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  • Day33

    The Rain Starts but we Stay Dry

    September 22, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    It had to happen at some stage. It is not possible to conduct an extended 5 week ride through France without encountering rain somewhere along the line. Or is it ???

    Not only was today the first day of the European autumn, but it also brought the first sounds of heavy rain that we had heard since we arrived in France over 4 weeks ago. I would have been even more concerned if the rain had been falling during the daytime. At 3 am we were all snug and dry in our giant beds in the Grand Monarque Hotel. The rain was of little consequence to us at that time, but it did suggest that maybe the weather patterns were finally about to change.

    By breakfast time the skies were still grey and the rain was still falling steadily. At times like this. those of little faith are inclined to run around like chickens and seek out every layer of clothes they can find. I chose to enjoy the sumptuous breakfast buffet instead.

    At 9.30 I assembled the team and looked at them with astonishment. They looked more like a line of umpa lumpas than elite Ghostriders. The Queensland contingent looked particularly noteworthy as they were draped in multiple layers of plastic, parkas, scarves, waterproof pants and shower caps. They could hardly move in that sort of ridiculous getup, let alone ride their bikes. Anyone would think that rainwater was toxic. Some of the others looked almost as silly (but not quite).

    I tried to tell them that the rain had already passed over and that the skies were getting clearer. They didn't believe me. All I could do was warn them not to have an accident when all their unnecessary clothing got caught on the seat and/or chain.

    Fortunately the first stop of the day was only a short distance from Azay le Rideau and we managed to complete it without getting wet at all. Unfortunately Gerry did not manage to safely dismount from his bike without getting one of his seven layers of clothing wrapped around his seat post. The next 10 minutes were spent bandaging Gerry's nasty leg wounds and trying to staunch the flow of blood. (I should clarify that it was the wounds that were nasty, not Gerry's legs).

    We finally managed to park the bikes and enter the amazing Maurice Defrenne Museum. This incredible collection was assembled over a period of 60 years by the incredible butcher turned collector. I had visited the place twice previously and been staggered by the range and uniqueness of the items that he had found. It is the sort of place that you could spend hours just wandering. It even includes a fully restored guillotine ! The massive building itself is also worthy of mention, as it was a mill that Maurice Defrenne had relocated and reassembled to house his collection.

    While we were inside the rain started falling again. The timing was perfect. By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had stopped again. In fact it never appeared again for the remainder of the day. It could not possibly have been planned any better. It was actually a welcome relief to be able to ride in cool and overcast conditions.

    Our destination for the day was the medieval city of Chinon. After successfully getting the whole team safely down a parlous descent, we turned into a narrow, cobblestoned street to take us to the old part of the town. I could not believe my ears when I heard music wafting towards us. Even more remarkable was the fact that the song that was being played was one of my favourites - "I am a man of constant sorrow". Contrary to popular belief, that song is not the lament of a long distance cyclist with an uncomfortable seat, but it is the main track from the movie "Oh Brother Where Art Thou ?" Great blue grass music runs through the entire movie, but it was a surprise to hear it being played here.

    It turned out that we had arrived in Chinon just as they were enjoying a special weekend of free outdoor music. All over the town performers were playing in the streets and the atmosphere was amazing. We were even more thrilled to find that our hotel was right in the middle of the old town and that we would be able to enjoy the music, just by opening our windows.

    What was not so popular was the fact that the rooms in the historic building were tiny, the staircases were narrow and (or course) there was no lift. Gordon and Sue had been strategically located on the top floor. For some reason Gordon was NOT happy. It was quite a contrast to the spacious rooms we had all loved the previous night, but such is the serendipity of travel.

    After checking into our rooms we wandered the city, admiring the ancient buildings and listening to the performers. One guy in particular held the audience spellbound as he simultaneously played the guitar, drums, cymbals and mouth organ. It was a performance worthy of the cheers and applause he received. In fact it was a highlight of the trip so far.

    Another highlight was our evening meal at the Les Annees 30, surely one of the best restaurants in the city. Their food and service was exceptional and the building was magical. It had been a superb day (and none of us got the slightest bit wet).
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    Dennis Dawson

    This was actually a travelling dentist's van. His family lived in the front part of the covered section, while he practised his dentistry in the back.

  • Day25

    A Day Off...

    September 29, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C it's all relative. But cycling can be hard work you know 🤑.

    First, we had to wash our socks. A wonderful lady showed us the drill at the laverie. The money goes in here...soap pops out on the opposite wall over there. Who knew??

    Next, a walk instead of a bike ride. Did the town of Chinon up right. Cool medieval buildings, worn cobble roads, Vienne River walkway. Noticeable number of empty shops but Wilfrid is waiting to cut your hair 💇‍♂️.

    Then up to the castle fortress 🏰. The real deal here. Huge thick rock walls, catapults and crossbows, moats, towers, narrow firing windows. Joan of Arc presented to King Charles VII here.

    Back in the town a sidewalk biere is in order since the wine tasting places we looked for are closed. Leffe est tres bon. Buy lunch at the epicerie to have at our rooftop terrace (all to ourselves) with rose wine of the region.

    Now a nap is in order 😴 Been a tough day and you don't know when we'll get the chance again....

    Dinner reservation at Restaurant Cote Jardin. - a Rick Steves recommend. It was choc-a-bloc last night and almost empty tonite. Go figure. Fantastic meal in a cool old building.

    Finish with a nightcap in the sitting area outside our room. Up and at 'em tomorrow...back in the saddle first thing 🙃.

    PS. Haven't talked about the weather today. That's because it's gorgeous and not an issue 😄. 26 degrees and sunny.
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  • Day24

    Boussiere to Chinon. 55 km

    September 28, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Lesson for today...just because it says 'Euro Velo' doesn't mean it's the best way forward.

    We took our time again this morning, enjoyed the fresh (always) croissants and bread, fresh preserves, fruit, coffee and juice. (heard Monsieur drive in from the boulangerie before we were up).

    One km down the road to Gennes and we follow the 'velo reparation' sign. Daryl's make-do gears have been complaining. A great bike shop with a guy who knew the ropes did the trick. Out he comes with a new shifter installed...firing on all cylinders again🤸🤸! So even tho it's already noon and we've gone 1 km.... we stop for coffee ☕.

    Okay now, let's get rolling. But first we must stop to get bread and wine for lunch. And Daryl needs new sunglasses - having sat on one pair and breaking another up on his head. Significant avoidance behaviour today.

    Okay now, let's get rolling...really! But speed isn't happening on the rolling (aka hilly) countryside. The bike route takes us off the river...just a bit, but... Lovely views for sure but we study the map hard over lunch in a park just outside Saumur, beside La Loire channel.

    Finally get some clics under our belt. Saumur is a totally cute medieval town. We have to keep going however since we have a place booked in Chinon 30+ km away yet (playing it safe after yesterday 😄). Taking the road less traveled keeps us right beside the Loire and thru some great parks, forests, and outskirts of towns...real living. Past troglodyte caves and wineries. One particularly bumpy route to avoid a hill into town... not sure we saved any time but very scenic.

    We'll hang our hat in Chinon for 2 nights. Back to the best western, Hotel de France. Castle just above us, room right on the square...the better to find a rejuvenating biere after our 55 km 😋.
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