A Travellerspoint blog

France

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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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!

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

2018 JULY 25 - 27- CYCLING FRANCE

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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)

2018 JULY 22 - 24 CYCLING FRANCE

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.

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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.

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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.

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

2018 JULY 18 - 21 CYCLING FRANCE

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

sunny 28 °C

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

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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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!

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

2018 JULY 15 - 17 CYCLING FRANCE

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

sunny

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

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.

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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!

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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.

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

2018 JULY 12- 14 CYCLING FRANCE

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

sunny 28 °C

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

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!

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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.

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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!

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

2018 JULY 9-11 CYCLING FRANCE

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

sunny 30 °C

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

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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We stopped for lunch at some picnic tables next to the Rance just before we started to ride alongside the canal.

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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.
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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.

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

2018 JULY 5-8 CYCLING FRANCE

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

sunny

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

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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)

2018 JULY 1-4 CYCLING FRANCE

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

sunny

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

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.

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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.

Rain.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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)

2018 JUNE BRISBANE TO PARIS

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.

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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.
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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.

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**********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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Last days on the Midi and Robine Canals

good, good, good, good vibrations - gotta stop sometime.

Saturday 19th October 13 (day 49)

I stood at our hotel window eating breakfast looking out over the Canal du Midi and just beyond it at the Gare du Carcassonne. The train station was less than 100 meters away from the hotel, how easy would it be to just get on a train to our final destination - Narbonne. It would be bloody easy, and given the colour of the sky outside very bloody tempting. A few days off the bikes and in a hire car have made me lazy. But would that be a cop out to quit now when we are so close to finishing? Yes and no, I think we have done a pretty good effort and from what we hear about the rest of the track it's unpleasant traveling.

I keep my thoughts to myself as I have a inkling that Lyn would jump at the suggestion and could always say it was my idea. So we pack up our things and make our way down to the hotel garage and load up the bikes. As predicted the first couple of pedals were extremely painful as the body started to remember these movements from a few days ago. Within half an hour bums were numb, knees were cracking and it was like we had not been off the bikes at all.

As expected the track was utter shit, rocky, bumpy and rough. I had a second of regret for not walking to the train station. Rough ground made for slower speeds and having to keep our eyes on the track at all times to try and avoid hitting jutting out tree roots and sharp stones. Not that there is a great deal to look at anyway, this half of the canal is definitely not as scenic as the first half we did and the path is crappy to walk on, so horrific to cycle on. To top it off we were also hit with a head wind for most of the day, but at least it did not rain, although the sky stayed grey- we have had luck in that department. Although we have had lots of grey and gloomy days there were not many where we got wet or even had to put on rain capes since the beginning of the trip.

Today was the first time we saw evidence of the trees along the canal being cut down. We had to take a few detours off the canal path and on roadways in the places where there are currently taking the trees away and what looks like poisoning the stumps. At least the detours are on sealed roads but it makes the distances longer.

We stopped for lunch at Marseillette, where we decided we would ride on until Homps and look for a place to stay the night. The sky was just getting darker as the day grew on and a night in the tent did not look like an option.

As it turned out it was our only option as the two b & b's in Homps had closed for the season and it was getting too late to ride on. The days are shorter than when we started our trip with it getting darker a good hour earlier than a month ago - of course. This was probably going to be our last night in the tent and we were happy to have a last night in it as a farewell, although the weather still did not look promising.

Getting to our night stop did not go unhindered as on a particularly narrow pathway Lyn got a puncture in her back tyre - again. This is the 3rd puncture this tyre has given us. So
glad we purchased spare tubes in Toulouse and as Lyn is becoming very experienced at changing this back tube it delayed us for less than 30 minutes.

We had to set up the tent on a grassy patch just next to the canal. No camping ground here, it was ok but the wind had really picked up and fears of the tent blowing into the canal were put to rest only once we had our pannier bags into to hold it down.
When we went to bed the rain still had not shown itself, and the wind had died down just a little so that the noise from the flapping tent was quiet enough for us to get to sleep.

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Sunday 20th October 13 (day 50)

The night turned out to be a warm one, with me unzipping the sleeping bag at some stage as it was too hot to be inside it. A few times I heard a sprinkling of rain, but not enough to be concerned about. Until....

At about 8.30am the heavens opened up and the rain poured down. This was the heaviest rain to date we had experienced inside the little tent and to tell the truth I was just waiting to be swept away into the canal. The wind was so fierce that the tent poles looked like they were about to snap. I hoped like hell that I had bashed in the pegs far enough into the rocky ground to hold the fly down, because if that flew off we would be drenched as the inside layer of the tent is only netting. I looked across as Lyn, the wind had changed direction from last night when it was blowing towards me, this morning it was blowing in on her. She snuggled down further into her sleeping bag probably having the same thoughts as me as she tried to hide from the sides of the tent which were now blowing in making the tent concave instead of convex. It was like an inside out dome tent. It continued to pour with our little space being lit up with lightening strikes and deafening thunder claps.

Then 20 minutes later is was all over!! And that was the last we saw of rain all day.
Gingerly we looked outside and there were peeks of blue coming through the clouds. Must have just been a freak storm, well it freaked us out, but the little tent stood up to it all and we (and all our belongings) were perfectly dry! What a magnificent experience to end our camping holiday.

After breakfast on a nearby bench, we hit the road for what we knew would be the last day on the bikes. Just 10 minutes on the dirt track and we knew we would not make it if we had to travel on these conditions the last day. We noticed there was a little road that seemed to also follow the route of the canal that ran just beside the canal so we opted to ride on that instead. Technically it was still riding along the canal as it was always in sight and if the road veered away too far we would get back on the canal side track. This made for much better timing and a more comfortable ride on our last day.

Stopping for a break in Le Somail we feasted on a personal favourite of mine pain de raisin which I had purchased with breakfast this morning. Obviously not a favourite of Lyn's as when I went for a walk across the bridge she was feeding hers to a gaggle of geese and ducks. The quack or hiss was soon out as these feathered creatures were coming down the canal in great speed hoping to perhaps get a morsel or crumb.

A little further along and we came to the junction of Canal du Midi and Canal du Robine. We were heading south so we took the Robine pathway, bidding farewell to the Midi. Unfortunately the path was not much better.

Lunch stop was in a wooded park just outside Salleles-d'Aude. This was also where the bike path mysteriously ended and someone forgot to tell the map printer. For about an hour we followed every possible path but they all led to a dead end at the river. The canal joined and crossed the river Aude which was passable if you were in a boat on the canal but not on land. We had to ride the short distance back to town and follow the road signs which directed us to Narbonne.

About 5 km out the bike path magically reappeared next to the canal and it was actually smooth riding all the way into town. Great path and lovely way to end our cycling adventure!
Once in the centre we followed the signs out to the railway station as this is usually where the cheaper hotels are. I only found one that had a vacant room but I said to Lyn I would rather pay top dollar elsewhere than stay at this place, definitely the wrong vibe. While I was scouting for a hotel, Lyn met a couple of Aussies who were also on a bike ride along the Midi but they were on a 'just ride and your luggage will be waiting at your 3\4 star hotel at the end of the day' sort of riding tour. And they had the cheek to say we had crappy bikes!
Anyway they recommended the place where they were staying and although did not know the price because everything on their tour was prepaid (hate to think how much) we thought it was worth a look. Yes well 90 euro a night is out of our budget so I found another nice hotel around the corner for 50 euro a night. Ok not as flash but clean and well suited for us!

We settled in, did the usual stuff, washing etc and then went for a little walk around town. Sunday evening and the place is deserted.

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Monday 21st October 13 (day 51)

We are going to stay another day and night here in Narbonne as we need to organise a few things before leaving for Barcelona.

Everything is now off the bikes, Sofia and Fonsi, and has been transferred to backpacks and carry bags. We are leaving the panniers with the bikes as we have no further use for them and they are just a burden to carry.

Sofia and Fonsi will be returning back to their home in Bergerac. Jean our couch surfing host who originally organised the bikes for us will be down this way next week and is going to pick them up and take them back home. This is a win, win situation as he gets to keep the bikes and we don't have the trouble of trying to get rid or them or dumping them. Hopefully they will live on and bring transporting joy to others like they have us. The hotel has agreed to store them here for a small fee until Jean arrives next week.

