Exorcism in a Spanish bedroom

2008-05-07 00:00

It was a relief to leave Dover, a nasty little town full of white supremacists and sociopaths who slip date rape drugs into your beer and then send you home with your wife.Ferried into Calais, we hefted our backpacks and set off in search of a bravish new world.

We reached the bus station and while Brenda was studying the timetables I slipped off and hired us a car. Brenda was delighted when I told her that our days of roughing it were over and we made for the parking lot. “What the hell is that?” she barked. “I thought you said we had hired a car.”

Apparently in Brenda’s world, a Renault Clio doesn’t qualify as a car. My plan was to park in Versailles and catch a train into Paris. “You would be a damn fool to take a car into the centre of Paris,” I said.

“Isn’t that the Arc de Triomf?” said Brenda.

Damn. Versailles, like so many towns to come, was simply not where the map said it would be.

I drove straight into 15 lanes of traffic circling the Charles de Gaulle circle at high speed. There were no visible road markings and no form of traffic control whatsoever. There are motorists who have been trapped in the inside lane ever since the Americans liberated Paris from the Nazis.

All the on-street parking in Paris is taken by residents who use public transport and only move their cars if someone has to be rushed to hospital for open-heart surgery. Everyone else parks underground.

For reasons that make no sense, our drive through Europe turned into something akin to the Paris to Dakar Rally.

By the time we reached the Spanish border I had a renewed respect for the Clio. I was re-lieved to see that all borders had been scrapped between European Union countries. The last time I was here, I was travelling with a couple of South Africans who duped me into stuffing a bag of contraband down my trousers. I was frisked by a border guard and came within a finger’s breadth of a Spanish jail.

San Sebastian is the first Spanish town you hit after leaving Biarritz.

Keen to sink my choppers into a Spanish fish, the waiter said there was only hake on the menu. Of course. You have depleted your own stocks and now you want to give me a South African fish that was caught by Spanish pirates plundering our waters.

The next morning we did a high-speed dash across northern Spain, stopping only to slap and kick a petrol pump that refused to give us fuel. They have a peculiar system in Spain. You fill up your car and they trust you to go into the garage and pay. That would work really well in South Africa. Ha, ha.

We reached Santiago de Compostela at dusk. We found a hotel next to a cathedral. Brenda said she liked it because it used to be a convent and she used to be a convent girl. That night, Brenda asked if I would help purge her of all the Catholic guilt she had accumulated over the years. I had my trousers around my ankles before you could say “Hail Mary”.

Standing at reception the next morning, I overheard an elderly American tourist ask the desk clerk if an exorcism had taken place in room 30.

“In a way,” I said softly. “In a way.”

It seemed only right to leave at that point, so we shimmied into the Clio and pointed our noses in the direction of Portugal. We wanted to spend a few days on the Algarve but when we got there we couldn’t find any parking so we carried on and before we knew it we were at the southern end of Portugal.

The British have annexed the Algarve. I cannot understand why the UN is doing nothing about it.

Henry the Navigator bent over her map and said: “Look. An island. I bet it’s deserted. We should go there.”

“What’s it called?” I said.

“Ibiza,” she said.

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