A Travellerspoint blog

July 2018

2018 JULY 28 - 30 FRANCE

89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

semi-overcast 22 °C

*********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Saturday 28th July 2018 – day 31 – Chartres

Mitch walked to the bakery, so we could have pain de raisin for breakfast, don’t like to break in tradition.

Relaxing day today. We were able to wash all our clothing in the washing machine, so they got a good clean. Sleeping bags and bedding are hanging outside on the line to air and get a bit of sunshine to freshen them up after being squashed in bags and tent for a month.


Mitch gave the bikes a bit of a clean up and a de-grease and they are good as new, ready for the next adventurers or biking city explorers.
We walked to the Carrefour supermarket to get some supplies for lunch and dinner and that is about as much as we did today.

It was nice to have a relaxing day where we didn’t have to ride somewhere or be somewhere. Tomorrow is going to be much the same, except we need to get our bags packed and find a way to get to the airport on Monday.

Sunday 29th July 2018 – day 32 – Chartres

We did absolutely nothing today, and I am not ashamed to admit it. It was nice to just be able to hang out, have no where to be or go to.

Ah, I tell a lie, Mitch walked down to the bakery this morning for our usual pain de raisin, omg are we going to miss them when we leave France.

And just after noon we both walked the 10 minutes to the local Carrefour to buy some supplies for lunch and dinner. Other than that, we did bugger all. I finished reading the book I picked up a couple of days ago and we just hung out around the house. Very relaxing.

I did have one other task to execute today and that was to find a way to get us to the airport tomorrow. Due to the train strikes and there was a fire near Paris the other day which has also affected the trains going in and out of Paris I needed to find another way of getting us to the airport.
I sent a request to blabla car rideshare that was rejected and thought about having a little panic attack. Sent off another request to another blabla car but had no idea what type of car was on offer and if our 2 huge bags would fit in. There was no way to contact the driver until after I put through the request and my payment was taken.

In the meantime, I sent a message to the tourist information office here in Chartres asking about any sort of shuttle, they sent back a phone number advising yes there is a shuttle and it costs only 37 euro each. This is a good price and would only be a little more than what we would have to pay on the 2 trains we would need to get to Paris Orly Airport. Our Airbnb host, Valentin, very kindly called up the shuttle company for us (easier for him to speak with them in French than me trying to organize anything) but he was told the shuttle was full as you need to book at least a week in advance and with the train strikes and all. They did however offer a private shuttle at 125 euros and unfortunately this seemed to be our only option. It was a lot more than I wanted to pay to get to the airport, but really, we had no choice. They requested I send an email request with address and pick up time. Ironically, as soon as I sent the email, the 2nd blabla car request I had sent earlier, responded with a yes, but we still didn’t know what kind of car he was driving. Valentin to the rescue again as he called up the guy and negotiated not only for him to pick us up from the door here, but also to drop us off at the airport, not at a service station 5km away with was the advised drop off point. These little extras for a meagre 20 euros extra! This was a bargain, the blabla car was going to cost us a total of 39 euros! Much better than 125 euros for the shuttle and even better than the 2 trains we would have to get if they are even running.

With this task of getting to the airport sorted, my mind was free to stagnate for the rest of the day.

Ah yes, we did also pack up all our stuff into the two big bags that we will be leaving with tomorrow. It seems these bags are still full to bursting even though we are leaving a lot of the bike equipment behind.

So tomorrow we fly from Paris, France to Malta to start the next part of our 89 Days in Europe.

Monday 30th July 2018 – day 33 – Chartres to Orly Airport – fly to Malta

So, for the last time, Mitch walked to the bakery to purchase our last pain de raisin breakfast. We enjoyed the last tasty pastry with a cup of coffee.
Everything was organized so all we had to do today was wait for our Blabla car pick up to take us to the airport. Our driver arrived a little early, but we were ready so said our thank you and goodbyes to Freyda, Valentin and his wife, our Airbnb hosts, loaded up the car with our bags and ourselves and we were off to the airport.


Our French driver spoke about as much English as we spoke French, but somehow for the 1 ½ hour journey he and Mitch managed to keep up a conversation. Some people can talk underwater, no matter what the language.

So, we are no at Orly airport, super early, but we are here. I did not fancy taking our chances with public transport so waiting here or waiting at the house makes no difference to us. Airports are always good for people watching also.

Orly airport is very crowded with an assortment of travellers flying all over France and the rest of Europe. There is a very strong police presence and an even stronger military personal presence patrolling up and town the terminal. The ones in fatigue uniforms are carrying big scary looking machine guns, the likes of which we are not used to seeing in the local airport. But I guess over the last couple of years France has experienced a bit too much of their fare share of terrorist attention. Still the sight of these guys and their displayed weapons makes me feel a little more nervous that the threat is actually here. At least these big guns are here ready to jump into action just in case, that should make me feel better.

While I have a few hours to kill guess it’s a good time to sum up our ‘Tour de Frog’ bicycle jaunt through France.

Firstly, I’d like to thank the weather gods, who although on some days cooked us to a frazzle, they only gave us 3 occasions out of 33 days of rain. Our first night of camping, when we received a torrential downpour. Luckily it was only equipment that got wet that round. Secondly, for just 30 minutes during our ride into Alencon, when we decided it was so light that we continued to ride not even donning a raincoat. And thirdly, the thunderstorm we had in Brehemont, but luckily, we were forewarned and managed to secure dry accommodation for the night. So, thank you for the lovely weather supplied to us all of July in France!

Now, in regard to the bike paths – I’m sorry France but you don’t hold a candle to Germany. We still bicycled on a lot of roads, albeit they were secondary roads, there were still a lot of road riding. The first route we tackled, the Veloscenie was the hardest. Worst part was there was nowhere to get water. Even to purchase water the villages were too distanced apart. And then in parks or bike picnic stops there was nowhere to refill thirsty water bottles. On occasion I entered peoples garden to use the yard tap and once I remember sticking my head inside someone kitchen to ask for a tap refill of my water bottle. And the campgrounds were too spaced too far apart. I know we were not fit, but even so, most cyclo tourists would not want to have to ride 50-60 km every day to be able to stay in camping grounds. Even if you are fit, if you want to stop and explore things on the way the distances were too far, in my opinion. Hence, we stayed in a lot more hotels and rode the train more than what was initially planned.

The scenery was ok, nothing spectacular! We saw a lot of wheat fields, a lot of corn fields, lots of hay fields and much to my delight lots of sunflower fields. Some of the river scenes were magical, the reflections magnificent. But I can't say the scenery was spectacular. Riding through little villages that looked asleep was pretty cool, just the age of some things here compared to Australia are amazing in themselves.

As for the bike route along the Loire: here we tripped over camping grounds, so no complaints there. And most were located close to the river in lovely scenic locations. As for the path itself, the planners have done an excellent job of keeping cyclist off busier roads, but this was often done with a 3-5km detour into the hilly countryside. Now, I’m not going to complain too much about this as this is where we experienced most of the sunflower fields. But to call it a river path is not exactly accurate, when compared to the river paths I have ridden in Germany.

At the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the bike trip. I think my cycle partner enjoyed the part about it being over and done with, but perhaps proud of the achievement. Will I do another bike ride in Europe, mmm need to have a think about that one.

As for the French people, honestly, they could not have been any nicer. They try a lot harder to speak English to us than we do to speak their own language to them in their own country. The arrogance of the English-speaking world. The whole trip we only had one bad encounter – that rude bitch in the bike shop in Tours (but that had nothing to do with language, she was just a bitch or having a bad day or something.) Several occasions along the way we had locals stop and ask if we needed assistance while we were looking at a map or phone screen in confusion.

I can honestly say everyday we ate cheese, which was one of the highlights of France I was looking forward to from the start. Everyday we ate pastries for breakfast, an indulgence we cancelled out with the cycling part. At least that’s what we kept telling ourselves. And everyday we had a beverage of wine, cider or beer. So French holiday requirements fulfilled!

Whilst writing this I realize today is one of the few days in France we have not had some kind of alcoholic beverage. Although I have it on very good authority that there is a cold lemon beer waiting for us in Malta!


Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:29 Archived in France Comments (0)


89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 35 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Wednesday 25th July 2018 – day 28 Amboise to Blois

45km rode today, very hot

It was warm last night, probably one of the warmest nights we have had camping. Slept fairly well.

Today we continue up the Loire, but the track in all its wisdom took us on a lot of back roads away from the sight of the river. The first hour we were already pushing quite a bit and it was getting very warm. The Loire a Velo bike track is very good at keeping the cyclist off the busy or not so busy main roads. But unfortunately, it usually does this with a 3-5km detour on back roads – with hills.

After the first hour of ups and downs we were lulled back to the river with a nice flat path, but it did not last long and soon we were back on the backroads. So today was a hard ride, probably a lot to do with the heat as well. We got a little lost in the afternoon but found the track back again which took straight back to the river and the last kilometre was a nice track with views of Blois and the Loire River.
Suck it up I said to Mitch as this is the last views we will have of the Loire River as we head inland when we leave here and head back towards Chartres.

I had booked a hotel, for the next 2 nights, close to the railway station – always easy to find and of course it was in the high part of town so a bit more pushing we had to do to reach the hotel. By the time we arrived at check-in we were absolutely knackered. We unloaded everything off the bikes what we would need for the next 2 nights, camping gear left on, and stored the bikes in the supplied garage.

Our hotel room is one of the smallest I have ever seen, but it has a huge opening window and a fan! Luxury! And a nice cool shower which was the first thing that I ducked under after entering the room. Mitch cooled off after me and then we just hung around as it was still too hot to go outside for a look around town.

We ventured out at about 6pm but it was still pretty hot and soon stopped for a drink before continuing our look around old town Blois. There is a lovely huge chateau right here in the middle of town, but we are saving our visit for Chateau Chambord tomorrow. This is another of my bucket list tick offs. There is a bus that will take us there from closed to the train station as it's too far to ride there and back in one day. The chateau is 22km from here and we have been told the temp is maybe going to hit 40 tomorrow after todays 35.

Can’t cook as we are in hotel, so just opted for a quick dinner of kebab and chips – it was good too. Biggest meal we have eaten in a long time. Found a supermarket and purchased supplies for our picnic at Chambord tomorrow. Hotel kindly let us put supplies in their fridge, so they will be fresh for us tomorrow.

We walked a few more streets then headed back to the hotel, it was still before 9pm, still light of course and still hot. Will be grateful for the fan in our room tonight.

So, rest of the evening was spent chewing up internet as I catch up on a few days of posting photos.


Thursday 26th July 2018 – day 29 Blois to Chateau Chambord

Today we are visiting Chateau Chambord, which is about 22km out of Blois.

Mitch went to the bakery a few doors down and purchased the usual pain de raisin and they were delicious as ever. Actually, these ones were probably the yummiest to date. We ate them with a cup of filter coffee in the hotel.

The bus stop is just 100 metres from the hotel, so we walk over there at about 9.30am for the 9.44 bus. There are just a couple of people waiting but by the time the bus rocks up it is just about full. I’m grateful for the bus to the chateau as its already very hot and there is no way we would have been able to ride the 22km there and another 22km back. So, at 6 euro return each on the bus is money well spent. The drive takes about 30 minutes as the big bus passes through some villages that have very narrow roads.

We get off the bus and walk to the ticket office where we were advised by the tourist office yesterday if we flash our bus ticket we get a 2euro reduction on the entry of the chateau. Better 2 euro each in our pocket – we paid 11 euro each for the chateau tickets. All the entry fees for chateaux are around here are this price, that is why we have not been going in any others. Chambord was kept special as to tick off my bucket list.
The sun was very hot today, and the coolness that the chateau should have offered was taken up by the crowds of people trying to squeeze through narrow doorways from room to room. We were able to leave our bags in a cloakroom so there was not the burden of carrying them, but it was still hot and crowded. We pushed our way around the collection of rooms, sure we did not see them all, but after about 2 hours we’d had enough and decided to head out to the gardens and eat our picnic lunch.


