A Travellerspoint blog

Milly-la-forêt 16km

overcast

Today was by far and away the shortest ride of the trip which saw us leave Pascal and Carole’s and take the short ride back in Milly. I was told that there would be a welcoming committee for us as we rode into Milly and really had no idea what to expect.

Pascal and Carole have a great little Citroen 2CV in very unique colours and they escorted us to the town hall. I’m not much of one for a great fuss so was really pleased to see a small group of people gathered outside the ‘Maire’ to welcome us with warm applause.

It was a nice little turn out, with a photographer and a reporter from the local newspaper. We were greeted by the Mayor and invited to have our photos taken with him outside the town and under the signpost bearing the name of both villages.

large_IMAG0696.jpg

After that we were invited into the town hall where they had laid of some light refreshments and of course Champagne! Monique the chairman of the twinning association gave the following short speech:

Paul and Tom

The twinning between Milly-la-forêt and Forest Row is happy to congratulate you for this so as to give great and incredible feat which will bring something more to the world: the certitude that to give from oneself as to give to the others is the most important thing in the world.
Here is our small participation to Parkinsons UK research.

Let your life be as great as your heart.

With this they pressed a very generous donation for Parkinsons. As today was also my birthday I was toasted and wished Bon anniversaire. It was then my turn to give a small speech in which I closed with the sentence “we are so close to home but in some ways amongst you all here we feel we are already home”

I then answered numerous questions from people about my trip before we were given a short guided tour of the town hall.

We didn’t really have long to look around the village as Monique who was hosting us for the next evening instructed us to follow her back to her and Michel’s house. We were joined for lunch by Carole and Pascal and no sooner had we arrived was Michel coming round with yet more Champagne. It was patently clear that we wouldn’t be riding anywhere else today.

large_IMAG0706.jpg

Another delicious lunch followed before we retired to the garden for yet more Champagne and chocolate cake served with as they called it crème anglaise. The weather was nice enough for the sun loungers to be brought out for an afternoon laze in the sun. Is there a better way to celebrate ones birthday?

IMAG0711.jpg

Posted by Ontheroadagain 13:40 Archived in France Comments (2)

Romilly-sur-Seine to Campurceil 125km

semi-overcast

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.

IMAG0680.jpg
A very un-French cupboard I'll think you'll agree

large_IMAG0681.jpg
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!

large_IMAG0683.jpg
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.

large_IMAG0685.jpg
IMAG0687.jpg IMAG0689.jpg
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.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 07:59 Archived in France Comments (0)

Ancerville to Romilly-sur-Seine 123km

all seasons in one day

It was a ridiculously cold morning that greeted us today yet despite the nights surely sub zero temperatures I still managed to cram in a good eleven hours sleep. Getting out of my tent, sorry bivy is pretty tough these days. I don’t think I’m going to miss sleeping in this smallest of spaces once I’m back home.

large_IMAG0665.jpg IMAG0667.jpg
Fancy a bit of this in mid-September?

It was great that we had alcohol for the stove as it meant I was at least able to cook up some bowls of hot porridge and honey to help defrost our bodies while we waited for the sun to come up fully. The porridge had to be of a fairly consistent nature due to the fact that we once again had to turn to the humble tent peg to get it down us. I’m wondering once I ‘re-enter’ society as it were will I be able to readjust to eating with normal utensils?

Tom lost a glove the other day and my hands were like two blocks of ice attached to the handlebars as we rode away from our campsite for the night so I have no idea how he felt. The fact that it was so cold this morning meant that we had to make an unscheduled stop in Saint-Dizier just to get another hot beverage inside of us. We stopped in what turned out to be the most French of cafes which was populated by old French gents reading their morning papers whilst sipping on their tiny coffees. Our appearance temporarily removed them from the daily routine and I once again fielded questions such as ‘why on earth would you choose to cycle all the way from China?’

IMAG0668.jpg
First mark of how far to Paris

Thankfully the weather picked up later in the day; the weather is very hard to read these days and means we often find ourselves stopping to first put on a jacket but five minutes later pulling over once again to remove said garment.

Headwinds have returned or perhaps they just never went away. It’s funny how one always remembers the days when the wind blusters into your face head on yet forget the rest of the days when it is minimal which is usually the case. It leads to the perception that everyday is windy and hence a few grumbles from two cyclists battling the elements through the afternoon winds.

IMAG0669.jpg IMAG0671.jpg

France is very quiet and we’ve now learned that pretty much everything in the countryside shuts down from twelve o’clock to three. Granted we are going through some pretty sleepy villages but there really never seems to be anyone anywhere.

The only people we do see quite often are the other numerous cyclists out and about on the roads. These are usually men of an older age all decked out in their fancy coloured outfits. France is completely different to Germany in the fact that every single other rider who passes by acknowledges you with a jovial ‘bonjour’ We noticed in Germany that there was perhaps a certain snobbishness on the road where we only get the odd nod from one or two other bikers. Cyclists on their expensively assembled carbon speed machines seemed very reluctant to even give us the time of day but here in France we are one, a brotherhood on two wheels out enjoying the freedom of the French countryside.