I went to the tourist office, which is conveniently located 20 meters away from our sensibly priced hotel, to enquire about transport to Barcelona from here. 2 options: train or bus. Train ticket one way per person costs: 47 euro for early train or 49.50 euro for later but faster train. Bus ticket one way per person costs: 34 euro but takes longer. Perfect since we are not in a hurry we can get the 10.45am bus and arrive in Barcelona at 4pm. Had to book the tickets online as no bus office in this town. Big problem being that they require you to print out your receipt and ticket and the only cyber cafe in town could not print. Not sure why, he did explain but my understanding of French is not so good. So I returned to the tourist office to ask where else I might be able to print out ticket and was advised, sorry no where else is possible and please could I move on as there was someone else with an enquiry behind me. mmmm thanks great help!

So back at the hotel the lovely little man behind the desk (who Lyn and I secretly think is an assistant to Dracula - I dunno he just looks the type) said that if I emailed the ticket to him he would print it out. So fingers crossed that by morning he will have a copy for us to take to the bus stop as it says no printed ticket and receipt no seat!

We did another bit of a wander around town to kill some time. Hopped on a free circle bus which would have actually been faster to walk the circle than travel on this bus, but it wasted some time.

So now we are all packed an ready to leave France and move into Spain. It's been a good trip and I think we did quite well. The riding, the camping, the eating - it's all been good and we managed to survive it and still have a smile on our faces. Although Lyn has advised that this is the last non motorised holiday that she is doing. But I have been hearing so many good things about the bike ride along the Loire Valley - apparently very flat and all paved!!! lol An idea for next time perhaps? Maybe I'll need to advertise for a new cycle sucker - oops I mean partner!

(Mmmmm flat and no tent might change my mind and cycle again!!!)

Anyway, look out Spain here we come!!

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So after kayaking the Dordogne, cycling around the Dordogne and cycling from the Atlantic to the Med would I recommend this trip to anyone??? Some parts yes, some definitely not. Do not cycle around the Dordogne - this area is absolutely beautiful but very hilly - I would love to (and will) return with a car and explore a little more.

The kayak trip we did was great but really only the last 2 days were what I call scenic as far as villages go and this was evident by the number of boats we saw on these days and not on the others. But I also enjoyed the parts where we had the river to ourselves and saw no one all day. I'm glad we did the long trip even if the first days in the rain were horrific, the sunny days soon made up for it.

As for the cycling: the railway route we took from the coast to Bordeaux was great. Track was sealed and it was an easy ride. With regards to the ride along the canals, I would only recommend the track along the Garonne Canal from Bordeaux to Toulouse. This was sealed track all the way and a much more scenic ride. The path along the Midi was utter shit and if we had started from this side we would never have continued after day 2 I am sure.

10 things I liked most about France - in no particular order:

I loved the cheese!

I loved the great bike paths - when they existed

I loved the cheese!

I loved the French people - all but 2 train station workers were more than happy to assist with my non French and their limited English

I loved the cheese!

I loved that everybody we passed on bike paths or saw on the canals greeted us with a bonjour while we were riding

I loved the cheese!

I loved catching up with my French friend and her cooking skills

I loved the cheese!

I loved that it felt safe everywhere while riding around and free camping

I loved the HUGE variety of cheese available

ok so that is 11 things, but had to mention the cheese!

A couple of things I disliked about France:

I disliked that campgrounds and accommodation facilities close for the season
I disliked crappy bike paths on a so called famous bike route
I disliked shops that closed for 3 hours in the middle of the day
I disliked campgrounds and public toilets did not have toilet seats

Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:17 Archived in France Comments (4)

Off the bikes and into a car.

Sofia and Fonsi rest up for a few days while we drive around the countryside.

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Tuesday 15th October 13 (day 45)

I booked a hire car over the internet (using the hotel computer) as this worked out much cheaper than the price we were given at the Avis office across the canal from the hotel. Only problem was that we had to pick up the car from the airport.

I had asked the receptionist at our hotel if it would be possible for us to leave our bikes here in the hotel garage for 3 days while we hired a car and that we would be coming back to stay the night again on Friday. This was not a problem, so we locked them up and had our bags ready to catch a taxi out to the airport.

I said to Lyn just go over to the city office and see if they will give us a car from here, you never know, just play dumb about having to go to the airport to collect it, which would save us about 10 euro in taxi fare. She had success and after about 30 minutes (Lyn had a bit of a problem finding her way back to the hotel in the car due to the one way streets) we were loading up our bags and we were motorised for the next few days.

The day was not as bright as yesterday, but we cared very little as we were in a covered transport and would be sleeping indoors tonight.

Driving through the countryside was similar to the view we could see from the canal. Obviously all fields were ploughed ready for the lull of winter so not much in the way of colour except the colour of the soil. I guess when things are in full bloom here the rolling hills must look pretty lush.

It was fairly easy to find the small village of Limbrassac where Noelle lived but to find her exact location was a little more difficult. And having a language barrier it's a little difficult to stop and ask directions. We were keeping a keen eye out for a yurt and a white van. Funnily enough I spotted a yurt behind a building and there was also a white van parked nearby. Thinking we found it we stopped and I got out of the car to investigate. Obviously the people there were not the friend I was looking for so I tried to ask if they knew a Noelle who lived in a yurt. I thought surely there could not be too many locals with that description. I said to this man - 'I am looking for Noelle who lives in a yurt' and he replied ' yes, I am Noelle and I live in a yurt!' What are the chances of meeting a person with the same name and house description - funny. But alas this was not the Noelle we were searching for and we were given broken English directions which we managed not to understand and ended up back in the village to ask directions again.

The second lot of directions were much easier for us to understand as we knew the road well now as we had travelled up and down it a few times already. Up the road on the right, first path on right and we spied the blue mail boxes, now we were at the correct place.

Found the yurt and inside my friend Noelle. It was great to see her, we had not seen each other since living in Morocco and I had been following the progress of the yurt building and living on FB. Now you may think yurt and primitive, but not so this is a flash yurt with all the mod cons. Very comfortable.

We went for a short walk in the late afternoon to the top of a hill which offered the most amazing views of the Pyrenees Mountains. We managed to time it well when there were no clouds to hide the view. So quiet and peaceful here.

Noelle cooked us a great meal that with just the description I gained 2 kilos. ALIGOT. Creamy mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic and melted TOME cheese - loaded with cheese. Lots of cheese - just the way I like it. It was delicious!

We watched a movie before going to bed. It was warm in the yurt with 3 breathing bodies and I even kicked off the sleeping bag during the night it was so warm.

Wednesday 16th October 13 (day 46)

It was still dark when I woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Sleep soon returned when I realized where I was - inside a nice warm yurt.

We had a lazy morning while Noelle was supposed to be starting to pack up her things. She did a bit but I think maybe we are a distraction she does not need. She is hoping to have the all her worldly possessions and the yurt packed up and stored by the end of the month. Like I said we are a distraction and have slowed down this process for a few days which means Noelle will be very busy next week after we are out of her hair.

Most of the morning the weather remained grey and drizzling rain. It started to clear towards the afternoon so we had a short outing.

After lunch, in the late afternoon, we took a drive to Castle Montsegur. It is a ruin that we had to climb up a mountain path to view. It was not a too strenuous hike up and once up there we were rewarded with an amazing view was of the surrounding mountains and countryside. The ruins themselves were not that impressive except for their position. How the hell did anyone ever build anything on this small mountain top so long ago. Apparently 500 people lived up there in it hey day. Bloody incredible really. Of course nearly every mountain top around here has a castle or ruins of one. Very beautiful area.

The weather played nice for us and gave us a blue sky for our visit, but there were dark rain clouds lingering in the distance and when the wind started to pick up we started our decent.

We had another wonderful dinner thanks to our personal French cook Noelle. TARTFLETTE Another potato, bacon, cream and lots of cheese masterpiece - a bit like an overcheesed potato bake. Finished off with an assortment of cheeses and then an apple pie (which Noelle just whipped up) with ice cream. These French dishes all have names which go straight over my head but the taste lingers, and that is the most important bit.