The inside of the chateau was almost a bit disappointing. Definitely, the outside is much more impressive. The rooms inside are vast and most unfurnished, which makes them seem like just a collection of big rooms. And I overheard a tour guide telling someone that the furnishings that are on display are not originally from this chateau, some of them are not even French. They said that a lot of the furniture, tapestries and wall hangings were destroyed in the French Revolution and they have just tried to collect things from the same period to put on display. A lot of the stuff came from Spain, which I’m sure is making the previous owners of the once magnificent chateau roll over in their graves.

Anyway, for future reference, you don’t need to go inside the chateaux if you visit here in France, just admire them from the outside as they are much more enjoyable that way.

We found a bit of shade under a big old tree and had our usual picnic of cheese, pate, salami and baguette. But today we washed this down with a small bottle of Chambord liqueur that I had brought from Australia and had been carrying in my bike pannier this last 3 and a bit weeks. It was intended for this very occasion and went down a treat. However, much to my surprise they were selling bottles of Chambord in the gift shop, 8.25 euro for a tiny shot bottle or 39.95 euro for the 700ml bottle. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring any drinking vessels with us today and I had to resort to stealing a couple of small ice cream cups from which to drink from. Not very posh, but it did the trick.

We caught the 1.10pm bus back to Blois as we had seen enough of the crowds and the sun was still beating down cooking everyone not in the shade.

We returned to our room to escape the heat with our little fan blowing and the curtains drawn against the sunshine. We ventured out at around 6pm to buy a cool drink and some small quiches from the bakery for dinner.

Just wanting to check our train plans for tomorrow we walked across the street to the train station and I had a meltdown when I tried to book the train we want to catch tomorrow to take us back to Chartres. It was only offering tickets for bikes that could be folded up and carried on the train like luggage. Shit this was not good. Plan for tomorrow was to ride about 40km to a regional train station so we could catch a series of regional trains to get us to Chartres without having to go via Paris. Going via Paris is not only time consuming and a big hassle, but the prices of the train tickets are nearly 4 times the price of the regional trains will cost us to get back to Chartres. I started to freak and the ticket office at the train station just closed its doors the minute I walked up to the door. It was still 5 minutes to the closing 7pm by the train station clock. We returned to the room and internet where I frantically searched for any answers about taking non-folding bikes on these regional TER trains. I finally received an answer from a chat back on the French rail site who assured me that roll on bikes are fine to take. My panic is not over, and I won’t sleep very well tonight. Not until we have confirmation in the morning that the bikes can be taken on the trains.

My other option was just to bite the bullet and pay the money and ride the train into Paris and then back out to Chartres at whatever price they want to charge. But of course, there is a train strike on again tomorrow and the lines along the Loire up to Paris are not running at all. Can’t win in this country when it comes to train travel. I’m just getting a bit antsy as we really don’t have enough time left to ride all the way back to Chartres.

So let’s try to get some sleep now and not worry anymore about it, will find out definite in the morning. Ha easier said than done!

Friday 27th July 2018 – day 30 Blois to Vendome to Chartres

Rode 38km today

We were advised the train ticket office opened at 6am, and we were over there at 6.30am just to find a manned information stall, the actual ticket office did not open until 8.10am. The info guys assured us that the regional train would take roll on bikes, but I was not convinced as we could not purchase tickets from the automated machine.

Already pissed off that I was out of bed at this early hour then not being able to get a straight answer did not put me in a better mood. I really needed to have confirmation before we rode 40km inland to the regional station. So, we decided we would wait until the ticket office opened before starting the ride.

We had breakfast of pain de raisin (best we’ve had in France) and a coffee (worst we’ve had in France) at the bakery before returning to the hotel to check out and load up our bikes. All packed and ready to go I stood at the train station ticket office waiting for it to open. Finally, it did, and I was reassured by several staff members that it would be just fine to take a roll-on bike on the train. I purchased tickets for the 7.39pm train that evening, leaving from Vendome which was about 40km away. I kind of under estimated our cycling ability as we since we departed Blois at 8.30am we made the 40km by 12 noon. But I was not sure how we’d go as it was all on roads the whole way.

The road was mostly 2 lane highway sort road, with lots of big trucks and traffic. I’m not even sure if bikes were even allowed to be riding on these roads, I guess not as most of the time the road did not have any shoulder for us to ride on. So, this was the most dangerous and scary riding we did the whole trip, but really, we had no option but to take this way to get to Vendome. We stopped to see a Dolmen on the way and huge sunflower fields but it was too dangerous to stop for photos.


Everything considered we made really good time and found ourselves hours early for our evening train. We had a little walk around Vendome just as their weekly market was wrapping up, then we found a place to sit and have our picnic lunch.

With the train station was less than 2 km away, so we decided to ride up there and just wait. And wait we did, luckily, we could get on an earlier train which left Vendome at 4.17pm, instead of our booked 7.39pm. However, we had to change trains in the town of Voves and this had only one train going to Chartres and that was at 9.04pm, so we had to wait. And wait, and wait, and wait. I walked to the centre in Voves to find a cold drink to bring back to Mitchell who staying looking after the bikes and gear.
The train voyage from Vendome to Voves was 1 ½ hours and the voyage from Voves to Chartres was about 20 minutes, so we spent many more hours waiting for the trains today than riding on them. I think we could have ridden the last 20 km from Voves to Chartres faster than the waiting time, but Mitchell was having none of that, he was happy to wait rather than ride.

We arrived in Chartres at 9.30pm and the short ride to our Airbnb got us there just after 10pm and therefore completed our Tour de Frog! (said with a French accent, thanks Paul).

As a room was not available to us for this night, we pitched the tent for the last time in France and spent the night on airbeds. A quick shower and we crawled into the tent for the last time in France.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 06:34 Archived in France Comments (2)


89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 27 °C

**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Sunday 22nd July 2018 – day 25 Tours to Blere

Rode 28km today

We packed up the bikes and were getting a bit antsy waiting for the Airbnb host to arrive to take the keys. We decided to leave her a note and be on our way as it was almost 10am. A quick stop at the supermarket to buy a baguette for lunch turned into a 20-minute wait in the checkout line, but we were finally exiting out of town via shared road. The first 40 minutes of the ride was on shared roads, but then the rest of the way went to a dedicated bike track at the side of the road, so it was nice easy enjoyable riding.

The sun was out, it was warm but not too hot. We have now left the Loire River and we are doing a little detour along the Cher River to visit Chateau Chenonceau, which is only about 35 km along the Cher. We have booked a canoe hire to view the chateau from the river. This is something I found on the internet at home and it looked really cool. The plan was tomorrow to ride back and join the Loire and continue north.
All was going well, we were having a nice ride, making good time. Picked a shaded bench by the river outside of the little village of Blere to have some lunch. We had stopped by a campground and I commented on how nice the campsite looked, but our plan was to stay up closer to where we were joining the canoe hire.

Lunch finished, back on bikes when I could feel my back wheel shaking like buggery. This is not right and on closer inspection we saw that I had broken about 6 spokes. Shit! Well that nice campground looked like it was going to get a visit from us. We unloaded Mitch’s bike and he went for a ride into the campground and then the village to see if there was anyone to help.

Mitch returned 20 minutes later to report there was no one at the camp office, but he rode into the centre of the village and found a bike repair shop. Of course, being Sunday, the shop was not open, but that was no problem we would camp here in the nice campground tonight and get my bike sorted in the morning. All sounded good.

We pushed the bikes into the campground and by now there was someone back in the office. The lady in the office was lovely and very helpful and she was very sorry to inform me that the bike shop did not open on a Monday and would not be opening until Tuesday. Shit! She even tried calling the owner but with no reply.

So, we had to decide whether to stay put here in Blere until Tuesday (that would be 2 nights) or take the bikes back to Tours and try to get fixed there. After much discussion, it was decided we would have a rest day here tomorrow and get the bike sorted when the shop opened on Tuesday.
The campsite was quite nice and at 14 euros per night it had hot shower, no toilet seats and no toilet paper but great Wi-Fi, which was good, so I could contact the canoe hire place and advise we would not be showing up for our booking tonight. However, as we will be staying here another night, we could get the train the short distance tomorrow night for the same booking if that worked for them. Luckily, it did, and they even said they would drop us back at the campground afterwards as it was not very far or too much out of their way. Awesome!

So, we set up camp, and as it was a Sunday we had food supplies with us, just as well as the local Carrefour supermarket was already closed.
We walk into the village and have a cold beer at the sports club, which of course was open on a Sunday.
Back at camp we cook our food, shower and hit the airbeds, as usual before dark.


Monday 23rd July 2018 – day 26 Blere to Chenonceau

Rest day today. I managed to sleep in until just before 9am. Mitch was already chomping at the bit and had already collected our breakfast pastries, which I ordered yesterday, from the reception.

We hung around most of the day, me chewing up internet and we also found a couple of books in English to read, so the day went relatively quickly. Mitch rode up to the Carrefour and got food supplies and we had a cooked lunch as we would be out canoeing at the usual dinner time. Easier to have just some bread and cheese when we returned.

Our canoe booking was for 7.30pm and the train was scheduled at 5.38. It was just a 10-minute walk up to the station and we were there in heaps of time having to sit around and wait. In the end the train was delayed 20 minutes, but we still had heaps of time since the actual train journey time was just 4 minutes. With the waiting time and the delayed time, we could have walked from Blere to Chenonceau faster, but we didn’t.
There is not a great deal of anything except a lot of accommodation in the little village of Chenonceau. I guess people want to stay close if they come for a visit, our intended campground would have been just 300 meters from the Chateau. As there was nothing to see except the chateau and we did not want to go inside, we headed for the Tabac shop and had a cold beer – like you do, or like we do.

After our refreshment, we had about 1 km to walk to the canoe meeting place and we meandered along with lots of time. At the river we lay in the shade under a big tree and waited until just before 7.30pm when our blue van with just one canoe on the roof turned up. Experience Canoe and Kayak is owned by an English couple and the guy who got out of the van introduced himself (but of course I can’t remember his name) and when I asked if we were it he said yes. There was a big group yesterday and a big group tomorrow, but today we would be the only ones on the water for this evenings paddle. Turns out this guy has been a European & World champion kayaker and a really nice guy who didn’t mind having a bit of a chat with us.

It was about 7.45pm when we hit the water and the chateau was about 300 meters down the river. We were told to take as long as we like, there is no time limit and he would be waiting for our return. The river has a barrage on each side of the chateau to really it was like paddling on a lake not a river. There was really no current to contend with.

Mitchell seemed happy enough to paddle the canoe while I took the photos. This worked much better anyway as with both of us paddling we seemed to be heading towards a crash with the bank of the river.

The chateau was magnificent, especially seeing it from the river with the most brilliant reflection. This was a great activity, I was really impressed. It was amazing when we got up close to the building the reflection in the water was so clear it looked like the building extended just as deep into the water. It was a little eerie also, but fantastic.

To top it off about 10 hot air balloons passed overhead while we were floating around in the waters around the chateau. So, Mitch & I will be in almost every photo of the chateau taken from those hot air balloons.

We, I mean Mitch, paddled back at about 9pm, what a great experience. And the fact that we were the only ones on the water, so no one else clogging up our photos or moving the water to blur the reflections. Well worth the 12 euro each for the canoe hire.

Canoe back on roof, we climbed into the van and were driven back to the campground in Blere. We had a bit of a snack of cheese and bread and then went for showers and again it was just about dark when we closed the tent for the night.

Bike shop opens at 9 tomorrow morning, so we want to be there for opening.


Tuesday 24th July 2018 – day 27 Blere to Tours to Amboise

Mitch wakes me at 8am, we want to be at the bike shop for opening. I go get dressed and we are wheeling the bike into the village. Breakfast is a coffee at the sports club that Mitchell has ordered while I walk a few doors down to get some pastries from the bakery.
Seconds after 9am the shutters on the shop open and the door is opened. Adam Velo is finally open of business. Mitch goes to talk to him while I finish my coffee.

