From Arcachon

It’s Saturday morning (just) and eight days, eight rides and 628km from Nantes I am having a day off to rest my weary legs; and ensure I get a chance to get some food before “sorry we’re closed, just starve Sunday”.

From Nantes I resumed my ride along La Loire à Vélo, which was now sharing its route with La Velodyssey, which in turn is the French leg of my old friend Eurovelo 1 that I had last seen in Bergen (3,368 km ago on the 5th of July).

Makes for very confusing signage but my friends in Local Government will be familiar with the process where a local initiative is rebranded by “higher” levels of Government as a substitute for activity. So basically I have followed La Loire, Ouystre, Vendée and other local trails which from time to time include the National or Supranational Logo. Nice to know that democracy is being well served by three levels of Marketing Departments!

A very enjoyable ride along an increasingly wider and busier Loire; along long stretches of the Atlantic coast; through the maze of little backroads that crisscross the marshlands and the lovely forest trail that runs through a 100km stretch of Pine Forest planted in the sand dunes (that apparently has stopped the whole area being reclaimed by the sea).

After 5 months I also finally saw the sun set over the Atlantic, instead of it just teasing the horizon and resuming its ascent.

Spain beckons. The architecture is changing, donuts have been cast aside for churros, and in three more rides (hopefully) I will say au revoir to France and begin the climb up to the Spanish Plata and the final leg of this adventure.

For now, it’s time to stretch my legs, get some lunch and enjoy a lazy afternoon. The empty chair across the table is the low point of the resumed ride. But not too long now!

Back in Nantes

Bon soir mes beaux amis! Je suis de retour à Nantes, or to be precise I am back in Nantes for the third time!

While the original plan for Paris and Nantes was fine, I had felt that Rose needed more than just the big cities so the past week has been one of holidays within holidays – a day trip back to Blois from Paris; and the past two days at Mont Saint Michel.

Our time in Paris was marvellous. 20 Rue Barbette was a great base, and while with Paris being so big it it is hard to call it central, it was roughly equal in distance to the Perifique in all directions. Our six walks covered much of Paris and a mix of the well known landmarks, “secret” gardens and less travelled ally ways; with the odd metro train, tram and canal boat to rest our feet.

Lunch and a stroll in Blois was a far less energetic day. It had been my favourite stop on the Loire and it was nice to return and see a bit more of it. There was much I hadn’t seen before, particularly the Ducal Palace that I had walked around but it had closed to visitors by the time I had arrived first time.

Nantes is also a great city and having avoided looking first time through it was all new. A brilliant concept – a long green line – marks a walk around Nantes and we followed it (with only a few detours) over three days.

The highlight was definitely the second day’s walk around Île de Nantes, its wharf redevelopment and Innovation Park.  We strode beside a mechanical elephant; rode inside fish and ballast spheres in a triple-decker Merry-Go-Round; and watched mechanical inchworms, spiders and birds as they were put through there paces.  A magical place.

The past two days we have been in Mont Saint Michel (rightfully) rated as the number 2 place to see in France after Paris (and inspiration for Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings movies). A truely magnificent structure built up over 800+ years.

We climbed to the top of the abbey, walked the length of its walls, and returned this morning to walk the perimeter of the island at low tide – would be Conquerers face a very depressing view from down there! (And very muddy shoes for some😉)

We arrived back in Nantes at 7pm, grabbed a cooked chicken and some salad at the supermarket and had a lazy evening watching Planet of the Apes in French! It’s 11pm now and Rose is asleep.

One more full day and Rose is off and Friday morning I hit the road again. Thankfully things have cooled down a bit in the three weeks. It’s still low-30’s in southern Spain but that shouldn’t be the case by the time I get there. More on that Thursday evening.

Lots and lots of photos!

Mellieurs vœux à tous.

Paris Day 7: Edith Piaf, Quarry Park, Canal Ride, Wholesome Meal

Day 8: A day trip back to Blois

Day 9: Luxumbourgh Gardens, Tram Rides, and Old Railway Line

Day 10: First Afternoon in Nantes (with Rose)

Day 11: Mumakils, Merry-Go-Rounds and Spawns of Ungoliant

Day 12: Completing the Green Line

Day 13: Mont Saint Michel

Day 14: A walk around the island and a stroll in the mud

 

Life in Paris

Well here I am on my seventh evening in Paris and after almost five months on the road 20 Rue Barbette is beginning to feel like home. It’s a great location. I would say central, but Paris is such a sprawling city and we have done an awful lot of walking.

The train to the airport turned out to be very straight forward and so I arrived there at 6:45am – an hour or so before Rose’s plane landed and almost two before she cleared customs. We probably should have made a quick exit but went for a cup of coffee and then got held up at a security cordon. Twenty minutes later, a whistle followed by a detonation was a good reminder that it is not a good idea to leave your bags unattended in Paris these days!

A train ride back to Rue Barbette, a shower for Rose and the de rigour baguettes for lunch and we headed off for a wander down to the Seine and around Notre Dame. Dinner at a local bistro and an early night ended what had been a very long day for both of us.

