France 2015

Another Trip………..


Another trip in the pipeline…..
Following on from last year’s solo Lejog where me, my bike and a couple of panniers cycled to the top of Scotland, the cycle touring bug is now well established. I’ve even got my young teenage daughter into it and now, after recently getting ‘panniered  up’, we’re  soon to cross the channel. The routes have been finalised and all accommodation booked for the 400mile, 6 day jaunt from Roscoff in Brittany to Yviers in the Poitou Charente region.

In the meantime though, there’s training to be done to get this young lady’s stamina up to comfortably ride 60 ish french miles every day.
So, how does one prepare a 14 year old hair straightened, nail varnished girlie for 6 days of pedalling a lump of alloy across France? Some would say with a recognised training plan,
building mileage and stamina gradually along with good nutrition etc. Bugger that! We’re just gonna tear around the hills and valleys in Devon and periodically stop for coffee and cake. I’ve found that if you can whack out 45 miles in Devon then 65 across the channel in flatter France is a sinch! And besides, if her dad can do it then so can she because, according to my darling daughter……..I’m old!

Ooh-la-la It’s Booked!

August 17th 2015, Laura (14) and I (40-something) set sail aboard the extortionate Brittany Ferries for the overnight crossing from Plymouth in Devon to Roscoff in North-West France. From there, we intend to cycle to my parents’ place which is roughly 40 miles Northish of Bordeaux.
So far, the accommodation is booked (via email I might add… my best french!) and the routes pretty much finalised. Hopefully, there isn’t a lot that can go wrong unless the Breton canals and rivers burst their banks and the old railways are reinstated. If that happens then it’s back to the drawing board!
The route itself looks very pleasant and somewhat flat. Then again what isn’t flat when compared to Devon? – erm, well, Cornwall actually!
France is said to be one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world and boasts many a traffic-free cycle route thanks to disused railway lines (they had a Monsieur Beeching as well!) and apparently well maintained canal towpaths. The first 200 miles of our ‘France à vélo’ will be away from the traffic in Brittany on one of France’s many greenways or ‘voie vertes’ as the locals know them. ​

A Change of plan……

​Last night my accomplice on this mad french trip (and daughter) told me that she really wasn’t that keen on going and maybe thought it was a little too much. It’s a bit of a blow as I was really looking forward to some quality time away from it all with her. Nevermind, as they say in theatrical circles, the show must go on and on it will. She’ll now fly out to my Parents’ in Yviers and have a week of sun-soaking whilst I take the cycling trip on my lonesome. I’m just glad she’s told me now and not when we’re on the boat in the middle of the English Channel!!!!

A Mixed Bag….

Well, this evening marks the start of this little trip into deepest France to the home of my parents’ when I board the 10pm Brittany Ferries from Plymouth.  It has been many weeks since it was all booked up and plans have be made, changed, unchanged, done and then undone. Initially, it was myself and my daughter Laura embarking on a bike ride through Brittany, the Loire Valley and then into the Charentes region. Laura then came to me in May and said she didn’t feel up to cycling such a distance and preferred not to go but instead fly to her grandparents’. Here she would spend a week toasting herself in the Charentais sunshine with her head in the latest John Green novel whilst awaiting my arrival on two wheels.  So, then there was one – namely me. 

Although disappointed that Laura wasn’t coming along I was still looking forward to rolling my way through the french countryside and had become very excited with thought of cycling away from the port of Roscoff and heading south for a few days. However, today all of that has gone a bit awry with news that has left me feeling a tad flat.

Over the past few weeks it came about that my Nan, at the incredible age of 95 was very poorly in a care home in Hampshire. It turned out that it was a small infection for which she received due treatment. However, in the early hours of this morning, my dear Nan passed away peacefully.
I’ve many happy memories of time spent with my Nan or ‘Nannie Bill’ as she was known. Both recently and when I was a young pup. We shared lots of laughs, lots of chocolate, and as a 16yr old,  quite a few fags (much to the disgust of my parents!) She was a prolific tea drinker and was once probably Imperial Tobacco’s best customer! I did consider this morning not going on this trip but then I don’t think Nan would’ve been too pleased and I can hear her saying in her Lutonian accent,  “You bloody well go ya silly bugger! It’ll be lavly!” 

Anyway, so tonight, I’ll be raising a glass to my dear Nannie Bill on board the Armorique ferry as we leave the shores of Blighty for France and any family and friends reading this, I hope you’ll raise a glass too.

