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  • Day27

    What a Difference Sunshine Makes

    September 16, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    All those who took part in our 2015 ride from Orleans to Le Croisic will never forget the first day on the bikes as we rode out of Orleans. It has been indelibly etched on our memories as one of the coldest, wettest and darkest days we have ever spent on our bikes.

    On that occasion the rain fell continuously from the moment we left the Oceania Hotel in Orleans, the temperature never left single digits and the punctures came in regular bursts (pardon the pun). It was a indeed a bleak day.

    Forur years later to the day, the conditions could not have been more different. The sunshine was unbroken for the entire day (actually it has been unbroken for the entire time we have been in France). The temperature hovered in the mid twenties and as for punctures ? We don't know what punctures are any more - these bikes are unbreakable. All of these factors made for a very enjoyable (and relatively short) ride.

    Our first challenge was to get out of Orleans. I had made the foolish decision to allow the women some shopping time before we got on the bikes. Since most of the shops had been shut yesterday, they were showing definite signs of shopping deprivation. I gave them definite instructions that they would need to be back to start the ride by 10 am. That must have gone straight over their heads as they started to slowly (but happily) drift (or is it doidle ?) back with their bulging bags of treasures.

    As least the women were happy, but their husbands almost certainly won't be when they get the credit card statements. Sometime around 10.30 we were finally ready to leave the city. Maggie had said that she knew a good way to reach the bike path, so I handed her control of the peloton. To my surprise, her route actually worked and we were soon all safely back on the Loire a Velo bike path.

    As we made our way along the bike path it felt good to be back on somewhat familiar territory. I had ridden this part twice before - in 2013 and 2015. It felt even better to be able to enjoy it in perfect conditions. The kilometres quickly slipped by. The riders happily chatted together as they rode along. After our rest day in Orleans it actually felt good to be back on the bikes and resuming our ride along the Loire.

    I guess the only somewhat sad note to the ride is the low level of the water in the river. It is painfully obvious that the lack of rain has severely reduced the flow of water and the usually majestic Loire River is only a much reduced version of its normal self.

    Since we had a short ride, our plan had been to stop in Meung Sur Loire for morning tea and then continue to Beaugency for a late lunch. The only problem was then we arrived in Meung, most of the shops were closed for Monday. (Yes Monday is a bit like a second Sunday here). We searched for coffee in vain. Just as we were about to give up, we were spied by an elderly lady who asked in very broken English what we were looking for. Apparently she had not spoken English since she had been in school, but she did reasonably well.

    When she realised that we were looking for coffee, she explained that she knew a place. We were instructed to follow her. So off we went.

    "It's about 100 metres", she explained. (That was a lie). We went up and down hills, through narrow alleyways, around roundabouts, etc, etc. We looked at each other, wondering just where she was taking us, I just hoped that she wasn't the famous poisoning Frenchwoman who was leading us all back to her house.

    "You will have to forgive me, I am very old" , she explained. I thought that she must be at least 90 or so to be making such slow progress, but she went on to add "Yes I am 71 years old ". Crikey at that rate she would have been one of the youngest in the Ghostriders. We shuffled on and on. I was just glad that Maggie and I had both updated our wills before this trip started.

    Just when we were all about to give up, she finally led us around a blind corner and VOILA, there was a cafe. Although we were told that they had no milk at first, all came good in the end and we were able to enjoy our cappucinos after all. Crisis averted and another wonderful insight into the French psyche. It will be recorded in our memories as one of the highlights of the ride.

    Our home for this evening is the L'Ecu de Bretagne" Hotel. It is the same place I had stayed in twice previously, although it was the first time I had the doubtful privelege of having a room on the top floor. With no lifts in the place, scoring a top floor room is like being allocated a poison chalice. After dragging our suitcases up the narrow winding staircase I felt like the mythical Sisyphus who was condemned to spend all eternity rolling a massive stone to the top of a huge hill, only to see it roll down to the bottom again every night.

    In the evening we all shared what will surely become the most memorable dinner of the trip. The restaurant had set up a huge outdoor table for us in the central part of the town. We watched the sky change colour from blue to pink to purple as we ate and chatted together. The food was amazing, buit it was the location that was pure magic.
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