I suppose one thing was for sure, Normandy 2011 could not have the pitfalls of Normandy 2004. 2004 - heat wave, problems with hotel room and nightmares with car hire. Couldn't happen again, could it? It started out all so well, the flight was fine and not too long, although being a small plane if anyone had trumped the whole plane would have copped for it, not that we trump in the NMBS and if we did it would smell of rose petals. Lance was happy, ordering and Gin and Tonic or two on the plane, Kevin was being chatted up by a friendly trolley dolly - a fine start to the trip.
Landing in Nantes it was a short bus and tram ride to the City Centre, Nantes was to be the base for the night before we headed off to the Gite and the Normandy beaches. Steve had been told before hand that there was a cheap ticket from Nantes Airport (Nantes Alantique, Quiz buffs would say) to the centre of Nantes that costs a Euro. There is another - which they Nantes Tourist Information Centre promote costing 8 Euros, but there is a recession on, so the 7 euro saving each would be a few beers in Nantes - unless they charge 5 or 6 Euros a pint, nah, that wouldn't happen would it? It's Nantes, in France, with Lance - its not Scandinavia prices, is it? So we bought the euro ticket. Simple. Buy ticket, get on a bus for one stop, get off buss, get on tram to Nantes. Simples.
After getting off the bus and on the tram we went a few stops until some inspectors got on. 'Fine' we thought, we wasn't jibbing al la Caen in 2004, we were fully paid up ticket holders. The inspectors spoke to the main one of us who could speak French, Lance. Soon we were kicked off the tram and surrounded by a plethora of inspectors. The inspectors asked us where we had come from - 'Manchester' we replied in a hope that they would understand any confusion in the language barrier. 'I know you have trams in Manchester, and I know you need tickets' was the reply from the man with the clipboard and the chip the size of Agincourt. We protested that we did have tickets and shown the inspector, why Lance hadn't shown him on the tram is up there with the riddle of the sphinx.
Apparently you have to swipe the ticket in a machine on the tram, how any tourist would know this beggars belief, but you should, we didn't and hence we were booted off. We were allowed on the next tram and we were shown the 'blink and you'd miss' thing where you swipe your ticket and we were heading into Nantes.
Now, those things that went wrong in 2004, which couldn't happen again? Well we hit Nantes in the middle of the hottest October on record. It was roasting and boiling. Knackers sweating, thank god we were all clever enough to have bags on casters or like 2004, I predicted a 'Man down'. Okay so if the heat wave was the only thing like 2004 that wouldn't be so bad. We arrived at the hotel and had a ganders at the rooms. The older members were sanctioned to share a room, due to snoring, whilst Steve, Stuart and Kevin had a triple room with 3 single beds. Well, that's what we booked..... Like 2004 the hotel room also cocked up, although I suppose Stuart would say 'At least there was a room this time' but the 3 single beds were a double and a single, and true to form Stuart had already dumped his bag on the single, another 2004 repeat. Now as much as Steve loves Kevin and yes, as the trolley dolly will confirm he's a good looking fella, but Steve wasn't going to sleep in the same bed as him, especially his feet, so Steve had the floor. To be fair to Kevin he donated his duvet to Steve to lie on.
A quick shower and change and the idea was a few beers in Nantes and enjoy the French atmosphere. The boys ordered 5 beers (bugger it was 5 euros a pint) and sat in the early evening of French sun, relaxing in the metropolis of Nantes.
But OMG (txt speak, the NMBS keep up with the kids) the worlds most beautiful woman walked past. Followed by another. And another, and another. AND ANOTHER. Sat opposite us was a super model, and another and another AND ANOTHER ! What the hell was going on. The whole of Nantes seemed to have the most beautiful women ever. Each and every one of the NMBS had RSI of the neck within 10 minutes of gawping. Kevin and Steve feared that Stuart would have RSI of something else if the trend of repeating 2004 continued. Nantes was stupid. 99% of women in Nantes are gorgeous. The other 1% it was deemed were tourists.
By the end of the night the boys had witnessed so many beautiful women and drank a few 5 euro pints it was head to the hotel with a carry out, a few tinnies. Super. The older members retired to a night of snoring, whilst the youngsters were chatting away until the concierge of the hotel phoned and complained that we were too giddy for the other guests and to be quiet. Stuart, in his posh voice, reassured the concierge that we would be good boys and the NMBS closed down for the night