Thursday was a day of much walking: first to and around the Louvre; though the Place de Concorde; along the Champs Elyses to the Arc du Triump; across to the Architecture Museum; to and up the Eifel Tower; and then back across town to our apartment via a restaurant and steak dinner.

Since then it has been days of walks, some short and some long; with lots of “hidden gardens” from the book I found for Rose.

Rodin’s statues; Picasso’s paintings; beautiful architecture and tranquil gardens. Quite a city.

The highlight – a home cooked Roast Chicken and best meal for five months. The lowlight – a chocolate eclair, but at least Rose is now a witness to the fact that they just don’t make them properly.

Tomorrow we head to the east of Paris to explore the canals before a lazy day trip on Wednesday back to Blois to give Rose a break from big cities.

Hope everyone is well.

Day 1 (a wander down to the Seine)

Day 2 (lots of walking – Louvre, Arc du Triumph, Eifel Tower)

Day 3 (Oops! Forgot camera) – shopping

Day 4 – Rodin’s garden, Invalides, Left Bank

Day 5 – Picasso, gardens and Roast Chicken!

Day 6 – a long hike to Sacre Cour and back

 

 

In Paris

Hello all and HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL!

Well I am in Paris, in the apartment and in roughly 11 hours time (if I have figured the workings of the Paris metro correctly) I will be greeting Rose at Charles de Galle airport.

It has been a pretty lazy week really. I continued along Le Loire à Vélo for the remaining 261km staying at Saumur, Saveniérres before arriving at Nantes last Wednesday evening. Very early in the scheme of things, but figuring that most things would be closed on the weekend and I didn’t want to count on getting everything done in a rush on Monday.

This being France, I shouldn’t have rushed. Two of the five bike shops I tried were closed for September and other three couldn’t fit the bike in for a service till mid-October. Oh well, at least I was staying at the same place I booked for Rose and I and my bike and gear is happily tucked away in their storeroom.

Other than that I didn’t do much in Nantes as I wanted to see it with Rose and not be some “been there, done that” companion. I ate lots of jambon elemental baguettes (ham, cheese and tomato rolls) and had a failed attempt at buying some new pants (my waist and bum were OK, but skinny legged pants (only sort they seem to sell) a no go given the condition of my thighs and calfs at the moment). Rose is bringing over my post-Te Araroa jeans!

So all that total lack of achievement left me with three nights spare. Catching up with Anthea and Ray (Rachel’s de facto in-laws) (she will probably kill me for saying that) didn’t work as they were off to Venice. So I ended up heading towards Ray’s must see place in France – Seguret.

The train ride from Nantes to Avignon (the nearest TGV Station) was a seven hour trip. Nantes to Avignon was not really that far, but the route was roughly via Paris (at least Orly on the outskirts) so I got to see quite a bit of the countryside as the train headed towards Paris via Le Mans and back out to Avignon via Lyon.

As we approached the Mediterranean the architecture became much more Roman and I even got a glimpse of the alps ( first mountains I’d seen since Norway). It was also several degrees warmer.

The long train ride gave me a chance to figure out how to get the last 35km from Avignon to Seguret.

After four months of being independent of outside transport this was a reawakening! I re-read Ray’s message and they had rented a car for this bit (I didn’t have an international licence). My map showed a bus stop in the next village but I couldn’t find where the bus came from, so in the end I spent Sunday having a wander around Avignon and on Monday I took the train to Arles (only 17mins this time) to see the Roman ruins.

Arles was great. Small enough to walk every street in half a day. Extremely well preserved Ampitheatre and Arena, and some nice Catacombs and Roman Baths thrown in. (I will upload some photos later.)

I also got to meet Adelino Manuel Lopes of Portugal. Adelino started a bike ride in 2003 as part of his rehab for a work accident as has kept going since having covered over 77,000km (puts my seven into perspective). He had a little display in the main square trying to get enough money to fund his next trip (following Nico’s lead and heading for Morocco). We had a nice chat and I gave him fifty euros towards his effort. The world needs people like him!

So that brings us to today and the train trip back to Paris (I say back because other than the last 40km it was retracing the Orly-Avignon route). Other than the walk from Gare du Lyon (the Lyon line) to the apartment I haven’t done any sightseeing just a bit of basic grocery shopping so I can make lunch for Rose if she wants to rest (baguettes anyone?).

I am pretty sure I have the   route sorted for the morning – 650m up the road to the Met, take the orange line to Gare du Nord then the blue line to the airport (I’m pretty sure I’m not colour blind so should be able to manage it). I’ll leave at 6am just to be sure!

So it’s an early night for me.

 

Chartres, Orléans, Blois, Tours

Bonjour!  My meander through France continues and as you might guess by the increase in photos lately it is a very leisurely meander.

After a short hop from Dreux, I spent two nights in Chartres (a beautiful little city) before the final hop to Orléans (a bigger grittier place) and the Loire River. Managed to turn the 78km ride into a 98km one, when 10km down the road from Voves I realised I had left my daypack behind (with all my id, cards and money in it).

