Monday, 28 May 2012

Spot the Two Marys

Sunday 27.05.2012   Dole – Baume les Dames   96kms
We are sharing a magnificent ranch, which overlooks swathes of verdant countryside punctuated with areas of limestone outcrops. Horses are galloping freely along the cliff tops. We are lounging in a bedroom with two double beds and white voile curtains blowing gently in the breeze……………then I wake up!
Now, last night’s accommodation may not be to everyone’s taste. It requires a special person to appreciate the crumbling concrete, the rusting ironwork and the flaking paint not to mention the retro vinyl floor which would have benefitted from a good scrub. However, the small room we shared was clean and we both enjoyed a full and undisturbed night’s sleep. Our evening meal was shared in the company of several families who had seen better times but were apparently making the best of what was available to them. (Gives one an appreciation of our good fortune). Our meal was nourishing if basic and still an improvement on that which was served up the rest of the company. We found ourselves quite alone for our breakfast at 08.30 and a pretty meagre offering it was. Bread and jam to munch, but copious quantities of orange juice (vit C for Al) and excellent coffee. Nothing here provided any sort of incentive to linger and so by 09.30 we were on the road! Better than our average. And what a morning! Beautiful weather, stunning countryside, a slightly mucky and sluggish canal, birds tweeting and the whole world bidding each other a joyful ‘bonjour’. Must be that morning people are better disposed towards their fellow man. What say you, dear reader?
At some point during the morning, we met/almost collided with another cyclist who recognised our Welsh flag. “Oh, my husband was originally from Wales although we have lived in Canada for forty years.” We exchanged pleasantries and, I like to think that it was because they were un- accompanied by Sherman and Herman, that they disappeared into the distance along the canal path. But no matter, we were to meet them again at a turn in the canal. A tunnel had been cut through the hillside for the benefit of the barges, although we had to ride over the top! On this far side it had been decided to make a feature of the entrance or exit depending on your direction of travel. A veil  of water cascaded over the aperture, accompanied by lights and mirrors in the tunnel. Rather than try and describe something so beautiful I shall ask Mr. Technician to include a photo. Anyway, it was here than that we met again our Canadian friends an exchanged a more meaningful conversation. We left them with our card and if they do get around to reading this, we would love to hear how your journey progressed.
As a result of our early start and easy, pleasant riding, we had reached Besancon by lunch time! So, no stopping there then. A quick consultation and we made the decision to risk another 40kms in the hope that the campsite named in our magic book, would live up to expectations. Whoopee doo, it has. We are ensconced in a delightful wooden chalet with views up the gorge. I can stand up to cook, we have our own bathroom and even a ‘fridge! This will be our day off stopover.
Today, we have cycled through some of the most breath-taking scenery in the Jura. Pedalling along dedicated cycle tracks alongside either the river or the canal, we have watched the river traffic; we have passed by well-appointed housing with the river in front and massive limestone cliffs to the rear. (I could have lived in one of those). And the sunshine has not failed. We have also made up some of the mileage lost yesterday. (My elephant lives to fight another day – no bits missing).       

Saturday, 26 May 2012

On the Dole

Saturday 26.05.2012    Seurre – Dole  (Not very far) 50kms
The plan today was to arrive early in Dole and spend a day to catch up with washing, shopping etc. Hmmm….best laid plans and all that. We got off to a good start and the route and the weather were glorious. We bowled along in a very slight head wind wishing the world ‘bonjour’. We even cycled past a Weldoms which, on further investigation, provided us with much needed gas cylinders which we had found difficult to source. Wow, what a start. It continued thus until we arrived in said ville. Our plan was to spend the night in the Youth Hostel which came highly recommended from someone else’ blog. What do they say about plans and recommendations. Not repeatable here anyway. We cycled from rural tranquillity into traffic chaos (Whit weekend!) Dicing with death, we rapidly wished we were somewhere else. With no idea of the hostel’s  location, I rang and tried to make some sense of the directions I received. To make a bad situation worse, the biggest fair in the world was parked alongside the canal making the usual unpleasant fair noises which even Alan can hear. It was also very hot and very busy – need I say more?! In desperation, I accosted a gentleman who was fortunately, a local, and he gave very concise and clear directions. I thank him very, very much. These directions did require a challenging hill climb but finally led us…………….where? We found the church and the street but had to ask again for the building. Not what I would have recommended, but here we are. We have a room which is clean and likely to be very noisy and we have enjoyed a substantial, cheap and nourishing meal (with vit C). I am thinking posh hotel tomorrow. Watch this space. Certainly won’t be a day off. 