Moments later Mitch returns with a look on his face that I did not want to see. Yep, need to replace the rim as too many spokes broken, and he can have one here on Friday! What? Friday? Today is Tuesday! Is he bloody ordering the new rim from China? I am not happy, so say the very least. Looks like we are going to have to return back to Tours on the train with the bikes and get it fixed there. So much for waiting around for 2 days. Bloody hell! I curse Adam Velo and his unwillingness to work on a Monday and for not having spare rims in stock! I curse you Adam Velo!

We return to the campsite and start to pack up the tent and load the bikes. I get back on the internet to see what time there is a train to Tours. 11.41. ok we have enough time to pack up and be on that train.

We have to load up my bike to be able to carry everything and I don’t really care as the rim is buckled anyway. However, I need to be careful that one of the broken spokes does not puncture my tyre.

We make it to the train station and not a long wait before we are pushing the loaded bikes onto the train. A departing last curse to you Adam Velo.
The train from Blere to Tours only takes 20 minutes. This is the distance it took us half the day to ride on Sunday, but the trains are very fast, and we are very slow. Having been in Tours just a couple of days ago we passed the bike repair shop a few times so knew exactly where to go, and luckily it was only 150 meters from the train station.

Pushed the bikes over the shop is closed with a ‘back in 30mins sign on the door’. Great.

Ok, we can wait another 30 minutes. In the meantime, Mitch walks over to another bike place we had seen the other day, it turns out to not do repairs but does refer him to another shop. I’m still waiting for the 30-minute return, so Mitch unloads his bike and sets off to find the other shop just in case.

Finally, the lady returns, and she refuses to speak or understand any English. This is the first unhelpful person I have encountered in France. Not only is she unhelpful, she is a proper bitch. I start doing a mime of the problem with my bike, pointing at her bike repair sign and dragging her out to see the broken spokes on my back wheel. She touches the spokes, playing them like strings on a guitar, then looks at me and just says NO! Again, I point to the repair sign and again she says NO. Bitch! Take down the bloody repair sign if you are not repairing bikes.

Minutes later Mitchell returns with some good news, the bike repair shop he found is happy to fix, but is closing for lunch soon so we need to get the bike there now. It was only 500 meters away, so we wheel it in and they quote us 50 euros for new rim fitted to back wheel! Brilliant, come back at 4pm to collect.

Feeling much relief, we leave the bike and all our luggage in the repair shop and head out to buy some lunch. The supermarket we went to the other day is just around the corner, I buy a fresh baguette and some serrano ham, and a cold drink and I am happy. We find a bench in the park to have lunch, then go sit in Maccas for the rest of the wait enjoying their air con, free wifi and a cold frappe.

Come 4pm we walk back to the bike repair shop, pay the man 50 euros, load up the bikes and ride the 200 meters to the train station to catch a train from Tours to Amboise. No riding today, too stressed and it already late afternoon.

Again, just a 20-minute ride in the train and a short ride from the train station in Amboise to the camp ground. This is municipal one, 6.25 euros, hot shower, toilet seat, no paper. We set up the tent, dump everything inside and head into town.

Amboise is pretty touristy, so lots of people around. There is a big Chateau right in the middle of the town dominating the skyline so that’s what makes it popular. We find a pub that happened to be owned by an English guy and sit chatting with another English couple on their way home to the South of France after a trip to England. We drink a couple of very expensive beers then have a quick walk around the streets then return to the camp to cook up dinner. We had stopped at Aldi on the way from the train station.

Dinner, shower and airbed. Wow today was a stressful day! I lost it for a little while this morning, but it all worked out in the end and we are back on track. Back on the bikes again tomorrow for our last ride along the Loire to Blois.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 03:01 Archived in France Comments (2)


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Wednesday 18th July 2018 – day 21 – Gennes to Saumur

26km rode today

The campsite did not supply breakfast like the others we’d stayed in, instead a van come around at 8.15am tooting its horn to advise breakfast pastries could be purchased. And she was dead on time, when a loud toot was heard I told Mitchell to get out of tent and chase her. The guy at reception advised you need to run as she does not hang around waiting for sleepy tent dwellers to crawl out of tents.

No pain de raisin today, so we had to settle for pain de chocolate and the usual baguette for lunch. The usual routine of breakfast, then packing up everything loading the bikes and hitting the track again today. There was a slight delay in our departure due to a chat with our camp neighbour who was camped next to us last night but was not sure what language we spoke so did not talk to us. He heard us speaking English and can speak this language also so come over to talk to us this morning. He is from Belgium – the part that speaks French and now lives in France with an English partner, cycling with his little dog in a bike trailer doing a test run of the tracks for next month when he wants to cycle with his teenage son. Nice guy, anyway, meant we did not hit the track until 9.50 instead of the usual 9.30am.

Then to top it off we took the wrong route, we took the scenic, hilly country route instead of the flat by the river route. So, the first hour today was hard slog and gave meaning to the word PUSH in push biking. There was a lot of pushing this morning. But one consolation for me was we passed a magnificent field of sunflowers, which by the way does not impress Mitchell every time I want to stop and take photos of said sunflowers. To make things worse he sometimes needs to hold my bike as there is nowhere to lean it while I take said photos. So please, everyone, like the photos of the sunflowers I put on FB so that he can see it’s not just for me but for everyone to enjoy. The sad truth is although we passed many sunflower fields today I was only able to stop at the first one for photos.
So, after the hilly start, we managed to find the path along the river and it was smooth riding from then on. We only had to back track about 1km along the road to visit the Musee du Champignon which was about half way to Saumur. Now this might sound like a boring uninteresting museum, but in fact it was quite cool place to visit. And I mean cool literally as the mushroom museum displays and in fact the mushrooms are grown inside caves which have been dug out of the soft rock that is in this area. These caves used to be dwellings but now mostly are used for mushroom growing and obviously a lot are used by wine makers as the constant temperature is perfect for storing and aging wine. But back to the mushrooms, there were over 200 types of mushrooms on display, but this area mainly grows the common button mushrooms and is the largest supplier of button mushrooms in France. We did however see an assortment of mushrooms growing – different sizes, colours and shapes. Not only seeing the mushrooms in the caves but actually walking through the caves was a ‘cool’ experience.

We returned to the bikes and continued our ride towards Saumur.

A nice big downhill before coming into town, after we’d stopped for a bench picnic lunch opposite an old cemetery.
Great weather again today and a reasonable short distance. Once in town we stopped at the information office, which still did not have any maps for the next leg of the Loire ride, but was able to give me a map of Saumur so we could easily find the camping ground which was across one bridge and on a huge island in the middle of the Loire River.

We rode directly to the campground which was another one of the Flower franchises and were allocated a site after payment of 13.10 euros. Hot showers, toilet seats, toilet paper, communal kitchen with gas burners and a little bar fridge which the lady at the reception advised food has being going missing from, so beware. And free WIFI. We were allocated the smallest plot to date, but don’t need much room for the tent and our bikes so all good. This campground is crowded and although there were still spare sites when we arrived, by the time we returned later in the afternoon it was packed out and I saw a sign on the reception door advising they were full. We saw some people riding away from the camp at about 5, surely, they were not turned away? They should always find a bit of grass for bike campers, but maybe not.

We set up the tent and chucked everything inside and headed off back into town for a look around and to find a supermarket for dinner supplies. It was hot and as we parked up the bikes I saw a nice little bar with outdoor seating and we headed over for a cold drink to cool off a little. Sitting in the shade enjoying a cold beer was nice.

Saumur has a big castle that is perched high above the town. Saumur Chateaux is made from the same rock that they dug the caves out of. Lots of chateaux and big houses in this area are made from the rock as it is easy to quarry and obviously local.

We walked up to the castle which afforded us great views over Saumur and the Loire River.
Time to head back to the supermarket and back to camp. We found a carrefour and purchased food for dinner and a couple of bottles of sangria to have pre and with dinner. With the use of the fridge we just felt like something cool and refreshing. Also purchased a couple of beers and sat by the river having a drink before pedalling back to camp.

Yep it was crowded when we returned, but we managed to get all our stuff in the tiny fridge to cool down and had our turn on the gas burner to cook dinner.
After dinner Mitch sat talking to the Belgium guy from this morning as he also camped here tonight, while I was looking for some accommodation for Friday and Saturday nights on Tours. Need to have a few indoors nights to do some washing and recharge our electronics and ourselves. I managed to find an Airbnb for 50 euros per night, a little more than what we paid in Rennes, but it was the best I could find, with WIFI and the ever-important washing machine.

So just one more night camping – tomorrow we will ride half way to Tours and then have a comfy couple of nights.

Thursday 19th July 2018 – day 22 – Saumur to Brehemont

38km rode today

Mitchell was restless early this morning and was scratching around making a lot of noise, causing me to wake up with a mood. We packed the up tent and almost everything before breakfast because the pastries were not available until 8.30am. Mitchell rode up to the reception to collect them while I checked the internet to see if our Airbnb reservation had come through. Yes, accepted, so all set for our accommodation in Tours. We had breakfast and by the time we rode out of the camp at 9.30am my mood was fine again.

We had a fairly easy ride today; the path took us through an old troglodyte village / caves which was pretty cool. It was like a little village with housing and a commercial street all cut into the rock. And when we saw the path taking us upwards into the countryside we opted for riding along the road and saying at river level. The Loire a Velo path is good, but sometimes will make you ride 3km up hill and down dale to avoid 1km on a road. The roads are not very busy and the traffic here a very bicycle friendly and we just did not want anymore hills after yesterday pushing day.
The rest of the morning and afternoon was easy riding, sometimes a little boring when you just ride, ride, ride in a straight like for 2-3 kms. But at least it was flat. After stopping for lunch around 1pm I noticed the sky had become very cloudy and dim looking. Not a good sign, we had heard that rain was forecast for Thursday.

We rode past many, many sunflower fields today. Some had their giant heads drooping in half death, others had their heads held high smiling up at the sunshine. I only stopped at the one field to take photos, much to the disgust of you know who.

About 8km from our nights destination, which was Brehemont, we met a French lady at a cross roads and followed her all the way into town. It was still very hot despite the clouds in the sky. When we reached the town, there was a little shop and she suggest we stop for a drink or an ice cream. Good idea, we had a nice cold ice block which helped relieve those last few kilometeres. We chatted with the guy who sold us the ice blocks, he was running a bike stop / bike shop and spoke very good English as he had lived in England for a few years. When I questioned him about the bleak sky and if he thought it would rain, he said look at the sky. I looked up and there was a flurry of swallow type birds going berserk above us. The guy said, look how nervous and agitated the birds are, yes there is going to be a storm. Not exactly what you want to hear when you are about to pitch a tent. We were also advised there was no market in town, the closest store was 6km away. Bugger that, tonight we would be eating our emergency meal.

The campsite was only just down the hill and when we rolled into there it was still stinking hot! I was still concerned about the sky and asked the receptionist what she thought, she seemed confident that it was going to rain and storm later, but she was also very keen to up sell us to an onsite tent. Anyway, she won, and we decided to take an onsite tent – and thank god we did. As I write this at 11pm its still raining outside and we are nice warm and dry in this palace for the night. So, the options for onsite tents were these little wooden boxes with the front side canvas for 30 euro per night. They would keep us dry, but we would be stuck in something the same size as our tent just with 3 wooden sides. Next option was big onsite tent with 2 double beds, cooking facilities, fridge, table and chairs and power – for the price of 60 euros. This was a crazy price, but we took it anyway. We thought maybe if the Belgium guy turned up we could share it with him – he never did show but never mind.

The campground also had a pool, and although we had already been in a few camps with pools we had not yet used any of them. But it was still so hot and there was not a breath of wind, so we decided to go for a dip. Great idea instantly cooled us off. The sky was still looking dark, but with some blue poking through. I thought if it doesn’t storm tonight and we’ve paid a small fortune for this onsite tent, I will be spewing!

After our dip in the pool we had our showers and then went to the bar for a cold drink. Mitch had the usual LARGE beer and I had a rose pampoosa – which turned out to be a glass of white wine with a tiny shot of blood orange syrup. Not bad, just made the wine a rosy colour and sweetened it up I guess. We sat only minutes before the wind started and we took our drinks back to our tent because things were starting to fly through the air. Everyone was packing up their awnings, putting things away and retreating inside their motor homes.