Luckily it had made its way to the Maire (mayor) and after a pleasant chat with the Maire and police officers who had retrieved it, I was on my way. All smiles, but given recent events I am probably lucky they didn’t remote detonate my day pack.

From Orléans I started down the Loire. My route planning was a bit of a waste as when I arrived at the start of the first bike trail, it turned out to be the extremely well signposted (if unimaginedly named) La Loire à Vélo, an 800km bike route I will follow through to Nantes.

A very picturesque ride. Orléans to Blois stuck mainly to the river with the bike trail running along the top of the levee. Today the main road had pinched that prime location and the trail took to the back lanes between the villages that dotted the hills that border the river plain.

I must admit that it is becoming quite a blur and I will need to sit down with my photos and map to piece it all together. But it is very pleasant with lots of coffee stops in “gypsy camps” and village coffee shops or just lazing by the side of the trail.

Only three more rides to Nantes so I will have a few days to spare before heading to Paris. Once I have checked my bike in and bought some clean clothes I may need find somewhere to rest my heels! Oh well have plenty of time to sort that out.

Best wishes to all.

Chartres

Orléans

Blois

Tours

 

Sunstroke in Dreux

After finishing my post from Amiens, I checked the weather forecast and I had finally caught up with summer. The next five days were going to be in the mid-30s. So I had an early night and early start on what I planned to be a two day ride to Rouen – a 70km ride to Forges dEs Eaux followed by a shorter 43km hop into Rouen. While not the ideal weather to be back among the rolling hills, all went to plan and I was having lunch – done for the day – by 1pm on both days.

My day off in Rouen was pretty uneventful, a wander around town until it got too hot and a lazy afternoon drinking coffee in an air conditioned shopping mall (and finally getting a new pair of bike shorts).

The ride from Rouen was to be the same (get it over by lunch) approach, but between the hills getting harder and no accommodation near Cahaignes, I ended up having to do the full circuit to Giverny. Over ten hours door to door, six of them in 30-35C temperatures.

A long hard day, but one of nicest rides to date – Tour de France highlight package material. An early morning ride along the Seine, coffee stops in medieval villages, ruined castles and lots of back lanes. Cahaignes was not exactly the highlight and after 950 years I hardly recognised the place, but when William said “hey guys let’s go conquer England”, I imagine many residents would have had a look around and said “yeah, why not!”.

A tourist tip – DO NOT ROCK UP IN GIVERNY ON A SATURDAY NIGHT WITHOUT A BOOKING!

Finally hit Giverny at six and began the long walk of rejection along Rue du Monet. The place was full! With three options left, I got lucky and a nice guy named Alain came to the rescue. His place was full, but if I didn’t mind roughing it he had an unrestored studio I could use. After weighing up my options for three milliseconds I said “I’ll take it!”.

After rearranging some stage props and costumes (it was being used to store things for the amateur drama group) there was room for a mattress, it had a cold water tap, and a few bushes along the street where I could go “pee pee” once it got dark.

I slept soundly and after a ciabatta and several cups of coffee for breakfast I headed to Monet’s gardens. Probably not at its best in late summer, it was beautiful nonetheless and the Lilly ponds in particular were a tranquil sanctuary (well maybe a few hundred less tourists wouldn’t hurt). The queue to Monet’s house was too long for me, so I collected my bike with the intent of knocking off some kilometres between Giverny and Chartres (my next planned stop).

Didn’t go quite to plan, and the hotel in Anet I had planned to stay at was deserted, so Dreux (as in “Some Kid Called ….” for those in the know) was the next town down the road. Actually “Some Kid Called Dreux” may even be an improvement on the original as it is pronounced with that wonderful French insouciance that befits indifferent rock gods.

Another nice ride, and while cycling all was fine, but every time I got on or off the bike or stood up after a rest stop, I felt I was going to pass out and was clearly suffering some heat stroke.

So today was a recovery day. Dreux is a beautiful place and the Hotel de Beffroi where I am staying is charming. The balcony in my attic room overlooks the main square and other than regular visits from the neighbours cat very peaceful. If they sold food in this town, you could not ask for more.

Another Tourist tip – DO NOT EXPECT TO GET FED ON SUNDAYS!

Slim pickings food wise on Sinday, a ciabatta stick for breakfast and a left over Madeline (little cake), a Kit Kat and three energy gels for dinner! Things didn’t really improve today; going by the tourist info the last five weeks has been full of events, so my guess is the proprietors decided they had had enough. Finally found an Italian Bistro this evening and had a nice steak and not so nice profiteroles (must stop ordering them as no one does them properly!).

Beginning to feel human again and will be off to do the remaining 30km to Chartres in the morning, followed by another rest day. No rush at the moment, 465km to Nantes  and plenty of days to do them. Will probably rain tomorrow (good) and then mid-20s for a week. Hopefully no more heatwaves.

A lovely week with lots of photos to share.

Au revoir

Amiens to Rouen

In Rouen

Rouen to Giverny

In Giverny

Giverny to Dreux