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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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