Gladys ‘Cilla’ Halsey
1921 -2015

Vélo sans Trafic

Good evening from France. Well that’s day 1 of this little jaunt in the bag. A little over 65 miles today. Most of which was on traffic-free cycle paths namely the Chemin du Petit Train. This was a 19th century line that was constructed to cross much of Brittany until the french version of Dr Beeching saw fit to close it down and rip up the track. I gave to say though that they’ve done a cracking job on it. I joined it just south I found Morlaix and stayed on it for pretty much 45+ miles. on the whole the surface is good but  I was surprised and the gradients of some of the climbs. Maybe it was just my perception as I was heaving a laden touring bike up each hill. either that or the French operated dome pretty powerful steam trains on their branch lines!

The entire coastline was steeped in fog as I pedalled away from the chimp at passport control. 30 seconds later I took my first wrong turn of the day and ended up in the queue to get back on the ferry again!. Quickly (and feeling a total berk), I turned tail and pedalled out of there ensuring that I made no eye contact with anyone! Then at St. Pol de Leon I got a wee bit lost as the town centre was closed as it was market day. Let’s just say that the french aren’t ver y  attentive when it comes to the provision of diversion signs. They seem to leave it up to the driver to make his own diversion!


Once at Morlaix, the sun was out and the fog burnt away. A traditional breakfast cheese and ham baguette was taken whilst sat in the town square watching what exactly goes on in a northern french town on a Tuesday morning.
First up was the English family and their french hire car and their attempts to parallel park the thing. This resulted in a blazing row (in English ) whilst the locals looked on in sheer disbelief.  Then there was an hilarious occurrence of let’s say, a slightly ‘bound up’ alsatian who proceeded to try and pass his impacted lower intestinal contents onto the pavement right outside a cafe. This wouldn’t have been so bad had the cafe not had an array of tables on the pavement outside very close to where dear Fido was doing his thing. It was one of those moments where something should’ve been said by someone yet nothing was said at all. Everyone just watched this poor trembling dog as they all tucked in to coffee and croissants.

Just south of Morlaix I  picked up this little old converted railway line and there I stayed. The route goes through woodland and every now and then, a break in the trees affords the cyclist the most beautiful views of the Breton countryside. There were even a few gypsy caravans trundling along although the occupants looked more Rochdale than Romany!

I eventually reached the finish point in the town of Gouarec at about 430pm. I have to confess to today’s ride being tougher than I expected but I think that due to not riding at all for the past 3 weeks and prior to that I was only riding a road bike which weighs a fraction of this loaded touring bike.
Anyway, it’s late and I’m knackered. Tomorrow is more of the same but along the Brest-Nantes  Canal towpath.

Au revoir.

Un Autre Jour en Bretagne (Another day in Brittany)

Bon Soir from Malestroit.  Or as my phone wants to spell it ‘Male Trout’.
Last night I stayed at the Ty Aven  B&B in Gouarec.  It’s a quaint little place run by Lynda from Sheffield who has been there 8 years and never learnt a word of the lingo. This morning at breakfast, she was talking to a fellow guest who spoke no English. Lynda,  to make herself understood a little better spoke in English but with a french accent. The guest asked for lemon tea (the word for lemon being ‘citron’) and our Lynda thought “she wor asskin’ what car I drerve”. The conversation then grew increasingly confusing until I intervened and gave a rough translation. Lynda then turned to yours truly and mouthed the words “eeee! why dint she bloody say?

I left the B&B under a cloud. By that I don’t mean I had a row with Lynda and she hoofed me out. I meant it was raining. This precipitous state lasted until the end of the road (200yds). It took longer to get me coat on!

There was a bit of a canal theme running through the day today. The French certainly know how to build them. The Brest-Nantes canal  runs for 365km as it meanders it’s way through the region. If you imagine the traditional English canal and then widen it by 4 times its width, you get the french equivalent. To cope with the changes of terrain there are an astonishing 236 locks and each had its own lock-keeper. Work began on the canal on 1806 and was finally completed in 1836. when you think this was dug out by hand, it was a major project. Anyway, I’m beginning to sound like an enthusiast so I’ll stop!