A little while later the rain came and the 60 euros we’d paid for this tent was suddenly worth it, and as its still raining now, hours later it was a good decision.

And we were able to cook our meal inside the tent as well. Lucky for us I insisted on purchasing an emergency meal at the beginning of the trip for such an occasion as this, where we are caught without access to a supermarket. So, for dinner tonight we had tin of tuna in tomato, tin of mixed vegies, mushrooms, tomatoes all tossed in some cooked-up spaghetti pasta. We’ve been carrying the pasta and tuna since day one and thank goodness too.

Let’s hope the rain is gone by the morning as we have to ride to Tours.


Friday 20th July 2018 – day 23 Brehemont to Tours

38km rode today

Waking up this morning after last nights thunderstorm I though the rip off 60 euro for this tent was worth every penny. The rain had stopped now, and we could load up our bikes with everything, including ourselves, dry. The sky was still completely grey and there was a gloomy feel to the atmosphere, but we were pretty sure the rain had gone.

It seemed to be almost misty/foggy, like the air was thick, but this did not seem to dampen our mood. Must have been the half decent sleep and no stress of being wet that lifted us this morning. We rode out of the camp just after 9.30am.

The ride into Tours was probably he easiest ride we have had the whole trip. No hills, and paved path or backroads the whole way. By the time we had been riding for about an hour the clouds seemed to clear also, and the sun came out to greet us.

Today was the best riding day we have had the whole trip. I think Mitch enjoyed the ride today. He said he is finally starting to get in the rhythm of it all. I said at the beginning that would happen, by week 3 you will be riding with more confidence and your body will be used to the physical activity every day. It has taken this long, and we only have just over one more week to go. Two weeks ago, I was considering this being my last cycling holiday, but after today I feel I might be able to maybe push just one more out next year. Like I said, it takes 3 weeks of riding to get into the rhythm and for your body to be used to the daily push. Mmmm, still thinking about it.

We made great time riding today and were in the town of Tours in plenty of time to meet our Airbnb host at 4pm. In fact, we had loads of time and first up found a bench down by the Loire river to have some lunch. And then we bought a cold drink at the supermarket and sat in the busy parkway to people watch. It was nice to be ahead of schedule and when the time came we strolled down the road to meet our host and home for the next 2 nights.

We are in a small studio apartment for the next two nights. One room which is the bedroom, living and dining all rolled into one, a galley kitchen, bathroom with a bath and toilet. There is also a resident cat, ginger Kiona is 14 years old, fat and very happy and friendly towards us. A little more social than our last feline host. Most importantly there is a washing machine for us to use in the kitchen, so everything is getting a proper wash again.

We load up the washing machine with our first load and ride off to the supermarket to purchase supplies for our 2 days stay. Another luxury is a refrigerator, which means cold drinks for a couple of days. Back with our goodies we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing indoors waiting for our drinks to cool.

Just after 10pm, we went out for a walk back to the centre, to the cathedral to be exact. Here at 10.45pm there was a light show on the façade of the church. Same sort of thing we saw in Chartres, but on a much smaller scale as only on one building here. Of course, the show does not start until so late as it must wait until it’s dark for the light show to be effective. Still light here until about 10.15 -10.30 now.

It was a slow walk back to the apartment, we had not been out this late before. Usually in bed before the sun goes down.


Saturday 21st July 2018 – day 24 Tours

Mitch went out early and found a bakery for our pastry breakfast fix.

We had a lazy day today. Or at least I should say I had a busy lazy day. Lots to catch up on the internet with posting photos and investigating/planning our last week on the bikes. Needed to make a few bookings and just check out routes we need to take in the time we have left. And as you will see loading pictures and blogs from previous days since we last had internet.

I think we headed out around 1pm to look for a cheap place to have lunch. Hot and sunny outside. Well cheap place to have lunch did not eventuate, ended up going to supermarket and I put together an awesome platter for a quarter of the price we would have paid for lunch out.
Must say we have not eaten in restaurants this trip mainly due to prices, France is expensive to eat out. Self-catering is not so bad as you can buy good stuff at the supermarkets, and I know that is not the same as eating French food as there is no way in hell we can replicate anything on our camp cooker that we would be served at a restaurant. But this is a budget holiday and our budget would have to be 10 times what it is now if we were eating out every day. And anyway, I came to France to eat cheese! And eat cheese we have been!

Strolling around town, there were a few people around for a Saturday. Lots of shops open, lots of designer brand name shops that seemed to be void of customers. Also lots of one of boutique type shops that looked like they had not seen a customer inside their doors for years. The Cathedral, the town hall and the train station were all very ornate and old school buildings.

We returned late afternoon to finish our drinks cooling in the refrigerator and relax some more indoors.

Tomorrow we are back on the bikes and will be veering off the Loire River for the day and heading down the Cher River to visit Chateau Chenoneau!


Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:31 Archived in France Comments (1)


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Sunday 15th July 2018 – day 18 – Rennes to Nantes by train, then ride to Uodon

Rode 30km today

An easy morning, our train is not until 2.37pm so we have time to kill. After another shower and leisurely breakfast, we packed up the panniers again and have the bikes ready to roll.

Check out time is 11pm but we are just going to hang out as long as we can in the apartment until someone shows up or its time to head to the train station. We were advised to drop the keys in the letterbox.

At 1pm we started to gather our stuff, check the rooms one last time to make sure we packed everything and caught the lift down to the garage where our bikes were waiting. Pannier loaded we rode down the street towards the train station, our train is not until 2.38pm but want to be there in plenty of time to make sure we know how to get the bikes onto the correct platform. With all the work going on at the station not all the platform lifts are working.

About 20 minutes before departure time our platform was announced, and wouldn’t you know it number 10 was the only platform where the lifts were not working from the top hall. So, we had to catch the # 7 lift down and then walk across to our platform where we could wheel the bikes up a ramp. In our haste I forgot to validate our tickets, luckily a nice conductor lady was standing near our train so after we loaded both bikes (roll straight on, thank goodness) I went to her and she validated the tickets for me.

We just stood the bikes up fully loaded, none of this unloading the panniers for us anymore, too hard. The train journey from Rennes to Nantes took only 1 hour 15 minutes and the scenery is was much the same as what we have already seen.

Arrival at Nantes station was chaotic, very busy, but again a roll off and push up the ramp to get out. We walked to the nearest crossroads and found a sign for the Loire a Velo track – a good sign that the signage is good!

The ride out of Nantes was painless, very good paved pathway, we did not go anywhere near the centre. Had enough of big towns and just wanted to get a start on the Loire ride. We stopped just before an hour riding to have lunch, it was about 5pm, yes, we had not had anything to eat since this mornings breakfast so thought it was a good idea to have a quick stop and fuel up on bread, cheese and pate. Washed down with luke warm water – bummer back to non-cooled drinks, lol.

The track did not stay perfect, but it was flat, so we made ok time. I’m hoping Mitch will enjoy this ride along the river a bit more than our last two weeks riding experience.

We rode past a sunflower field that was still to flower, all the green flower buds were still tightly closed. All bar one, one lonely yellow face looking up at the sun. It was beautiful!

We stopped along the track at a house that had a big screen TV set up in the back yard showing the football final between France and Croatia. It must have started at 5! It was about 51 minutes in and the score was 2-1 to France so the crowd watching was happy.

By the time we reached Oudon – which is our stop for the night – there was only about 10 minutes remaining in the game and the score had jumped to 4 -2, still in Frances favour. There was a big crowd at the local pub so we decided to stop, have a beer and enjoy what was going to be France’s victory – winning the World Cup. The game went into overtime, but the outcome was evident and when the final hooter sounded the crowd gave a mighty roar! They were very happy to say the least and there will be a lot of celebrating going on around France tonight! Cool that we got to experience being in the winning country.

The campground was just a couple of hundred meters around the corner, so we rode around, checked in, 9.20 euro for the night. Nice clean municipal campground. Hot showers, toilet seats, no paper, but there is a fridge and microwave for general use.
We put up the tent and then went and had another celebratory drink at the camp drink caravan.

We cooked dinner from supplies purchased at Super U in Rennes – knowing it was Sunday and we would be flat out finding anything open. Good preparation on our behalf.

As I’m typing this at 10.06pm its still light but we are both feeling very tired so will be heading into the tent very shortly. Not sure if we will get much sleep as all you can hear is the sound of car horns as proud country winners are driving around the streets celebrating. Good on them, I think I’m sleepy enough to fall asleep to the sound of victory car horns.


Monday 16th July 2018 – day 19 – Oudon to Montjean

35 km ride today

We rolled out of the tent at about 8 this morning. Mitch went up to collect out pastries while I went, got dressed and boiled the kettle. We were ready to go on the bikes at 9.35.

The trail was easy again today. After a little hiccup getting out of town, we managed to follow the signs for the rest of the day and not get lost. Mostly on dedicated bike tracks and a little on back roads. We rode through a couple of small villages where again there was no life to be seen. It was warm and sunny today, with about 50% of the track shaded, so 50% ridden in the sun.

We stopped for lunch in a nice shady park at about midday and rolled into the camping La Promenade at about 2.30pm. We’d done approx. 35km, so it was enough for one day. Price here for tent + 2 people is 18 euros for one night. Hot showers, toilet paper, toilet seats, free wifi and a pool – which we didn’t use. There is also a communal cooking tent with a fridge and microwave for everyone to use. (At the moment it’s 7.15pm and we are sitting waiting our turn to use the facilities as a group of boy scouts are cooking microwave pizzas for their dinner – hardly the campfire meal you’d expect from boy scouts! But perhaps this scouting French style.)

After we picked our site and set up the tent we had a little rest then rode into town to pick up supplies for dinner. There is a sunflower field right next to the camp, but they all have there heads down in a death bow. We stopped for a photo and I tried to hold on of the massive flower heads up, but they were a little sad. Still, better than not seeing any sunflowers at all.

We rode to our favourite French supermarket Carrefour and purchased dinner supplies which included 2 bottles of cider as we have the communal fridge to cool them down in time for dinner. We also bought a couple of cold beers and ciders to have down by the river. It’s ok, we sat in the park with the rest of the hobos along the Loire sipping supermarket drinks.

Because it does not get dark until after 10.30pm our days are very long. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon, cooked and ate dinner at about 8pm – of course it was still broad daylight, so we could sit in the communal area outside.

We checked into the campsite early at 2.30pm but since then there have been about 10 or 12 other riding couples/groups. This is the most cyclists we have seen in any of the campgrounds we have stayed in. But I guess here along the Loire is a more popular route as we have passed many cyclists either on day rides or loaded like ourselves.

So, our plan for riding the Loire is to try and ride at least 30km per day. If we can’t manage this for whatever reason (eg rain, stopping longer to see something, laziness) we will just do a jump on a train. So far so good!

Time for a shower now and I guess we will be in bed before the sun!


Tuesday 17th July 2018 – day 20 – Montjean sur Loire to Gennes

65km ride today

We woke up to an overcast cloudy sky and the air was a lot cooler than yesterday, but the day stayed dry and hopefully so will the night.
We had the usual camp breakfast of pain de raisins and we had cold orange juice that we purchased yesterday and kept in the fridge overnight. Camp packed up and we pushed our first pedal at the usual 9.30am.

Riding through the town, Montjean, we had to cross a bridge and then spent the next hour or so riding on a huge island that is in the Loire River. It was covered in farmland either growing corn or grazing a few cows. And we saw a beautiful field of sunflowers. Made me happy, I had to stop and take some photos. However, by the end of the day we had seen about a dozen fields of beautiful open smiling sunflowers. Made me very happy.
Anyway, the path was a lot of back roads today. We rode through a dozen or so villages showing no life. And we rode through a lot of backroads through farming lands. The farmers seem to be irrigating from the Loire River.

The sun came out a few times during the day to heat us up, but overall it was easy riding and the clouds did keep the temperature a little cooler than previous days. Come midday we stopped for usual lunch of baguette, cheese and some kind of salami meat that we had.

We kept riding cause the track was easy and we were making good time. I wanted to get an extra couple of k’s up today as tomorrow I wanted a short ride to Saumur so we could check in early and look around the town rather than just crashing at the campsite.

