Nevers to Sancerre

Miles ridden today – 34

Total miles so far – 2,568

We left our little sanctuary in Nevers with slightly heavy hearts and then, on checking Fred and Ginger, discovered that Fred had two broken spokes on his back wheel, which didn’t improve our mood but did explain the strange noise I heard on Sunday when we were trying to escape Bike Bag Man.  Quick change of plan and we cycled through Nevers town (rather than round on the river bank)

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to a bike shop who not only had the right size spokes but also changed them in quick time and all for just 18 Euros (there is definitely an upside to having a common make of bike and a common size of wheel!).  Thank you Cycl’ Espace for your great service!

Shortly after crossing this rather narrow bridge which took us back to the cyclepath

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Hoppy took a rather spectacular tumble – nothing too serious, fortunately, just a minor altercation with a pothole whilst trying to take a photograph of the river.  This was the only damage done (one major advantage to having big panniers which take most of the hit!)

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And he was soon ready for the off again:

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I think we would both agree that today’s ride wasn’t the most spectacular we’ve done on the trip:

But there was one extraordinarily spectacular downpour which happened, by brilliant coincidence, just as we’d found a shelter for lunch.  It literally chucked it down around us as we just stood and watched in the dry – amazing!

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Just after lunch we passed the very pretty looking town of La Charite sur Loire where our friends Barbara and Guy (they of the recumbent tandem) are awaiting the delivery of a new wheel, having broken their rear one 😦  We had assumed they had bombed ahead of us but it may be that we will all meet up in Amboise this weekend – delivery companies dependent (fingers crossed):

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We enjoyed a very pretty section this afternoon:

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Selfie of the Day on the move:

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But I’m afraid the leaves are continuing to fall:

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We are now on the riverbank near Sancerre drinking:

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Locally brewed beer!  And ………………………………..

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Well – it’s got to be done hasn’t it?!!

There were only 2 fatalities from this mornings l’accident:

One problem solved:

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Matt hasn’t got the duck tape out yet to fix his glasses (they are his favourites which John and Jayne brought out to Budapest) but give him time!

 

Nevers

Miles ridden today – 0

Total miles so far (still) – 2,534

We slept so well in our proper bed and we think it rained in the night but we were oblivious – and no wet tent to put away – yay!

After a lazy morning catching up on admin etc we wandered across the bridge into Nevers and were very glad we weren’t cycling as there was a very strong wind blowing, which would have been right in our faces all day.  Please, please let it stop overnight!  (Actually, the forecast for tomorrow is for heavy rain so maybe a stiff wind would be preferable.)

The Cathedral dominates the skyline of Nevers and it’s a pretty amazing building:

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After a serious of failings down and fires dating back to 802 it was accidentally bombed by the RAF in 1944 (whoops) (they were aiming for the railway works) so the stained glass windows are very modern which makes the building very light, in contrast to many cathedrals we have visited.  We really liked it and loved the windows:

This fresco has survived, amazingly, since the 12th century:

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The modern windows give the eastern end of the Cathedral an extraordinary pink glow:

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We also visited the Ducal Palace which originally dates back to the 1400’s but has had various additions and embellishments since:

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Inside there were some slightly bizarre displays and modern art and a somewhat incongruous small aquarium in the basement!

But it did have a lovely view out onto the Place de la Republique:

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Which inspired Hoppy to go all David Bailey on us:

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After that we went to visit Saint Bernadette.  She was the simple village girl who saw visions at Lourdes and later joined the Sisters of Charity here in Nevers where she spent the rest of her life and died at the age of just 35 in 1879.  Thirty years later, as part of the process for her beatification, her body was exhumed and found to be still intact.  This was cited as one of the miracles supporting her canonisation.  Her body was buried again and exhumed ten years later (poor lady!) where it was found to still be almost completely intact.  Her body is now displayed in a glass casket in the chapel at the Sisters of Charity.

