner and coffee - all for about 10 euros each. Mouthwatering cabbage and stock soup, only the way the French can.

Earplugs and a scramble for the sofa downstairs were paramount that night for some.

Saturday morning and a peep of blue between the slow scudding grey clouds. Damp grey and moody it may be, but tire of these traffic-free sweeping roads. Never.


Marijn skilfully guided us into the town of Bassousses. Parking-up under the massive market-place tiled roof, our adjacent restaurant was another quiet and delightful local venue. More superb Gascon cuisine at café prices.

The sun was out, the roads dry, our pulses up. Dry roads and wet verges!

In the evening a quick trip to Charlie’s friend Jean Jo’s new night club. Three floors of pyt’s drinking, dancing and a-smoochin with fluffy chinned youths. Very young indeed, let’s go before we all get locked up.

Alors! Sunday morning, the sun’s shining and it’s home time. What a gastronomic, bonding and blissful experience. Over too fast, we wanted to stay, we want to do it again.

Do you reckon they serve foie gras on the ferry...

Paul Wiggins - C&F Road Captain