| Inspirational Races in Beautiful Places
Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:08 pm la marquise
This really is just a holiday report with photos. No races at all.
Usually we go for a tandem holiday in June, but Celtman happened then, so the holiday was pencilled in for late August.
Some things are easy: booking the bus to get us to and from France, and reserving a room at our final destination. Some things less so: getting the tandem on a train, doing a lot of cycling.
We have used European Bike Express for many years. They do the job with as good spirit as any long distance bus journey permits, and they look after the bike carefully.
Getting to the bus can be a problem. For years we could put the tandem on a train from Ipswich to Shenfield, then ride the final 15 miles to the Thurrock Services pick-up point.
A spanner was thrown in the works when First Great Eastern took over the franchise and declared that tandems did not fit in any of their trains. This was surprising, as they were, physically, the exact same trains that had happily transported our tandem on the very same journey. During this period we relied on our lovely friend ‘Jo with a Van’ who kindly transported us to and from Thurrock. We didn’t like to ask such a big favour, after all, it is a 3 hour round trip, even if she did sneak in a visit to Ikea.
The train franchise has been passed on again, and, miraculously, tandems are now accepted again. Hurrah!
I had booked for us to be dropped off at Nemours, but, given my distinct lack of cycling mojo, and hence miles, I changed our drop-off to Auxerre, making our overall trip length 50 miles shorter over the same number of days. The down-side of this is that the drop-off is now at 1am rather than 11:30 (which was the sole reason for choosing Nemours).
With train tickets and a copy of the email from the Greater Anglia Customer Support stating that tandems can travel on our desired route, we set off to Ipswich Station. No hassle at all, only smiles and helpfulness from the station staff. Soon we were cycling from Shenfield to Thurrock. It’s not a particularly nice route, but it does the job. Just the one near-head-on car smash when an impatient caravan tower didn’t care about an oncoming vehicle. Cue screeching of brakes while we tootled on.
The showers at Thurrock services have been completely redone since I had last used them. All clean and shiny. Luvverly. We stocked up on goodies from the M&S Food Store at Thurrock, plus some extra cookies as they were a bargain… The bus arrived about one hour late. Then we were held up in traffic. On arriving at Dover we were not able to board the next boat, and had to wait for the one an hour later, which was delayed a further hour due to stormy seas. Ho hum.
What a delight to be dropped off at Auxerre Premiere Classe at 3:30am! We managed to fit the tandem in the room (just), and crashed. After a thorough grazing of the buffet breakfast we set off South into the French countryside.
Sunday: Auxerre to Corbigny.
We successfully avoided the city and followed a lovely route along the riverside. A visit to the boulangerie got us bread, but we were struggling to find an open shop selling something suitable to put inside the bread.
Eventually I spied an epicerie in Mailly-la-Ville, where the lady advised me that there was a lovely picnic spot across the road. She was right – a shady woodland with benches. I walked over a narrow lock bridge, while Dave rode the tandem round the road route (tandem was too wide to manage the bridge. As he pootled towards me there was a horrible graunching sound as a twig mashed up the front mudguard:
We removed the broken guard. What rubbish workmanship: it had only lasted about 15 years. Let’s hope there’s no rain.
After eating we noticed a café nearby which had a particular attraction for Dave:
At Rochers du Saussois we met a couple of Belgians who advised us that the cycle path they had come along was good tarmac all the way. We have been caught out in the past, getting a km or so into the path to find the surface deteriorate into rocks and mud.
This was a good path. Thank you, Belgium.
We made our way to Corbigny, where we found a small hotel. We were intrigued to learn that a couple of years ago the EU declared that the local water did not meet acceptable standards, due to above regulation levels of arsenic!
Chatting with a bar owner, we found that everyone still drinks the water, including her children, as it hasn’t changed. She also recommended a bistro. Good recommendation, especially as the waiter bore an uncanny resemblance to Roger Hammond.
Monday: Corbigny to Luzy
On Monday morning we set off through the Foret de Montreuillon, with the intention of seeing the aqueduct. I am partial to an aqueduct. Unfortunately, we cycled under it without realising till we were a couple of km past it.
Finding open food shops in France on a Monday can be very tricky. We snuck up on a supermarket at Moulins-Engilbert and stocked up on lunch. We didn’t find a suitable picnic spot till we got to St Honoré les Bains.
The tourist office there booked us a room at Luzy. Luzy was pleasant enough, but it probably not a ‘must visit’ location on your holiday itinerary.
Tuesday: Luzy to Cluny
We were picking our route carefully, attempting to avoid roads we had already travelled in previous trips. We mark our routes with highlighter pens on the map. Some areas are getting quite bright. We decided to head East through Perrecy les Forges and St Bonnet de Joux.
At Cluny we went to the tourist office to book a room. We were told that if they call the place, they would charge us €2.45 for the phone call, and recommended that we went to the place ourselves, as it was only across the square. We did just that, and were soon comfortable in a gorgeous chambre d’hote adjacent to the medieval abbey square. After the usual clean up and fussing of resident cats, we had time to stroll around town.
Our host recommended Brasserie du Nord for dinner. There was the potential of a major international incident when they ran out of chocolate mousse. Fortunately total disaster was averted by the presence of fondant au chocolat. Close one, that.
We had to slum it at breakfast the next morning:
Wednesday: Cluny to Quincié-en-Beaujeulais
From Cluny we headed South and, after buying picnic supplies, took on Col de Crie. At the summit was a shaded picnic table. O Joy!