We finished the night laughing while watching a couple of episodes of 'How I Met Your Mother'.

Thursday 17th October 13 (day 47)

We set the alarm for 8 this morning as we have a big drive planned. Quick bucket showers outside the yurt - back to nature here - breakfast and then we were off.

Today we went to Andorra!! About a 2 hour drive though small towns and villages and wonderful mountainous scenery. Wow - it was so cool.

Andorra is a tax free country so the town that we visited which was just over the border was not much as it was just streets of shops selling very cheap alcohol, cigarettes and just about everything else. However the drive to get there was spectacular.

Border control waved us through on both our entry and exit. They do have controls here which limit the amount of duty free goods you can purchase, but they seemed pretty lax and waved most cars by just stopping the odd one and asking a few questions.

We purchased lunch supplies from a supermarket and drove higher up the mountain out of the town to have a picnic in a grassy clearing surrounded by horses roaming free. Fat, stocky looking animals that were tame enough to allow Noelle to pet them.

We were surrounded by chair lifts and ski fields and although there was not much happening on this Thursday afternoon I can imagine when it's all covered in snow that this is a very popular and crowded destination. It was nice to be able to enjoy it without all the snow and although the sun was out the wind enough to put quite a chill in the air. I guess we still were at quite an altitude so the cold was to be expected.

We took a scenic drive back, amazed at how good the back roads are in the middle of nowhere.

I am really happy that we hired a car for a few days as we would definitely not have seen any of this mountain region. Definitely not a terrain that we would even contemplate attempting on the bike. And although we could see the mountains in the far distance when we were on the canal it was really nice to be able to see it up close. And of course many thanks to Noelle, because if she was not here we would not have deviated from the canal path.

Dinner tonight was a real treat. RACLETTE which of course involved more cheese. This time the cheese is melted under a grill in individual little pans and when the cheese is hot, gooey and molten you pour it over vegetables, meat, well just about what ever you want.
It's probably a good thing we are off tomorrow as all this excessive rich food eating would soon counteract any and all of the exercise we have done up until now. However I have totally enjoyed the experience, as have my taste buddies.

Friday 18th October 13 (day 48)

We hugged Noelle goodbye and were back on the road just after 10 am. We didn't leave empty handed as we were given little packages of goodies to enjoy later. I wonder where we will be next time we meet up the my French friend as I am sure there will be a next time.

The road back to Carcassonne was easy to find as it was well sign posted. We took a slightly different route back to the one we came on a few days ago and actually drove along the stretch of road that we had cycled on days before when we were heading into Carcassonne for the first time. Clocking the distance I was surprised it was 7km.

Once in the city limits it was not too much trouble to find our way back to the hotel. All we had to do was follow the signs directing traffic to the train station. Stopping outside the hotel we unloaded our luggage and then Lyn drove around the block and over the bridge to the AVIS drop off office. As it was the middle of the day so of course the office was closed, but we had been advised of this and were told we could drop the car keys off at the information desk at the train station.

The rest of the day seemed to fly by without us doing anything. We did wander out at about 5pm for a late lunch at the restaurant next door for some mussels but were told to come back after 7pm. So a baguette and some cheese was good for now.

Around 9pm we did go out again and this time were successful in being invited to sit at a table and order a pot of 5 euro mussels. This was such a bargain! And served with a plate of chips what could be better? We ordered a carafe of house rose and were as happy as. The waiter was a little surprised when we passed on dessert, but he did not know that we had Noelle's chocolate cake and apple tart waiting for us back at the hotel.

Having a TV with only one English Channel - BBC World - we were kept up to date all day with the terrible fires that are currently burning in NSW.

It's almost with a little bit of dread that we have to return to the bikes tomorrow. We didn't even go down to the garage to make sure they were still there!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 09:10 Archived in France Tagged aligot Comments (2)

Continuing on the Canal du Midi

Shake, rattle, let's roll - litterally!

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Friday 11th October 13 (day 41)

It was cold last night, really cold. And the trains did sound like they were travelling through the middle of our tent, not 20 meters away from it. The fact that we were surrounded by water at the lock did not help the cold situation or the need to pee when I first woke up. Hardest thing about free camping on the side of a well used track, trying to time a bit of privacy between the passing traffic is a little tricky. But when you gotta go you gotta go and that guy on the bike could have just as easily looked away instead of copping an eyeful.

Anyway, we managed to scratch together breakfast, most importantly hot tea and coffee and we were on our way at about 11. Yeah I know, but still no rush.

The sky was blue-ish, but always cloudy, however we had no rain overnight and turned out all day it was dry also.

Our destination today was to get to Toulouse which we figured was less than 20 km away from our free camp as we had ridden a long way yesterday. The path again was good, but not very exciting, not much to look at and very soon we were in the outskirts of Toulouse. Like any bigger town the outskirts are industrial so like I said not much to look at.

In just over one hour of riding we came to the intersection of the canals ie Garonne and Midi. Lucky for us someone had hand written a name and arrow to show us the way to go. We don't really have the urge to go to the centre of Toulouse and know that the cheaper hotels are on the outside of the cities usually.

Cycling along the pathway next to the canal and the busy city traffic who do we run into but Frank - our Canadian friend we met a few nights ago. He had made it to Toulouse yesterday and was on his way out to find a tent pole he needed to replace. He told us about a cheap F1 hotel he was staying in about 10km out of town and this is where we decided to head to.

The cycle path through town did not go directly through the centre which suited us but was good enough to keep us out of the traffic. We just had to dodge pedestrians and other cyclists. Riding along I spotted a Velo shop (bike shop) and suggested we stop to see if they stocked the size tube we needed for Sofia and Fonsi but were having so much trouble finding. To their credit they did and we purchased 2 so that we had a back up in case of a puncture or flat tyre in the days to come when the track gets rougher. This was a relief to finally get them.

We rode and rode, stopping to get some lunch supplies as we started to head back out the other side of town. Frank had said the hotel was about 10 km out but we were starting to think we had somehow missed it. We stopped just before a highway underpass and Lyn asked a roadside food van if they knew where the F1 hotel was. Ironically it was on the other side of the underpass and had we continued on for another 20 meters we would have seen it for ourselves.

It was only about 2pm, but we had finished cycling for the day and yes they had room and it was a cheapy at only 32 euro - with shared bathroom facilities. But this was fine, after the last 5 nights free camping all we wanted was an indoors bed!

We had lunch in our room and basically rested the rest of the day. I went out at some stage to look for milk and bread for the morning. I rode for about 30 minutes back in the direction of town trying to find a supermarket which I eventually did after riding through a giant university campus. Wow this was the size of a small town.

We caught up with Frank later and we all had dinner together at Buffalo Grill an American restaurant that was next to the hotel. Not very French I know but it was all that was around and it was ok for a change. We had no problem chatting the evening away with Frank, nice bloke.

Returning to our room (which smelt like smelly cheese due to our breakfast cheese waiting for the morning consumption) we went to bed.

Saturday 12th October 13 (day 42)

Lucky we put the alarm on this morning as we had closed the blind which made the room very dark. Outside looked cloudy and cold and it was cold. Seems like the temperature has suddenly taken a nose dive. Not only the night temp but the day time temp also seems to have dropped dramatically.

We loaded our bikes, via exiting the bags out the window, great when we get a ground floor room. Riding off this morning was the hardest day yet due to the drop in temperature. The sky was cloudy with blue trying to come out. It had not rained overnight and did not end up raining all day, but we had a fair bit of wind which also added to the chill factor.

Path was good this morning and we were starting to wonder what everyone was on about that the path on this half was shit. Trees lined the canal most of the way which hid the sun from us but did make for pleasant outlook. Fields and fields of dead sunflowers just made me wish even more we were here earlier in the season to see them all in bloom.

We were making good time and stopped for lunch at Gardouch. With no end destination decided on for today we were just going to ride until we found somewhere suitable to stay.
Just after lunch around 2pm we hit the shit track at Avignonet-Lauragais. Suddenly our wonderful wide bitumen pathway turned into a goat track. 10 minutes later it got even worse as it turned into a very narrow dirt walking track. Tree roots and stones some of which were impossible to miss made for a very uncomfortable and bumpy ride. Enough to make our teeth shake loose. 20 minutes after we had hopped off the bikes our wobbly bits were still giggling around. OMG here was the pathway from hell that we had been warned about. There was no way we would be able to ride the rest of the canal on this sort of surface.

