No fish ? No, no fish at all !!

A (not short) report on the 25th AFC Congress, October 1-3, 2004 – VICHY, FRANCE

 by George J. Reclos, John Reclos & Thanassis Moschou

Going to Vichy for a second time in a row was a decision made (at least for John and me) in summer, following some e-mail messages with Sonia Guinane and David Tourle. We really wanted to meet them so this would be a first class opportunity. Along these lines we also asked some good friends if they would be there, too and it turned out that most of them would (with the notable exceptions of Francesco and Patrick). Two things made us skeptical though. First, this meant that we would have to skip the meeting of AIC in Faenza (thus not seeing Francesco, Stefania, Paolo and Simona among others) and the second is the absence of Jean – Claude Nourissat who was a synonym to AFC – for us. Finally, it turned out that, although JCN’s absence can’t be overlooked, traveling to Vichy was a good idea.  If we are to list a number of points which made this visit unforgettable, these would be:

a)      We met some really nice people who share the same interests with us. Among them, Sonia and Dave, Miguel, Loic, Michael, Philippe, our Italian friends and Marco from Croatia, to name a few.

b)      It was a good opportunity to meet with our Belgian friends once again (Frank and Hilde) and meet Stijn a really nice guy. You may read their opinion, comments and remarks in their own report.

c)      We were given the opportunity to discuss an ambitious project with Loic le Rezollier, which, if materialized, will be a real asset for every fishkeeper and advanced hobbyist.

d)      For the very first time, we carried some of our own fry there. It may be very common for most of you, but for us Greeks, the usual “beggars” for fish, it was really a nice moment.

e)      We feel that, right now, the Paratilapia sp. Andapa is in the hands of some of the best hobbyists so its future is far more secured.

f)        Since MCH is always in our minds, we should also include the fact that we shot hundreds of photos which you will see in the next months (some of them are already online).

So, yes, we had a great time there as far as the congress itself is concerned, but it would be a lie to say that everything went as planned. Very far from that. It was the worst trip I ever made and I have made too many. We were traveling with Thanassis Moschou (a good friend and MCH contributor) and we hoped for a good trip there.. while sitting in the Athens airport. Little did we know about the Alitalia plans to completely ruin our weekend. As the ancient Greeks used to say, “if you find one bad thing in your path, you shall expect ten thousand more along the way”.


John and Thanassis, carrying the first coffee of a long journey. Photo by George Reclos

The usual buckets with the fish. This time they didn't make it back home ! Photo by George Reclos

The first bad sign was shown to us while boarding the Air France flight to CF in Milan airport. The stewardess announced that there was no room in the plane for our two buckets and we would have to leave them in the luggage compartment of the airplane. We refused to do so, therefore we traveled with the buckets on our knees since the aircraft was a little larger than a mini-bus. However, at this point we had made one of the wisest decisions ever. You see, our luggage, which was supposed to be on the plane, too, wasn’t there. As we found out in France, the luggage was… somewhere between Athens and Milan but definitely not in France. Our CDs, the MCH T-shirts for Dave and Sonia and all our belongings were not there. Nice way to start a good weekend, isn’t it? At least, the fish were with us..


Johnny and Thanassis found an interesting way to spend their time ! They rarely moved from their seats at the McDonald's in Milan airport. If you take into account that we spent more than 6 hours in this airport, it just makes sense. Photo by George Reclos

The twilight at 8000 feet, while flying from Milan to CF. Photo by George Reclos

Frank and Hilde came to pick us up from the airport with their new Toyota Avensis station wagon (you see? A free ad here !!) and we soon headed to Vichy after spending some fruitful time at the luggage claim department.. Of course, we were happy to be with our beloved Belgian friends and we discussed many things. So many things in fact that we lost the exit to Vichy and – guess what ? – the next exit was “just” 25 Km away – in the wrong direction of course.. In Moulins, we were able to make a U turn and, after driving another 55 Km (and 90 minutes later) we were finally at Vichy, where Sonia and Dave were anxiously waiting for the fish. We were really glad to meet this fantastic couple and happy that the fish we had for them were in prime shape. When Sonia opened the buckets I just said to myself (perhaps loudly.. ) “Mission accomplished” (not thanks to Alitalia and Air France of course.. ).


From left to right: Stijn, Sonia, Dave, George, Thanassis and Johnny. Photo by Frank Panis.

Mission accomplished ! At last ! I didn't even dare to open the bucket. After all, the new owner of the fish was just two meters away. Photo by Frank Panis.

After a short discussion Sonia and Dave left while Frank, Hilde, Stijn and the three of us went on discussing fishy things.. no reason to worry since our hotel was a” couple of minutes away”… Frank told me that Stijn was also very good in fish identification. I kept a note in the back of my head.. I would need his skills for this report. Well, as I am writing those lines, I will confirm this, Stijn is really good since he managed to identify almost all the species that we couldn't !! Anyway, at 2 o’clock in the morning we decided it was time to get some sleep so we asked some French guys about our hotel. They told us that it is a bit far away… which became “very far away” when they found out that we didn’t have a car. For the first (and only) time we were happy that we didn’t have any luggage to carry. To cut a long story short, we walked in the cold, misty night for almost an hour and finally we found our hotel.. After spending another 10 minutes to figure how on earth we could enter it (nice electronic system by the way – I am sure they would keep a thief busy for the whole night ) we were in our room.. at 3 o’clock in the morning while we had promised Sonia and Dave to have breakfast with them at 8:30 !! I really can’t tell how we made it to our first breakfast with them in time !


Yes, it is 8:30 and we are having a breakfast with our beloved British pair. Johnny is checking the value of his shares in the Tokyo stockmarket. Photo by George Reclos

Frank just waiting for the next photo opportunity. We didn't realize that he was so ill at that time ! Photo by George Reclos

Melanotaenia boesemani (Rainbow fish). Photo by George Reclos

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