The Loop of AramonSeptember 2, 2019 in France ⋅ 🌙 24 °C
Human beings are very adaptable creatures. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we can adjust to circumstance which, even a couple of days earlier, seemed quite challenging. Coping with life on a river barge is a perfect example of this.
When we first climbed on board the L'Estello, just two days ago, the first thing that everyone noticed was just how tiny the cabins are. For many of our group they are probably the smallest rooms they have ever had to live in. In addition to the small size you have the added challenges of (almost) no windows. This can be very hard to cope with if you suffer with claustrophobia.
Of course the challenge of cabin living reaches its epitome when you enter the "en suite" bathroom. While every cabin is equipped with its own bathroom, they are not exactly of 5 star (or even 1,2 or 3 star) standard. I suspect that the bathrooms were fitted out at a time before most of us were even born, Considering the incredible age of our riders, that is really saying something.
The tiles in the bathroom are liberally covered in a layer of black mould and a sign above the toilet warns the occupant not to put any type of waste in it. I had previously thought that that was toilets were there for, but now I know better. Each bathroom is also equipped with a hand held shower and tiny basin. Of course it requires the consummate skill of a master magician to be able to shower without saturating everything else in the room. This is a skill that Maggie has not yet mastered.
The diminutive size of the cabins would not be such a problem if you were only going to be in France for a week or two. If that was the case you could probably get by with a small case or backpack. The problem is that we will be travelling in France for two months and therefore have come with "beaucoup de baggage". By the time we crammed the two suitcases into our cabin, there was virually no room for either of us to enter.
In case you are thinking that we must be crazy to embark upon such a cruise, I can assure you that we are in fact all having an absolute ball. Although the cabins are small, they are well air conditioned and the beds are actually quite comfortable, even if you have to sleep with your knees under your chin.
The other key point to mention is that the cabins are only for sleeping, bathing and using the toilet. The life on the barge centres in the lounge and dining rooms. That is where the group members spend virtually all their spare time. It is this type of shared camaraderie that is not felt on the huge modern river boats.
Today began with a 60 minute cruise out of Avignon to the village of Aramon. That os where we unloaded the bikes and started our ride. The forecast was for a much more comfortable temperature of around 26C, however we did find that this estimate was exceeded my middle afternoon. Although the extreme high temperature was missing, its place had been taken by the arrival of the Mistral - the howling wind that is a feature of the region. It is the Mistral wind that had destroyed many a peloton in the Tour de France and we felt its full force during today's ride.
The ride took the form of a loop ride, starting and finishing in Aramon. The main highlight was the towering Roman viaduct at Pont de Gard. I had seen pictures of this engineering wonder in many books, but nothing can prepare you for seeing it in the flesh. The scale is incredible and it is mind boggling to think that something that was constructed 2000 years ago can still stand so proudly and securely. It had survived the dark ages, the Renaissance, numerous wars and revolutions and untold numbers of governments. You cannot help but wonder at the brilliance of the designers and builders.
The outward ride to the Pont de Gard had been a real struggle into the head wind, but we were relieved to experience that most rare of all cycling phenomena on the return leg - a raging tail wind. Even with the assistance of the tail wind, it was still a long and tiring day in the saddle and we were all very happy when we finally reached the welcome sanctuary of our boat.Read more