After about an hour it did get better much better. Not as good as the previous pathway but certainly enough to keep out giblets intact. And we had a long stretch that was on road shared with cars (although we only encountered a few) so it was manageable.

Somehow today we ended up riding the distance I thought would take us 2 days to do, because before we knew it we had arrived in Castelnaudrey - which meant we had come about 50km today without even noticing the distance, rough track and all. So as a reward we found a nice hotel - although we have a 3rd floor room without a lift (20 euros cheaper than a 1st floor room). The day was so cold we didn't even want to think about camping tonight.

We settled in (leaving our camping luggage on the first floor) and then went for a look around the town. Lyn was chatting with a fellow on the street while I was checking into the hotel who claims there are a lot of Australians living here but we did not encounter any. There is a large basin here where a lot of the hire canal boats depart from, a huge church and an old windmill - which are the major sites of Castelnaudrey. We walked around the basin, found some unusual passionfruit growing on someones fence which we sampled, soft orange skin and bright red inside, but the distinct taste of passionfruit. Wandered up to the old windmill, where there was also a great panorama looking out over the countryside, and then headed back to hotel.

We have a TV but of course no English channels. Surprise, surprise the Simpsons can speak French!

Sunday 13th October 13 (day 43)

Our room was cold but no way as cold as it would have been if we had been camping. Not sure if the tent is going to get another airing, but we will carry a little longer just in case. Of course being October the hotels have not yet turned on the heating which we would have had cranked up last night if they had. But the quilt was enough to keep us warm.

As is our usual routine, we woke around 9, had breakfast etc and let on the bikes around 11. The day looked blue skied, sunny and a little warmer than yesterday.

We rode out of Castelnaudary with a mission as I booked a hotel in Carcassonne for tonight, so this is the first time we have to be somewhere at the end of the day. Was not a hard task as the distance was only 45km which we have covered in a day easily, however we did not count on the poor state of the cycle path.

Our exit along the canal was not too bad but it was not long before the track turned bad and we were soon bumping our way along at a slower pace than usual to try and avoid damage to us and or the bikes. Less than a hour in we passed a fellow Aussie cyclist going the opposite way who gave us welcomed information regarding what to expect on the path ahead. He advised there was a particularly bad patch of track between Bram and Carcassonne which he seriously suggested we take the road instead. We did get to this part and there was a sign which actually said the walking/cycle path had ended. When we looked at the thin path that continued alongside the canal we decided to take the advice given and we rode along the road for about 5 km.

Lunch stop was at a roadside picnic stop near a village called Villesequelande. About another half hour on the road and we came to a bridge that crossed the canal again. The path looked passable again so we decided to take it for 2 reasons. The road ahead looked hilly and the pathway was shaded from the sun that was now beating down.

Another hour or so of bumping, dodging and weaving (our bike handling skills growing with ever near miss of a rock or tree root) and soon we were riding on a road on the outskirts of our destination town - Carcassonne. The hotel I booked was on the canal and opposite the port so easy for us to find. We glided in at about 3pm with bums and knees feeling the last 2 days ride.

Checked into the hotel, Lyn did a bit of sink washing and then we went out to explore the town. Being a Sunday afternoon of course everything was closed, but that was fine. We walked up to the old medieval city. This is an amazing sight with its giant walls and ramparts which were built to protect the city inside. The buildings inside are now tacky tourists shops and restaurants, so it is better to see it from the outside as the narrow cobble streets lined with these shops do the medieval city no favours. Although the giant basilica did have some awesome gargoyles. We did however have a wander around and a peek in a couple of the shops. Tomorrow we will explore the outside more extensively as we are having a rest day (not sure if our old bones can take another day in a row of rattling around on bumpy tracks) and will spend another night here.

Monday 14th October 13 (day 44)

Lyn went out for this mornings baguette, to the supermarket just across the square. We had a very comfortable night in the hotel.

Rest day is the plan for today, with washing hanging in the bathroom that also needs the day to be able to dry.

Mid morning we head out to go explore the medieval city that we had visited yesterday.

We were walking down the main pedestrian shopping street which was very quiet due to it being Monday not many shops are open until the afternoon. No idea why, but Monday seems to be just half a day, it was the same in Holland.

We were heading in the direction of the tourist office first to find out some information about a hire car, when who do we bump into but our mate Frank. He had just rolled into town - funny how we keep catching up with each other. So we walked together to the tourist office as he was looking for maps for this onward journey. We then all walked up to the old city walls where Frank bid us goodbye as he wanted to get his maps and get on his way.

The day was giving us another beautiful blue sky as Lyn and I walked around between the two ramparts of the town. I would guess that a bit of this has been resorted and is kept up but it was still pretty impressive that something like this was built in the 12th century. Deciding not to do another round of the tourist shops inside the walls we started to make our way back to the hotel at a slow leisurely pace. I must admit it was nice to have a full day off the bike to be able to get our bums back into normal shape (extra large) and to give time for the wobble to subside.

Stopping at a supermarket we bought some supplies for lunch and sat in a park to eat and watch the passing of traffic - auto and pedestrian. Who should roll up next to us but Frank! Having found his necessary maps and had a restaurant lunch he now decided it was too late to depart today when we spied us. Knowing we would have the best hotel deal in town he came over to ask where we were staying. As our hotel was just around the corner we pointed him in the right direction and made arrangements to meet up for dinner later that evening.

We relaxed the rest of the afternoon, enjoying the only English channel we could get on the hotel tv. BBC world where everything is repeated every 30 minutes, but at least it was in English. The hotels wifi was non existent, so there was little else to do.

Dinner time came around quick enough and Frank came knocking on our door. We chose a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel as earlier in the day we had spotted a flyer on a car that advertised mussels and chips for 5 euros. What a bargain, and they were very yummy. The portion size was a lot more than we expected also. It was a most enjoyable night, we all had a few laughs. Frank bid us farewell for the last time as it is doubtful that our paths would cross again as he was now heading inland over the mountains and we would definitely be sticking to the flat ground of the canal. Although we are going to be taking a few days off the bike as tomorrow we are going to hire a car for a few days to visit a friend of mine who lives near by. I met Noelle when we were both living in Azrou, Morocco and she is now living in a yurt not far from here. Seemed crazy to come so close and not go visit her and have a bit of a drive around the country side here.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 13:29 Archived in France Tagged canal du midi Comments (1)

Finally on the canal - Bordeaux to Toulouse

Great paths, free camps, warm beds, hot days, cold nights, new friends, beautiful sights - it's all good!

Friday 4th October 13 (day 34)

On waking this morning we looked out the window of our 5th floor hotel room and saw that the street below was very wet like it had rained a good part of the night. Unfortunately the rain was still coming down, but we had a few more hours until check out so crossed our fingers.

The TV in our room actually received ONE channel in English, out of 52 channels in French so we had spent most of last night and again this morning watching BBC World News. All very good but this is not an entertainment channel and the news updates are repeated continuously. But we had not seen telly for a few weeks so anything in English was better than nothing - almost.

The time had come for us to check out so we had no choice but to load up Sofia and Fonsi, don our rain capes and get on our way. At least it was just light rain and not cold or windy. A quick stop at the supermarket a block away to restock our camping gaz, forgot to get it yesterday, but turns out they did not stock it anyway. However, by the time I returned to the bikes the rain had stopped and we had no more for the rest of the day. The sky remained grey and threatening but we did not get wet today.

Crossing over the Pont St Jean we bid farewell to Bordeaux whose buildings today blended in very well with the depressing sky.