I have to confess that it was all a bit strange.  There is a small replica grotto in the very far corner of the garden where Bernadette was said to go and pray:

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But if you pull back a bit there’s a thumping great factory behind which kind of ruins the atmosphere:

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I have never been to Lourdes but have heard that it’s now horrendously commercial so at least here it was quiet and peaceful.  Here is Saint Bernadette herself – she is very tiny – apparently she was just 4′ 7″ tall and had been sickly throughout her entire life – she looks pretty peaceful now but then she probably would do as she’s been dead for nearly 140 years!  This is not our image but one I found on the internet as Matt felt a tad awkward taking a pic surrounded by the faithful on their knees:

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Apologies if I’m upsetting anyone with my cynicism here but I am intrigued and cynical in equal measure!

On a lighter note the good tourist people of Nevers have painted a helpful blue line around the town to lead you from site to site.  We thought it would be good for the police to use as a test for sobriety (as they do in the USA):

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But Matt was concerned about how he would get on here:

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And here is Nevers Plage on La Loire, which was pretty quiet on this blustery Monday afternoon and I think the water would be FREEZING!

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Fortunately, no sign of Bike Bag Man today so we hope he is now safely on his way home to Paris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bourbon-Lancy to Nevers

Miles ridden today – 46

Total miles so far – 2,534

So ….. last night in the campsite in Bourbon-Lancy there were a few of us including the Canadians, Angus and Jodie, a French couple with a 10 month old baby (yes, on cycling holiday with a small crawling person – for those of you who think we are insane, I think they are insane!), a French teacher cycling to Basel and a few other couples we didn’t really get to meet.  And Bike Bag Man.

Bike Bag Man was – undoubtedly, one flying buttress short of a cathedral and chatted to himself in both English and French.  He had quite a nice bike with a trailer usually used for a small child full of his bags of stuff.  Most cyclists wear the standard uniform of padded Lycra shorts, Lycra tops or t-shirts and trainers.  He was wearing baggy trousers and a slightly stained shirt.

We were awoken this morning to the dawn chorus of him coughing his guts up which made me, at least, feel rather queasy.  He then started to load up his trailer and his bike kept falling over which was accompanied by (loud) yells of “flippin heck”. And then “Pourquoi, Pourquoi”.  Matt and I then ascertained that he must be English and the campsite manager came out and asked him to keep the noise down.

Both Angus and the father of small crawling person went over and helped him with his bike and his packing and off he went with much ringing of his bell.

About half an hour later he returned having been to the supermarket and now needing the loo.  This was when our problems started as he came over to our little group and realised that Matt and I were English and – to our slight dismay – that we were all cycling to Nevers.  There was a brief discussion about routes which was hard as he had obvious short term memory and hearing loss.  He also had a serious squint which makes his cycling ability even more impressive as both eyes are looking in completely opposite directions so balancing on a bike must be incredibly hard.

Once more he set off and we thought we’d never see him again …….

As it’s Sunday and the roads are quiet we took the (hilly) road to Decize where we would then pick up the Canal du Nivernais which would take us to Nevers.

We were bombing along at a pretty good pace and decided to have lunch at the first possible bench on the canal.  Just tucking into our bread and salami and cheese when who should come along, ring ring on his bell and, yes, there was Bike Bag Man.  HALLO!  Been Looking For You!  Think I’ll have my lunch here as well!  With which he gets of his bike, pulls out a Tupperware of ham and tomato salad and sits down next to Matt.

Along with everything else Bike Bag Man is slightly orthodontically challenged and has clearly never been taught not to speak with his mouth full so proceeds to spray tomato and mayonnaise spittle over Matt who, being very English and polite has asked him some questions about his life. Left Leeds because “everyone took the piss out of me”, sold pretty much everything he owned, moved to Paris, was an alcoholic then gave up because he kept falling off his bike, now works in a shop mending bikes and busks to make extra money, was once given £50 by Simon Cowell when he was busking.

This was all quite interesting but the combination of the spit and a humongous bogey hanging out of his right nostril was more than we could handle so we packed up pronto (didn’t even open the pack of chocolate biscuits which was our “treat”) and, politely, started to leave.  Yup, you’ve guessed it, he also packed up and started cycling with us, coughing, coughing, coughing as he went.  Oh crap, we now have a new best friend.