A Reminder

Friday 25.05.2012  Sateney – Seurre  65.2 k
I may be that, today, I am suffering from ant poisoning. Instead of water from my water bottle, I had treated myself to a can of lemonade for the night. I left it just beyond the zip, by my head, where I could reach it easily; which I did. In the light of the morning, I thought to finish the can, only to find that the ants had taken possession and many had drowned in the process thus providing me, no doubt, with an extra dose of protein. That being the case, the croissants and bread I had ordered for this morning were going to provide the antidote. Mmm…we lounged in the sunshine, already hot, drank coffee and discussed the day ahead. We have now become what I would like to call, casually organised in the morning, so in such manner, we pushed our bikes and packed trailers across the grass to the hardcore. The squishing noise that I thought was grass brushing tyres, was in fact, a flat! So, from casually organised, we became casually competent (actually the ‘we’ refers mainly to Alan). I passed the tools like any good theatre nurse and helped to unpack and repack the trailer. We were very grateful to the nice Dutch gentleman who came to offer his tools as the repair was completed! Only half an hour later we rode away into ………………………………NOSTRIL WIND. Now, Alan said I was not to make mention of my favourite topic as our readers must be tiring of hearing about it. BUT today it was impossible to ignore. It snorted at between 20 and 25 kms. This is a lot of pushing you backwards power especially when hauling Sherman and Herman. Did we let it get us down? Yes! After 65 kms we were well and truly bu……ed. The compensation was the sunshine and the beautiful countryside if we had only been able to lift our heads to view it. We did, however, lift them long enough to admire a memorial commemorating the shooting down of an allied plane in the second world war. Not only was the date mentioned but also each one of the crew who were four British, two Canadian, one New Zealander and one Australian. We have their names and feel sufficiently moved to try and search for more information later. I hope Mr. Technician will include the photo on this blog.
Having battled our way to Seurre, we set about following the map in order to find a campsite of which there were supposed to be two. Mmmm……usual story. Either our navigation is crap or the sites have moved. On arriving at a point on our map which suggested we should be welcomed to a site with restaurant, swimming pool and all the knobs and whistles, we found…………….a piece of waste ground, a young man with two very large dogs and a car kicking up gravel from a racing start at the top of a small slope. So, no campsite. Young man with two dangerous dogs was not a gangster but a very helpful young man who directed us to the campsite which he held in high regard. He was nonetheless somewhat nonplussed that we should enjoy riding bikes especially such a long way; he preferred his car. Thanking him profusely we retraced some distance, crossed the bridge as instructed and behold a campsite. Not quite the luxury we had come to expect, in fact no luxury at all. And no toilet paper. Still we could get the tent up, have a shower and cook another one pot meal. Alan worrying about scurvy as fruit is so difficult to carry without it getting squashed! Nice German couple camping alongside who were on their way to the Med pedalling bikes with battery driven motors. They reckoned they were good on the hills, but with 27 kilos of extra weight…… Apart from the road and the continual bird scarers every 30 seconds, it was fine. I am getting so I can sleep through anything and Al can’t hear it anyway. Off to Dole tomorrow for a rest.