Less than an hour on the bikes and we came to a Decathlon store, which of course is impossible for us to pass without stopping and having a look. And we were also still in need of camping gaz. Also we are in the market for a new air mattress to replace the flat bed the we just cannot seem to repair satisfactorily. This particular Decathlon store did not stock camping gaz but we did not exit the store empty handed. We purchased a couple of the worlds biggest travel towels - almost as big as bed sheet! Fantastic at only 10.95 euros, they fold up small but god knows where we are going to carry them - but had to have one each. :-)

Not a total waste of time at this stop as there was also a huge department store which did stock the gas so we were happy with our now not wasted hour delay by stopping. We also bought a spare inner tube for the bikes, after the puncture the other day we decided it would be easier just to replace the tube rather than fix a hole on the road. We were fortunate we had water to find the hole last time but if it happens again (fingers crossed it doesn't) we may not be so lucky.

Continuing on bike trail along the Garonne river it was not long before we turned inland and started riding on the old railway line track. The path is nicely bitumen but tree roots make it a bumpy ride in some (a lot of) places. The old train station buildings along this route have been converted into an assortment of useful buildings. Most of them have a picnic area around them, providing picnic table and chairs and water tap. Some are cafes, some are tourist information offices and some are private residences. We rode past a few today: Latresne (cafe), Citon-Cenac (private house), Lignan (cafe), Sadriac (some kind of Nature meeting place??) and Creon (tourist office). We stopped at one of the picnic areas at Citon-Cenac for a lunch of bread and a very ripe brie cheese which I had been smelling all during the ride and tasted absolutely devine!

Todays destination was Creon which is 21 km from Bordeaux and we arrived just after 4pm. The girl in the info office advised the camping was 2 or 3km's (which usually means 4 or 5 km's) down the road. Our only other option was the one hotel in town which she advised was 50 euro for the night. I went for a little walk around town to confirm there was no one offering rooms or any alternate accommodation and came up empty handed. It was now close to 5pm, the sky was only getting darker and as it had not rained for hours it was promising a downpour if not soon definitely overnight. So an executive decision was made that we would head for the hotel. Neither of us were up for a wet night, and the weather forecast for later in the week is much better so we will save our camping until then.

Across the road from the hotel was a supermarket where we purchased dinner which consisted of a hot bbq chicken and baby potatoes, we added a can of spinach and as we ate dinner in our hotel room we listened to the heavy downpour of rain and agreed 50 euro for the room was well spent.

The bike path today was fairly easy, we had a few inclines but not enough that we needed to get off and push Sofia and Fonsi up the hills. Riding through forest, countryside and vineyards - it's a beautiful part of the country.

Unfortunately for Cindy I snored very loudly last night. I,myself did not hear a thing so all good as far as I'm concerned. Not looking forward to our next camping stop as I can not find the leak in the blow up mattress.

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Saturday 5th October 13 (day 35)

Outside the hotel window this morning all we could see was mist - visibility was only about 30 metres. But it was only early, too early to tell what the day is going to be like. The day does not reveal itself until about 10.30.

We had breakfast in our room and it was about 11am when Lyn started passing the bike bags out to me via the window. This was easier than carrying them out thru the foyer to the back of the building to where Sofia and Fonsi were kept in a wooden shed overnight.

The sky was telling 2 stories, blue & warm, and grey & wet, so who knows what the weather was going to deliver us today.

First stop was a photo in front of Creon station. Being a Saturday I expected the track to be a little busier today, but we encountered maybe a handful of walkers and fellow cyclists and all at the beginning of the day. The track was a little harder today than yesterday, with a little more uphills, long slow climbs followed by long coasting downs. But no rain.

Stations passed today: La Sauve (bricked up, unused), Espiet (under renovation as ??), Daiganc (cafe which was closed), Frontenac (unused). Westopped in the small village of St Brice at a stone bench by the church for lunch. Compared to yesterday there were not so many picnic spots, but of course as soon as we left town there was a picnic table right next to the bike path. Last stop was Sauveterre de Guyenne, where the station is now a public toilet (very clean by the way yes we used them).

This was where we were hoping to find a hotel for the night as we had cycled 29km today and this was the end of the bike track. We rode into the centre of the village where surprisingly they had a tourist information office and it was still open at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. I went inside and experienced the best tourist info office ever. Not because of the fact that the handsome man-child spoke perfect English but he gave me maps of how to continue our bike trail, booked us a B & B in a local hamlet and did not charge for the phone call. Then showed me on a big flat screen TV via google maps street the exact directions, the road and buildings I was to look for. Wow best tourist office ever - and I told him as much also. The hotel in town was closed (not sure if just for the season or permanently) so all accommodation was out of town, so we headed 2km to a hamlet called Saint Leger de Vignague to an old water mill house converted to a B & B.

Just as we were about to leave town rain started to fall. We waited for half an hour and then had a nice dry ride to our B & B.

Very nice place we are staying for the night. The hostess did not speak a word of English and we not a word of French but we still managed to communicate. What a lovely setting, and the sky turned blue for the rest of the afternoon which we spent on the terrace drinking a local (Bordeaux) bottle of Rose. What a wonderful afternoon, this is how our French holiday should be. After a tough couple of hours of pedalling this is a great way to unwind.

Thanks to the information from my informant at the tourist office tomorrow is going to be a very hard day on the bikes, so what better way to prepare for it than a comfortable night in a beautiful place.

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Sunday 6th October 13 (day 36)

We were up really early (for us) this morning as breakfast was being served at 8.30. A quick look out the window revealed a misty morning but the sky looked promisingly blue. We ate breakfast, which was croissant, bread, butter and jam, with the other B & B guests (who were French). Tea and coffee are served in huge wide bowl like cups because it is the French way to dunk your breakfast in our morning beverage. This is a custom we have not taken to. Soggy croissant and wet bread and jam do not appeal to us but it is the norm here.

We'd had a good nights sleep but the days ride ahead was looming in front of us as we loaded Sofia and Fonsi. We needn't have worried cause the ride did not turn out to be so bad after all. We had a few hills and a few pushes, a missed turnoff and ride in the wrong direction where we had to U-turn and retrace our path. But the country side was beautiful and the back country roads had hardly any traffic on them.

Our host had given us a map that showed a short cut at the beginning of our trip and a detour at the end that would be kinder on us as it was a flatter road. We left the B & B with a waving send off by the owners and the other guests all wishing us luck. It was 10.30am when we rode out of St-Liger de Vignague and by 12.30 we had stopped for lunch in Girode sur-Dropt, after pedalling the back roads through St-Martin de-Lerm and Camiran. A bakery was just taking out freshly cooked baguettes just in time for our lunch stop, but alas they were all pre ordered and did not have a spare one for us. Today is Sunday so there are no shops open so when he offered to cut a piece off a 2 foot long giant loaf of bread I was very grateful. He then proceeded to weigh the bread as it was charged by weight.

We were now down by the Garonne river at Girode-sur-Dropt but had to travel to the next town to get a bridge to cross the river as the cycle path is on the other side. La Reole was only a short 4km away and as we rode into the centre I stopped to look at road signs which might indicate which direction we needed to head to get onto the bridge. Lyn stopped beside me and asked "we stopping for a beer are we?". Sounded like a good idea to me as it was quite hot - the day was beautiful. As we sat enjoying our cold refreshment, at the next table were another couple of cyclists. English couple with impressive (expensive) looking bikes who lived in France but were cycling around for a week staying in B & B's and eating at restaurants enroute. They were polite enough not to laugh at our overloaded aged bicycles and even said they envied the trip we were doing. They said we were brave and adventurous, but I think they were really meaning we were unfortunate and poor - but what the hell.

After finishing our beers, we found the bridge and crossed over the river. A little further along the road we came to Fontet and the Garonne Canal which is where the cycle path follows next to. Lyn immediately started to head in the wrong direction and I yelled out to her if you continue that way you will end up back in Bordeaux. Ooops, u-turn and we were off in the correct direction.

The path here was excellent and we both knew there would be no more uphills for us to push the bikes up. Trees lined the canal providing much appreciated shade as the sun was still very warm. Cycling here is easy, flat, paved with just the bumps made by tree roots lifting the bitumen path. At around 3pm we saw a sign that read camping 1 km ahead and decided to check it out. Most campgrounds are closed now, it being October, but we stopped to check and the caretaker (an English guy) said yes it's closed but we could still camp as the council has not come and locked up the toilet/shower block yet. The weather was still on our side and as it was still early in the day we did some much needed clothes washing hoping they would dry by the end of the day.

