Today has just been a very pleasant ride. Not necessarily the best weather, we seemed to spend the entire day dodging showers. Only got caught in one, but managed to shelter under some trees so didn’t get too damp in the process. For some reason the rain generally appeared to threaten and then pass in front of us, leaving wet roads to ride over, but no precipitation. Ironically, the moment we checked into the hotel for the night, the clouds parted and glorious sunshine joined us for the remainder of the evening. Mind you, we’ve just retired to bed and there has been a rain shower, so the rain really seems to have defined the day.
We got going from OrlÃ©ans this morning at a reasonable time, a quick coffee and a visit to the supermarket for me, Jones had some unexpected bike maintenance to deal with. We’d stored the bikes overnight in the hotel store room, in a space next to the bins. Overnight, someone had returned a bin, moving the bikes in the process, which would have been tricky as they were locked together and around a metal post. In the process they’d managed to knock Jones’ chain off and it had become wedged between the bottom bracket and the chain ring. He had to remove the bolts to the chain ring to free it, which took a few minutes, not helped by needing to move both bikes on his own when a lorry wanted to squeeze down the pedestrian street we were in. I was in the supermarket at the time, getting provisions for the day, and was bemused where he and the bikes had gone on my return. By this time, he was in a coffee shop just up the road, so not too hard to find. Coffee drunk, a quick whirl around the square for some pictures, then back to the river and onwards.
Today, perhaps more than ever, the route was much as we might have imagined it. Some perfect bits of cycle path, perfectly smooth Tarmac, a light breeze that at times, and for a change, seemed to be behind us, made for really enjoyable cycling. Jones kept complaining that he felt tired, and so dictated a slightly slower pace than the terrain often allowed. But then you soon learn that this sort of trip is all about give and take.
Weather forecast be damned, often times the wind appeared to be right on the nose, and gusty, and while the threat of rain should have taken the edge off the day, in the end it worked out well. We enjoyed a couple of lovely stops in towns along the route for coffee and/or beer. This afternoon we sat by a startling resemblance to Jesus who apparently likes a beer and a coffee before going off to do miracles.
It’s also becoming apparent that when BT decided to get rid of all those red telephone boxes a few years ago, they just exported them all to France, as they keep turning up here and there.
Lunch was taken at a particularly attractive bend in the river, sitting on a concrete wall and dangling our legs in the general direction of the water about 20 feet below. Just as we left, the first shower of the day tried to catch us, but we stopped to don jackets and sheltered under a tree to let it pass. Not too long after we could stow the jackets again, with only a damp road to bother us.
We stopped at one point for a beer by the river, uneventful apart from the Fawlty Towers moment when Jonesy went to pay, returning the empty glasses in the process. The bartender said “Cinq Euro”, which J took for “thank you” so replied “dur rien” to mean “don’t mention it”, followed by “L’addition”. “Cinq Euro” was the reply. Jones replied with “dur rien, l’addition sil-vous-plais”, to which the bartender responded with an emphatic “Cinq Euro”, and waved five dexterous digits in his face. Only then did the penny drop.
The architectural interest of the day turned out to be, one chateau aside, the aqueduct at Briare, our resting place for the night. It’s 750 metres long, and carries a canal over the river Loire. It’s still in full working order, as evidenced by the boats passing to and fro during the evening. It’s a mightily impressive structure. Whilst I was standing on it this evening, enjoying the evening sunshine, it was slightly unnerving to find that it had a tendency to sway slightly, I think from the breeze, although there wasn’t much, perhaps it was just for the hell of it.
We dined in the hotel restaurant, a slap up 4 courses from the set menu, and the cheapest table wine to date (1 litre for â‚¬7). Absolutely spiffing. Jones had some part of veal that was slightly difficult to identify, but apparently a local speciality. We think it might have been the skin off the head, or maybe the ears going by the waitresses description, but seemed preferable to the beef scrotum I had earlier in the week. He enjoyed it anyway.
Miles Covered Today: 61
Executive Summary: Rainy skies shouldn’t stop you getting out on the bike, and an ear for the language (amongst other things) might help you avoid embarrassment.