No Mould on Us

Thursday 24.05.2012   Palinge – Sateney (Near Chalon sur Saone)  64.2kms
Hoorah, hoorah, the sun is shining . That teeny bit of blue must have developed overnight. I donned shorts this morning in spite of Alan’s derisive remarks about lasting not long before pulling on my longs. (It is still quite overcast.) Fresh bread delivered to the site was a welcome addition to chocolate muesli (Can’t think what the locals see in chocolate muesli – seems a bit like a contradiction to me). Croissants as well. A breakfast fit for a king.
Everything is still pretty damp but we were up and off in good time and looking forward to viewing France’ industrial past. It was interesting, if a little depressing, to see what must have been a very prosperous region along the canal, fallen into decline. Huge buildings, which were now  just skeletons of their former glory. It is impossible not to admire the abilities of the architects and builders of both the canal and the industry. It was an area reminiscent of the Welsh valleys after the closure of the mines and related industries.  Nonetheless we passed a cheery bunch of cyclists in a peloton who felt us worthy of recognition and waved enthusiastically. Well I think it was enthusiasm. Cycling fast racing bikes and pedalling bikes with Sherman and Herman attached, bear little resemblance to one another except the pedalling. One goes like sh.t off a shovel and the other lumbers along. As the lumberers, we are often ignored by our racing cousins, but not in this instance and much appreciated it was too.
Without paying much attention, we had gained quite a lot of height along this stretch of the canal. It’s a sort of flat and lurch-up a short steep bit type of ride. Having noted the paucity of stopping spots, we did eventually find one (I was still in my shorts and the sunshine was unbroken!) and took on much needed sustenance.  To our surprise and great pleasure, we now noted that the locks were downhill and that the countryside had metamorphosed. The topography (hope that’s the right word) had become much more undulating and even the cows had changed colour from white to brown. There was a general sense of prosperity.  As you might expect, the campsite we chose and finally located, was all that might be expected, set next to the vineyards at the foot of some hills. Apart from the dose of anti-fungal spray from the vineyard tractor and no loo paper, it was all very picturesque, and thus visited by shed loads of Brits and Dutch! We only saw one French car with caravan! Still a beautiful end to the day, sitting in the sunshine with wine in mugs tonight.

Almost Dropped the Bottle

Wednesday 23.05.2012      Decize – Palinge   98.5kms
We awoke to no rain  - well almost no rain – just a little drizzle, but very overcast. Refreshed, well watered and clean, we retrieved the bikes and trailers, paid a brief visit to the supermarket and took to the road. Just when things are looking up some chump decides to dig up a bridge thus rendering the road quite impassable without a raft. Seeing the deviation signs, I politely asked a Mr. Jobs Worth if the diversion applied to bikes. A disgruntled and unhelpful “oui” was the response. Deciding there must be a shorter option than the 10kms indicated, we ignored the sign and Mr. Jobs Worth and continued past the dire warning signs. As expected there was a much, much shorter way around indicated to us by a very nice motorist just as we reached the demolished bridge. Back on course we flagged down an oncoming pair of cyclist to alert them to the upcoming situation and what a nice couple they were. It transpired that they had run the Donau to Budapest last year and thoroughly recommended it. So good to know, and they were even older than us. Delightful people and grateful for our intervention.
Always up for a compromise, we took a slightly different route from the EV6 but still followed the canal path watching the shipping (pleasure craft) negotiating the locks. Not a great day for being on the water and it was difficult to tell the countries of origin as the flags just hung in their wetness. Always good for a laugh when it is other people fighting with the inrush of water which sends the boat awry just before the lock gates let you out!
We had planned to make a stopover in Paray le Monial but for some reason it induced in us a slight sense of discomfort, probably just because it was big and impersonal. What softees! However, before committing ourselves to another 18 kms, it seemed sensible to ring the campsite and ensure that at least some of it was open! It was, and on arrival we were greeted by a very effusive kampenmeister, who talked incessantly and explained, that in all his nearly sixty years of life, he had never experienced rain the like of which had fallen from the heavens the day before. I think we may have paid a few more Euros than was strictly necessary for the privilege of his recounting his experiences. A much more serious disaster was only just averted when Alan went to pick up the newly purchased bottle of wine, forgetting that his arm didn’t work too well, and it slipped from his grasp. Instinct, coupled with the thought of no wine, allowed him to move fast enough to retrieve the bottle at the expense of re-igniting his shoulder pain.  Said alcohol should numb it again. Our very nice Kampenmeister, spotting our lack of chairs and glasses! provided us with both. What a nice man. (I just spotted the teeniest bit of blue sky?!)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Did We Mention the Rain?