After hanging out the clean washing and setting up the tent for the night, we retired to the cafe for a afternoon beverage. The sun was still warm and it was lovely to sit by the canal and have another tasty rose. We saw quite a few canal boats along the way today and here at the little port near the campsite there were some moored also. We met some of the owners of these boats and spent the afternoon having a few drinks with them. Nikki & Tim - couple from UK who now live in France and also own a boat, Carole and David - couple from UK who live full time on their boat and a couple from Australia Carole and David from Hamilton Island who also own a canal boat.

We had an enjoyable afternoon, which turned into the evening. Lyn & I got a wee bit intoxicated due to a few too many drinks entered into a tired (we had a long cycle today) body and we were having so much fun we forgot about dinner. I think we may have gotten a little loud (surprise, surprise) and perhaps said 'fuck' too many times but our new friends must not have been bothered too much as they suggested we stay another day and tomorrow evening we would all have a bbq together. Or perhaps they too had indulged in a few and were amused by our sick humour.

It had been an enjoyable day, and nice finish having a few laughs.large_9BF0F9432219AC6817284802393C075C.jpg9C0048042219AC6817F1191F833FBCEB.jpg9C0F15622219AC6817EF320E4F79E1D4.jpg

Monday 7th October 13 (day 37)

On waking to a beautiful sunny day, we decided we would have to stay another day so that our washing would dry. Had nothing to do with the fact that we were feeling a little seedy after last nights wine intake - mmm no nothing at all we were both fit and well and very happy not to be riding today. It had been a little chilly last night so mental note to wear more clothes to bed tonight. I remember getting up in the middle of the night and was amazed by the clear sky and amount of stars - it was a beautiful sight. Lyn slept on the flat bed, we cannot seem to find where the leak is so we are on the scout for a new bed.

Today, not a cloud in the sky and the washing dried perfectly. We spent the day enjoying the surroundings doing bugger all. Oh we did walk up the 121 steps to the little village to have a look around and of course being a Monday everything was closed, not that we wanted anything but a look around anyway.

On our way back we were met by another English guy - Derek - whom we had met briefly last night. I think we may have insulted him yesterday by calling him a poof as we was drinking ice tea when the rest of us were intaking wine. Anyway he could take a joke and was on his way to the supermarket and asked if we needed anything. I asked to go along with him so I could buy some meat for the bbq we were going to later in the day. Yep all good, we drove in Marmade to a huge supermarket and I was able to get a few supplies.

Back at the campground Lyn had retrieved all our dry clothes from the line and we had a full bag of clean clothes to travel with again.

We had a little rest in the afternoon and then met up with the others at about 7 for the bbq. It was a little cooler outside tonight compared to yesterday and the bbq did not want to burn the wet wood we had collected. David (from Oz) came to the rescue with a charcoal barbie so we were still able to eat. We were a little lighter on the wine this time as we have to ride tomorrow, which meant the night was a little more subdued, but still enjoyable with our new friends.

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Tuesday 8th October 13 (day 38)

It was pretty cold last night, even with all possible clothes on. Again on waking the day seemed to be blue and bright. We had a leisurely breakfast as we packed up and loaded the bikes only to find Lyn's back tyre was down again. This is the same tyre with a puncture a few days ago and we have been keeping an eye on it and keeping the air up to it but today it was flat as the air bed so our departure was delayed as she replaced the rear tube with the new one we had bought.

Derek showed up before we left and offered us an air bed that he no longer uses. Very kind of him, sorry Toni Lemon means your lent one will be in the bin tonight, we can replace when we get back to Oz.

Slight delay, but after a goodbye to our canal boat friends we rode off at about 12 noon.
The canal path really is quite beautiful with trees lining both sides of the canal. Unfortunately, these trees are being removed as they are all diseased and I guess they have to take them down before they fall down. Sure will make the canal and path very bare and in the summer a very hot place to travel as the trees give lots of shade. I guess we are lucky to see it while its still beautiful.

We are definitely out of grape growing territory here, with not a grape vine in sight today. The main crop we saw growing was corn, fields and fields of corn.

The path is good, again only they tree roots making it bumpy in places. We passed a few cyclists (going the other way) today as well as walkers strolling along the path. The canal was also busy with a few boats moving about. Towards the end of the day most of them being hire boats.

We stopped for lunch at 2.30pm at Lagruere. After not being able to get bread, the village where we shopped earlier the shops were closed for lunch (still can't get over that), we managed to scrape together a lunch of tortillas (thanks David for that donation) and a can of sardines. We are like Boy Scouts always prepared, managing to carry a couple of meals with us when shops are not readily available.

We rode on for a few more hours and then just outside Buzet Lyn's back tyre was suddenly as flat as the air bed - same tyre again!!! I rode the 200m back to Buzet harbour and dumped by bags next to the lock masters house, rode back to Lyn and took hers so she could push/carry her bike back. Where the puncture happened was on the narrow path so we could not attempt to try and fix it there. When she arrived the man that mans the locks was more than happy to help fix the tyre. He did not speak a word of English but came back with a bike tyre which he proceeded to remove the tube from which he was going to give to us. So nice, but the bloody tube was too big, so then he just proceeded in taking out our punctured one and found the leak - and a nice pointy thorn which had gone through the tyre - patched the leak, put the tube back in tyre and put tyre back on bike. Not that Lyn would not be able to do all this, she had a few days ago but this guy was faster and let him get chain grease on his hands. Ok quick pump up, and we thanking him in the only French word we know - merci, merci, merci!! Load the bikes back up and we were again on our way - it was now close to 5pm and we were wanting to find a place to camp asap.

2 minutes back on the path and I advised Lyn to stop as the tyre was going flat again. Shit, back we turn, no point in going further on as we did not know what was ahead. Earlier the guy who had helped us had indicated that perhaps the port shop would have a tube, so I headed straight over there to check. I did not have high hopes as if they even had spare tubes they would not have our size as we have had difficulty in finding the correct size elsewhere. I should not have been so negative thinking as it turned out the only size tube they had was ours!! Yippee and more good news when I asked her if there was a campground nearby she said we were allowed to camp in the port grounds, double yippee.

I set up the tent and started cooking dinner as Lyn again changed the tube on Sofia. She checked the punctured one and it seemed to be leaking at the patch so she put on another patch and we will keep as a back up. Fingers crossed the new tube will still be up in the morning.

The afternoon had turned grey and cloudy, we are expecting to maybe experience a bit of rain tonight.

So a funny up and down day today, literally up and down for that bloody back tyre. But all worked out ok in the end, we have a nice place to camp and it does not feel as cold as last night. I think we will both sleep well tonight after todays ride - especially Lyn as she has the super duper new huge air bed that takes up almost all the tent.

Rode approx 34km today.

Thanks very much to Derek, my new bed is fantastic!!! Sorry Toni yours is in the bin could not find the third leak.

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Wednesday 9th October, 13 (day 39)

Waking up at 9am just as the toilets are being unlocked is a relief in more ways than one. We were also able to have a shower using the tokens we bought the other day but did not need to use from the last camping ground. It did not end up raining so the tent was dry when we packed it away.

I rode the short distance into the town to the Spar to see if I could find a baguette for breakfast. Just as I entered the shop a fresh batch were being taken out of the oven, so we had a fresh hot baguette with butter and vegemite for breakfast - delicious.

After being on the road for a couple of weeks it is amazing that it still takes us an hour and a half to get packed, loaded and on our way in the mornings. It was 11.30 before we started off today, but that is not a problem as we have the time so we are not stressed about our late starts.

Today the sky stayed grey and cloudy for the whole day, with the sun showing its face every so often to warm us up a bit. But it did not rain so we are happy about that.

The path was good again with the only struggle is the slight inclines when the path leads up to the road level when there is a lock in the canal. Less corn fields today, but many apple orchids with the rows of trees covered by netting to keep the birds off the fruit perhaps. Then we passed loads of kiwi fruit farms where the only thing stopping me from stealing some fruit was the abundance of people walking and cycling on the path. Bummer the fruit looked so good too, yet we saw only kiwi fruit from New Zealand for sale in the supermarket.

