We decided to take today off, a sort of settling in period before the next leg of cycling along the Loire. With no plans for the day, I made sure it would be a lazy one.
A trip to the supermarket was in order after breakfast. With Bastille Day on the horizon, we wanted to stock up on supplies for the next two days just in case nowhere would be open. They very well could be open but if the 40 hour lunch breaks the French normally take are anything to go by, I highly doubt it. The walk to the supermarket was great fun. While on the bikes, we’re in single file a lot of the time. This makes it hard to hold a conversation. It was nice to be able to talk shite again and just stroll around together.
The supermarket we went to was huge. Like, Walmart huge. Everything under the sun was inside. There was even a guy there whose sole job was to weigh your fruit. Yes, his job was to place your fruit on a machine identical to the one my Nan uses in SuperValu back home. How helpless do you have to be to need a guy to push the banana button for you? We opted not to use said service and focused on our list instead. Along with the food, we were able to pick up some new brake pads for Ruth’s bike. While flying down the steep hills two days before, Ruth kept telling me there was something wrong with her bike. I kept brushing it off, insisting that, “Meh, it’ll be grand”. It turns out she had lost one of her back brake pads while descending the 8% gradient hills on a fully loaded tourer. Woops!
The rest of the day consisted of us lazily setting up pitch at a table by the camp restaurant. We took full advantage of the free Wi-Fi and Skyped home for the first time, mainly just to show the Mammies that we weren’t dead yet. We were meant to be meeting Ruth’s mom in Italy in about two months, but while talking to her we discovered we had the date wrong and she’d be there two weeks earlier than we thought. Balls! We were already pushing 100km a day to make sure we made it to Italy in time but now we hadn’t a hope. After a little fretting session, we went back to the drawing board and worked out a new route. We figured that, with a little re-jigging and a small train ride, we might still be able to make it in time to meet up. The new plan meant that we would cycle to the end of the Loire path and take a train to Mulhouse, near the German border.
We only noticed today just how much time we waste on the internet back home. After five days of pretty much no connection, to have full Wi-Fi was a bit mad. So far, deciding which way to go involves a bunch of maps and the ever so accurate thumb and index finger measuring system to work out distances. You would think that this would take way longer than using a certain popular route planner, but you would be wrong. Every bloody time we went to look up a route or train time we would just ‘have to’ take a look at Facebook or the latest FailArmy video on YouTube. Now don’t get me wrong, watching FailArmy videos is never a waste of time. Quite the opposite actually. There is very little in this world funnier than people falling. It’s my evil little pleasure. I won’t say guilty pleasure because I don’t feel guilty about it at all.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that we got to talking about internet use and the like. It reminded me of something I had read before about which type of life was better - a life where you’re subjected to so many stimuli that you’re easily bored, or a life so absent of any stimulus that the most simple of things excites you.
I think that I would probably fit into the latter. I’m the opposite of the guy that has to have their smart phone with them all the time. I broke my jazzy new Sony phone just two months after getting it last year and rather than getting it fixed, I just went back to my old brick with no internet access. Constant connection to the internet is just a bombardment to the senses, there’s no need for it all. If news is important enough, I’ll hear about it somehow. As for that child in North Korea who trained his cat to dance the Hokey Pokey? Yeah, I can live without seeing that.
On a different note we’re back on the bikes tomorrow. It’ll be odd seeing so many people but it’ll be great to talk to other tourers and hear about their trips.
Did a little scouting earlier in the year for the Transatlanticway race, while on holidays. Gotta love those bends on the Healy Pass
Ezy-sur-Eure – Orleans
Distance: 41km (bike) 2 hours by bus
Max Speed: 35km
Average Speed: 18 kmp
Today was a roller coaster of emotions to say the least. The morning began with a potter around the local market in the town square. The description of the place given by our patron last night didn’t over sell it at all. There were so many stalls, as in they were everywhere. Every street and side street had something on it. The covers came so close to each other it almost had the feel of an indoor market.
It didn’t take long before I spotted my treat for the day. There, propped in a sea of baked breads, was a deliciously buttery croissant. It just called to me! It was my first ever taste of a fresh, homemade croissant and it was amazing. I can only describe its magnificence in the words of the great Homer Simpson, “Ahgrerahaaaa”. As I bit through its crunchy layers, I could see Ruth in the corner of my eye looking at me. I imagine she was crying inside, trying to convince herself that her Medjool date was just as decadent, but really just cursing being a coeliac.