We stopped at about 3.30pm at a town called St Mathurin, this was where we originally were going to stop for the night, but the municipal campground looked a little sad and was stuck in the middle of surrounding suburbia. I said to Mitch the next camp is just 9km away, let ride to there. Much to my surprise he agreed, obviously, he is feeling a lot more comfortable and managing the bike riding a lot better than previous days.
The road to the next camp was a bit up and down but mostly in our favour and it was about 5.30 pm when we rolled into the campground at Gennes. Site here is 13.90 euro per night, hot shower, toilet seat, no paper & free wifi.

After setting up the tent we went for a quick walk into the centre to find a supermarket. Only a small one where with no fresh meat, so we purchased a tin of camp surprise which was very tasty. On the way back from the shop we stopped at the local tabac and had a couple of very big radler beers. (5euro each)

Back at the campsite we relaxed, cooked dinner, had showers and were in the tent before the sun had disappeared. Don’t think we will have any problem sleeping tonight, even with the camp disco playing music only 50 meters away. Mitch met a bloke from Wagga Wagga up when he was pumping up the airbeds.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 11:53 Archived in France Comments (0)


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Thursday 12th July 2018 – day 15 – Dinan to Tinteniac

30km along the Rance Canal

We woke surprisingly early after our late night last night. As we had missed showers we both got up this morning and had a nice hot shower. Packed up the tent etc and had a quick breakfast of pastries and orange juice (bought yesterday in the supermarket).

It was 9.30am when we bid farewell to Suzannah and James and followed the road back down to the canal.

The sun was shining hot, but there was a little bit of a breeze to keep us cool. As we were following the canal, sometimes the breeze was behind us and sometimes it was a head wind. But it was not very strong so did not hinder our progress in any way.
The track today was a very easy ride, not as much traffic as yesterday but we did see a few other bikes – tourers loaded like ours – but travelling at a much faster pace. We stopped near a little town to have lunch, so I was able to ride in and get a fresh baguette. We had stocked up on cheese yesterday, so all was well.

Tinteniac is about half way between Dinan and Rennes so we are stopping for the night here in the municipal campground. We arrived about 1.30pm and the office was closed, sign on the gate reads something in French but we could work out the times between 1pm & 6pm there is no one here. Luckily, the pedestrian side gate was unlocked so we just let ourselves in and found a shady pitch to set up camp. With the tent up it seemed like a good idea to have an afternoon nap, looks like the late night is catching up with us. Anyway, it’s a good chance the supermarket is closed between 1 & 3 so we had a hours rest.

Short ride into town just after 3pm and we found a Netto supermarket where we were able to purchase supplies for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. We also purchased some local cider and sat down by the canal catching up on blog/diary while we enjoyed a drink. By 6pm it was getting a little cool down by the water, that breeze is still pushing the trees around a little, so we retired back to our camp site.

Dinner, shower, bed – probably in that order. No doubt we will be on the airbeds before dark again tonight. But remember darkness does not fall until about 10.30pm here at the moment so we feel no guilt at our daylight bedtime.

There are a few dark clouds looming on the horizon, so we are hoping they do not come over us during the night and bring rain. We have been very lucky with rain and hope out luck stays with us.

Tomorrow we ride to Rennes where we have 2 nights in an Airbnb – with a much-anticipated washing machine!


Friday 13th July 2018 – day 16 – Tinteniac to Rennes

52km easy ride along the tow path into Rennes

We made good time and lots of easy kilometres today. Even Mitch was happy with the easy riding and good progress we made.

Traffic was a bit more hectic as we entered the town of Rennes, but that was to be expected. We are two nights in an Airbnb and decided to head straight there. Unfortunately, we had not been able to contact the host over the last few days as we’d had no internet but were hoping to try and phone Jennifer once we had reached the apartment. With the aid of my phone GPS we managed to find the place, even riding past it before we realized and had to turn back.

So, there we were outside the secure apartment block with no idea what time the owner was going to show up. It was about 2.30pm now so we had to do something. Mitchell to the rescue, he said he would just go to nearby shop and ask them to call her. Next door was a Speedy car repair place, but he soon returned saying the phone number we had was not valid. It was the only number we had so he went a little further afield to a nearby pharmacy where the staff were a lot more helpful and managed to get through to our host.

Mitchell returned with a smile on his face, so I knew he’d been successful. Jennifer’s husband would be along in about an hour to let us in. We sat and waited outside, and Yohan turned up within the hour. Showed us were to leave our bikes in the garage, and then took us up in the lift to the 4th floor apartment – home for next 2 nights.

It’s a great little apartment, 2 bedroom and all the facilities you could need. Included much anticipated washing machine, which we straight away put to good use. We wanted to wash everything the few days we are here. Not that we have that much with us, but it’s nice to give all our clothing etc a good wash after 2 weeks of handwashing.

While the machine was washing the first load we walked about 500ml up the street to the Super U supermarket to purchase supplies for the next two days. Top of the list was drinks for the fridge which we would be able to drink cold. When cycling and camping the most missed food item is a cold drink. We bought cider, beer, wine, juice and a bottle of diet coke. We intended to be drinking a lot of cool liquids in these 2 days. We also purchased some food.

The rest of the day/night we relaxed in our indoor surroundings. Unfortunately, the TV only showed French channels, but we didn’t need that stimulus anyway. Everything is being machined washed, everything electronic is being recharged and we are drinking cold drinks! Can’t ask for much more.

I heard some fireworks just before midnight, must be for the Bastile Day celebrations tomorrow. Could hear them but not really see anything from our small balcony at the back of the apartment.


Saturday 14th July 2018 – day 17 – Rennes

Free day in Rennes today. Saturday there is a famous food market that we rode our bikes into the centre to have a look at. Unfortunately, we can’t really buy anything as we are only here for another night and then back on the bikes. Pretty good market, and the locals seem to be buying up big for there weekly groceries. Lots of fruit & vegies, prices seemed higher than what we saw in the supermarkets, but maybe its fresher here at the market. Lots of fresh flower stalls, we have seen flowers everywhere – all the little villages and towns have had maintained flower beds and flower boxes.

There was a big outdoor area with lots of stalls selling seafood. Mussels, oysters, lobsters and a huge assortment of fish – it all looked very good and if we were staying here a week would have been tempted to purchase some to cook up at home in our Airbnb apartment.
We decided to stop for a beer and try the famous buckwheat crepe. Nothing special, maybe because we purchased it from a hole in the wall rather than an overpriced café/restaurant. It was a savory crepe with cheese, ham and egg, but to me a crepe should be sweet. Guess its just what you are used to.

We walked around the town centre for a little while after the market, took photos of the half timber / stone houses. Seemed to be a lot of people around. I think most of them were locals rather than many tourists, the market day obviously brings them all to the centre on a Saturday.
On our ride back to the apartment we called into the Rennes train station to purchase our tickets to Nantes for tomorrow. There are major renovations going on at the station and it basically was a shit fight. Lots of people travelling today and with all the building going on it was difficult to find the ticket office. I also wanted to be sure we could take our bikes in a lift to get from platform to platform as stairs or escalators are just not an option for us with loaded bikes.

Another trip to the supermarket, duck confit on the menu tonight. Then we returned home and sat relaxing drinking all those cooled liquids we had stacked up in the fridge.

Showered and dressed in our pjs, we did a final load of washing that will dry overnight so tomorrow we depart with everything clean and refreshed – including us!


Posted by Cindy Bruin 11:07 Archived in France Comments (1)


89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

sunny 30 °C

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Monday 9th July 2018 – day 12 – Pontorson to Mont St Michel

First night back sleeping in the tent for a few days, was ok, I got a little cool during the night but just slipped into my sleep sheet and was ok. Unfortunately, one of our air beds has a leak and so far Mitchell has drawn the random short straw or flat bed so far. Bit of a pain really but my turn will come no doubt until we can replace it at a decathlon or somewhere.

Breakfast was a yummy raisin scroll which we ordered from the reception yesterday. These guys were the biggest ones I have ever seen so real value for money at 1.20 euro each.

We are catching the bus from the village here to Mont St Michel, which is only 9 km away, but did not fancy the idea of riding there, walking around for a few hours and then riding 9km back to camp. Even with the bikes empty and much lighter & easier to ride, the sun is already up and its going to be another wonderful hot day.

We walk the short distance to the bus stop, with a quick stop at Carrefour supermarket to buy some water and fruit as I’m sure the prices of anything at MSM are going to be crazy. We are at the bus stop in plenty of time and soon the bus rolled up and took us 15mins down the road for 2.90 euro each.

The small island, with its massive abbey and buildings was as impressive as I thought it might be. We decided to walk around the base before going inside – easy to do at low tide. It actually looked like the tide had not been anywhere near the island for some time as the water was so far our we could not even see it and the sand felt fairly dry, although it was very compacted.

It took us about an hour to circumnavigate the island stopping for many, many photos as you can see by my FB entry. I took over 200 photos today! Loved it.

By the time we walked inside the village on the island it was obvious that this attraction is the 2nd most visited place in France (after the Eifel Tower) – every man and his dog were there. Yes dogs are allowed to visit also as long as kept on a leash. We walked around inside for a little over an hour, managed to get some photos that were not too crowded with people. Didn’t pay the 10 euro to go inside the Abbey, mainly because is was so crowded and partly because I didn’t want to pay 10 euro to go inside an Abbey.

We stopped in the shade to have a banana and some water and I read the timetable which advised if we hurried we could catch the next bus back to camp otherwise we would have to wait another 2 ½ hours for the next bus. Since we had seen it all and the crowds were just getting thicker, we decided to walk quickly to the bus stop, which we made just as the bus was doing a uturn to return back to Pontorson.

Back in town we did a lap of the Carrefour supermarket and purchased some pate, cheese, bread & juice for lunch and also scoped out what we would come back for later to buy for dinner. We ate in the shade beside our tent and relaxed a little.

Later in the afternoon we jumped on the bikes and headed to the train station to buy tickets for our journey tomorrow. Yes, we are getting on the train again, no not cheating, just being smart with time and ability.

A little more relaxing back at camp before we returned to the supermarket at 6.30pm to buy dinner supplies. Mussels for entre and pork spare ribs with potato salad for mains. All washed down with a bottle of local rose cider, which I am very partial to. And we did one of our old backpacker camping tricks in the supermarket this morning by putting this bottle of cider off the shelf and hid it in the fridge behind a stack of yoghurt. This way when we come later in the evening to buy it, the cider is nice and cold.
Good camp meal tonight!
Great day today!

Tuesday 10th July 2018 – day 13 – Pontorson to St Malo by train

Mitch woke me at 7am this morning, we have a 9.11am train to catch and as it has been taking us 2 hours to break camp previously we had to be up early today. Turns out we packed up and loaded the bikes in record time and were in the camp reception by 8am to collect our pastries and have a cup of coffee. Cup of bad coffee as it turned out, but the giant-sized raisin scrolls almost made up for it.

We left for the train station at 8.30am and as it was only 10mins ride away were there in plenty of time. Enough time to dread the thought of having to lift the bikes into the train as for sure there would be a step up for the sandy platform. The train rolled in on time and sure enough there was a step, I loaded my bike first with Mitch lifting the rear wheel into the train, then when I had lent it up against the seats turned and helped him with his bike the same way. This first train ride was only 15 minutes, so we didn’t even think about unloading the panniers. And anyway, this is now impossible for mine as we had to zippy tie them on as the hooks are not holding any more.

It was a roll off at the Dol De Bretagne station where we had almost an hour to wait for our connecting train. We spent more time waiting for trains today than actual time on them. Next leg from Dol to St Malo was just under 20 minutes too, so we just stood holding the bikes on the train and had an easy entry and exit off the second train too.

St Malo municipal campground was just 3 km from the train station and with the aid of GPS on my phone navigated our way there easily. Of course, the campground is at the top of a hill, so the last little bit was a push up. It’s a big camp ground with over 300 sites, when we arrived their computer system was down, so we just picked a random site and set up the tent, chucked everything off the bike inside the tent as we wanted to go out exploring. It was still before 12 noon. Just down the hill a little there was an ‘antiques’ market aka junk market. We took some photos of the surrounding bay and then rode our bikes to the old town. Lots of tourists here today!

