Tour of France

Day 29 – St Leonard-de-Noblat to Argenton-sur-Creuse

If someone ever asks me if I had a bad day on this trip, then today would that day.

My fantastic campsite by the river was a quagmire this morning as heavy rain started about 3:00 a.m., and it was still raining when I had to shift myself this morning. Needless to say that all the tent gear went away wet and I was not a happy camper! I did manage to make my oatmeal breakfast under the shelter of the overhang outside the washrooms before I left . It’s a good job that I did eat that at least, as I had a hard day ahead of me – actually much harder than I figured…
I suited up in my raingear and rode off onto the D19 which I figured would switch to the D5 and the D1 later. About 10 kms up the D19 I got the dreaded “Route Barre” sign again and was directed to follow the “Deviation” signs. Remember that it’s pouring rain; this detour took me over hills and dales and cost me about 25 kms in distance. The detour route was not easy at all and some of the climbs took forever. The raingear doesn’t help matters much as one just gets sweaty and clammy – all it really does is keep one warm when wet. So by the time I got somewhat back on route, I was at 60 kms when I really should have ridden only about 35! I was not amused and with all the extra climbing I was already tired, but knew that I had to persevere. At that point, I promised myself a hotel room for the night whether I made my objective or not.

The rain squalls were relentless, but after about 1:00 p.m., the sun peeked through the black clouds, but it was short lived and the rain squalls kept me busy taking the raingear on and off – highly annoying and time consuming – but impossible to ride in all that stuff when the sun actually beats down on you. The ride itself was hilly, hilly, hilly and I had no time or inclination to admire the designated “scenic routes.” I was following the map pretty closely and when I reached La Souterraine I was kind of back on track although very tired. I rode into town just as another squall began – now I don’t know if I missed a turn, but I could not find the D1 out of town. Funnily enough, I bumped into Frank, my Aussie buddy from two nights ago and we puzzled together and still couldn’t figure it out. Well I had to move along, so we said goodbye and off I went on D72 in almost the same direction that I wanted to go on the D1. Little did I know that I would have to take somewhat of a cattle track later on to get back on route – life was taking a strange turn today and I was getting pissed off! Anyway, I did get back on route, and the sunny periods were getting longer in between the rain squalls. By the time I reached my old friend the D920, the road had flattened out a bit and I was able to move along quite well for the last 35 kms of the 120 kms that I had to ride today.

10 kms out of Argenton sur Creuse another big squall hit and was accompanied by many thunderclaps. I waited that one out and made a dash for the town asap. I crossed the bridge into the town and there was a hotel on the left hand side – I didn’t even hesitate and checked in to a cozy, but well used room. But it’s dry and will definitely be a nice change for the night and a good opportunity to dry out my gear from a day in hilly, rainy hell! Worst thing today was that I was travelling some very rural roads and snacks were hard to come by – I need a lot of calories on a day such as today and I wasn’t finding them. Even my yogurt drink was not available for quite a while – hence my tiredness. But all’s well that ends well and I pigged out at a local restaurant here and couldn’t even manage desert – maybe my stomach shrank? Whatever, a good night’s kip and I’m sure that I’ll be ready for whatever tomorrow brings – so long as it’s not the dreaded Detour Route!

My next few days – if everything pans out – should be shorter rides of about 80 kms – I’m certainly hoping that it does work out that way as the legs need a break every now and then. The odometer turned over 2000 kms earlier today – I didn’t notice or didn’t see it happen as either sweat or rain were clouding my vision! As the crow flies, I’m less than than 300 kms from Paris – today I wished I was a crow!

More tomorrow,

Adam K. & (Bloody “Route Barre”) Basil.

Day 30 – Argenton-sur-Creuse to Vierzon

Yesterday was a bad day, today was a good day.