We stopped on the side of the path for a quick smoko at about 12.30 and ate the raisin scrolls I had bought from the shop this morning. Lunch was later, after we had visited the supermarket at Boe (thanks David for telling me about this market, may not have seen it otherwise). We ate lunch at the picnic ground at Boe Port.

Just before riding through Agen, a fairly biggish town, we crossed over the Le Pont Canal. This is a bridge built to carry the canal across the river. Pretty bloody amazing. Built in the 1800's and its 580 metres long.

A few more hours riding in the afternoon and after it turned 5pm we had resigned to looking for somewhere to free camp for the night. Covering more distance than expected we ended up at Valance-d'Agen at the old Public Abattoir which has been turned into a free camp stop for motor homes. As we pulled up to have a look we were greeting by campers who had already set up their motor homes and claimed it would be ok for us to put out tent up on the little piece of grass. Free hot showers and cooking facilities were on offer here so we did not go any further.

We met a nice English chap, Brian who is travelling up the canal in the other direction to us who tweaked Lyn's bike so she now has the ability to stop. He did also mention that the front wheel was about to fall off as the wing nut was loose. Big thank you to him, what a nice person to help us after 10 minutes of meeting us.

Lyn cooked dinner, with the supplies we purchased earlier in the day, in the kitchen provided after we had both had nice hot showers.

One of the other lady's in another motor home came over to warn us that rain was forecast for the morning so we should store our bikes in the shed provided.

Lots of people have warned us the track ahead gets a little nasty: rocks, roots and ruts, so we are likely to be knocked around a little on poor old Sofia and Fonsi. Hopefully it should be ok, it just means we will be travelling a little slower and watching more of the track rather than our surroundings.

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Thursday 10th October 13 (day 40)

Had a not too bad nights sleep. Was awoken at some ungodly hour by the dickhead who parked his motor home one meter from our tent. That was not the problem, the problem was when he started his engine this morning it was still dark! Dark that is until he turned on his headlights which almost blinded me because the only thing between his high beam and my retinas was a thin layer of tent nylon and 10 cm of space! Where the hell is anyone going to at that hour?? The baguette shop is not open yet!!

We had stayed up after dark last night chatting to a Canadian guy Frank who is doing the same route as us. Perhaps slightly faster and on a pretty good bike he brought with him from home. Nice guy, funny how people who travel alone get starved for someone to talk to, Lyn and I obviously don't have this problem.

Must have been about 8am when I heard rain on the tent, we had expected it and were glad to hear it was not too heavy. Nature called at 9 am and as the rain had stopped I got up and went for a walk into town to find a baguette and as it was a more reasonable hour the baguette shop was open.

Just about to have breakfast when Lyn suggested we pack up the tent as it had not rained since earlier and the slight wind had now dried out the fly. Just in the nick of time we brought it all in under cover when the rain started again. Good timing as we were able to pack it all away dry. Breakfast was no rush as we did not want to start out in the rain fall.

About an hour later we were all loaded up and ready to go and the rain had stopped. Luck was with us today as although we kept them handy we did not need to put on the rain capes all day. It was however a little chilly and we both spent the day in our cycling leg warmers.

The path was smooth and easy going again today, we have not yet hit the rough track yet. Lyn's serviced bike was much easier to manage and actually stopped when she applied the brakes - just like a new one, thanks to Brian.

Less than an hour into our ride Lyn had a head on collision - with a bee. Unfortunately for the bee it was fatal, unfortunately for Lyn the bee left its sting in her nose. So for the rest of the day she had a swollen nose and a fat lip and Lyn had much the same.

Scenery today was not very exciting. Of course we travelled along the canal and saw a few boats, passed through a few towns and crops today were apples and corn again. Later in the afternoon we passed fields and fields of sunflowers all black with bowed heads. A month or so ago they would have been an amazingly beautiful sight, but we are too late to see them with their yellow heads held high.

We had no particular goal or destination to reach today but thought we might treat ourselves to a room somewhere if we could find one. Like I said the path was good going today and we were making good time with a few km's behind us.

We stopped at Castelsarrasin for lunch after a quick visit to a Lidl supermarket for supplies. As we were eating 4 men rolled in on hire bikes, ironically they were Australians. Doing it tough (not) riding with a back up van who was supposed to be meeting them with lunch. Van was a little lost and they chatted with us for a little while, very curious as to what the hell we were doing with loaded up, clapped out bikes. They are only doing Toulouse to Bordeaux with no luggage and no camping. Guess they will be laughing at us tonight when they recap on their day.

So we rode on and at about 3 started to look for somewhere that had a hotel or rooms. No luck, every village or town we came to we could find nothing. So we rode on, and rode on, and on, and on. Still no accommodation so come 6pm we gave up and we are now just free camping by the side of the track at lock number 5. I set up the tent while Lyn cooked dinner of pasta, salami and sauce, while people rode and jogged by on the track. No one said anything except bonjour and bon appetite, so we presumed it was no problem we camp here. Didn't really matter, it was going to be dark in less than 2 hours and we did not want to still be riding in the dark. And we were buggered. We are right next to a railway line but I bet once we are in bed and its dark we wont hear a thing. (Lyn: We did hear the trains during the night, sounded like we were in a airport landing field with the planes taking off just over our tent. The French very fast trains are very loud.)

At a guess we are only about 20km out of Toulouse, and guess we pedalled about 55km today. Lucky for us the track was smooth and flat, but it's still pretty hard on knees and bums. Tomorrow definitely in the comfort of a hotel.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 14:07 Archived in France Comments (4)

Back to Bordeaux - the long way round

why take an hour train when we can cycle 150km to get back to Bordeaux


ferry Arcachon to Cap Ferret, bike the rest

Monday 30th Sept 13 (day 30)

It was a very mild night again last night. We woke about 8.30 and it looked like it had not rained overnight, but a few drops were starting to drop which did not last very long. We had a cooked breakfast with some left over potatoes from last night and eggs - a bit flash for a weekday, but what the hell.

After we put all our stuff together and loaded the bikes it was around 10.30 when we left the campground. We took the short cut track into town but still had to walk it down as the sandy downhill trail needed extra restraint to stop our bikes from just rolling down the hill.
First to the supermarket to buy some supplies for the next few days. We have decided to take the long way back to Bordeaux - 200 km loop instead of the train straight back. Another one of my brilliant ideas so hope it does not turn into another wet and hilly adventure.

2 minutes from the market was the jetty where we were going to catch a ferry from Arcachon to Le Cap Ferret - 30 minutes across the basin. Then ride up the peninsula along the Atlantic Coast then head back inland to Bordeaux, from where we continue east to the Med. It started to rain lightly just before boarding the ferry then got heavier as we made the crossing. We met an Aussie couple also taking bikes on the ferry but just our for a day ride. They had hired a car in England, purchased bikes and a rack and were staying in hotels, so not really on the same comfort or should I say discomfort level as us. Luckily it was not too rough on the boat as one of us is not too good on moving boats in rough seas (not me!). It still rained lightly as we took off to find the bike path but soon cleared up to a beautiful, hot, blue sky day!

The bike path here is fantastic. 85% of it was bitumen pathway and the rest was a sealed surface, so smooth pedalling today. There were a couple of little ups and downs but thankfully we did not do much pushing of Sofia and Fonsi today. You cannot see the ocean from the pathway as it is all through forest which is nice protection from the hot sunshine. We stopped for a picnic lunch (last of that smelly cheese) at Le Grand Crohot, 18km north of Cap Ferret, where Lyn could not resist the opportunity to hang out our wet nickers to dry in the sunshine. A few double takes from drivers passing by, but at least they did dry.

We rode on about another 10km to Le Porge-Ocean where we saw a sign for a camp ground. I went looking but could not find it. There was a park that had a sign which read motorhomes were allowed to park for 24 hours for free so we thought if they can, we can. So tonight we are free camping, next to the dunes on the Atlantic Ocean. We set up the tent, filled it with all our luggage off the bikes, donned our swimming cozzies and headed up over the numerous sand dunes to the ocean. We were determined to have a swim to mark the start of our coast to coast bike ride. I'm not sure how long the west coast of France is but you can guarantee we chose the only stretch that was a nudist beach. Thankfully there were not many people on the beach but the 2 blokes we could see from 100m away definitely were a la natural. So we decided when in Rome .... and did a nudie swim also. This saves Lyn having to try and dry them later on as well. And we were at least 200 m from the nearest person on the beach. It was around 5pm but the sun was still high in the sky and warm but the water was cold. However we did brave it and skinny dipped in the Atlantic Ocean!

