What would you think about if you were pedalling along the country roads of rural France – food, wine, weather, family, friends or really not much at all?
Apart from looking at Andy’s bottom, the potholes and surrounding countryside, I find myself thinking about where we might stay each night.
Travel and change of place impact a new vigour to the mind.
Since being the only guests in our chateaux on the Loire, Chambres d’Hotes have been our best friend. These are B&Bs or guesthouses which have their own character and charm and are often in people’s own homes. In France, Chambres d’Hotes are only allowed a maximum of 5 rooms. We’ve stayed in some which are chic with risqué artwork on the wall, an epicerie with a tiny loft room, a rural family home where we shared their evening meal and a small country chateau amongst the vineyards.
When do we book? It’s usually better to book a day in advance but since last week when we had to pedal on for over 100km just to reach our destination, we now prefer to book on the day. On arriving somewhere for a picnic lunch (which can be as late as 3pm) we generally decide how much further we want to go and look for a suitably large village or town where me might stay. This may be risky but we’ve not been homeless yet. Thank goodness for the Internet!
Surprised that so few people speak English, my French has been put to good use and is improving. Luckily I’m saying the same phrases regularly – Do you have a room for tonight? Can you store bicycles safely? Is breakfast included?
I’ve also learned lots of new words. For example, did you know that handlebar stoppers are called bouchons de guidon and cleats for cycle shoes are taquets de chats surges de cycle? I haven’t always got it correct as instead of toilet paper (papier toilette) I ended up buying kitchen roll (rouleau de cuisine) which turned out to have a secondary use for drying clothes!
I’m glad to say that after a couple of days of arduous cycling between the Loire and La Rochelle, I did get back on my bike and my legs (which now feel like tree trunks!) have recovered. The rest and recuperation in La Rochelle was great. It’s an old French port with a bustling waterfront, covered markets, quirky shops and interesting historic buildings. There are lots of restaurants to choose from and the ones we found were fabulous. We then cycled round the Ile-de-Re which is beautiful and rightly famous for oysters although I preferred the prawns and mussels!
The weather has been sunny but unseasonably cold (12 degrees) so a fleece, long trousers and woolly socks have been more useful than expected. Other surprisingly useful items are a penknife, tupperware box (for containing smelly cheese) and a light travel rucksack. Suntan lotion, swimming costumes, a sundress and travel towels are still at the bottom of our panniers. I now have to admit that my hairdryer and the Pilates balls are getting less use than expected – should they stay or should they go?
Talking about whether things should stay or go, what do you think about Andy’s beard? It’s the first time in his 55 years that he’s tried to grow one and has now convinced himself it’s turning heads with French ladies of a certain age. I’m not so sure – stay or go?
Perhaps the main reason he was turning heads yesterday was his new solution to the safety pin and shorts problem.
He wore tennis shorts over his warm weather cycling undershorts. As the shorts flew up in the breeze, the locals seemed to think he was riding in fishnet tights! Oops…