Vimoutier – Ezy-sur-Eure
Max speed: 53kph
Average speed: 18.6kph
Thanks to the now clogged stove, it was cold porridge again this morning. This, however, didn’t dampen my excitement at being back on the bike. My knees were a bit sore after the mad dash of the previous two days. This was a bit concerning at such an early stage. I decided not to panic and just keep an eye on them over the coming days. It’d be a disaster to have to rest up over blown knees so soon into the trip. Besides, I wasn’t imagining something like that happening until we hit the Rockies or at least the backroads of Vietnam.
The first stop of the morning was the beautiful little town of Le Sap. A small place, it seemed to be caught in some sort of time warp. It’s as if it never quite left the effects of the war behind. The narrow roads leading into the town centre were walled with a miss-match of old houses, each one different from the next. Big ones, small ones … I couldn’t help but sing ‘I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts’ as I rode passed. The narrow roads eventually led us to the town square. Just our luck, there was a small market in full swing and, while we had our food for our break sorted already, it gave us something to look at and an excuse to hop off the bikes for a while.
I must say, I really like French markets. Despite having a lot of the same produce as those back home in Ireland, they’re very different. It’s the way the French layout of their stall. There are no fish crates or plastic trestle tables, something that seems to be a must-have in most Irish markets. The French take a much more classy approach when showing off their fineries. Wooden crates, woven baskets and timber counters are very much a staple. Each piece of fruit or loaf of bread placed in their own little crafted home. It’s so enticing and appetising - very hard to resist.
We wandered around the square looking at what we couldn’t afford. I took the opportunity to use up my treat for the day on a crunchy baguette. It was my first taste of a proper French baguette. I don’t really think Cuisine de France that my mam used to pick up in Super Value counts. I don’t think it counts as real bread at all, never mind a baguette. Of course, I wouldn’t have said that when I was younger when I’d be known to cram one with half a packet of ham and stuff my face with it.
Sitting under a brick archway near the market, Ruth and I had a little chin wag about how we were holding up head-wise. A trip like this takes a toll on anyone, so it’s always good to check in every now and again. Running up to the trip I was unemployed, so I had a lot of time to mentally prepare. Having the luxury to run over the gear and go on practice rides meant I was relatively ready for whatever the trip threw at us. Ruth’s time was jam-packed with work. It’s not that she wasn’t prepared physically; Ruth is a very handy cyclist and that was never going to be an issue. But with running her own bakery, she had little time to think about the trip.
Turns out, she was a little worried that leaving the job that she loved and the sudden change in lifestyle, might result in her not loving the trip as much as she could. It was a serious thought and one a lot of people have at the start of adventures like this. We talked it out and agreed that her concerns would probably pass as we settled in to the trip.
From there on, it was an easy day. The roads had levelled out and sure with the wind at our backs, who could complain. Either side of the road was lined with field upon field of grain. I felt like I was passing through the great plains of America. This shift in scenery was a nice change and lead to some cracking farm machinery watching. I wasn’t used to the sheer scale of the farms compared to home. One side of my family are involved in sheep farming, mainly on the mountain. On the other side, my uncle does a bit of farming but is a mechanic by trade. But their farms and machinery were nothing on the scale of the ones we were riding past. At one point, a monster of a Combine Harvester crossed in front of us on the road. The army tank tracks that replaced the front wheels were taller than me. They don’t make them like that back home!
We arrived at Breteuil by 3.30pm. We weren’t planning to arrive there until the end of the day, but with the flatter roads we were way ahead of schedule. There wasn’t much going on in the town so we headed for the tourist information office to find a campsite for the night. Of course, in classic French style, the place was closed from 1pm until 4pm for lunch. Honestly, how hard do they think they work to justify a three hour lunch break? I could easily go home, make dinner from scratch, take a bath and have an hour sleep in that time. But let’s not dwell on that now.
The town pissed us off, to be frank, so we decided ‘sod it’ and headed off. There were enough hours in the day to keep going on the road and we made it to Ivry-la-Bataille before dinner. Château d'Ivry-la-Bataille is a donjon or keep, and apparently the keep at the Tower of London is based on it. The ruins were all that was left to greet us as we descended into the town in search of fuel and camp.
Considering I failed French in school, Ruth was still on translation duties. I wasn’t a terrible student, languages just aren’t my forte. It took the bones of half an hour, two staff members and a random French woman before we could figure out how to follow the touch-screen petrol pump. Curse you language barrier.
It didn’t get a whole lot better after that. We were greeted by what can only be described as a Grade-A bitch in the town campsite. Despite having a sign clearly displaying tents at the entrance and saying on their website that camping is ok, she point blank refused to let us stay. Fret not though as we were met by a jolly camp owner in Ezy-sur-Eure, just 2km down the road. So fuck you Ivry and your stinking campsite.
Most of the other patrons in this campsite seemed to live there permanently. A lot of the caravans were surrounded with a 2ft high picket fence and they all had some sort of dying potted plant at the door. It was like something out of Snatch and made us a little uneasy at first, but the people seemed friendly so we weren’t deterred. After we were shown to our patch of grass, the owner informed us that there was a big market in the town square the next morning. Smashing, I though, I might finally get to eat a real, authentic, homemade French croissant.
We managed to get rid of two of our maps today. It’s always a great feeling when you’ve travelled far enough to get rid of a map.
ar an rothar
endurance cyclist, adventurer and usually hungry