There was also more of that bloody railway line that I spent most of yesterday on although this time it was downhill (makes a change!). All was going well until the route betwixt the railway line and the canal went slightly awry. All of the route planning had been made on Google maps and then uploaded to my GPS unit. Normally it is very accurate and there’s never a problem.  However, today Google let me down guided me down a road that just ended up at the bottom of a steep hill where the tarmac stopped and a stony path continued………..on private property. And then there was a sodding gate to lift the bike over. How could a mapping service get this so,so wrong? There was only one thing for it…….A brew! Out came the portable stove and water was soon boiled for a cuppa! I was half expecting a beret-topped, pitchfork-wielding ‘fermier’ (that’s farmer in french!) to come hotfooting it down the path after me swearing in his best Breton but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

The remainder of the day went by swimmingly alongside the canal. It really is a great place for leisure cycling and is perfect for families of all ages. There were plenty out and about today and everyone so friendly too. Even the young kids shout a sweet ‘bonjour’ as they pass by. I perfected my ‘bonjour’ today as I must’ve said it a hundred times. 
On a less brighter note, my left achilles tendon is not good. I felt a couple of twinges yesterday but today it was painful from the outset and I had to find a chemist to get something for it with only half 7 miles left in the day. It’s all strapped up now and hopefully it’ll be okay tomorrow. 
Anyway. I’ll bid you all a Bon Nuit et dormez-vous bien.
See you tomorrow. 

Canals and Misadventure

Good Evening folks from Chapelle-sur-Erdre. Today’s been a bit of a mix. It started with some degree of apprehension when I got out of bed and couldn’t bear any weight on this damned heel. After hobbling around the ensuite room with 40” TV and power-shower, I packed up my panniers and then sought solace in the bar with a breakfast comprising of pastries the size of which is unknown north of the English channel! These croissants were immense and would give most large pasties a run for their money in the dimension stakes! As for the choc au pain, this was comparable to a house brick and with a huge coffee to wash it down with, I sat there like a Buddha wondering how on earth I was going to heave myself out of the seat let alone pedal a loaded bike!
As I pedalled away from the hotel and back onto the canal, the pain in the heel was as bad as it was yesterday and I thought I may have to call a day on this jaunt. However, after a mile or so everything loosened up and the pain was hardly noticeable. The problem being replaced by now having an ‘hot foot’ due to the strapping and sock etc. 

I soon got into a good stride and was soon ticking the miles off with an aim to get to Redon before a coffee break. The canal path wasn’t at all busy this morning with only a few foolhardy cyclists out and about and quite a few of which were hauling these bike trailers that were packed to the gunwales with everything. Suffice to say that these pedalling luggage mules didn’t hit much of a speed and I would usually overtake them with the cursory “bonjour”. In fact, nobody overtook me at all today apart from a middle aged couple ‘sans les baggages’ (without luggage) who were, as we say in England,  motoring along at a fair old lick! Now, I thought I  was zipping along at about 14mph and given the surface, wouldn’t want to be travelling any quicker. Every now and then there would be loose fine chippings causing the front wheel to ‘dig in’ with any sharp change in steering and, given that 10 feet away was a canal etc, it doesn’t bear thinking about! Well ladies and gents, this did bear thinking about today as our bagless duo, riding two abreast took a blind bend at speed only to be confronted by another couple both of which were travelling at a speed where stopping wasn’t an issue due to their laden trailers. Monsieur Bagless unfortunately braked hard and steered hard thus relinquishing any remaining control on the said velo causing both man and machine to enter the canal at what seemed, to be a speed only slightly less than what he’d attacked the corner with. I arrived on the scene just as the ripples were hitting the bank and the commotion was well and truly under way on the towpath. If only I was fluent in french as I so wanted to advise Mr B. that it was actually easier to remove one’s  innertube and immerse in a bucket of water rather than do what he had chosen. Madame Bagless was in shock on the path and was being consoled by Madame Luggage-Mule. Her husband was offering french advice to Mr B. regarding, I assume the effective extrication of his alloy steed from the submerged weeds and vegetation.  My biggest problem after offering some assistance was a fight with my morals as I so dearly wanted to photograph this waterside spectacle. My morals won I’m afraid and I pedalled off laughing to myself for the next few miles!

