Time to Hit the Road

Well Rose headed off on the Train this afternoon, made her connection in Tours and in an hour or so will be flying back to Australia. A wonderful three weeks is over and tomorrow morning I hit the road again to finish my quest.

I hadn’t really finalised my route after Nantes until a few days before first arriving here, but after finding a good website on a potential Spanish leg, I am opting for the central Spain route.

Between me and my goal lies 60km to the mouth of the Loire, 800km along the Atlantic coast to the Spanish border and 1300km across Spain joining the Camino de Santiago between Pamploma and Zamora before switching to the Ruta Via del la Plata to Seville and then on to the coast at Càdiz before the final leg to Tarifa.

So still 2,167km and at least 5-6 weeks to go. (My 7,000 km estimate was a bit optimistic – it will be 7,875km in total!)

The new improved biker-me will be up to it though. After Nico’s subtle digs at my riding attire, Rose responded with a burst of laughter at a shot of me in my daggy attire! OK I get the point.

So (sorry Rachel, Alex and Lachie) the trekking pants are being packed away and a yellow TdF shirt from Mont Saint Michel and Orange Runners and cyclist sunnies from Nantes have been added to the wardrobe.

I will understand if you tell your friends it must be  someone else and that your Dad would never be a fifty year old (very soon to be 57) in Lycra! But …….

image

(Hopefully a few days in the sun will fix the white legs.)

So time to pack up and get an early night for an early start. Mind you after all the walking Rose and I have done a ride along the river will probably be quite relaxing!

Best wishes to all.

 

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