Managed to shake him off with the ruse of “taking photographs” from a bridge.

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Met two other cyclists cycling from Strasbourg to Spain and chatted with them for a while so figured we’d given him a good enough head start and set off again.  The plan was that if we saw him ahead we would stop for 15 minutes again and give him another head start.

All going well until we reached a bend in the track and there, lurking in the undergrowth out of sight until it was too late was Bike Bag Man brewing a cup of tea.    Oh shit, shit, shit – keep cycling and wave as we go by.  He packed up in about 10 seconds flat and was soon on our tale again.  Shit, Shit, Shit.

Matt checked the map and planned to divert off the path at the next bridge and take sanctuary in a church graveyard he could see marked but Bike Bag Man was gaining on us and I was getting knackered.  In the end I just threw my toys out of the cot and stopped dead saying “this is f*&^%$ing ridiculous”.  Yup, Bike Bag Man came up and stopped as well.  Matt told him we were having a flaming row (not that far from the truth) and he asked “what about” – seriously impressed that Matt didn’t say, “YOU”. I pretended to be on the phone to Guy who “urgently” needed to speak to his father.  Matt came back to where I was and we then had a 10 minute charade of Matt “talking” to Guy whilst Bike Bag Man ate his crisps and waited for us.  Aaaaaagh!

In the end he cycled off and we let him go for a good 10 minutes before starting off again.

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Approaching Nevers we had a problem.  Bike Bag Man had said he had no money and was planning to camp on the grass by the boats.  We suspected he actually did have money and would follow us to the camp site.  An evening of spittle and bogeys was in the offing with our new “best friend”.  What to do?

Coming round the final bend before a long straight into Nevers and THERE HE WAS – lurking, again.  Ring, ring, ring of his bell.  “See You In Nevers” he shouted.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.  Shit.

We had 3 kilometres to come up with a plan.  We pretty much knew now that he would be in the campsite.  Could we face an evening of insanity, spittle and bogeys?  No we could not.  What are we going to do?

As we approached Nevers we saw the campsite entrance on the right and kept on going and as we reached the main road – there in red and white letters – just across the road was our salvation ……………..

And that is how we came to be spending two nights hiding in the Ibis Hotel in Nevers!!

 

Palinges to Bourbon-Lancy

Miles ridden today – 42

Total miles so far – 2,488

Today we cycled through the southernmost point we will reach in France, from now on it’s all north-westerly/westerly to the coast.  Time for another map:

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I was somewhat reluctant to leave my nice cosy bed this morning but Matt brewed a cup of tea and the croissants and pain au chocolat did the trick and we were off on a lovely sunny morning back on the Canal du Centre:

 

At Digoin (pretty much our southernmost point in France) we crossed the amazing Pont Canal aquaduct where the Canal du Centre passes over La Loire (I love the fact that the Loire is feminine!) and becomes, from what I can make out, the Canal Lateral a la Loire.

 

Selfie of the Day with La Loire behind us:

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A bit further on and evidence of why I get a bit panicky in a tent when the wind starts blowing:

 

And, I regret to say, proof that the leaves are starting to fall in France 😦

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The blackberries are also ready for picking in some places, which is so bizarre in July.

This is our typical lunch on the road:

 

I love this restaurant painted to look like a boat:

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Me through the chicane:

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La Loire is too shallow for navigation at this point so there is no tow path for us to cycle on for a couple of days but here she is:

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We had planned to camp in Diou but we reached there just after lunch so cracked on to Bourbon-Lancy – a town which has had natural springs/spas since Roman times.  We haven’t seen them – just the inside of a massive supermarket which sucked the lifeblood out of me!  As in Germany and Austria, shops are shut here on a Sunday (although this particular supermarket is open until 12.30) so we have to get supplies in – I find it exhausting as every supermarket is different and I spend hours looking for a tube of mayonnaise or eggs (sometimes in fridges, sometimes not).  Our campsite is by the lake and has nice pitches for motor homes and long stay guests and a small area of grass for les velos!  Most of us have already met up en route today so it’s quite friendly but YET AGAIN no loo roll!!!  Do these camp sites really save so much money by not providing it?  Presumably, yes!