The roads have flattened out considerably and the weather, although cool, was great for riding – even a bit of a tailwind/crosswind to help me along. The crow flies straighter than I ride but even so 100 kms, give or take one or two, slipped under the wheels. But much easier and relaxed riding in countryside that reminded me very much of the Province of Saskatchewan – huge fields of grains and sunflowers accompanied me together with wildflowers, hawks and myriad other birds – it was a huge change from the last few days when hills were the prevalent factor.

Fields of Wheat

Fields of Wheat

I took the D920 out of town and once again it snaked back and forth across the A20 motorway. It changed designation many times and sometimes it was just a rural road with no number, but it paralleled the highway. It was great, I could hear all the traffic but it was as if I had my own private road – I’ll bet that only 20 cars passed me on the straight stretches away from the interchanges and roundabouts – very peaceful riding and the traffic noise was soon forgotten, replaced by thoughts of how fortunate I am when compared to the drivers stuck in their little metal boxes, all following one another – a veritable procession.

Busy Motorway

Busy Motorway

I made very good time and even had chance for a lunch stop in the town of Vattan – the “Plat du Jour” did the job nicely! I’m glad that I only picked the town of Vierzon for the hostel, because there’s not much else here to compliment the town – it’s certainly not got a pleasant feeling and I noticed all kinds of weird characters around. So a place to spend the night, but not to wander around. I think that I got my days mixed up on yesterday’s email. I guess that you’re really on holiday when you can’t get your days straight! Whatever, another day in the saddle.

Very Quiet Road

Very Quiet Road

Tomorrow’s ride does look shorter, but I’ve been saying that for a while and the metric centuries plus are adding up. Tomorrow’s weather forecast could see me riding in some rain – bummer – in the area that I plan to head to – the Loire Valley; I’ll probably splash for a hotel again. The way it looks and the areas that I am headed dictate that the camping days are over and hotels will be the preferred choice of digs – there’s not even a hostel choice for the route that I have to go. Hopefully, the weather will end up being kind.

More tomorrow,

Adam K. & (What a scruffy town) Basil.

Day 31 – Vierzon to Châteauneuf-sur-Loire

I managed to get my whole of 90 kms plus in before the rain started – I was lucky!
But to be honest, the rain that started was on and off and quite light – certainly not like the rain squalls of previous days. I made really good time again on the relatively flat terrain of the N20 (D2020) and later on the D921. I even had a nice tailwind with the sun peeking out periodically and the rain clouds always just behind me. I stopped in Jargeau for lunch and that’s when the first rain shower hit. I was going to stay in that town for the night, but after lunch, I checked the hotel there and there was a sign saying that the office would be open tomorrow morning – very useful! So after crossing the Loire river, I rode the extra 7 kms to Châteauneuf-sur-Loire and found a hotel here – nice and clean, but once again, no bargain.
Sundays in these small towns are not the best for a bicycle tourist – just about everything is closed and it’s a real scrounge around for food if the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant. I’m glad that I stopped for lunch, because it’s slim pickings for dinner!

Road-wise, nothing spectacular, but even though I was on a major road, it was quiet riding due to it being Sunday morning. I had three other cyclo-tourists at my hostel room last night, two Aussies and a Scottish guy, so we had a good chinwag exchanging stories. They were heading out to Geneva and trying to avoid any hills – good luck with that plan!
I don’t think that I ever mentioned in my reports the rest stops along the roadways that I have travelled – I have mentioned the lack of public toilets though. Well, even in the pull-outs and rest areas, there are no toilets, ever – picnic tables, a rubbish bin maybe, but that’s it. Consequently, everyone seems to do the necessary in the bushes at these places – when one stops there, there is always a mess of toilet paper remnants hanging onto the fauna (and other deposits on the ground!), wherever the wind has deposited them. It’s a real eyesore – why the municipalities couldn’t at least install portable toilets at these places is a mystery. But it really is a messy spectacle to many very pretty areas.