IMAG0673.jpg

France as one might expect just seems far more relaxed than most countries I’ve visited and not just Germany. Things happen here at a certain pace and that does seem to be dictated by meal times.

We were about 30 kilometres from Romilly-sur-Seine when the weather took a turn for the worse. Tom obviously had no desire to be stuck out in the rain riding and set a pretty fierce pace speeding along the road so fast in fact that it took all the effort stored in my thighs to keep up with him. I often wonder once I get these panniers off the bike how quickly it might be possible for me to go? All I can say is Bradley Wiggins watch out!

I had arranged for us to couch surf in Romilly and we arrived just after 5:30 wet, cold and incredibly thankful that we wouldn’t have to sleep outside tonight.

We managed to get in contact with our host for the evening Annie who appeared ten minutes after calling her to lead us to her house. Upon arrival we were introduced to Annie’s partner Dom who was busy in the kitchen preparing food, you could say it was the very best of ways to mark our arrival.

Annie and Dom were the perfect hosts and no sooner had we arrived did they ask if we needed any washing doing. I always feel slightly guilty when arriving in someone’s house and presenting them with a bag of dirty laundry but both Tom and I were really grateful and more to the point only to willing to take them up on their kind offer.

After a quick wash and settling in we were called for aperitifs of the finest Belgian beer before sitting down to a delicious home cooked meal. We spent a lovely evening chatting about life in France and their various travels. It just so happens that they have spent a lot of time in China in some very remote places doing some teaching. It certainly reminded me of my days riding through the small secluded villages in Gansu province where they spent most of their time. We were joined later in the evening by their very well rounded 16 year old son Guillaume. It was after a short while of talking that I discovered that Guillaume had something quite strange in common. France as we all know is the very centre of the universe when it comes to all things gastronomic so it was therefore slightly strange for me to find a 16 year old with a love of Marmite the most British of all foods one might say. In fact I counted at least five large jars of the stuff in their house plus one of Vegemite but as well all know that doesn’t really count.

As the evening went on Dom pulled out some of his old vinyl records and we sat in their cosy dining room chatting for hours as the sound of Neil Young filtered through the house.

large_IMAG0677.jpg

It was so nice to not only be inside but also to spend time in the company of such a relaxed and extremely friendly family.

Tomorrow we head off towards more friends near the village of Milly-la-forêt which is twinned with my home village of Forest Row.

IMAG0674.jpg large_IMAG0675.jpg
Oh......and the small matter of 9,000 miles!

Posted by Ontheroadagain 04:37 Archived in France Comments (1)

Nancy to Ancerville 125km

semi-overcast

We ended up by spending an extra day in Nancy and taking full advantage of Tobias and his house-mates hospitality. It gave me the perfect chance to catch up on my blog and Tom the opportunity to catch up on some much needed rest.

We did manage to venture out into the city centre later on that rest day to have a little look around but to be perfectly honest we were both content to just sit around and recharge our batteries.

As way of thanks we did cook dinner for Tobias and also prepared some extra food to take for the next days ride.

We were up bright and early for our ride out of Nancy. Tobias and his house-mates are very unlike the students I used to know whilst at University who struggled to emerge from bed before midday. It was a good thing for us because it meant that we too had to leave when they did and as a result were able to get a full days riding in.

Once again the most direct routes out of the city followed the motorways so we we forced to take a rather longer less direct way out of the city. This unsurprisingly involved climbing more hills to get out onto flatter ground something we're becoming quite used to by now.

large_IMAG0661.jpg

Tobias and his house-mates had reintroduced us to the joys of eating Nutella and as a result it wasn't long before we were stopping off at a supermarket to pick up a large jar. It seems like the perfect energy food for us especially when spread liberally on a nice fresh crispy baguette.

The roads today were pretty nice and more importantly mostly flat which meant that we are able to cover some pretty decent ground. I plan for us to arrive near the village of Milly-la-Foret on the 22nd of September and it means we have three rides of about 100 – 120km per day.

IMAG0662.jpg IMAG0664.jpg

We've been lucky enough to have been in contact with some friends in Milly who are organising some places for us to stay. It's now very much a case for me of counting down the days that I have to camp outside.

We had planned to cycle past Saint-Dizier today but we are now well and truly on some small country roads here in France which has meant a much direct yet on the other hand far more scenic route.

large_IMG_3518.jpg

It was getting quite late by the time we finally found a place to camp for the night but we managed to find a farm track which took us off the main road and into a meadow.

By the end of the day we were as usual pretty hungry and were both looking forward to a good feed especially as we'd earlier in the day managed to lay our hands on some fuel for the stove.