Tuesday  22.05.2012   Just south of Nevers – Decize  a mere 50kms
Did I really say that yesterday was wet? I didn’t know then what ‘wet’ really was. We do today! The weather didn’t seem too bad when we sat down to our fulsome but basic breakfast, served by our smiling hostess, but on exiting the bar to return to our room the rain was coming down in stair rods. It would be fair to say that it was a little daunting in its volume and ferocity, but we considered ourselves a match for it. Too conceited by half! Having taken a wrong turning from the hotel, (a whole kilometre), we returned to our start point already very, very wet. In optimistic frame of mind (it can only get better) we set off  again. It didn’t get better; it got much worse AND we had no provisions and only a flask of weak tea which was at best only luke warm yesterday so when we saw a huge boulangerie sign, it was a welcome sight. Turn right, straight up a 10% hill – hoorah- but sure enough at the top was a boulangerie. So, with bread, cheese, quiche and apple turnovers safely stowed on the trailer and accompanied by thunder and, presumably, lightning and another cloudburst, we descended the hill.
Not a Happy Bunny!
(Now my elephant has got off quite lightly this week but the last two days have required the odd munch.) By midday we had found no shelter when, finally, we sought divine guidance and made for a village church being assured that there would at least be a porch. NO. Not even an overhanging gargoyle. We did find a small wood store with just enough space to squeeze into and avoid the worst of the wet. We did, however, have to share the shed with biggest used condom Alan had ever seen. Quite put him off his cold tea (not even luke warm anymore).
Enough was enough, and we made the decision to call it a day at the next town and find shelter for the rest of the day and tonight. Having toured the town several times we found tourist information and arranged accommodation. So, here we are, disappointed at having completed such a short distance, but common sense must prevail and it is still coming down in stair rods! Tomorrow looks less wet, if still grey and miserable, so here’s to staying dry, or at least drier, on the morrow.  

Exciting Levees

Monday 21.05.2012 Belleville sur Loire – Just south of Nevers 82.4 kms

Well, well, well, or should that be wet, wet, wet? The met men are to be congratulated on accurately predicting an entire day of rain!

After a truly splendid breakfast, we left our hotel (Terre de Loire) in a persistent drizzle. Within half an hour it was pi…………ing down, and in another half an hour we were soaked. What joy. On the plus side, old nostril had been downgraded to starboard beam – so not quite behind but generally more supportive than not. Finding no shelter in which to stop and drink our luke- warm tea, we resorted to a cafĂ©/restaurant for a coffee and a bun. Now, I have never thought we were mean, but 17 Euros for two coffees and two pieces of apple pie, is beyond reasonable in my book. If I could remember the name of the place I would name and shame.

The rain had now reached torrential proportions but here comes a point where one is sooo…. wet it really ceases to matter and that has been our state of mind all day. However, I do have one little quibble with our route planners. The surfaces and signing along the Loire route has been exceptional. The lack of provision for shelter is deplorable. Maybe they didn’t reckon on mad folk riding in the rain but the same could have been said of folk needing shade in the sun! So come on guys just a teeny weeny bit more thought. Not that we’re moaning just because we’re soaked…..

Much of our soggy pedalling today has been along the levees with small barriers to break up the boredom of endless trees on the left and crops on the right. The most excitement along the route was the appearance of a cement manufacturing plant, chuffing out dust by the shed load.

Not a campsite marked on this part of the route, so no guilt complexes. We were looking for a hotel. Nearing 80 kilometres and not wanting to go into Nevers we had spotted a place called Cuffy (great name) which boasted accommodation and food. Whoopee. Having already passed several hopefuls which were SHUT (after all it is not yet summer!), we had pinned our hopes on Cuffy. Access to the village entailed negotiating a bridge over the canal. Not any ordinary bridge, but one shaped like a hoop and constructed of wooden panels which were now very wet and very slippery. Slipping and slithering we took the bikes over first, and still slipping and slithering we returned and hauled over the trailers. A good effort we thought, looking forward to our nice warm hotel. Ha,ha, - nothing, zilch. No return over that bridge so off we set in the direction of Nevers. We are now ensconced in ‘The Frog’; basic but warm and dry with a bar! So, cheers all, until tomorrow.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Shut but Open

Sunday 20.05.2012  Sully sur Loire – Belleville sur Loire   61kms

Where the Rhone - Seine Canal crosses the Loire
Bit of a late start this morning as Alan needed the rest. So it was about 10.30 when we bade farewell to Mr. PGL and the second campsite with no toilet paper. Nostril wind was with us again; we are getting quite pally now! The day has passed with no notable occurrences but a pleasant ride along the river. The rain has stayed off for the most part but is forecast for tonight. An hotel seems a really good option and the one we found looked great except that it was shut! A few metres further along the route we found a tourist office open on a Sunday. I asked for a hotel with food for we were bereft of rations, and she recommended the one that was shut. But when she rang it was open!  So here we are –warm, dry and clean while it pisses down outside. We have accessed the internet and we would like to thank – no really – all those of you who have sent messages and emails. It is a great encouragement especially when things are a bit tough. So pat yourselves on the back and we will look forward to our next encounter. I have to stop now as himself must post this and add the pics which, I am told take ages! Looking forward to a really comfortable night and no breakfast to prepare in the morning.