The final few miles here were on what we assume is an old railway line – absolutely dead straight and really beautiful.  We passed what was obviously an old estate for the landed gentry and saw signs to the St Aubyn Chapel – relations to the St Aubyn’s in Cornwall we wonder?

Tonight we spent a jolly evening with a Canadian couple who have been living in France for a year.  She is a teacher and has been on exchange with a French teacher who has been working at her school in Vancouver.  She has some interesting observations about the French education system which, according to her, could do with some improvement!  Our chat was briskly ended by a sudden downpour and we our now in our tent sheltering and hoping for sun and blue skies tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.  We are heading for Nevers – properly pronounced as Nevair but, obviously, Matt calls it Nevers!

Bougerot to Palinges

Miles ridden today – 54

Total miles so far – 2,446

Not quite the 60 miles we had anticipated but my arse and various other parts of my body (wrists, thumbs, knees) are still complaining.  The reduction in miles is due entirely to Hoppy’s/our ability to map read and anticipate that France’s idea of a “busy road” does not tally with ours.  A road where 1 car passes every 3 minutes is not “busy” when compared with the dual carriageway we endured entering Belgrade!!

But, I am ahead of myself …… there was much snuffling around the tent last night and – in my mind – it was a hedgehog – please don’t tell me that it wasn’t – I don’t want any reference to rats or other such horrors!

As ever, the 6.30am alarm was hideous and it was cold but we were pretty much packed up when the morning bread/breakfast arrived at 8.30 and were on the road for 9.30.  We completely by-passed Chalon sur Saone and headed straight for the Canal du Centre at Fragnes until we saw this:

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Refusing, as ever, to believe that this related to les velos we carried on until we met the relevant workmen who said we could continue with “Attention”.  We did.  And were fine.  We think their “attention” to detail is extreme!

The Canal du Centre, when we finally reached it, was absolutely GORGEOUS!

Once again we were cycling uphill from lock to lock but then came across this:

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For the first time ever we saw water POURING over the bottom lock gates.  All we can assume is that the canal upstream is so full of water that they are allowing it to overflow downstream.

We saw this fantastic – privately owned – boat going down – it only just fitted in the locks – and had a car on the back!

This is a Chambres d’Hotes (Bed and Breakfast) if you fancy a night there:

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And this is the Canal Pharmacy!

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We passed this memorial to 6 members of the French resistance who died here in 1944 and, having done some research, have discovered that the Canal du Centre was the demarcation line in 1940.  This was the line that separated the area of France occupied by the Germans and the so-called Free Zone.  The double cross at the top is also known as the cross of Lorraine.  Between 1871 and 1918 (and again between 1940 and 1944), the north-eastern quarter of Lorraine was annexed to Germany, along with Alsace. During that period the Cross served as a rallying point for French ambitions to recover its lost provinces. This historical significance lent it considerable weight as a symbol of French patriotism. During World War II, the Cross of Lorraine was used as the symbol of the Free French Forces led by Charles de Gaulle as an answer to the Nazi swastika and is frequently used on memorials to resistance fighters.

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We cycled on to Genelard under threatening skies (once more the official route went up and down hills on both sides of the canal but we just cycled along the very quiet road):

And as we reached the petit supermarket the heavens opened.  At least Matt got to try out his new raincoat (Jack Wolfskin, bought in Passau {in the sale!} it works!!):

Thanks to maps.me it was a short, but very wet, 1.5 miles to the campsite – Camping du Lac:

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Camping du Lac is, without doubt, the best campsite we have been in so far on the entire trip!  The LOVELIEST hosts who hustled our dripping selves into their information room full of suggestions of things to do and games and books for wet days (appropriate) and offered us hot coffee (free) or beer (2 Euros) – we had the beer!  We then checked in and picked our camping spot (all spots are divided by thick hedges which makes them very private) and at the last moment, literally as we were walking out of the door, our hostess uttered the immortal words, “we do have a chalet available if you would like”.  Would we like to know how much it cost?  Not really, no, we’ll take it!  So, here we are:

But the best, the absolute BEST bit about Camping du Lac is the “Snack Bus”.  We had heard about the Snack Bus so had booked ourselves in for dinner.  Snack Bus is a misnomer.  It is a fantastic restaurant which operates out of a bus on the camp site.

