After all the rain, hail, wind, frozen fingers and feet, our last day`s ride into Paris was wonderful! Our amazing AirB+B hosts, Francois and Laurence, after feeding us royally the night before, and furnishing us with a hot coffee and splendid chunk of real chocolate to fortify body and spirit, launched us on the final leg of the journey. As a free-lance tv camera person, Francois filmed short clip of our departure which should appear in some media site somewhere; and then off we went! It was a beautiful bright morning with a rime of frost on the grass as we pedalled through gently undulating countryside for the final 35 miles to Paris. The only negative experience was some wally driving a badly-tuned diesel car that emitted clouds of black smoke in our faces as he cut us up. Wove our way through the outskirts and then, suddenly, as we arrived in St Cloud, we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower - magnifique! Cycled across the Pont St Cloud, stopping for quick lunch of mushroom soup, bread and a coffee before heading through the city, mostly on designated cycle lanes, sometimes shared with buses(!) and finally arrived at our AirB+B in the 18th arrondisement, handily located next to the Riquet Metro station. The B+B consisted of what was originally a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor which now contained one triple-bunk, two double-bunk beds and two sofasd that could be made up into beds. Very snug! Oh, and one toilet, one bathroom and a compact kitchen. Basic, but enoough for our needs and the other inmates, whoops, sorry, residents seemed very good-natured and kind. After settling in and showering, we headed off to meet Molly Scot-Cato, MEP, who treated us to supper before we all moved on to the evening`s ClimÀrt event, put on by the Federation of European Greens. The talks and poetry were all in French so I got the gist but not the detail; however, the music, provided by African father and son playing gourds strung with many strings, was amazingly beautiful. The captain of the Tara expedition (an aluminium-hulled sailing vessel which has spent the last two years sailing the oceans and monitoring the impacts of climate chage; and had sailed across the North Pole!) also gave a brief talk. A lovely welcome to Paris.
At Greens COP21 reports given to and interesting discussion with both Sweedish and Luxembourg green government ministers. Both, Isabella Lovin and Carole Dieschbourg very interested in hearing about the messages of the report. Also Tine Heyse Environment Alderman from zGhent who have a very forward looking city carbon reduction policies Also, of course Molly and Jean Lambert and other countries MEPs
Our host today not far from Paris, Francois, is an audio-visual tele cameraman - Roger was ecstatic! He went with his wife and a friend on a trip to the Jungle in Calais. He showed us the video he had made, as yet unedited, hand-held, point and shoot - heart-rending, no matter how often you have seen similar footage. Many of the people he spontaneously interviewed were from the UK - proud of them - saying some spot-on things. Here's to the Merton ladies and the fantastic work they are doing on behalf of us North Devonians who are disgusted with the way in which our government is behaving. He took a short video clip with interviews of us - too big for here but we'll find a way somehow later to show the world! Having trouble downloading photos - let's try - here we are with his wife Laurence outside their beautiful home - we were so lucky to find them - excellent people. Nope! A good day today - one more to go and we'll meet Our Molly tomorrow night - the approach and 'entry' into Paris is going to be BUSY! Gonna have to have our wits about us. This Blog post comes to you courtesy Ewan's genius i-phone connection (no wifi here).
After a day's respite France continues to throw its plus mauvais temps at us in an attempt to thwart our attempts to reach Paris, but we will not be daunted. Today started with spitting when I went out in the pre dawn to fetch the breakfast croissants, by the time we left it was light rain which progressed to heavy drizzle with a biting Southwesterly before easing to a mere mizzle by mid afternoon. Continue reading Rainy day, dream away…
Oliver of Tonic Attack not only very generously sponsored us but also provided a load of sachets of wheatgrass juice to fuel us across France. I must admit when Ewan first distributed them in Saltash I was a little sceptical. I had been expecting a bottle to have a swig from periodically, but these are little sachets each containing 33ml to be taken one per day. Continue reading The joys of wheatgrass
Monday 23 November - sunshine filtered through a heavy mist onto the frost-touched grass. A fine day! Breakfasted packed and on the road before 09.00, pedalling into cold misty countryside, but at least it was dry! Crossed the River Orne and headed more or less east, weaving around various country roads to make sure we did not get on to any of the busy main roads.As we were on the Plain of Caen, the hills were not quite as steep and the valleys were more gentle, which made for very pleasant cycling. Even by midday we were still spending some of our time in freezing mist, then emerging into sunny patches. One of the nicest stretches was after a 1-2km ride up a hill then through a beautifully managed woodland of sweet chestnut, oak, beech and other deciduous trees where a huge buzzard lazily flapped its way ahead of me, then perched on a branch to get a better look at me; deciding I was inedible, it then drifted off into the woods! Arrived into the town of Lisieaux at 15.30, checked into our AirBnB which was in a fourth storey 1960s apartment - luxury of luxuries, we each had our own bedroom with a double bed (which explained why it was the most expensive of the B+Bs). Set out to explore the town, including visiting the relatively new (20thC?) Basilica with an impressive dome and attractive modern frescoes adorning the walls. Lit a candle for peace. Shopped for provender then returned to our billet for home-made supper of bread, cheese, pastries and wine. Continue reading Sunshine Supermen!
After our two days of wet, windy wending our way eastwards, we had the luxury of spending Sunday with our hosts Pierre and Bea at their lovely farmhouse and gite. It had rained much of the night but the morning dawned dry and clear. After a leisurely breakfast Pierre drove us into Caen to visit the Memorial Museum of WWII, an impressive and well thought out presentation as to how 1914/18 set the stage for WWII. No heroics, but just sober assessment of not just the fighting, but more difficult issues such as the business of collaboration with the enemy, resistance movements, etc. No glorification. And it didn't end there, as there was a gallery devoted to the Normandy Landings, as one might expect, and also about what happened after 1945. It rang so true especially considering our apparent headlong plunge into war once again, this time with Syria. "When will they ever learn?" as the song goes.... Pierre picked us up and brought us back for a late lunch of lovely homemade soup, bread and cheese. Then we hosed down our bikes with a jetwash to remove the mud. dried them and oiled them ready for the road tomorrow. A rest followed, then supper and bed - tomorrow, back on the road!
The picture below is the sodden welcome at Tavistock after Hugh (on the right) and I had hurtled down the hill from Mary Tavy into the town centre to meet friends from the West Devon Greens. I had to pour water out of my shoes and was pretty fogged as to how I could manage to carry on to Plymouth. So I waddled down into the market and found a launderette. Took my chance, having politely asked the ladies there if they minded - yup, they giggled a bit - only one person in there at the time and she giggled a bit too. So I stripped to my undies and everything went in, shoes, gloves, rucksack an' all - for a good 20 minutes - while I attempted to warm my feet up on the glass of the drier. I s'pose it was quite funny - a bit like that 11 o'clock 'coke' ad - but customers didn't really seem to have a fit ........ and to be honest, I couldn't care! Mind you, if I'd been 30 years younger, there might have been some action. Message to all cyclists: the new route from Tavy to Plymouth is just fantastic - even the haul up to Yelverton through the woods - stunning. Has to be done. But this is offset by the confusing options around Lydford - which still seem all wrong. No worries - made it!
You can tell we are having a day of touristy relaxation, with this plethora of items from your trusty riders. So at least this Blog page is ACTIVE! This is what I had intended to add on the first day - what a fantastic send off from Barnstaple Square. Thanks to Val, the Mayor, Julie her deputy, Des, NDC leader and Dick his environment portfolio holder. Thanks to Seth from ITV, to Tony from the Gazette and Fran from the Journal. Thanks to supporters Steve, Dick, John, Mike - and others I've forgotten (I hope someone has the photos so I can check later); and of course to my intrepid fellow cyclists who actually managed to get further than the end of the Long Bridge! To L'Anne, to Claire and her partner all the way from Crediton, Andy (BLESS 'im - cos he did for my bike! - apart from which he insisted on being my wind break for the first hour - and I needed it!)), to Paul, Ollie (from the SU at Petroc), Michelle, to my fellow Bikeability trainer Jo (I just managed to keep up with her). Photos are 'dribbling' in from various sources - here I am the following day at Plymbridge - the smile is genuine enough, cos I 'm nearly there - only rush-hour on the A38 to Saltash to contend with .......
Saturday dawns a nice bright day...until 09.00 when the rain-gods turn the tap on again. Ah-ha! We fooled them! We didn't leave until 09.30, by which time the rain-gods had got fed-up with waiting for us to get under way and turned the tap off - for the moment! Hurtled downhill out of Avranches and turned off alongside a river to trace our way over minor roads in an easterly direction. Roger's magical deflating tyre trick was getting to wear by this time - poor lad, he seems to have drawn the short (puncture straw)! Pleasant amble along river valley to village of Brecey, where it clouded over, wind picked up and occasional rain fell (horizontally). As we progressed onto higher ground, our hands, feet, and faces got wetter and colder, but pushed on to Vire, the halfway point where we stopped for lunch of omelette and chips at 14.00. Another hard push, albeit with the rain abating, across elevated granite plateau before an impressive 3.5km drop down into the town of Aunay-sur-Odon, where we stopped for a life-reviving coffee and shared (squashed) snack bars excavated from the bottom of my handlebar bag. The descent into Aunay was rendered slightly more dramatic by a gendarme car hurtling past us on an emergency call (probably that his dinner was ready). The last stretch in the gathering gloom necessitated cycle lamps. We must have been 5km form our host's place when we saw a cyclist coming the other way - what other mad individual was out on a bike at this time of night? It was our host, come to meet us and guide us in to his residence! Thus we arrived at Ricky's friends, Pierre and Bea, place, at 19.00, tired, wet, cold, but relieved to have made it - just over 90km! Hot showers, hot supper, warm friendship, warm bed - what more could four weary cyclists want? Merci beaucoups, Bea et Pierre!