Off Skirts and Off Bike

Saturday 19.05.2012.  Beaugency – Sully sur Loire   80kms
Although today the weather is pretty rubbish, we have had one quite nice day when I thought wearing my new shorts/skirt would draw a pretty picture. Alan had warned me that I would last no more than 10kms before it would become an encumbrance. 10 kms, huh, about 10 metres! An oncoming lorry was too big to share the road with two laden bikes, so a dismount was required. Hmmm. Skirt caught on the saddle, couldn’t dismount, leaned heavily to one side and with an undignified flourish I just managed to avoid an ignominious fall. Skirt off and Alan right, as usual! Just a little aside ‘cos today was back with nostril wind and not a lot of time for mirth. Not quite as destructive as last blow. My thanks to Deborah for her suggestions of a nose clip. However, all the bike shops I have visited with this request have been unable to oblige. I will keep trying.
The advantage of riding through alluvial forest in a nostril wind is that it does provide for a modicum of shelter. Today, however, the route designers have decreed we shall ride through alluvial plain which provides no shelter at all! Hey ho. Nonetheless, all was going well until the campsite we had in mind for an overnight stop was SHUT and a further 10 kms was required. At this point, Alan, concerned for my welfare, turned in his saddle and shouted, “ Are you okay for another ten k.” Before the ‘of course’ had left my lips, his trailer wheel caught a huge, and completely hidden tree stump and Mr. Concerned up-turned and fell, along with trailer and bike, in a crumpled heap in the dirt. There was a moment of panic while I tried to work out an evacuation plan, but in true manly spirit, he was up, hurting, but with trailer in better shape than he was, we carried on! His determination was to be admired, as were the efforts of my nephew Tom, who was competing this day in the Iron Man contest in Lanzarote.  We did find a four star camp site with only half a star open but in a lovely spot next to the river. As we pitched camp we received word that Tom had succeeded in completing the course in a very respectable time and we send our heartfelt congratulations.
 As long as Al kept his right arm low he could manage the pain in his arm but not the pain who arrived on his bike just before dark! A man from Leeds who at one time had worked for …………….PGL! After three large cans of ale, said man left for a bar in the nearest town and us oldies wriggled into sleeping bags. Well I wriggled, Alan sort of lurched. At 23.00 the fireworks in the local village sparked into life and at 23.30 sleep finally overwhelmed both of us. I just hope he can move in the morning! Another imponderable.

Extraordinary Long Things

Friday 18.05.2012 Chaumont sur Loire – Beaugency 55kms

I had been woken a couple of times during the night by what sounded like an approaching dragon but was, in fact, only the wind. Always the wind; did I mention the wind?! However, as I poked a head out of the tent in the light of morning, it was with palpable relief that the wind, happily for us, was a whizzy. Over breakfast we watched, with some amusement, the antics of our motor home neighbours as they attired themselves for their day’s biking; never seen such a variety of shapes and sizes, and that was just the bikes!

By nine thirty, we bade farewell to the cheapest site yet, although we would happily have paid an extra couple of Euros for the provision of toilet paper!

With the wind up our bums, it was possible to expend the extra energy on reminiscing about some of the beauty of the area. There is much to be admired, although the picture included is a mystery: answers on a postcard please. That aside, the track along the river has been heavily forested and often the river is just a glimpse and at other times our tyres have been inches from the water. The chateaux have been both numerous and quite magnificent and many stretches have been similar to the Dordogne with the houses built into the rock face with Troglodite villages higher up. Sharing our track have been the inevitable fishermen with their extraordinarily long rods! (Still not seen a fish on the end of one.) We have also had to share some of our space with vehicles of the motor variety and have discovered that the code of conduct for French drivers is nothing if inconsistent. In Britain you expect to be run down, in Italy the drivers will run down the oncoming car, in Denmark everyone stops for the bike – but here, sometimes they are most courteous and sometimes they will run you down!