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Matt had starter and main and I had main and dessert.  Starter was avocado with prawns:

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Main was steak and chips (the first steak we’ve had since leaving the UK and absolutely delicious):

Dessert was custard tart – I could have eaten the whole tart not just one slice!

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And there was wine and water (a rare shot of Matt drinking water – actually pouring water but I can confirm that he did drink it!!):

All in all a wonderful Friday night with an excellent host and all for less than 40 Euros – we cannot recommend this campsite highly enough and it definitely gets the full 5*

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The sad part is that today we have to leave 😦

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dole to Bougerot

Miles ridden today – 52

Total miles so far – 2,392

We had a “disturbed” night as the rain drizzled on until about midnight when the most almighty wind suddenly got up and roared around us for about an hour (never a comfortable experience in a little tent – or, indeed, any tent) and then the wind left and it rained properly until about 4.  Looking on the bright side (as ever) this was good as by the time we got up the rain had well and truly stopped.  The pre-ordered croissants and pain au chocolat were delicious and we were off!

Dole is mostly famous as the birthplace of Louis Pasteur but it also has a pretty impressive church – Dole Collegiale-Notre-Dame:

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Once more, some rather nice houses:

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Before lunch we joined the river Saone which is noticeably wider than the Doubs or the canal:

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Our mileage is shorter today than we anticipated in no small part down to Matt reading the map and ignoring some of Eurovelo’s more ridiculous dog legs.  They consider this path to be unusable and send you on a ridiculous diversion:

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As we know full well, in most parts of Eastern Europe this would be considered an A1 cycle path!

We lunched by the Saone (delicious bread, salami, cheese and apples – is there anything else to eat in France?) and even found two logs for chairs:

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More lovely sunflowers – these ones almost past their prime:

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This afternoon’s route was a bit “messy” with quite a bit of road work, although admittedly on small country roads:

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Fortunately the threatening clouds were heading in the opposite direction to us so we had a couple of drops of rain but no more.

In France we have taken to stopping at a cafe each afternoon for a quick Orangina pick me up – why does Orangina never taste the same outside of France?  Today, our Orangina stop was at the lovely little town of Verdun sur le Doubs, even though our map says it’s actually on the Saone!  (According to the sign on the bridge it’s actually at the confluence of the 2 rivers.)

We loved these two signs today – no cars on the cycle path in case of the obvious disaster and bikes going down – whoop whoop!

The plan today had been to go on to Chalon sur Saone but the town is on a bend in the river and the cycle path simply runs straight through it so Matt has found a short cut to miss out the need to go there at all.  Also, we found out that they are having a street festival for the next 3 days and all camp sites are absolutely rammed, as is the town itself.

We are, therefore, in a very sweet little camp site called La Mere du Roy (the mother of the Roy, or possibly just Roy’s mother – who knows?) in Bougerot just up the road.  It is very green with loads of trees and is very quiet and chilled which is nice.  They also greeted us with a glass of cold water each which was a very nice touch indeed.  At only 8 Euros it is a bargain and the cheapest camp site of the trip so far.  That includes a 10 minute shower each (pretty generous compared to some) but the water wasn’t exactly warm.  It wasn’t cold but it definitely wasn’t hot and there was no temperature control.  There are also mixed facilities (showers and loos) which I still can’t get my head round although I do wonder if they think people (men) will leave the loos cleaner if they think a woman might be coming in next??  A new theory I might have to investigate!  Also no loo roll 😦  and no wifi.  We have ordered our baguette and breakfast for tomorrow and they do have a snack bar but we have chosen to cook our own again tonight in a vain attempt to haul the budget back into some semblance of order!