The old town was pretty amazing, if you can overlook all the rip off tourists’ restaurants lining the streets. We found a Carrefour supermarket, bought some supplies and had a nice picnic lunch under the shade of a tree. And we were not the only ones with this idea as many people sat sharing our shade and on nearby benches with picnic type lunches. Not everyone can afford or is sucked into the overpriced restaurants.
Best thing about the old town is the city walls are restored and maintained and you can walk almost around the entire city on the walls. This gave us great views of the beaches, bays, rocky outcrops and the streets inside the city walls as well. We walked around the walls for a couple of hours and by the time we had made a complete circle it was time for an ice cream to cool us down a little. There were lots of people on the beaches and I must say the water did look quite nice. Very clean anyway.

I asked at the tourist office earlier in the day where we can catch the ferry we want tomorrow that will take us over the bay to Dinard and where we will continue to ride heading south towards Rennes. We will be riding for the next 3 days and camping the next 3 nights to get us to Rennes where I have booked an Airbnb for 2 nights.

It was a great day today exploring St Malo – but super crowded just like Mont St Michel was. But I guess we are not the only ones who are holidaying in Northern France this year.

Riding the bikes back to the campground we took a detour to another Carrefour supermarket to pick up supplies for dinner. Food for us is easy to cater for, a bit of meat – usually pork – pork is good in Europe, and then something to accompany it. It’s been too hot to be cooking vegies, so we have been buying a salad – potato salad of sorts – or tonight we are having beetroot and corn. Sometimes it’s a little difficult because we can’t keep anything we don’t eat so need to buy just enough for one meal.

Back at the camp, we had a bit of a relax and then went for a shower. This is our best shower yet in my opinion. Hot and strong. Only problem was you had to hold the button in the whole time otherwise the water flow would stop. Guess it’s a water saving method. But it was hot, that is the main thing. I know when I travelled in the south of France the showers were cold unless you had a token which lasted 2 seconds. Up here all our camp showers have been hot, and the municipal (council) campgrounds have been the best. Toilets are ok, no seats but they do have paper.
We finished off our bottle of red with a dessert of fruit and nut chocolate and were inside the tent by 9pm. It is of course still broad daylight outside, but we are ready to sleep. I’m typing this, but Mitchell is already out like a light, I find it a little more difficult to get to sleep when it’s so light.

France is playing Belgium in the semi finals of the football tonight I have heard a couple of cheers and car horns but the match is not over yet so not sure of the outcome.

Wednesday 11th July 2018 – day 14 – St Malo to Dinan

30 km ride today, lost at first but then on the voie verte

We broke camp early as we wanted to catch the 9.23am ferry from St Malo across the bay to Dinard. Not an easy feat for us but we did make it in plenty of time and as a reward we stopped and had a real coffee from a coffee shop. While Mitchell was ordering the coffee, I walked up the next block and bought some yummy pastries to go with our coffee and that was breakfast.
I remember reading that from here in Dinard we can ride along a greenway path all the way to near Dinan and then follow the Rance canal tow path all the way to Rennes, but finding the path is not always the easiest of tasks. Mitch had asked directions from the coffee guy and he gave good detailed directions – but of course all in French. We took off on the bikes in the general direction, but after about 2km when we still did not see any signs or what looked like the path, I suggest we ride back into the centre and ask at the tourist information office how to find the path. Otherwise, we could be riding around looking all morning.

The young girl in the info office was lovely and spoke very good English. She gave me a map and it was funny that we were so close to the entry to the path, but obviously not close enough. So back up the hill we rode the way back we had just come down and low and behold found the voie verte, it was exactly where it should have been.

So, most of the rest of the day was easy riding. There was a short distance in between where we left the greenway and joined the Rance canal that was on backroads and through little villages – where no sign of life was seen.
We stopped for lunch at some picnic tables next to the Rance just before we started to ride alongside the canal.

There were a few boats in the water and the bike traffic on the trail for the rest of the day was the most we have encountered anywhere. It was a nice ride, easy ride, flat and mostly shaded.

Early afternoon we rolled into Dinan Port which was packed with tourist restaurants. We again visited the tourist office to get directions to the camp ground. Another very helpful lady who gave us directions and a map. We had a bit of a walk around then rode the short distance to the campground. We are staying at another municipal camp, so the fee was only 10.60 euros, shady plot, hot showers, no toilet paper but toilet seats!
We put up the tent and stashed everything inside then headed up the hill to visit the old town Dinan. There was a nice view of the Port from the old town. In the centre was a market and it did not take long for us to realize it was all the same stalls that were at the old junk antique market we walked through in St Malo. The vendors are obviously doing the rounds of the towns trying to flog their wares.
Heading back for the camp we stopped at the supermarket Carrefour and met an Australian couple who are also staying at the same campground as us. Funnily enough, Suzannah and James are also from Brisbane – small world. We were finishing up our shopping but said we would come over to their motor home for a drink. A drink turned into several, we all bunged in for dinner that James cooked on the little charcoal BBQ. We also met Camille, their French camp neighbour and had a great night. Actually, it was the first night that Mitch and I were not in the tent tucked up in our sleeping bags before dark. It was very close to midnight by the time we zipped the tent closed for the night.


Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:32 Archived in France Comments (2)


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Thursday 5th July 2018 – day 8 Mortague to Alencon

Bike day four – 42 km – all greenway except last 6 km with rain.

WORST NIGHT SLEEP TO DATE, wow you would think with a hard roof, soft bed, full bellies and tired bodies we would sleep like the dead. But no, we both woke complaining about the crap night sleep we had, had. Maybe it was because it was too warm, and the lingering stale air did not aid in sleep.

We slowly got up out of bed and after another shower went out looking for breakfast. We chose not to have it at the hotel at a price of 9 euro each. Found a bakery purchased a few yummies and a baguette for lunch later. Stopped in a café for a real cup of coffee – nice it was too. Then back to the hotel to pack up our gear and load the bikes and depart. The hotel owner suddenly seemed pissed off at us after I had paid and just about pushed us with our bikes out of the door. Odd!

Before heading back to the Veloscenie trail, we needed to get a replacement for the tube that was changed yesterday. Mitchell had asked the guy at the hotel and he advised there was a bike hire place 200 metres down the street and they should sell tubes. Of course, we could find no bike hire shop or any kind of bike shop. Mitch again decided to ask in another shop and the guy advised us to go to the Super U – which was a supermarket. There we found a tube and sped down the long hill, that we climbed yesterday, to return to the greenway trail.
It was 11.20 – our latest start, but we knew we would be on the good greenway path for most of the ride today. The weather was a little cooler as it was overcast, but we still appreciated the shade from the trees.

Lunch stop was beside the track at a conveniently located picnic table near the village of Le Mele sur Sarthe. Continuing along the greenway until we reached an abrupt end at around 3pm. The track literally just ended, joining a little country road with no indication of which way we needed to turn – left or right. To top it all off at that very moment it started to rain. Not pour down, but rain none the less. I brought up the GPS on my phone which showed we still had 6km to get into town. We rode on in the rain and didn’t end up getting drenched because it had stopped by the time we reached the centre.
So, now to find the camping ground. Having already decided we were going to try and get a cabin as the rain certainly looked like it would be returning, it was disappointing to be advised all they had in the way of onsite cabins was 2 onsite tents. Big tents that just had 2 sets of bunk beds for the price of 102 euro for 2 nights (2night minimum). Wow, that was ridiculous. Back to the tourist information office we rode and asked about a hotel. Yep there was a hotel near the train station, just 10 minutes ride away, that had rooms starting at 33 euro per night. That sounded a much better deal to me, and we booked in for 2 nights because after having ridden around half the town already, it looked like an interesting place to stop for a look around.
Our bikes were locked in the garage out the back, our luggage carried upstairs to our room and then we went to the bar to have a well-earned drink. A large beer for Mitch and I tried a local cider (from a bottle) – not bad.
We ended up having scrapes of cheese and bread that we still had in our larder for dinner – funny with all the riding we don’t seem to have big appetites. Although we are drinking lots of water during the day, maybe that is taking away the hunger.

It was after midnight by the time I turned off the French TV and not a drop of rain had fallen since our shower this afternoon, but the room is comfortable and cheap enough, so all is good.

Friday 6th July 2018 – day 9 Alencon

Mitch went across to the Carrefour supermarket to get breakfast – a mixture of mini pain de chocolate and orange juice.

Our first task today was a visit to the train station which is just across the car park from our hotel. We are wanting to catch a train from here to Mont St Michel – hoping to perhaps run into my friends from Spain who are in the same area at the moment on a driving vacation. But of course, due to the train strikes in France at the moment there are no trains running tomorrow, so we had to purchase tickets for Sunday, which means we will miss my friends by a day. Bugger, but can’t be helped. And it means we will have to stay another night here in Alencon.

Free day today, we did a self-guided walking tour around the town with the aid of a map we received from the tourist office yesterday. Alencon is famous for its lace, not that we saw any of it anywhere, just a lot of the buildings were owned by or had something to do with the lace industry way back when. Apparently, they do still make lace here and it is unique to anywhere else in the world and is listed with UNESCO for the art of procedure of making the lace.
Also, the big round building in the middle of town used to be the wheat auction house, understandable as we have seen a lot of wheat fields ever since we started riding.

We walked around for a couple of hours but it was pretty hot, so we returned to the hotel with a couple of supermarket beers to watch the soccer on our TV.

Saturday 7th July 2018 – day 10 Alencon

Mitch went across to the Carrefour supermarket to get breakfast - a mixture of mini pain de chocolate and orange juice.

Today is another forced free day so we lazed around not in too much of a hurry to do anything. We had to change rooms as we had only originally booked this room for 2 nights and had to move to a smaller room with shared bathroom. Still ok and a little cheaper.

It was close to lunchtime by the time we decided to venture out to the centre. There is a lot of renovations going on to the pedestrian centre with the streets all pulled up and lots of work going on. It was a bit of a maze to walk around and I bet the shop owners were not too happy with all the dust and grime outside there stores. Will be nice when its finished, but we won’t be here to see it.

Being a Saturday, it was quite busy with lots of shoppers and a couple of tourists, not many tourists, but we did hear some English and German being spoken around us midst the French locals. Lots of the shops had stall set up outside their store fronts as there seemed to be big sales going on. We didn’t really look as can’t buy anything as we have no room to lug any thing extra. The only thing we can buy must be things that can be consumed. So one of the stalls that caught our eye was a bbq offering a giant French sausage and chips for 5 euro! What a bargain, and they smelt wonderful. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table to come available and then ordered a beer, which cost almost as much as the meal, before our food was served to us. The sausage was delicious! And the chips made a nice hot meal that filled our bellies. Funny that our appetites are quite low, even on a riding day when you would think after using all our energy we would feel hungry, but we haven’t really. One thing about staying in a hotel we are not able to cook anything, so this was a nice treat.

Today is hot again, so after lunch we sat on a bench near the river for awhile before returning to our hotel and watching the soccer with a couple of cold beers purchased from the supermarket.

We had just a light dinner in the room after our big lunch and starting thinking about having to move again tomorrow.

Sunday 8th July 2018 – day 11 Alencon to Pontorson by train

It was hot in the room last night, even with the 2 front doors wide open. There was not a breath of wind and the temperature did not seem to drop at all from the day heat.

Mitch went across to the Carrefour supermarket to get breakfast – pain de chocolate and orange juice – while I went and had a shower.

With the panniers all packed we asked for the garage to be opened so we could load up the bikes. We don’t have far to go today, just 100 meters across the carpark to the train station. Not sure if we will have to take off the panniers to hang the bikes so mine were just bungie corded on, instead of using the more permanent zippy clips. We were early so had to wait for the trains arrival time. During this wait the platform started to crowd up and about 4 more bike riders showed up. We stood chatting to an English Father & Son who were no where near as loaded as us and they told us of their problems with the train strikes and trains not showing up at all. These stories did not cheer me as we had just spent 2 days sitting around instead of riding because we were taking this train.