Graffiti is another thing – it is literally everywhere and it appears that there is no effort at to remove it – maybe that’s the policy – why clean it up when it will just happen again? Definitely an eyesore all over France and even in remote areas.

Graffiti Everywhere

Graffiti Everywhere

More Graffiti Everywhere!

More Graffiti Everywhere!

Price of Gas/Petrol – average price is about €1.50 (I figure about CAN$2.40?) per litre. So I guess we still can’t complain too much in North America about our fuel prices as they are paying a lot more here – but that’s probably why the cost of everything here is so high – high transportation costs inflate the price of all goods.
Most of the towns that I pass through now are quite hum-drum and do not have any real outstanding features – the odd town does, but usually it may be just an old church or small museum etc. However, in just about every town that I have travelled through, I have noticed remembrance monuments relating to World War (1 & 2) patriots and even headstones indicating where an Allied plane may have crashed. Many of the monuments are for French resistance fighters – and some indicate that many died (were executed) on the same day – sad, but true, but also nice to see that they are not forgotten.

As I near the suburbia of Paris, I won’t be rubber-necking too much, I’ll be busy watching the ever increasing traffic.

More tomorrow.

Adam K. & (rain, rain go away) Basil.

Day 32 – Châteauneuf-sur-Loire to Melun

Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you get luckier!
I was going to ride to Etampe today, but changed my mind at the last minute and chose Melun – a little further, but closer to Paris. Also, I figured that Melun would be a more interesting town than Etampe. So by the time I finished the ride today I rode 102 kms, but it was relatively easy riding.

Castle Surrounded by Moat

Castle Surrounded by Moat

The weather is clearing and the forecast is for sunny and hot weather for the next few days. I took the nice quite route of the D10, the D9 and the D975 out of Châteauneuf-sur-Loire to Beaumont and then the D403 to Nemours – nothing spectacular, fairly flat route with some ploughed under farm fields for miles and miles for company. I did come across a very impressive castle, with a moat no less, in one of the smaller villages that I passed through. Also, a fabulous and very huge Chateau at Fontainebleau – I’d hate to be the window cleaner there – hundreds of them!

Chateau Fontainebleau

Chateau Fontainebleau

From Nemours, the road, D607, was very busy and I was dreading the the road from Fontainebleau to Melun, the D606 – but as it happened, it wasn’t very busy and I had a nice shoulder to ride on to get into the town. So this is where I got lucky… I finally hit a tourist info place with someone who was really helpful – the young lady there knew her stuff and bent over backwards to help me. She phoned multiple hotels for pricing and gave me numerous maps of the area. As I was checking out one of the hotels – all of which are very pricey here – I noticed a sign for a campground – seeing as the weather has improved, I elected to camp tonight and splash for a better hotel tomorrow at Lagny-sur-Marne – very close to Disneyland Paris – Basil is really pestering to go there!
So beyond that why I am I lucky? Well the same young lady gave me some cycle path maps to get back into Paris to my final digs – turns out that just a few kms north of Langy there is a bike path along the canal that will deposit me on the doorstep of my digs in Paris- no heavy traffic or busy roads into Paris to contend with at all – ahh, a big weight of my mind and a much safer route free of the hustle and bustle of commuters going into and out of the city. So without a doubt, an easy day’s riding for the next two days and Basil will be happy to see the French Mickey – I’ll see if I can get a photo of them together. Hopefully I can find a place to stay near there to stash my bike and stuff.

More tomorrow – or the day after.

Adam K. & (sounds good to me!) Basil.