Roy’s mother gets 3.8* on the Hopson scale although if we were starring on ambience alone it would definitely get 5.

Tomorrow? – well, tomorrow we are going on a bike ride which might well end up at around the 60 mile mark – my arse will definitely be complaining!

 

 

 

 

Besancon to Dole

Miles ridden today – 41

Total miles so far – 2,340

Annie and Richard left as we were doing the final bits of packing – this is their fantastic mean machine:

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One day we would like to have a toy like this!

There is a danger that cycling in France is going to result in the blog being one long series of photographs of canals with lovely cycle paths running alongside them and us cycling with blue sky and sun (I really hope I’m not jinxing things with that last reference to the weather) so anything that breaks up that idyllic picture is immediately pounced on as being “something interesting for the blog”!

Today’s journey started on a path we had cycled twice before (remember that unfortunate navigational error in finding the campsite in Besancon? – yes, well we started off cycling that bit again).  Confident we knew the way we shot through a car park and onto the cycle path, ignoring the shouts of a cyclist coming down the main road (he can’t possibly be talking to us, can he?) and carried on our merry way until we came to a massive trench in the road which was impassable and four workmen who made no effort whatsoever to help us.  There was nothing for it but to go back – grrrr – climb the hill and rejoin the path further on – where there was a very obvious sign for people going the other way:

After that it was plain sailing into Besancon where the fortress we climbed up to yesterday looks utterly impenetrable from below:

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We cycled through the same tunnel we walked through yesterday:

And out onto the Doubs river:

Anyone fancy a renovation project?

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Before lunch we went past, and over, the Thoraise Tunnel where the Canal du Rhone au Rhin and the river Doubs meet.  This is the entrance:

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And, having climbed over the hill, you can see the exit of the tunnel in the distance of this picture:

 

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The engineering that went into these canals is absolutely mind blowing.

This is the River Doubs which the canal joined after the lock:

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The canal and the river seem to run alongside each other now  (I’ve just done some research – the canal incorporates parts of the river where it is deep enough and navigable) and further on you would have almost thought the canal was built by the Romans it’s so straight:

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Arriving in Dole we cycled under some trees which must have been planted when the canal was being built – it was opened in 1834 – they are absolutely magnificent:

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We are now in the very relaxed camp site in Dole.  It’s obviously been here a while as there are trees marking out each pitch and they are well grown and provide much welcome shade.  There are 2 shower blocks and it is definitely advisable to use the newer ones near reception, unless you like watching men pee in full view of everyone :-(. We are at the far end so the wifi is non-existent but the ambience is lovely, the showers good and hot (and free) but they are another one where the loo roll is outside the cubicle and you have to guess how much you are going to need.  There is a simple snack bar which we haven’t used and – what I really like about the good French camp sites is you can order your bread and croissants which will be delivered at 8am – yum – that’s breakfast sorted!  We have given Camping le Pasquier in Dole 4* on the Hopson scale.

We made our own supper – Matt had a tin of curry soup and I had a salami and cheese omelette:

It is now nearly 9pm and we are about to turn in for a much needed early night.  Also, it has just started raining but this – hopefully – is good news as it was forecast to start at 2am and finish at 7.  I’m hope that by starting early it will finish early and we can get off in good time tomorrow – we have a long (60+ mile) day ahead – and there may be some hills – good lord, France, what are you doing to us?!

L’Isle sur le Doubs to Besancon

Miles ridden today – 46

Total miles so far – 2,299

So, day 2 of cycling in France turned out to be as lovely as day 1 – we could become addicted to cycling in France if the rest of the trip is like this!  Annie joined us for the day and Richard drove their motorhome to Besancon and was on cooking duty – good man!  Here we are before we set off:

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The bridge at L’Isle sur le Doubs – our campsite is just behind the trees on the right:

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We liked the campsite at l’Isle sur le Doubs EXCEPT for the toilets.  There were no loo seats and no toilet paper and 4 unisex loos – why do they do that??  Why not just make 2 for men and 2 for women?  The showers were good and plentiful and so were the washbasins so why only 4 unisex toilets?  It did lead to some entertaining people watching though as desperate people rushed in, then realised there was no loo roll so rushed out and then rushed back again clutching their rolls! One poor very desperate chap had to ask a neighbouring caravan for some paper which entertained us hugely!  All in all, 3.5% – we also found dog shit round our spot 😦

After a short bit of road we were soon back on the lovely cyclepath:

There were a few locks but very few boats (the river is pretty shallow):

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And some very nice houses;

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And then mile after mile of lovely cyclepath:

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Plus a couple of unexpected hills not marked on the map!