The ‘pilluck in the canal’ incident gave me a good lift and the 24 miles to Redon were covered with ease. I sat on the quayside sipping coffee and scoffing brioche and watched the world go by. After Redon, the surface deteriorates and becomes very rough in parts (much like the young girl that served breakfast this morning!). Maybe it’s to prevent what had happened earlier.  I put up with it for the next 14 miles but my foot was burning up so I took another break and sat in the sunshine with me feet out for half an hour. Just then a foursome of french retirees stopped at a nearby picnic table and out of nowhere they produced bread, cheese,  pate, cornichons, and other such french goodies. We got talking and in my bestest french we discussed cycling and how far per day, average speed, frequncy of punctures etc. One of the aging monsieurs took a keen interest in my bike and was firing umpteen questions at me. I could only pick out every 5th word at best so I asked him to slow down. What a difference it made although I think I told them I was travelling to somewhere ‘opposite’ Bordeaux and an average speed of 40kmh and averaging a distance of 25km a day! Anyway, it was nice speaking to them and they did mention that not many English visitors talk french and it is rare for them to even say a polite ‘Bonjour’ when passing by.  Enough said methinks. 

At 43 miles, the GPS unit sang its little tune and displayed the chequered flag symbol…….25 miles short! Luckily it occurred by an overbridge which meant there was access off the canal.  A quick look at Google maps on my phone and it was an ideal time to take the tarmac’d route. After a brief climb up from the canal it was a couple of hours of gently undulating roads with little traffic to speak of. 

Arriving at La Pre de La Landes bed and breakfast,  I was given a lovely welcome by Madame Marie Claude. She speaks no English, is in her 70s  and clearly has no intention of learning. I immediately requested she speak slower and from then on, we were able to converse. After enquiring about a local eatery she said there was nowhere for a few kms but she was happy to make me some soup……with bread………and a small, no, large salad, and a slice of tart and fresh fruit from the garden. An hour later, I resumed the Buddha position and attempted to write this blog. Tomorrow is the longest day (I don’t mean it’s the summer equinox, just a long way) as I negotiate the bustling city of Nantes, cross the River Loire and find my booked accommodation in the town of Lucon in the Vendee department.
Cheerio for now.

Looked flatter on Google!

Hello and welcome to yet another thrilling instalment from yours truly in a mad bid to cycle to the home of my parents somewhere in France. They do say that only mad dogs and englishmen go out in the midday sun. Well, I didn’t see any brits or mad dogs so I guess it was just me. The sun came out this  morning and bloody well stayed out. I tried not to look at the temperature reading but I think it reached a shade past 33 degrees. Not the best conditions for riding a bike in. Especially in the Vendee (there should be an accent on one of the e’s but I’ve no clue how to find it on this tablet thing!,
Now, for a few years, I’ve been driving down this way to visit my parents and have always thought how flat this region was. Maybe it is in parts. Unfortunately or, in french – Malheureusement! I chose to avoid them bits during the planning. The bloody place is like Devon only drier, with more courteous drivers, less mad dogs but with as many hills. At least it seemed so in this heat.  Do I sound bitter? The heat just sapped any energy so I had to seek solace in ham baguettes and a pain au raisin the size of a scatter cushion!

The day kicked off with the traditional french breakfast with a choice of coffee or chicory. Apparently it’s a popular thing in the North of France much like batter puddings and barm cakes in England. There was just one table in the dining room and there sat I in full pedalling attire devouring croissants and brioche when in walked two french couples, whom it turned out could speak no English so. However they were keen to include me in their own tongue (ooh matron!). I’m sure that 80% of the stuff I spoke wasn’t grammatically correct but I was understood and they didn’t laugh at me although I’m not sure if it was me or them who steered the conversation from cycling to fois gras to blackberry and apple crumble (if only I’d known the word for custard, I’d have really impressed them. However, I was less impressed when the elder of the two monsieurs plunged a length of baguette into his mug of chicory much like a windows cleaner would his squeegee, and left it there to soak. Interesting way to eat bread I thought. Maybe he’d left his Dentifix at home.

The first part of the day was a simple ride down to Nantes following a cycle path beside the River Erdre. This was shown clearly in green on the Google Map service however, it’s more of a rambler’s footpath through the woods. Tree roots sticking up, branches, thorns, sodding nettles. How the bike got through it unscathed escapes me!
The part of Nantes I went through appeared very smart and clean and I passed a cathedral type building. I’ve not read up on the history of this place so didn’t have a clue what I was looking at. Part of it had been rebuilt to an exact replica or, was it due to the exterior just having a pressure washer put over it for a couple days. 

Once across the Loire, it was a gentle but busy climb out of the city and back into open countryside. The temperature by now was pushing 30 degrees so I stopped for a mammoth baguette and pain au raisin before making myself oven ready by basting any exposed areas with factor 50. I must say, I’ve got award-winning tanlines!
From then on it was a steady plod through endless sun-steeped countryside with slowly increasing hills all the way to Lucon. Nothing dramatic happened today. It was an arduous ride in the heat although half a bag of Haribo helped. Oh and the bloody GPS finished the day 10 miles short of the target. Just hope it’s okay for the next 2 days. Maybe I should invest in paper maps!
Anyway, 75 hot miles today and a mere 58 tomorrow.  Sorry for the lateness of this blog – french Internet issues I’m afraid.