As a small reward for this heroic dip and the fact we have no camp fees tonight we shouted ourselves an overpriced drink at a little cafe near the dunes. Cider - 10 euros thank you. Disappointingly, French Cider has a very low alcohol content at 2.5% but it was nice and cold. Cheers to us.

Back to the tent we cooked and ate dinner just before light rain fell at 8pm. Looks like a very early night for us tonight, and it's not even dark yet!

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Tuesday 1st Oct 13 (day 31)

We fell asleep to the thundering sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the beach at least 100 meters away. The night was almost hot, we did not even need to pull up in our sleeping bags until early morning. And no rain during the night. Of course it did start to shower lightly as we packed up.

A Swiss guy came over to talk to us while we were breaking camp. He is walking the St James pilgrim trail to Santiago and has been at it for a 2 weeks already. I guess he was starved for company as he stayed talking while we loaded up the bikes. Kept telling us we should visit Switzerland.

Showers continued for the first hour of our ride. The path was a little rougher than yesterday but still pretty good. And although the sky stayed overcast all day we did not have much rain. We rode about 12km to get to Lacanau-Ocean which seemed like a ghost town now but again a place that would be packed out in the summer time. Here we stocked up on a few extra food items and took our last look at the Atlantic before heading inland.

Our stop for the night was going to be Lacanau near the Lac de Lacanau but the campground was already closed for the season so we just rode through. Stopped for lunch just outside town and decided we might have to free camp again tonight as there is not likely to be another camp open on the track we are follow. We are riding along an old railway line that they have converted to a bitumen bike track.

18km after leaving the ocean front we were stopped on a little bridge over a little stream having a breather. There was a grass clearing and tiny sandy beach and clear running water so I said to Lyn this looks like a great place for us to free camp tonight. It was only 3pm but who's in a hurry. Our only problem was we did not have any water with us. Problem solved I rode a further 4km to the next village, Saumos, (and 4 km back) and retrieved some fresh water from the water tower, meanwhile Lyn stayed back at camp and took this opportunity to do some washing in the little stream.

On my return less than an hour later, with water, I could see our clothes hanging from the bridge. Now this train track that we are on is quite popular so a steady stream of cyclists were able to view our smalls (and bigs) while cycling by. See the entertainment we provide!

At least we could wash off any left over sea salt from our dip in the ocean yesterday and there are no signs saying camping was not allowed. So that was our day today, time for me to go wash in the stream so if you hear a far off gasp it's me proclaiming the water is chilly! Lyn wrote: There was no gasping only screaming. I did not think the water was that cold but Cindy obviously thought otherwise!!

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Wednesday 2nd Oct 12 (day 32)

We woke just before 9 - obviously all this strenuous exercise is assisting in us being able to sleep 10 - 12 hours every night as we go to bed when it gets dark just after 8. Not that we have completely fitful deep sleep - being woken up quite frequently during the night trying to get comfortable or hearing noises or call of nature. Again last night it was quite mild and we slept to the sound of the trickling stream - hence the call of nature in the middle of the night. Two things went down last night, the air mattress has another puncture (I was the lucky one on it last night) and Lyn's back tyre was flat.

Not long after we were dressed and having breakfast we realised we were pretty much surrounded by various people combing the forrest for mushrooms. Some just looked, other said bon jour and one guy actually came over to the tent and started rabbiting on in French. Of course we could not understand him, but he was very happy and gave us the thumbs up for camping out. He showed us the giant cep mushrooms he had collected, unfortunately did not offer any, gave us a big grin and left. As he passed the washing still hanging on the bridge he gave an extra chuckle and a last good bye wave.

Only after we had packed and loaded everything onto the bikes did we realise that Lyn's tyre had a puncture. I had given all the tyres a little pump up this morning and noticed it was low, but now it was flat. So off with the bags and back tyre and out with the repair kit, which luckily we had with us. And lucky we had the little stream to be able to dunk the tyre to locate the hole. All fixed and back on our way.

We rode about 4km to yesterdays water source Saumos and filled up our water bottles. Then another 9 to St Helene where we were hoping to buy some bread for lunch, but as is typical in France the shops close between 12.30 and 3pm - and we were here at 1.15. Bummer, not to worry - ever the resourceful - we stopped at a picnic area outside town and cooked up some pasta to have with our tin of tuna.

After lunch we slogged on another 12km to St Medard en Jalles where we were hoping to find a camp ground to spend the night. But the bike track was too far from the centre and we did not pass the camping so decided to continue on and take our chances.

The old railway track we were on today was a little boring and at places a long slog. 15km of dead straight track makes for a little dull riding, although it was all flat it was just continual peddling. This is also the busiest bike track we have ever been on, we shared the track with 100+ other cyclists today. Not so many were pleasure riders, mostly older gents on speedy narrow wheeled bikes dressed in their favourite multicoloured lycra bike outfit.

Around 5pm we reached Bruges which is a out skirting suburb of Bordeaux. The signage on this track from Lacanau to Bordeaux had been faultless up to now, but here the track was under some repair and we missed a little detour and ended up riding about an extra 10km trying to find the path back again. At one stage we decided just to stay in Bruges but could not find the camp or a hotel. Time was getting on and we were both getting frustrated at riding around aimlessly in circles, then finally we found the missed detour and were on our way again.

By now it was getting close to 7pm and when we rode past a hotel great minds thought alike and we rode in not caring what the cost for a room was - we'd had enough. And as we had free camped the 2 previous nights we were up in kitty money. I went in to book the room while Lyn held the bikes outside. There was just one young guy in front of me at reception and when I was advised he took the last room, I took off my hat and hit him with it. Called him a bastard and walked out. Sorry but it was a necessary outlet at the time. He did apologise, but did not offer the room to us. Luckily when I asked I was advised there was another hotel just next door, so we headed straight there and managed to get a room - a little over budget but by then did not care. Hot shower and soft beds were all we could think about.

Dinner consisted of duck pate, smelly mouldy cheese, olives stuffed with anchovies and baguette - couldn't be happier.

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Thursday 3rd Oct 13 (day 33)

Woke feeling refreshed after a comfortable night's sleep in a hotel bed. Check out was not until 12 noon so we lazed around and got our money's worth. We've only a short distance to go today to no rush as per usual.

Finally on our way at midday, it took less than 30 minutes for us to ride into the centre of Bordeaux. The sky was usual was grey but no rain, however it was very windy as we rode along side La Garonne river, but thankfully not cold.

I wanted to find the tourist office to see if they could offer any further information with regards to our next bike trail, but they could only give me the map that Noelle had already sent me earlier in the year. Our next job was to find a hotel as we decided to spend the day here and no campground near the city. Tourist office advised the budget hotels were near the St Jean train station which was only 1 km from the centre. We rode the short distance and Lyn stayed with the bikes while I did a quick sweep of the surrounding hotels. Lots were full, lots more were empty buildings and lots were out of budget. We settled for Ibis budget at 60 euros for the night.

After unloading the bikes and depositing our bags into the room we again went out to explore more of the city. Not a great deal to see in Bordeaux. We bought a picnic lunch and sat by the river which did not offer a lot of entertainment as only one ferry boat seemed to be operating.

We rode around the cobbled streets on our bikes, so much more enjoyable without the weight of our luggage, but still not a great deal to see. Lots of shops and cafes. There seemed to be lots of people around but I don't think many were tourists. I guess a lot of tourists come to this area as it is a great wine area of France, but not many would have reason to stay or visit Bordeaux.

We purchased a couple of supermarket beers and found a small park where we could sit and people watch which killed some time.

A relaxing day, with another night in a hotel room. Tomorrow we start our ride to the Med starting on an old train line converted to bike track called the Roger Lapebie Path.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:32 Archived in France Tagged bordeaux cap ferret arcachon lacanau Comments (8)

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