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All in all, it was a gorgeous day:

Hope these cows don’t step backwards into the lock!

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Question: how many cars can you get on a train?

Answer: lots!

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We had a “slight” navigational error right at the end trying to find the campsite and ended up with a choice of hauling the bikes up a narrow rocky path or turning round and going back – we chose the latter so ended up doing this bridge twice!:

I don’t think Annie’s bum appreciated the extra miles!

Richard, bless him, had cooked ratatouille, new potatoes and pork so we had another jolly evening in the warmth of the French night.

We are at Camping de Besancon, also known as Camping a la plage, which is all very confusing – particularly as there is no plage.  It is nice but unkempt.  The camping spots could all do with mowing and the facilities could do with a jolly good clean and at nearly 20 Euros per night it’s expensive for what’s provided.  They do have loo roll, though – yay!!  Confusingly, they have ladies loos and then mixed loos.  This confuses Matt’s poor little brain so he just uses the disabled loo and gets very odd looks when he comes out!  We have given it 3.75* – nice but room for massive improvement!

Day 2

We were up alarmingly early as the sun turned the tent into a boiling sauna which we couldn’t stand after 7.30am – this is not a normal time for us on a day off!  After a quick trip to the local Carrefour (5 croissants and 5 pain au chocolat for 2.98 Euros – bargain!) and some faffing around we set off for Besancon in the heat of the mid-day sun (mad dogs and Englishmen).  We went in on the very new tram system – cheap, efficient and air conditioned!:

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The main city of Besancon is built in the curve of the river and is absolutely lovely and very typically French:

There are a lot of churches (and a cathedral) so we popped into several during our walk.  This is Saint Madeleine’s (for our friend Mads), with its lovely tiled roof:

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The others were pretty dark and dour and not to our taste at all.  This is a typical altarpiece:

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As ever, there is evidence of the good old Romans – this being a Roman gate leading up to the cathedral:

The Cathedral was definitely the nicest of all the churches we visited:

One of the main reasons for visiting Besancon is the amazing 57 faced clock in a museum in the Cathedral.  Unfortunately, it is closed on Tuesdays, which just means we’ll have to come back again one day!

After that we climbed up to the Fortress:

But at 11 Euros each for entry and with some reviewers saying it requires at least half a day to look round we all decided that wasn’t how we wanted to spend our budgets or the rest of the (now) very hot day!  The views were good though – you can see where the river runs by the line of trees:

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Having dropped down the back of the fortress we then walked under it through the tunnel of the Rhone au Rhein canal, which then joints the River Doubs, and which we will be cycling through tomorrow on EV6.  There was even a boat going through to keep us entertained:

After all that it was time for a much needed beer:

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On the way back to the tram we passed through a very nicely yarn bombed alleyway:

It’s now Wednesday morning and today we bid au revoir to Annie and Richard as they continue their journey south heading towards Italy and we continue our journey west along the Doubs river.  It has been lovely spending a couple of days with our old friends and would be great if we could continue to bump into each other in exotic climes (18 months ago we, completely coincidentally, were in Stellenbosch in South Africa at the same time – that was a messy night!).

We now have several consecutive days of cycling ahead of us as we start to eat into the 1,000 miles or so that we have to cycle in France – no more late boozie evenings for us!