Thankfully the train showed on time and then there was the mad scramble to get on with the bike fully loaded. Of course, there was a step up into the train and a couple of fellow passengers were kind enough to give me a lift with my overweight bike. Mitch managed to get his on with a single guy with his bike pushing in between us and hanging his bike up giving us a disgruntled look. Mitch took off his panniers and managed to hang his bike up by the front wheel, but I was not going to even attempt this, happy to stand holding my loaded bike rather than try to strip and hang it.
The first leg of our journey was Alencon to Caen – about an hour 20 minutes. We took turns standing with my bike and I said to Mitch the next leg we just leave them both loaded. Caen platform was the same step down, but this was an easier operation to perform. We loaded Mitch’s bike back up on the platform. Lucky, we had almost an hour between trains so no need to rush. And ever luckier there was a lift that would take us down to the tunnel to change platforms, otherwise trying to get the bikes down and up stairs would have been a real nightmare.

Our next train from Caen to Pontorson was already waiting on platform B so we boarded and took a seat. This train we could just wheel the bikes on, no step and we left them fully loaded in the bike hanging section as there seemed to be lots of room. Managed to have a picnic lunch on the train before it even left the station at seats with a table, very civilized. This leg was 2 hours, but we were able to sit and relax, not having to hold the bikes.

Pontorson train station is nothing flash, a step out of the carriage onto a dirt platform. The campground was less than 1 km away, so we rode there in less than 10 minutes after checking the GPS for direction. I went to the reception to check us in for 2 nights. 60 euro thank you very much, 30 euro per night for a powered site (no choice) and free wifi. Shit that is only 3 euro less than what we paid for a hotel room last night. Camping certainly isn’t necessarily the cheapest option when travelling in France. But the hotels here in town are over 50 euros so you need to have a car to scout the cheaper indoor accommodation. Anyway, we have all this camping shit with us we may as well use it.

We found our allocated site #12 and Mitchell said go ask her if we can have #13 as it is shadier now and will be for the rest of the afternoon. I returned to the reception and we changed sites and of course when we returned later in the day the tent was in full sun and the site #12 was in complete shade. Mental note: next time don’t listen to Mitchell as he does not know the direction of the sun!

We put up the tent and went for a ride into town (village). Being a Sunday there was not much open, and we had anticipated this and purchased dinner in a can yesterday for us to be able to eat today. There were a few little shops open and we possibly would have been able to scratch up a meal, but it was nice being organized. We did however, purchase a couple of cold cans of beer from one of the shops and sat in the park and had a drink. This is a much cheaper option than having a drink in the campsite bar which was charging 4 euro for a small glass of draught beer. The beer Mitch chose was 11.6% - tasted a bit shit but gave him a buzz for the rest of the evening.
Before riding back to the campground, I called into the same shop and purchased a bottle of local cider that I saw was in the same fridge as the beer. This was only 1.87 euro and it was pretty good. We sat drinking this back at the campground when I noted our tent was in full sun.
Easy dinner was cooked on the camp stove, lucky it was easy as Mitch was still a little tipsy after the cider top up.

We then went for a shower – all amenities in the campgrounds have been unisex which is a little different to what we are used to back in Australia. This one is really clean, and the water was hot, again you have to keep pressing the button, but at least it was hot. We then did our chores of clothes washing in the allocated area, again very clean, but I guess it should be at the price you pay. We hung our clothes up on the provided line, saying a silent prayer that not only are they dry in the morning but that they are still there in the morning.

I’m typing this in the tent and its 10.23pm and still bright daylight outside. Never mind, if we close our eyes it will be dark in our little tent.
Bucket list tick off tomorrow for me when we visit Mont St Michel.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:18 Archived in France Comments (0)


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Sunday 1st July 2018 – day 4 – Chartres to Illiers Combray, France

Bike 40km – incredibly bloody hot!

Valentin kindly offered us breakfast this morning, so after a coffee and pastry we loaded up the bikes and were on the road just after 9.30am.
A hot day was forecast, and it delivered, tenfold. Aided by our super unfitness, and very little preparation for this adventure we suffered badly this first day. It was very hot, and our bodies not being used to having to push pedals on bikes carrying close to 20kg of luggage suffered. About an hour and half in, we lost the trail which had been so well sign pathed until the signs disappeared and we realized we must have missed a turn somewhere. Having no idea where we did the wrong turn, I decided to just follow google maps to find our way. All was going well, we were riding through little villages where we saw no sign of life. Managed to stop at a bakery that was open and then later stopped for a picnic in a small park in some village. Soon we were riding through great fields of wheat, which was not very scenic, and the temperature soared. Physically we were both not up to this task today of riding this distance in this heat, and it think mentally Mitch was a little shocked by it all too. I have done several long-distance riding journeys so have a fair idea what to expect, but poor Mitch was really struggling and then he was hit by heatstroke. We sheltered for a half an hour in a bus shelter in a tiny unknown village where I went looking to water as we had run out. Not finding anyone around, I ended up just walking into someone’s yard where I saw an outside tap attached to the house and filled our bottles. It was a life or death situation and if someone had come out of the house I’m sure they would not have mined me stealing a couple of litres of water.

But we had to push on, by this time we were only about 6km from our camp ground night stop.

We were very happy when we rolled into our camping ground just on 4pm. It had take us from 9.30am to 4pm – 6 ½ hours to ride 40km. The heat killed us, and I realized if this weather kept up I would need to revise the intended itinerary.

Unpowered tent site for 2 people is 19 euros – with free use of the municipal pool which was next door. We set up the tent and then walked next door to take a cooling dip. Clever me did not bring any togs as I thought it was going to be too cold to swim – der. But I just got in with my short and bra, however when Mitch tried to enter the pool with his shorts and shirt the life guard started to blow his whistle and Mitch was advised he was not allowed in the pool with shorts and shirt on. Dick togs only allowed. So much for slip slop slap! Frenchies not interested in sun protection at all. So the dip was very quick indeed.



Monday 2nd July 2018 – day 5 – Illiers Combray

We woke this morning to the aftermath of last night’s storm – everything was wet. Luckily our tent held up against the elements and all was dry inside including us. However, the line full of washing was absolutely drenched, as was everything else we stupidly left outside of the tent.

Looking up at the sky, as we ate our croissant for breakfast did not give a very good outlook for the day either. We had to decide to carry on and take what the weather hands out or stay here another night and try to dry everything out to carry on the next day.

I know Mitch was pushing to stay and have a rest day, he had a few falls yesterday and his ribs and bike unco were both in a sorry state. Me, I wanted to carry on just to keep going along the trail. The fact that the weather did not look like clearing and the clothing had still not come anywhere near drying we both made the executive decision to stay another night and to hire an onsite tent to stay in as the forecast was for the storms to continue.

I advised Mitch it’s ok if we stay as we have heaps of time, but we must make a move tomorrow come rain, hail or shine. It was agreed.
So, we took up residence in an onsite tent for 39 euros, which also gives us electricity to charge everything and we hung the clothes on the airier in the amenities block. Rather than waste the whole day as it was no longer raining we rode the 2km into town, Illiers Combray to have a look around and to buy some dinner supplies. The town really has not much to offer tourist wise, we had a walk around, had a supermarket beer which we drank in the church grounds as it was the only shade around the small centre. Only other claim to fame is the Marcel Prost museum which was closed anyway. We had to hang around until 3pm as the supermarket had closed for lunch – 12pm to 3pm.
By 2pm the sun had come out is all its glory and it was hot again. When the shops opened we quickly purchased supplies and headed back to the campsite to get everything out in the sun to dry. This task proved successful and by 6pm everything we owned was dry and ready for another travel day.
We cooked our dinner on our small deck attached to the onsite tent and were just finishing when the rain poured down again. I had to finish my dinner on the steps.

Tuesday 3rd July 2018 – day 6 Illiers Combray to Nogent le-Routrou

Bike day two – 40 km – a little more pleasant

We woke at about 7.15am and there was a thick fog surrounding the campsite, which made it impossible to see what the sky was like. It had rained continuously during the night. No matter we were making a move today!

We had breakfast from supplies purchased yesterday, the fresh bread from camp is not available until 8.30 and I really wanted to be on our way by then.

It was 9.05am when we departed the campsite with the reception lady waving us au revoir. And away we go. Another 40km to go today and although the fog has lifted it is a nice cool temperature to start the day. About 20 minutes into the ride I stop to take a photo and drop my camera, broken, kaput, no go. Not happy! But we continue, and for the rest of the day I take photos with my phone – a habit I detest but have no choice.

The ride today was easier than the first day, even though we had many more hills today, and quite a few that we had to push up. And by the afternoon the sky had cleared, and the temperature soared too, but it was a better day than the first.
Again, a lot of wheat fields, but due to the many hills we traversed there were also many lovely views to be enjoyed. I’m so pissed off about my camera.

We met a French couple on the same route who were at the same campground last night and had a bit of a chat to them along the way. We stopped with them to try some tiny berries which they advised was related to the cherry family and very rare to find. They are again in the same campground as us tonight, along with another 2 French women who Mitch made contacted with to get our bottle of wine opened to have with dinner. We must drink red wine as it does not have to be refrigerated. And who travels to France without a corkscrew? Us apparently – most unlikely most of you will think. I was surprised too.

We arrived into Nogent le-Routrou at around 4pm – found the campground. Set up the tent, had a little rest then headed back into the centre to find a supermarket. We of course must shop daily for food as we cannot carry much supplies with us. Just try to have food for lunch along the road as may small villages that we ride through have no sign of any life, and if they do they are closed between 12 and 3.

So tonight, we are in the Municipal campground – very cheap at only 7.65euro for the night – and the showers were hot, the toilets have seats, but no toilet paper – not bad for the price.

It’s still bright daylight as I sit typing here at 9.15pm and the sky is still blue with fluffy white clouds, but we can hear thunder in the background so good chance of rain again tonight.

Wednesday 4th July 2018 – day 7 Nogent le-Routrou to Mortague

Bike day three – 47 km – hilly morning, easy greenway, got lost, puncture, uphill to town, hotel.

Well, no rain last night but everything was damp from the heavy due. We ate breakfast from our supplies purchased yesterday as no bread delivery to this municipal campground. Coffee, bread & cheese – working as a good start to the day.

We packed up our table & chairs, which a few other bikers have commented about with envy, except the envy finishes when they see how much luggage we are toting on our bikes. But, while these items really are excess luggage we are grateful for them when they are in use as these bodies are too old to be sitting on the ground trying to cook and eat. We then pack up the tent and pack it all on the bikes. Ready to go, we roll out the gates at about 9.20am. Seems to be taking us 2 hours from the time we wake up to the time we are on the road, that timing will either improve or not.

First hour and a bit of this ride was through forest back roads with a bit of pushing involved not exactly the best way to start the day. Soon we hit the greenway, which is a converted rail trail, which means flat, mostly shaded and easy riding. We stay on the until we stop for lunch at a little place called Remalard, where I had to climb up a steep hill into the centre to find bread. Mitchell waited by the track in a park, keeping a bench warm.

We had to decide here whether to leave the Veloscenie trail and head 20km to the next campground or continue along this nice rail trail and go for a hotel. Stay on the trail and hotel won easily.
We rode on for a few more hours until we reached Mortagne, this was going to be our stop for the night. Unfortunately, before reaching the town the greenway abruptly stopped and we were detoured off onto side country roads which are always hilly. Took a wrong turn and in a village called Revellion, Mitch got a flat front tyre. Shit! Lucky, we had a spare tube, so we pulled to the side of the road into a little bit of shade and he changed the tube. Had a bit of difficulty with the value but he was brave enough to go ask some French guy who was up the road working on his car. The change was reasonably quick and there was not too much swearing involved, only casualty was the plastic tyre levers (thanks Miss Robyn but they did not stand up to the job) we were back in the saddle in about 45 minutes backtracking to find the path again.