Our journey finished early today as we found ourselves in a very pretty town with many historical references and so we thought to take a short break and find us some lodgings (with toilet paper). With the aid of the tourist information (which was open!) we found ourselves in what can only be described as an adequate hotel up in the loft. Food was excellent and we passed some time with a delightful, oldish French gentleman who was cycling to see his son. Back to the attic for a night’s kip and see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, 18 May 2012

3 Grumpys!!

Thursday  17. 05.2012        Villandry – Chaumont sur Loire  69kms
Our start was a little tardy as we meandered through breakfast and then had to (no, Alan had to) sort out the posting of the blog. This required a good deal of wandering around the hotel in order to procure an adequate internet signal. (It’s a wonder he doesn’t get challenged for loitering). Finally all was done and we were ready to retrieve the bikes. Walked out of the door and not only was it raining but v. v. cold. I/we had dithered about including buffaloes in our luggage and erred on the side of caution. I wore mine all day! I also moaned all day!
This was truly a Mrs. Grumpy day. Nostril wind was of tree damaging proportions and despite my very best efforts the only word that sprang to mind was the sort of expletive I cannot use in a family blog but it begins with ‘f’. Branches were falling from the trees and the path was covered in twigs which caused the trailers to bounce and make pedalling even more difficult. (You can see the frame of mind I was in!) In view of my anguish Mr. Navigater avoided the route that would have gone over the hill and far away so that we might admire a few more chateaux, and kept to the much, much flatter roads along the river. There were points of interest like the caves along the roadside built into the cliffs for storing and selling the local wines. I acknowledge that for much of the time I was not a cheery cycle companion. My thanks to Al for being so patient. Anyway, a final push up cobbles (I have forgotten to mention those but they are, it seems, very popular in this area as a charming addition to authenticity? Mmm………) and we were within sight of our campsite.

For the princely sum of eight Euros, we found a relatively sheltered and isolated spot and got the tent up. (Getting good at this now). I whizzed back the few hundred metres into the village to acquire a much needed bottle of wine. It only took me a few minutes, but on my return, our little green tent had been encircled by about a dozen motorhomes! To add insult to injury, the gang met under the awning of the motorhome immediately behind us – noise, they could do noise. Mostly laughing and good humoured noise, it is true, but we had hoped for a little more tranquillity. To their credit, they knocked off about eight and not long afterwards, we slid into sleeping bags.

magpies and elephants

Wednesday 16.05.2012   Saumur – Villandry  63kms
Still very nippy this morning and, having shared our breakfast with the magpies, I made a smart move to the heated toilet block to dress for our ride. I have to say Alan wasn’t far behind, but it was impossible to leave the pitch for fear of an air attack!
Now here's an idea for the next trip
I had not expected to start eating my elephant quite so soon on this trip, but today I began to nibble. (For those of you new to the blog, my mantra when things require a humungus effort on my part, is to recall how to eat an elephant – one mouthful at a time!) Now this usually happens when I am confronted by a huge hill but on this occasion, I felt as though I was riding through treacle. And it is only the first week! Shortly after lunch my eyes strayed to my back tyre and it was with a mixture of relief and frustration that I realised there was a lot less air in it than there should have been. A puncture? Thankfully not; a bit of pumping by Mr. Technician and all was well. What a relief to know that it was not my increasing age or a decreasing of general fitness, I was, in effect, riding through treacle.
We did pass through a memorable town although for what it was memorable I cannot recall except that its name was Candes, it was old and we shall return there in the future, probably by car.
Thankfully my tyre incident had been sorted before our route took us on a devious route above the river in order that we might be impressed by the vineyards. Not entirely successful, as we have already seen quite a lot of vineyards and it was cold and windy. Forewarned now, Mr. Navigator was not fooled a second time and we avoided the next foray into wine growing country and stuck with the river, surprisingly the Vienne for a short time.
We had already decided on an inside evening in view of the pending rain (which never really materialised) and a night in a proper bed after a proper meal. This one was a Logis run by Mr. Everlastingly Cheerful. After the proper and delicious meal, washed down with an equally delicious bottle of wine, we were both too tired or too pi…………..d or both, to finish and post the blog. Always tomorrow!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