 

Mulhouse to L’Isle sur le Doubs

Miles ridden today – 51

Total miles so far – 2,253

Writing this on Monday morning for reasons which will become apparent later on …

After a fantastic night’s sleep in our little hotel room we were up bright and early to a promising dawn (you can see the canal in the foreground of this picture so we literally left the front door of the hotel and were on the EV6, which was great):

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We have said to each other so many times that although we are all supposed to be on Europe as soon as you cross the border into another country everything changes – architecture, garden styles, driving styles etc, etc – this really could only be France:

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When the boys were younger we had two very happy and fun holidays in canal boats on the Canal du Midi in the south of France.  Today we were on the Rhine au Rhein canal but so many times it reminded us of those holidays – maybe all French canals look the same?  It was just gorgeous:

As for the cycling – well, we both agreed it was the easiest 50 mile cycle ride we’ve ever done!!  Almost dead flat, right along the canal for most of the day, well signposted, sunny and lovely – heaven!!

We realised that, in fact, we had gone over quite a large hill by lunchtime but, because we were going up with the locks it really was the most pleasant way to climb a hill!  At the top there was a flight of 9 and then we started heading down!:

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We had one “deviation” where they were doing major repairs to the towpath and went through a lovely village – this seems to be typical of the farming architecture round here – one big building with the house at one end and barn at the other – this is a particularly lovely example:

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The canal’s calm loveliness just went on and on!

Random wooden/plastic zebra in someone’s garden ??!!

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We found a lovely spot for lunch:

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Which was in full sun.  Bizarrely, we have been unable to find a sun hat for Hoppy in any of the ginormous supermarkets we have visited and his poor little bald head burns very easily so a wet wipe wedged on with his pink, sparkly reading glasses did the job – think he should patent this look!  (Matt says, having seen this picture, that it looks like he’s got an arse on his head!)

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More loveliness on the route:

And look at this! – a fresh, French bread vending machine – just 50c per baguette!  Sadly we didn’t need any bread today (I really wanted to buy one despite the fact we didn’t need it!) but I’ll definitely be using these brilliant machines in the future!

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We arrived in our campsite in good time and were cycling to our tent spot when I heard someone calling, “Julia, Julia” and it was our friends from England, Richard and Annie in their motorhome!  So, before you think this is the most amazing coincidence EVER I will say that we were due to meet them tomorrow in Besancon so they were making their way there and so are we.  They stopped in this campsite and then Annie said to Richard, “Hmmm, I’m pretty sure this is where Matt and Julia will be staying tonight” – and, lo, it was!  They very kindly cooked us dinner on their outside gas barbecue (brilliant addition to any motorhome) and we had a very jolly evening and a few drinking – which is why this is being written in the morning!  It was the nicest hijacking ever – thank you Richard and Annie!

Today we cycle to Besancon and – as at last night – Annie was planning to cycle with us, which will be great!  Richard was concerned she will hold us up – oh, how we laughed – we don’t go fast enough for anyone to hold us up!!

If our first day in France is anything to go by then we are really looking forward to our few weeks cycling in France – the French love their cycling and we were struck by how friendly everyone was on the cycle path – even the speedy racing boys said “bonjour” as they sped past us – the signposting is fantastic, the cycle path surfaces are amazing and the scenery is gorgeous.  And they have baguette vending machines – what’s not to love?!

Basel (actually Hunigue) to Mulhouse

Miles ridden today – 21

Total miles so far – 2,202

This will be a very short post as we only cycled 21 miles today and it was all pretty straightforward and we are now enjoying our Ibis hotel room – I am writing this sitting on a lovely comfy bed – such bliss!

The canal was pretty straight and pretty flat and, all in all, a very nice little ride:

There were a few minor ups and downs, especially when going up locks or over bridges but nothing too taxing, which my knees were grateful for:

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We saw an incredibly relaxed otter/beaver happily munching on something and completely ignoring us – Mark, can you enlighten us as to what it is (have done some googling and think it might be a coypu?):

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If this is the standard entrance into French towns on EV6 then we will be very happy for the next few weeks:

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We are now happily ensconced in our room and, if you’ll excuse me, I have an en suite shower room, flat screen telly and comfy bed to enjoy – tomorrow we are back in the tent!

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