We headed down the only other road that was available but still it did not seem correct and after a little to-ing and fro-ing Mitch again took the lead and when knocking on the door of a nearby house. After the second place he found some French man who was doing work on the house, we spoke no English but was able to convey to us that we were now heading in the right direction that would take us into town. And he was kind enough to refill our almost empty water bottles. It’s bloody hot out again and really there is no where along the trail to refill water bottles. I have been going into yards if I see a tap, presuming no one is home to refill bottles.
We eventually came to the roundabout the man had told us about and we were cheering we were heading in the right direction. Just our luck Montagne is built on a bloody top of a hill and we had to push the bikes up to the centre for about 1km – this is where the hotels will be. In the square was a tourist office who called a hotel for us which was just 200m up the street. We check in at 5.30pm into The Genty Home hotel which is home for the night @ 68 euros for a double room. Our bikes are locked in the back room and we are led up 2 flights of steps to our room, which was decorated in the 60’s but is clean and will definitely keep us dry tonight if it rains. First up we hang up the wet clothes from this morning and immediately the room is transformed into a Chinese laundry. After showers and a short rest, we go out around 7.30pm to find food. We have a quick walk around town – its only small so it didn’t take very long. The only supermarket closed at 7.30pm and the only other options for food were the restaurant at our hotel, which I noted meals started at around 30 euros per plate and a pizza joint that seemed to be popular with a few locals. Perhaps because it was the only place open was the reason why it was popular, but we chose it over our hotel restaurant, mainly due to price. Mitch had a giant beer and we shared a ½ bottle of Rose and a very tasty pizza – the best pizza I’ve had in France. Lol, also the first pizza I’ve had in France so not a lot to compare it to. But it was very tasty and we both walked back to the hotel with full bellies.
It’s still very hot and these hotels could do with a fan if they do not offer air conditioning.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:39 Archived in France Comments (0)


89 DAYS IN EUROPE - Cycle in France, Recover in Malta, Explore unseen Portugal

-50 °C

Days leading up to departure.

Hello Everyone,

If you are reading this, it means I have embarked on another holiday. So sit back, relax and read your way around the world with me from the comfort of your own home.

I have a different travel companion this time, my house mate Mitchell is along for the ride, literally! My sister Lyn, my usual travel companion, has taken up a better offer and is off to Africa later this year with the Lemons (aka Toni & Shawn).

So our main destination for this trip is Portugal - Mitch & I worked at the World Expo 1998 in Lisbon at an Australian themed restaurant called the Kangaroo Bar & Restaurant. We lived in Lisbon for 6 months back then in 1998. Working at the Expo was a unique experience, but the best part was we both developed a great love of Portugal - especially the food and wine. Actually I was not even a wine drinker when I first flew into Portugal, however now I am thankful for the gift it has given me. Mitch & I did a remembrance trip back to Portugal in 2003, 5 years after Expo, when we re-visited old haunts that we discovered when we lived there. They still had there own currency, the Escudo, back then and it was a relatively inexpensive European country to visit. Since then I have returned several times to Portugal and although they are now using the Euro and prices have gone up its still one of my very favourite countries in the World to travel to. And in comparison still less expensive than other European countries. Anyway, 2018 is our 20 year anniversary of working at Expo, and yes no need to tell me we are getting old - we already know. We plan to return to a few of our favourite places, but also want to discover some new hidden places in Portugal. And of course we want to eat and drink - Portuguese style.

Anyone who knows me will know that just one destination is not enough when travelling so far to Europe, so we are taking full advantage of our 90 day Schengen visa - flying out of Europe on day 89. Have to keep one day in lieu in case of departure flight day delay.

I have planed an itinerary of 4 weeks of torture - I mean of cycling through Northern France. And if you are thinking we are too old, fat and unfit to do something like this - which includes camping and cooking - well then you would be completely correct. But what the hell we are going to give it a go anyways.
During our sojourn through France I will probably come pretty close to eating my body weight in French cheese and secretly, this is the real reason for entering into this country. I have thrown in the cycling activity to counter balance my guilt at eating a lot of cheese, so we will just see how that all goes. Our itinerary is to do a giant loop of just under 1000km in just under 1 month, but if we don't make the whole lap, so be it.


From France we fly to Malta for 18 days of recovery and sunshine, of which Northern France promises there might not be much of. Malta is a new favourite destination of mine and I can't envision a visit to Europe without a stopover to this beautiful island.

From Malta we fly to Portugal where we have a hire car for 3 weeks and then 1 week in Lisbon to revisit favourite places there. Hope to catch up with local friends and meeting a few friends from Australia who will be in the country the same time.

A quick 4 night stop in Lake Maggiore, Italy before we start our long journey back to Australia. I found a cheap flight back to Asia out of Milan and it seemed stupid not to give a few days to this destination and not just use the airport.

There is more itinerary in Asia on the way home, but will catch you up on that later, after our 89 days in Europe.

Wednesday 27th June 2018 - day of departure

For weeks we have been gathering 'stuff' and piling it up in the lounge room - things we need to take. By today, departure day, the pile is huge and we have already weeded out everything and have only kept what we really, really need. And we haven't even added our clothing to the pile yet.
Luckily some weeks back I managed to organize to hire bicycles once we arrived in France and this is a god sent cause there is no way we would have been able to take bikes with all the crap we have stacked up.

Our flight is late evening, so Lyn is kind enough to come over and take us out for lunch. I think the real reason was to snigger under her breath at our attempts to pack all our much needed equipment into 2 bags which need to be under 30 kgs each. Thank you for lunch dear Sister and just remember this may be you same time next year trying to pack a similar bag, but that's for another blog.

The bags end up packed with everything, including our clothing, and although they are bulging I am sure they are under weight. Another sister Cobi, will be house sitting for us while we are away and playing mother to Ted the cat - who seems unperturbed with all the packing and excitement going on around him. As long as there is food in his bowl everyday at 6pm, I don't think he really gives a rats what's going on in the human world around him.

Cobi gave us a lift to the airport, thank you. And I sigh with relief when our rather large bags come in at 26.1 & 23.8 kgs. Check-in is still the most hated part of travel for me , but no worries today, so I relax and turn on full holiday mode.

We are early at the airport so wait around eating some chicken legs I had cooked up earlier and brought to the airport. We buy a coke and a bottle of water for the price of a cheap flight to Sydney - welcome to the world of airport drink prices - and wait for our flight to be called.

We are on an Oman Air flight code sharing with Etihad, in the latter's plane. The plane is full and it must be one of the oldest and crappiest in the Etihad fleet. I managed to watch 4 movies, 2 TV episodes, have 2 meals, 1 snack and still have a few hours sleep cramped up in the tiny cattle class seat.

We land in Abu Dhabi just after sunrise and have 5 hours to kill before our next connection. Not a very exciting airport, we have a coffee, and I type this blog using free airport internet. Don't really want to buy any food as we will be fed once we get on the plane, manage to force down a dry piece of banana cake we brought from home, washed down with a coffee 2 for 36 AED = $13.32.

Next leg is a short flight from Abu Dhabi to Oman where we have just enough time for an iced coffee at a ridiculous price and we are boarding the last plane that will take us to Paris, France.


**********33 DAYS IN FRANCE**********

Thursday 28th June 2018 – day 1 – Paris – Chartres, France

Our plane landed on time in Paris at 7.30pm, who would have thought 3 ½ hours later we would be literally running to catch our train to take us out to Chartres – about 120km south of Paris. I had set up a BlaBlaCar to give us a lift, but they cancelled at the last minute, it was in fact the second one that cancelled on me as I had set up the first lift earlier in the week which cancelled a few days after. So, we had to catch public transport, which is not usually a problem but knowing the last train was at 11.03pm and that only half the connecting trains were running due to strikes was a lot to deal with after the long flights we had just come off.

Lucky, our Airbnb host had sent me instructions of how to get to where we needed. We lined up at the train ticket machine at the airport only to finally get to our turn and my visa debit card not being accepted. We learnt later that only visa credit cards, not debit cards, can be used in the ticket machines. Or of course cash, which was ok as we had visited the ATM before heading to the train station, but it had spat out only 50euro notes to me and the train ticket machine would only take notes under 20 euros. Shit, not wanting to lose our place at the machine, I kept playing with the machine putting my card in to be rejected, while Mitch went over to a little kiosk to be ripped off 3 euro for a bottle of water – a compulsory purchase to be able to get change.

Tickets in had we went down the escalator and boarded a train, got off the same train and boarded another train only to be advised this train was only going so far and we would need to get another train to take us to metro station to take us to a different train station to catch the 11.03pm to Chartres.

Dragging luggage, and several other mishaps eventually found us at the correct train station but unable to find a ticket machine that would take cash. Panic rising, I yelled out to Mitch, just get on the train we will sort out the ticket thing later. The whistle blew, and we only just made it through the door before it slammed closed and the train left the station. Our journey from Paris to Chartres was to take about 1 ½ hours and I was hopping due to the strikes there would be no ticket inspectors as boarding a train without a ticket usually means a hefty fine. The Gods were smiling on us this night as there was no inspectors and we had saved 16 euro each on the cost of the train ticket.

Our Airbnb host was at the station to meet us, what a great guy as it was now after midnight. Valentin walked us the short distance to his home, which would be our home for the next 3 nights.

Relaxing a little, I’m surprised by the late-night temperature, it was quite warm. Seems France is putting on a nice temperature for our visit. We have a nice big room on the bottom floor (thank goodness we didn’t have to try and carry our 2 large bags up the stairs of the lovely house we are staying in.

Shower, then we crashed. It been a long journey from Australia to get here, but we are here at last and all is well so far.

Friday 29th June 2018 – day 2 – Chartres, France

We woke to a brilliant blue sky, looking like a sunny day ahead. Valentin walked us down to the local bakery and purchased breakfast, which consisted of my favourite raisin scroll and Mitch had a apple filled pastry. Welcome to France, welcome to calories, welcome to a great holiday!
We rode the bikes for the first time today, and they are great, at least I think so anyway. These are the bikes Mitch & I will be riding around France for the next 4 weeks. I had been corresponding with Valentin about purchasing bikes and we ended up making a deal good for both of us and I am very happy with the results.

We rode the bikes the short distance from Mainvilliers to Chartres centre, probably only 2 km, but it’s a start and again I say they are great.

We spent the balance of the day playing tourist and walked around the lovely town of Chartres. We started at the Cathedral, walked through the small streets ending up down by the river. It’s all so lovely. We found a supermarket and purchased lunch which consisted of baguette, cheeses and duck pate. Found some stone steps under a tree near the cathedral and there was born our first French picnic – many more of the same to follow I am sure.


Later in the evening, when it was starting to get dark – about 10.30pm – we returned to the Cathedral to watch the most amazing light show that that the town puts on against numerous buildings during the summer. We mostly only saw the Cathedral façade, but it was an amazing show. We wanted to go on the tourist train that rides around the town showing all the buildings with the light display, but we were too late, and the train was full. Maybe we can catch it the night we return to Chartres before flying out of Paris.

A great day spent in Chartres, weather is amazing, not at all what I thought it would be like – quite hot today actually.

Saturday 30th June 2018 – day 3 – Mainvilliers & St Piat, France

Decathlon store was only 2km from our Airbnb and that is the first place we rode off to today. We needed to buy gas for our cookers, as we will start our bike ride tomorrow and if we want to cook along the way we will need to buy gas. Luckily for us Decathlon had both types of bottle we were after, we also picked up a spare inner tube for the bikes (theory is: if we carry a spare we won’t get a flat) and we needed a new pump, the one we brought with did not have the correct connection for the European bikes.

One the way home we also stopped at a Lidl supermarket to buy supplies for tomorrow. I have been to France before and been caught out with all shops being closed on a Sunday so decided I would be prepared for our Sunday start and have enough food supplies with us.
We also got todays lunch supplies which we enjoyed in the back garden in the shade of a tree.

Later in the afternoon we met up with my friend Zak (from Morocco) who now lives in a little village just 15km from Chartres. He collected us in his car and drove us to his home. We had a lovely afternoon/evening. I got to meet his new daughter and we went for a walk around the little village.


After Zak dropped us back at our Airbnb we sat around chatting with the hosts and other guests before heading off to bed after a shower, as tomorrow we ride!

We enjoyed another warm, sunny day today.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:04 Archived in France Comments (0)

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