We only realised yesterday that it would be Bastille Day by the time we hit Paris. This made it impossible to get any accommodation that wouldn’t be a total rip off. As a result, we decided to change our route and bypass the Paris madness all together. According to the local signs, there should have been 40km of bike path left, which would nicely bring us slightly south of Paris. From there, we’d take our detour and continue east. Well we would have if the path hadn’t randomly stopped in the middle of nowhere after 10 kilometres. Confused as to where the cycle path had gone, we had to abandon it and take the main road into the nearest town of Dreux. Our maps weren’t detailed enough to navigate our way through the town and the road signs were as helpful as a knitted condom.
We’ve found that the closer we got to Paris the more assholey the people were getting. The people of Dreux didn’t break this pattern. Anyone we stopped to ask for help, in French I might add, brushed us off claiming they didn’t speak English, in prefect English. Either that or they would fob us off with any old directions. So after wasting the best part of the morning following one asshole after another’s wrong directions, we eventually stopped a cyclist who was convinced that the bike path we were on did continue. So back again we went, 10km up the road to where the bike path had ended. No bike path to be found. Imagine that. Needless to say, at this point we were pretty pissed off and fed up with the unhelpful attitude of everyone we met.
Finally, in our hour of need, a young French girl, holding a child against her chest with one arm whilst carrying a bag of shopping with the other, approached us and asked if we needed help. She confirmed our initial thought that the bike path was in fact unfinished. It turned out she was a bicycle tourer herself and was all questions about our trip. When told of our route around Paris, I could see her facial expression change.
“That is not a very nice way. The roads are not nice for bicycles and it will not be enjoyable.”
“Is there a nicer way around?”
“No.” Jaysus, fair enough.
She paused and then ushered us across the road to her house to top up our water bottles. She talked to her boyfriend about all of the options for us. When they returned they were both smiling. Ah, I liked the look of this. They were adamant that we should ditch our planned route and head south immediately to the Loire Valley. We could follow the Loire bike path east until we meet the Euro Velo 6 which would take us to Basel, our planned entry point into Switzerland. They had cycled the route before as a family and had only great things to say.
It’s hard to argue with the locals. If they tell you where they live is shit, it’s shit.
Our options to get to the Loire valley were to cycle for two days along flat, boring roads or take a bus to Orleans. After the day we just had, all we wanted was to get as far away from this area as possible and we were totally fine with taking the bus. I regret forgetting to ask the girl for her name, but whoever you are, thanks.
So it was back to Dreux again to catch a bus. We were guided to the bus station by a local cyclist. I have found that old men on racing bicycles in France are very helpful. Hats off to you sir, you are a diamond in a bucket of coal. The bucket of coal being you, Dreux.
We got the next bus to Orleans, with a change of buses in Chartres. We didn’t have enough time to see the famous cathedral that I had learned so much about in school but I did get to see it from afar on the way in on the bus. It was a pity I didn’t get to have a closer look but as I have no future plans to return there I will have to chalk it down as seen. We did have enough time to discuss the pronunciation of the town name; I always assumed it was pronounced Shartrezz, whereas Ruth went with the far more amusing, Shart, as in “I just shart in my pants”. It’s the little things in life.
Arriving in Orleans was a relief. Setting off on the bikes, we felt like we were beginning a new leg of the trip. The cycle through Orleans was amazing. Most of the streets were empty, allowing us to mess about a bit on the bikes. Oh and the cathedral, don’t get me started on the cathedral. It was such a beautiful city and it will definitely be somewhere we would love to return to.
Our campsite was 6km outside the city, set on the bank of a small river. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen. There was table tennis, trampoline, playground, restaurant and most important, a shop with wine. The camping area was in a wild meadow. Each pitch had its own private circle mown into the tall meadow grass for privacy. Once we had the tent up we treated ourselves to a bottle of wine from the shop to toast the beginning of our next leg of France … also to drink away the frustrations of the day.
I sensed earlier in the day that Ruth was seriously frustrated with the wrong directions and cycling back and forth earlier, so I asked how she was. It turns out the monotony of the cycling was beginning to get to her. She missed our lives back at home; the chats, the music, work, just stupid shit (her words, not mine), but stuff that makes her happy. She explained that even though we were cycling together, sometimes the silence was just too much. She was craving a bit more interaction with people. I can see her point as up until now it has just been the two of us cycling in single file on the empty roads. However, the minute we decided to take the girls advice and get the bus to Orleans, it was like a weight had been lifted from her. The second she stepped off the bus, everything changed and arriving in Orleans was like a new beginning for the trip.
It was so good to see Ruth so excited about the trip again and we were both looking forward to meeting more bicycle tourists as, up until now, we had only come across a handful. Roll on the Loire bike path tomorrow!
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry