Annie and Dom provided us with a great breakfast to set us on our way in the morning and I was able to watch first hand the specter of another non-English person eating Marmite first hand……c'est magnifique as the French would say.
A very un-French cupboard I'll think you'll agree
More incredible hosts Annie and Dom
Luckily for us the rain which was promised for today failed to materialize and we were out and on the road early and very much looking forward to arriving in our next destination some one hundred kilometres away in the early afternoon.
I’m sure anyone who has ridden a bike and especially a bike over a long period of time or for that matter anyone who has driven a car will be only too aware of the situation where you have an unidentified sound coming from your vehicle. I’ve had it a couple of times since starting out and it’s usually something very simple such as my incredibly cheap mudguards have moved and are rubbing against the wheel.
Today Tom had to experience a strange creaking noise coming from somewhere on his bike. The result was that we found ourselves stopping on a couple of occasions in the morning to try and locate the sound. The second occasion involved poor old Tom actually turning the bike over, taking off the wheel and checking every nut and bolt. It was to no avail and actually as the day wore on the sound became less and less. I gave Tom the extremely non-mechanical advice of ‘just plug in your headphones and listen to some music it will soon go away’
The stop start nature of our mornings ride meant that we didn’t cover as much ground as we’d hoped and by two o’clock were still some way from our final destination.
A couple from a village near to Milly-la-forêt had kindly agreed to take us in for the night and I’d sent them an email informing them that we’d probably arrive at around 6. It meant that we had to put in some serious leg work to get there on time; it’s amazing how the body reacts when it knows there is not only a bed and shower at the end of the day but also the strong possibility of a cooked meal waiting for you!
No.....we didn't couch surf here!
When I look back on my trip now there are days I’m sure that I sat down and thought ‘Wow Paris is such a long way away’ but now I’m in France I can’t quite believe how fast the time has passed and how very close I am to Paris now.
Arriving in Milly-la-forêt suddenly made real the fact that I’m now within touching distance of home. I last visited the village as a sixteen year old as part of a football tour arranged by the twinning association and I felt a real sense of pride as I passed through the sign showing Milly-la-forêt twinned with Forest Row with the little British flag next to it.
The locals arrive home (well almost)
We made really good time in the afternoon and passed quickly through Milly. I’ve been in contact with Monique a French lady who has stayed many times with her husband Michel at my parents house in England and she has organized a small welcoming party for our arrival with the Mayor of Milly none the less for tomorrow morning. With this in mind we decided not to spend too long in the village and instead head straight on to Pascal and Carole’s our hosts for the night.
Pascal and Carole live in a small hamlet about fifteen kilometres from Milly. I’d never met them before this but after a quick phone call they turned up in their car and directed us to their lovely house in the forest. Carole concerned because the road to their house follows a steep hill up of about three hundred metres even offered to put some of my bags in the car for the last part of the journey but I explained that this would be cheating and that I needed to ride it with the bags on. She just looked at me like many people have on this trip in a very puzzled manner.
Once again these were total strangers who we’d never met previously welcoming us into their house. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the kindness and generosity of others has been one of the highlights of this trip and it is something that I’ll never forget.
They prepared a wonderful meal for us and like all meals served in France it is nothing without a couple of bottles of good red to wash it down.
One thing that has annoyed me slightly on my trip is my inability to be able to speak other people’s languages. In China it wasn’t a problem as I could converse in Chinese for the most basic of things but here when I’m invited into someone else’s house it always makes me feel slightly embarrassed that they are the one who have to scratch around and struggle to speak English.
Not for the first time we were fed firsts then seconds and ended up finishing most of the food on the insistence of our hosts of course. I think everyone sees it as a challenge to start ‘fattening me up’ again.
Like all the people who hosted me before Pascal and Carole were kindness personified and it’s hard for me to convey my appreciation to people like this enough. There are occasions on this trip where I’ve often gone to bed cold, dirty, tired and more than a little hungry but I’m coming realize the more I stay in peoples homes the more I find that familiar old feeling of slipping into a warm bed, relaxed and my stomach fully content returning, it’s a good feeling and one that I never take for granted.