Canoeing down the Dordogne is great fun and something we do almost every year when we visit my cousins in the south of France. Last year was as funny as it usually is; my sister and cousin Katy were canoeing particularly slowly after having woken up hung-over in a car park the night before, Alex had just jumped in to grab a crate of beer that he had spotted at the bottom of the river, and we had annoyed swimmers by splashing and capsizing each other’s boats. On the coach ride back to the canoe house however, something completely unexpected happened.
“What’s that smell?” someone asked as we drove up the hill. We joked that the dog had just farted and carried on down the road. However, when we pulled into the car park, we realised that the back of the coach had started to smoke. We all got out of the bus quickly, despite the driver assuring us that “it’s normal… it does this all the time”. More and more smoke started to appear, and when the driver opened the hatch to look at the engine we realised it was on fire!
Fairly quickly it started to burn, with loud bangs each time a tyre popped and glass shattering from where the windows had been. Everyone was pretty calm; we stood there watching, chatting and drinking, as we couldn’t get past the bus to drive back home, especially as it looked as though the tree next to it might catch fire.
One man, however, seemed particularly distressed and suddenly after about 10 minutes of watching the coach burning yelled, “She’s going to blow! Get back over the bridge!”, before jumping in his car (neglecting to offer anyone else a lift), and speeding into the distance. Casually ignoring him, everyone continued to watch the fire until “les pompiers” eventually arrived and saved what remained of the bus.
After a fairly eventful day and a lucky escape, we got back in the car and went home for dinner. Without a doubt, France 2010 became a holiday to remember and the story will be retold in my family for many years to come.