I had prepared some extra food whilst in Nancy and was looking forward to the mixture of rice, vegetables and ginger which had been marinating in the Tupperware box in my panniers, or so I thought. To my horror when I unpacked my panniers I had left the food in the fridge in Nancy. Worse still the only utensils we had for eating; one spoon, one fork and some chopsticks were also nowhere to be seen. Thankfully we did still have one other container of plain rice and some cans of vegetables but it was a little annoying all the same.

I've had to learn to improvise on a number of occasions on this trip and our predicament here also forced us to do so. Tom simply pulled out a few of his tent pegs, we wiped them clean of mud and hey presto........new chopsticks!

IMAG0653.jpg IMAG0655.jpg
IMAG0654.jpg IMAG0656.jpg
IMAG0660.jpg

Just a few pics from our very brief tour of Nancy.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 02:46 Archived in France Comments (1)

Urmatt to Nancy 112km

semi-overcast

I enjoyed a very comfortable nights sleep in my little 'hole' as Tom described it deep in amongst the woods, unfortunately Tom didn't fair as well on the uneven ploughed land and I sensed a certain unhappiness in his tone when he woke up in the morning. I'd never heard of Egyptian cotton sheets before but Tom keeps telling me about them and I must check them out once back.

IMAG0649.jpg
The Ritz it certainly isn't......my 'hole' in the trees behind

Due to our wild camping there were none of the luxuries of the previous mornings which meant it was simply a case of getting up, packing up and saddling up!

We found a patisserie and chocolatier (doesn't that sound amazing) in the first village we passed through and I'm happy to inform you all that France has very much picked up where Germany left off in terms of bread and pastries.

What we weren't expecting this morning was more hills yet that is what we found ourselves faced with and a couple of pretty nasty 8% at that. The hills were playing a kind of game with us and once we were over 700 metres they continued to follow the pattern of small climb followed by short descent. It wasn't long however before we were finally able to totally release the wheels and power the bikes down the remainder of the hill.

IMAG0650.jpg IMG_3502.jpg
Coffee stop at on one of the climbs

Our first real point of call for the day was that of Luneville and we were determined to break the back of the day and get there before stopping for lunch.

Despite some heavy head winds we made good time and rolled into the town just after lunch having made a serious dent into our overall total for the day.

IMG_3504.jpg
large_IMG_3506.jpg
large_IMG_3508.jpg

Both Tom and I take it in turns to go and do the days shopping and I think we both have a sense of dread as the other reappears from inside the supermarket. I'm always worried at how much Tom has spent and likewise he's always worried that I've not picked up some treats for the day.

IMG_3511.jpg IMG_3507.jpg

I've been on the road for so long now I've learned and almost had to teach myself how to eat cheaply. It's been a little bit more difficult not having the stove to cook on which has meant we've not been having the staple foods we need such as rice and pasta which have served me so well along the way. I surprised him somewhat today and knowing his penchant for smoked salmon treated us to a nice packet with salad for lunch.

large_IMG_3514.jpg
IMG_3513.jpg IMG_3512.jpg

The afternoons ride into Nancy proved harder than it should have been and this was entirely down to the headwind we had experienced earlier in the day gathering more momentum. It all proved to be a bit of a slog and the industrial nature of the scenery on the outskirts of Nancy didn't make for the most scenic of rides.

We had arranged to meet Tobias at his apartment in Nancy but knew he had lectures until 8 o'clock. He had informed us that one of his house mates would be in to open the door for us but unfortunately this wasn't the case. It wasn't a big problem for us and we simply went and waited in the nearby train station.

IMG_3516.jpg

We finally met Tobias just after eight and he was very apologetic that nobody had been there to let us in. He needn't have been, after all he's agreed to put us up for the night which is more than enough.

Tobias comes from the Baden-Wurttemburg region of Germany which Tom and I cycled partly through. One of the reasons I made a couch request to stay with him was that as well as studying some Chinese he also embarked on his very own bike trip in the summer travelling from France to Estonia and using couch surfing all the way. If anyone was going to be sympathetic to our needs it was him.

He was also kind enough to cook us a traditional German dish for supper which apparently is a specialty of his mothers, she would be pleased to know that it tasted absolutely fantastic. We all swapped various stories and experiences of travelling around the world and were joined by one of his house mates Matthias as we talked long into the night.

large_IMG_3517.jpg

It looks like were are going to stay here for an extra day which gives us chance to rest a little before heading just south of Paris some 300 kilometres away. I think Tom will really appreciate the chance to simply rest up; we've come a long way together on this trip and now more than ever it is a case of counting down the days until we get home.

I was quick to point out to Tom though while riding today that we really have to make sure we savour every remaining moment of the trip. We are so lucky and fortunate to be riding through some beautiful French countryside and in a matter of a few weeks it will all be over and we will start the process of readjusting to something that resembles normality.

Posted by Ontheroadagain 06:44 Archived in France Comments (2)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 163) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »