“But… but, this was MY book” I cried!
Admittedly my book uses the Autostrada A1, a Fiat 500 (original model; no air-conditioning) and Cornetti alla Creama as its main protagonists (or is it about pasta?), but this book – One More Croissant for the Road – is exactly how I expected it to be.
Unfortunately, it is better. Much better. So much so that my book will remain in the unwritten state it was always destined to be. I simply couldn’t do it the justice, that Felicity Cloake does to flaky pastry – well, sometimes flaky.
One More Croissant for the Road is an absolute joy to read. As a book, it is an ode to hours spent listening to cycling commentators of old, David Duffield and Phil Liggett, describe a hundred Norman churches as the peloton (the big group of riders) of the Tour de France, roll through yet more kilometres of the countryside.
Just like the Tour de France, you don’t really have to be in to cycling to enjoy it. In fact, Cloake, there isn’t enough about the bike stuff. I mean, what gear ratio where you riding? What was your power output? Where are your Strava screenshots?
No, this is a book for people who like food, travel, friendships, mishaps and triumph – and just so happen to like all of those key ingredients in one book. A book that covers hotel disasters, closed restaurants, the occasional clang of a name drop and France. Glorious France, in such a fitting tribute to, some might say, the greatest bike race in the world*.
It also includes fantastic looking recipes as well. A summer’s top 20 of France’s greatest hits. Moules, buckwheat crêpes, Tarte Tatin, Poule au Pot, Cassoulet, Tartiflette and the humble and not so humble Croissant. Many more beside.
I have been there since the inception of the book. Lived through the dodgy iPhone/Instagram issues as the book was in “draft” form – through to eagerly awaiting its release. It increased with expectation along every step of the way and delivered, like a warm, crisp plate of memory inducing Madeleines. A literary, Proustian rush!
Jealousy aside, for how wasted is that in the emotions stakes – this book is a summer I never knew I wanted to spend, until I saw it being lived out. Camping, sheep shit and 20% gradients were, I assumed, better on page than lived through the legs. Now I have my doubts.
As I finished the book around the same time as finishing off a second bottle of white wine, I was caught in the emotions of another rain lashed, tear stained – late for dinner face. I wanted to lean in to the page and say “I have seen how this ends. You can do it!” as each pedal stroke brought our champion closer to the finish. The flamme rouge was in sight.
So if there is ever a follow up (for I know there is a love/hate relationship with Italian breakfasts that could be worked on), me and my (as of yet) unnamed folding bike could cover just as many kilometres, as the city bikes riden by the domestiques of this story.
Sure it might take some explaining at home, but the lure of a Crem Pat filled Italian monstrosity and the open road, is too great a challenge to ignore.
I can but dream.
(* In recent years it could be argued that the Giro (Italy) and Vuelta (Spain) have offered the better racing)