There's two grumpys

Tuesday 15.05.2012  Montjean sur Loire – Saumur.        89kms
We have improved on our decamping abilities. Mind you, having breakfast prepared for us probably contributed to our level of efficiency. By 09.30 we were on our bikes and pedalling uphill out from the site. Ah, but the wind……………. Nostril had metamorphosed into whizzy. Hoorah! 
The weather forecast had forecast (as it does) that today would start fine but that showers might be expected around lunchtime and then there would be a return to fine weather. How right can they be? At precisely 12.10 it rained! By 14.30 the sun reappeared. Ten out of ten! Didn’t prevent us from getting wet but at least it wasn’t a surprise. At about this time we had our first encounter with a Mr. Grumpy we had not met before. A jolly “Bonjour” met with sullen silence and a glower. Several kilometres further along Mr. Grumpy passed us in the opposite direction. This bizarre coming and going continued for several hours and his demeanour changed not one wit. So, it’s true there is more than one grumpy old man in the world!
Our whizzy wind continued to increase in strength so we thought to profit from all this free air and  just keep on going. Saumur promised a campsite with all the bells and whistles so on we went. As ever, on reaching a large town all signs disappeared. All we wanted was sight of a particularly large river. Not much to ask you might think. Mmm… Decathlon, Super U, Lidl but no sign of a river. “Ask that nice man, Mary.” Nice man pointed us in the opposite direction and in less than half an hour, we found our five star site! Needless to say, only about two stars were actually operating! Nonetheless, we had a sheltered spot for the tent and with the temperature plummeting, we pitched camp and dived into the depths of our bags for all our thermal togs.
As the cycle tracks had very successfully circumnavigated all the towns and villages we were somewhat bereft of nourishment. After a hurried trip back into the main street to purchase minimal supplies, I returned to find that the magpies had made free with what little we had! They finally met their match in Mr. Bird-scarer! 

And we thought we were mad

Monday  14.05.2012   Thouare sur Loire – Montjean sur Loire  63kms.
 On our way back from morning ablutions, we encountered our neighbours who were journeying through France a velo. If we thought we were intrepid, these folk were planning to be on the road for two years! Not only in summer either! Felicitations to them both, and maybe they will find themselves in the Haute Vienne some time.
Before our departure, we sought to say farewell to the welcoming lady of the previous evening and compliment her on the magnificent gardens. Her parting handshake near crushed my fingers. Must be the gardening.
I had already made a note of the wind direction (begins with an n) and for a good part of today there was a reminder of Sweden although here the trees were interspersed with cows of varying types. The wind continued to increase in strength, so when a sign appeared insisting that bikes be pushed across a fairly long bridge, we were happy to oblige. Even so, there remained little room for two way vehicles which whizzed by with barely a hairsbreadth of space twixt them and us. At the end we were presented with the first almost impossible demountable kerb!
After 60 odd kilometres of fighting with old nostril wind the campsite was a blessed relief. Our pitch ignored the roaring of said wind and provided calm and warmth, thanks to copious and stragtegically placed hedges. Our hosts had been very welcoming and at small cost we indulged in a supper of sorts ( croque monsieur and chips) washed down with and exceptional little local wine. We even partook of an excellent breakfast. 

We Had It All

Sunday  13.05.2012. St. Nazaire – Thouare sur Loire    65kms
The start was not quite as quick as we had intended. After checking, re-checking and re-re-checking, the clock was on its way to ten o’clock. Finally, with trailers attached, a farewell to Deborah, Brendan and Virginie, our hostess we clipped in and slowly drew away from the hostel. Except for this black Mondeo which kept overtaking us and photographing our efforts, all seemed fine. The Mondeo eventually gave up and went off with its occupants to holiday for another day! Look forward to seeing the pics when we get home.
We whistled along into my favourite wind and were overwhelmed at the plethora of signs and the well maintained route. (Further less favourable comments will follow.) Within not many minutes of our start, Alan’s shout of ‘dog’ put us on red alert. And then the most extraordinary thing happened – the dog put its tail between its legs and ran for its life in the opposite direction. A first! We have never managed to scare a dog before but look forward to doing it again – if only we knew what it was we did!  Now as well as dogs, we are used to tractors but not when they leap out of a junction with those humungus prongs preceding the vehicle. Just missed! Try harder next time!
After a free ferry crossing, we began to approach Nantes. Our plan to clear the city on a Sunday and thus avoid most of the traffic was going really well even if the scenery was industrial sites and exceedingly smelly Gaz factory. What we hadn’t counted on was that much of the local population and no doubt many visitors also, had decided to take the air round the centre of town. At this point, with pedestrians, cars, bikes, scooters and pushchairs all vying for position, all the signs disappeared! (Comme d’habitude). We hadn’t expected the arrival of Mr. Master Navigator quite so soon but he swung into action even guiding us along the Boulevard de Cardiff which made us feel right at home, and Nantes finally petered out and we found ourselves once more beside the Loire and heading in the right direction.
The riverside after Nantes was delightful, boasting a host of spring flowers and absurdly a house half submerged in the river. Yes, I do have photographic proof. And then with almost perfect timing, a campsite of exceptional quality appeared and for the princely sum of 12 Euros, we pitched our tent, (after a free glass of kir), cobbled together a meal and thought ourselves most fortunate.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ready or Not

12.05.20012 St. Brevin L’Ocean ( very pretty it is too)
Another year, another route, another adventure! 
 The last few days have witnessed a flurry of activity as would be expected. Lists have been ticked, domestic chores have been undertaken, instructions for visitors have been written, and kind neighbours have been approached to keep an eye on the house. Most important has been the offer from Deborah and Brendan to ferry us to our start point at the mouth of the river Loire. Most plans have gone without a hitch but NO hitch at all is always unlikely and, despite his numerous check lists, it was Alan who perpetrated this particular hitch by leaving behind the most vital of objects. No, not the bike but his bag, wherein lay his bank cards, car documentation and passport! Realisation dawned just about half an hour en route. Passing a bar, Brendan sniggered that Deborah had on one occasion left her handbag in said bar. This was followed by a strangled cry of “Where is my bag?”. Not anywhere in the car! An hour or so later, with bag collected from Chez Nous, we were outside the same bar. I will leave to your imagination, dear reader, the taunts that followed this small act of carelessness. Tee hee……..
After the long journey, sub-zero temperatures, fog and grinding ascents of last year (not to mention broken bones) the commencement of this new venture has shown a very different face. The journey, despite the deviation, took only some four or five hours, the temperatures are in the low twenties, the sky is almost clear blue and the route is almost flat! Thus, in these balmy conditions have we explored the starting point of our track, visited the seaside and lazed by the pool at our gite. (La Pasada – Very good and cycle friendly)  Only my old friend ‘nostril wind’ has tried to spoil the day and failed. We have enjoyed a gentle introduction to this year’s quest and we look forward to sharing this evening with our chauffeurs and quaffing the odd glass of wine.
Tomorrow, up and off and who knows what awaits. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mary's Back Blogging

May is here again. The same cannot be said for Spring!
As with many challenging experiences, memories re-organise themselves and the more pleasurable bubble to the surface and the least pleasant plummet to the depths. Such is human nature or mine anyway. So, my enthusiasm at the prospect of once more riding the trail almost saw us drowned before we had got underway. I quashed my enthusiasm for commencing this journey at the beginning of May, and truculently agreed with Mr. Organiser (who has once again been responsible for all the hard work and logistics), to delay take off until the middle of said month. It seems that he may have been communing with the god of weather and had been alerted to the fact that this was to be the wettest April on record! I know not how many inches of water have been deposited on the earth but it has unremittingly fallen from a miserably grey sky for over two weeks and winds, nostril or otherwise, have downed large trees. Two soggy cyclists would have been easy pickings for a series of unforgiving depressions.  My man may also have had a passing acquaintance with the god of bad teeth who decreed that I would require time consuming treatment on a large and painful molar. (a paltry inconvenience compared with the broken bones of last year.) Training has all but halted on the roads and continued in the loft courtesy of our machines of torture. The dentist has contributed with her own machine of torture. So another ten days must pass before we set off for the mouth of the Loire. Ten days, during which, I am assured, we will see a diminution in the amount of wetness and a re-acquaintance with a benevolent sun. Not easy to believe as I gaze through the window at the stair rods spattering the garden.
One of the greatest pleasures of our last undertaking, was the communication I enjoyed with all you readers (10,000 page views from over 30 countries)- so welcome all.  We commence this new venture at the mouth of the river Loire which is a mere five hours from home rather than the five days of last year. Once more, we have recruited the generosity of friends, this time, Deborah and Brendan, to transport us, bikes and trailers to St. Nazaire. The 13th May should see us at the beginning of the 4000 km pedal to the Black Sea. I am looking forward to telling you of our pursuit of the EV6 and of enjoying your company on the way.