A lot of Water and as much Sun

Good evening from St Jean d’Angely in the Charante Maritime. Today was one of sunshine, baguettes, marshlands and then hills.
The day started like any other with a top breakfast and coffee and then the customary loading of panniers onto the bike whilst cursing one’s self for bringing so much bloody stuff.  In theory, today was quite simple : Ride 58 miles without getting lost and get to the destination in one piece. I set off shortly after 9am and initially, it was a different world from yesterday’s rolling hills. On leaving Lucon, the route took me onto a traffic-free ‘green way’. It seems that towards the coast, this part of France flattens out nicely and is very cycle friendly (that’s if you’re the sort of cyclist who isn’t a fan of hills!). The problem I find with such a flat area is that there’s not much to see and your legs don’t get any respite as there’s a distinct lack of downhill bits. Then again, after yesterday, it was nice to see a lack of uphills. However, as my route took a more south-easterly direction back inland, it started getting lumpy again and the temperature started to climb. Anyway, lunch came along quite quickly and due to crap route knowledge whilst planning, I wasn’t passing through many places with a bakery that was open. In France, if you don’t seize the moment and stock up on baguette-based luxuries before 1pm, you could miss your boat and stay hungry for the rest of the day. Many supermarkets also close for a customary two hour lunch hour! My boat had almost sailed as I at last found a bakery in a little village of Nuaille-d’Aunis although the sullen-faced French woman took great pleasure in informing me that they had ‘pas de sandwichs’ (no sarnies). This was said with a smirk that told the world she was getting some sort of perverse pleasure at not being able to help a hungry cyclist (especially an English one!). I then spied in the corner of the chiller, a couple of baguette type objects that had been filled with gammon, cheese and tomato and then baked. As I smiled sweetly and asked for both of them, her smirk soon turned into a look of disappointment as she loaded them into a paper bag and took my money with neither a please or thank you. I would have dearly at this point to have known the French for ‘I hope you get maimed in a boating accident later today’ but alas, it wasn’t to be so I bade her a fond farewell and hoped she had a good day.  

Lunch was taken just around the corner in the shade out of this oppressive sunshine. The like of which is rarely seen or felt north of the English Channel. The factor 50 was well in use today although, I’m still bloody burnt with the most impressive cyclist’s tanlines. Just then a burly French gent in shorts and t-shirt with a mountain bike stopped for a seat in the shade for half an hour or so. We got talking – him in perfect french, me in this sort of poor, injured pigeon version. His English was non-existent unfortunately. However, we sat there in the shade and chatted for 15 minutes. He was 72 years of age but had one of those faces where the years had been kind and cycles every day whether it’s raining or not. I asked him how far he cycles everyday day and the reply was 30 or 40km. Now, either I misheard him, don’t know my french numbers or he’s a liar but 30-40km at the age of 72 is pretty damned good. After saying Au Revoir et Bonne Route, he was off like a greyhound through the village and out of sight.

The heat through the afternoon didn’t let up. Again, it was in the 30’s and I had to keep stopping every 5 miles and drink at least half a litre of water. Once again, my Garmin GPS went wrong and in the middle of nowhere, it informed I had reached my destination. I was at least 20 miles away from St. Jean d’Angely. After much swearing, more hills and more sunburn, I finally reached the place to rest my weary limbs at the Hotel de la Place in the Place de la Ville. The owner was there to greet me and he was fluent in English that was clearly learnt in America as he had this peculiar franco-yankee twang that I’d never heard before. He showed me to a room on the top floor which was fully en-suite although the room was up to date and nice, the bathroom looked so outdated it was like being on the set of George and Mildred! My folks and daughter were to be joining me for dinner later and I thought about booking a table downstairs in the restaurant. In the room was a menu….33 euro per head for a 3 course meal. Hmmm, if the kitchens are anything like this bathroom, I think we’ll go elsewhere! And….we did!
Anyway tomorrow is the 6th and last of this little cycling trip. The bonus is that my folks have taken home with them all the stuff I’m not going to need tomorrow which means the bike will be lighter! Result!

Et finalement! (And finally!)