Day 33 – Melun to Lagny-sur-Marne

From the campsite at Melun – which was next to the River Seine, where I watched barges and other activities in the evening, it was very relaxing – I took the D418 all the way to Lagny-sur-Marne.
It started off as a quiet route but after about the halfway mark it turned into a feeder route for the main motorways around Paris. I had no shoulder to ride on and heavy truck traffic for about 20 kms. With Basil’s help out the back and my mirror, I somehow survived the ordeal – it was quite hairy, believe me!
I arrived in Lagny-sur-Marne relatively early after the 45 kms that I rode. I checked in at the tourist info place and got directions to nearby hotels. I didn’t mess around, grabbed a hotel pretty quick and got cleaned up. So once I figured out the way and the right bus to catch, I took Basil to Disneyland. We got there about mid-afternoon and wandered around for a couple of hours – we didn’t even see Mickey, so Basil was a little disappointed, but enjoyed the atmosphere anyway. Obviously a place like that needs at least a day or two to explore, and we didn’t really have that time to do the place justice. It was also very expensive to enter the actual theme parks – certainly not worth the cost for the couple of hours that I had to spend there. I was content to just see the sights and enjoy the experience. It was also a good way to get my head around the realisation that my tour of France was almost at an end.

Disney Store

Disney Store

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

More tomorrow.

Adam K. & (No Mickey – but it was fun anyway!) Basil.

Day 34 – Lagny-sur-Marne to Paris

Today’s ride was very relaxed – I just had to ride about 15 kms to reach the canal bike path and even that was on quiet roads.

Nice Bike Path to Paris

Nice Bike Path to Paris

The canal path was paved all the way from Claye-Souilly into Paris and there were only a few glitches to contend with around some minor construction areas etc., but a very nice traffic free route into the city – I should have taken this route out when I started my tour!

So with today’s ride, I am at my digs in Paris with just about 2500 kms on my odometer (2493). I’m just waiting for my room and writing this email with a celebratory pint of beer at the hostel’s bar, happy to be safe away from the traffic and hustle and bustle of the city. For those that have been following my adventures, I hope that you have enjoyed your vicarious ride throughout a good chunk of France. And I hope that you all realise that I write from the heart; some days the message was good and some days, not so good, but c’est la vie, as they say here.
I’ve got to pack up my bike and bits up this afternoon, so this will be my last message, as I’m sure that readers will not want to read tales of taxis, airports and my sometimes colourful language directed towards my luggage and anyone nearby!

Just a quick anecdote – France is a great place to visit – and somewhat as the TV show “Don’t forget your Passport” from Canada – me and Basil say when leaving for France, “Don’t forget your toilet roll!”

No more tomorrow!

Adam K. & (Toilet rolls! Too bloody right!) Basil.

Summary…

I actually had an extra day before my flight back to Canada, so with my bike all packed up and secure, I had a last chance to see some more sights of Paris. I bought a Metro pass and spent the day sightseeing and reminiscing over my last few weeks in France.
Would I ever want to return to France? Probably not. Although it’s a wonderfully scenic country to visit and bike tour through, the high costs associated with daily needs makes it prohibitive – at least for me. As far as actual bicycle riding, I did find for the most part that the French drivers were very courteous and watchful that they pass at a safe distance; moreover, they seem to respect that cyclists are legitimate road users too – so unlike North American drivers! And it’s true that many more people cycle in France (and Europe) on a daily basis and that is probably a factor as to why they accept bicycles on the roadways so readily. Roads for the most part were paved and in very good condition, although on the majority of roads, a definite lack of shoulder space to ride on.

Nevertheless, I got the impression that a large percentage of French people were somewhat unfriendly and stand-offish. Nothing that I could put my finger on, but just a feeling that I had in most places that I visited. Maybe it was my lousy interpretation of their language – but hey, at least I tried!
As far as lodgings, most campgrounds were fine, with clean showers and washroom facilities (barring the toilet seat and paper issues!). Hostels were good too, although much more youth orientated than other countries that I have travelled in. I usually found myself to be the oldest person staying at many of the hostels that I visited. Hotels were a mish-mash of good to mediocre. As often as not, the stars did not reflect the quality of the rooms, but rather the price scale!

Overall a good tour, with myself, Basil and my bike (avec baggage) all arriving safely back in Canada.

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