Good evening, I did it!! Nothing like Land’s End to John O’Groats but even so. Nearly 400 French miles across some beautiful countryside. I’m sat here drinking a cold beer safely ensconced at my Parents’ home in the village of Yviers in SW France. 
Today was a stark contrast to yesterday in many ways……the weather for starters, was cold in comparison. Last night, there was an incredible thunderstorm and sleep just wasn’t possible and although I was knackered (and full of wine) I just couldn’t nod off. 
At 730am, the alarm went off way, way too soon and looking out of the window, the rain was still falling thick and fast. This was as they say, a bit of a bugger as in my haste yesterday to reduce weight on the bike, I’d given up the waterproof jacket. 
Following a bit of a naff breakfast, I set sail in the rain minus my waterproof. Not only was it still raining but the temperature had dropped to a seemingly chilly 14 degrees C. My Garmin woes continued from the outset as it was unable to load a corrupted route file. Thanks to a phone with free roaming, I was able to set some sort of manual route and picked my way across the Charentaise countryside onto a main road that would take me to Cognac. I always thought that Sundays in France were still classed as a day of rest with the majority of people staying at home and enjoying a bit of ‘down time’ unlike in England where it’s probably the busiest day on the roads. Well, Cognac is like England. I’d never seen so many cars in one small area in France before (a lot of them English!). Trying to take the 3rd exit on a roundabout was taking your life in your own hands and you just hoped that your fellow road users would not only see you but see you in time to react and not hit you. I had meant to ride through the town centre and take a few pics as it looked quite nice in the pictures I’d seen online, but with the traffic and some very dull weather, I adopted a ‘couldn’t be arsed’ attitude and stayed on the outskirts and got back out into the open countryside again. ​

​I’d definitely missed the bakery boat today as there was nothing open anywhere this morning so I had to resort to an emergency ‘MugShot’. This is one of those packet efforts where you empty the sachet into a cup and add boiling water. A bit like Pot Noodle but you have to provide the ‘pot’. This product is manufactured by a company called Symington’s who are endorsed by Ainsley Harriot (that’s his career finished then!). Well, after following the instructions on the packet, waiting 5 minutes for the pasta to ‘cook’. The result was revolting. How this can be marketed as a food product is beyond me. After one spoonful, the rest went on the grass verge. I can’t believe people like this stuff and there’s probably more nourishment in the packaging than the product. Then, in the bottom of my bag I found a couple of brioche rolls that I’d bought on Wednesday evening in Brittany, They’d been in the bottom of my panniers sweating in the sunshine for the past few days so were well ‘matured’. However, these weren’t bought fresh as they’re sold already wrapped in airtight packaging and probably have a week or so on the sell by date. Anyway, they tasted ok and would have to do with another 30 miles still to cover. 
The countryside here is gorgeous with rolling hills through valleys with sides steeped in vineyards and sunflower fields although the sunflowers are looking a little sorry now with it being the end of the season. They all have their heads bowed giving them the look of a congregation at prayer! 
As the miles continued to increase, so did the windspeed. Since Nantes, there had been this nagging southerly wind that didn’t cause many problems and was a welcome coolant on the downhill bits. Now though, it had gained some strength and was becoming a proper headwind that just sapped any momentum when trying to attack yet another uphill. For the last 15 miles, it was one straight road from Barbezieux St. Hilaire to Yviers. This was just a series of up and downs. With it being wide valleys that afforded stunning views of the surrounding cognac-producing countryside, the ‘open-plan’ setting afforded no respite from this wind that was becoming stronger and stronger. In the end it was a case of having to pedal downhill and then with tired limbs, engage the granny-gear and slowly crawl to the top. When at the top, yet another panorama was there to greet you along with, in the distance……yep, another sodding hill! 
Finally though, I ran out of hills and turned off to meet my daughter who has cycled the last mile out to meet me. It was lovely to see a smiling face after the 60 or so miles and we ambled back to my parents’ where a cold beer and warm welcome awaited me.

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag this week. The passing of my dear Nan on Sunday night almost stopped the trip going ahead but I’m glad I decided to go. The ride has given me the chance to think about this lady who has been a  big part of my childhood, youth and adult life. Anybody that met her would’ve said what a lovely old girl she was and always good for a laugh and I’ve got a plenty of memories to dig out and look back on. Rest in Peace Nannie Bill. There’s 20 John Players, lighter and ashtray waitin’ there for ya!

I hope those of you who’ve followed this blog this week have liked it. There’s no more I promise.

All the best.

Steve (In France)

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