A cyclist came along to refill his bidon at a drinking fountain that we hadn’t even noticed. With the usual chat, he told us there was a gorgeous Chambre d’Hote at Quincié. We thanked him for the information, but privately considered that was only 20km away, and we needed to cover a bit more distance to keep on schedule.
This had to be a perfect spot – table, shade, clean water, and a downhill for digestion. There was also, bizarrely, a huge tourist office at the col. It was evidently used by school groups for nature walks. The girls in the office were helpful and charming. They must have tried calling a dozen Chambres in good locations for our plans. But each was full, or the lady was ill, or the children were ill, or the rabbit was ill, or they were on holiday or the nearest restaurant was 5km away.
So we said, ok let’s try the one at Quincié. Sure enough, they had a room and a meal.
We got the directions: go to the village, turn right and it’s 3km along the road – “You’ll see the sign”.
We followed the directions and even found the sign to Domaine Romarand. We started climbing. There was a gorgeous looking building. Hmmm. It looks rather closed and has no Chambre d’Hote sign. We continued climbing.
“Ooh, look at that beautiful old stone building. It must be that one.”
It wasn’t. More climbing. Past some more houses. Through a wood. And then, further up the hill, was a fabulous old farmhouse and a Chambre d’Hote sign.
Our host met us and helped us put the bike away. After a quick shower we enjoyed a refreshing dip in the pool
The room was lovely, the company delightful, and the food both plentiful and excellent.
There was also the wine. This was, after all, a Beaujeulais Villages appellation controllé vineyard.
That was a good evening.
The next morning we were sent off, with some home grown tomatoes for our picnic.
Thursday: Quincié-en Beaujeulais to Pont-de-Chéruy
Discussing how to cross the Rhone and skirt round Lyon, our hostesse, Annie, suggested that we head East to go through the Etang region. We had been through this area some years ago, and it seemed a reasonable idea. And we didn’t have a better one. This has the advantage that every time we pass a pond, we get to say ‘etang’ in a stupid accent.
We avoided the motorways and crossed the big river at Belleville, heading East to the ancient city of Pérouges for lunch. The skies were grey and unpicnicky, so we nipped into a restaurant for a meal including the galettes, for which Pérouges is famed. They’re pretty much like shortbread.
Hauling a loaded tandem round cobbled streets, whilst wearing cleated shoes, isn’t great.
So we made our daily visit to the tourist office to book our room for the night. All sorted, we set off down a steep hill.
There was a loud and unpleasant Twannnggg! The drum brake cable had completed its final stop. The ride to the hotel was taken rather gingerly.
We arrived at Pont-de-Chéruy early enough for the hotel lady to direct us to a large bike shop. Actually, she walked most of the way with us.
They had the mudguards we required, but not a cable long enough for a tandem. They lent us tools to sort the mudguards, and recommended a bike shop in the next town, on our route, where they were sure to have a long cable.
One can feel quite nervous on the back of a tandem with no drum brake.
Friday: Pont-du-Chéruy to La Bouretière
The ride to Bourgoin-Jallieu is quite industrial,but mercifully flat. The trusty Garmin guided us safely to Veloland. The super long cables were absurdly cheap. Monsieur was happy to help fit the cable and supply the casing free – tandem-mates-rates.
Meantime I played with the dog who rolled over playing dead when I scrubbled his ears.
Feeling considerably more secure we went South. I was getting quite excited as we were nearly on home territory.
We stopped for lunch in Beaurepaire. Two seconds after we got inside the heavens opened. By the time we had polished off a very pleasant lunch, the skies had cleared up nicely.
By this stage no maps were needed. This is a road well-ridden. Just through Lens-Lestang we took a break at Christians Rainbow House.
Last year it was raining so hard when we came by we were soaked through. Today it was pleasant enough for a photo stop.
At Hauterives we took the right turn onto the D187. Only 6km to go, but we know that 5.5 of them are uphill. The thought of hugs, rabbits, dogs, washing machine helped inspire my pedalling, but not half as much as the promise of home-brewed aperetifs and the slap up feed.
All were there.
We parked the bike in the official bike rack
This spacious area is well guarded:
It was a dry, but cold and windy day, so not appropriate for a ride to Lac du Champos for an outdoor swim. Instead we rode to L’Abbaye de St Antoine, which I love. Unfortunately the waffle shop had vanished. The ice cream shop was open , but it really wasn’ t an ice cream day.
The Temptation of St Antoine sounded a great name for a restaurant, and, sure enough, they served up good nosh.
I was keen to try out a new spa at Le Grand-Serre. We had tried to call to book places, but the phone was always engaged. Oh well, at least that means they’re in. We followed the signs. And climbed. And climbed. And climbed.
Eventually we arrived at the spa. I walked in while Dave parked the bike. It had a lovely calm feeling.
I was looking forward to being truly warmed through to the bones in the steam room. But it was not to be. The spa had a private booking for a hen party.
We cycled home, including a challenging climb, and made do with a steaming shower.
Sunday: La Bouretière to Valence Sud
Before leaving we had to pose for the traditional photo
Noel presented us with a bottle of apple juice, though the contents were rather closer to their home-made Vin aux Noix. Mmmmmm
Isa got a hug
And Goulie (yes, that is the dog’s name) got some tickles
Goulie was no longer a puppy when we met in 2004. He has slowed down considerably in the last couple of years. It did feel like I was saying good-bye. Sniff.
We attempted to lunch at the posh restaurant, recommended by Noel, in St Donat sur l’Herbasse, but they looked at our cycle gear and declared they were full.
A café nearby served a good steak with ravioli – much cheaper and just what we really wanted.
We took the same route as last year, crossing the Isère at Beaumont Monteux. We arrived at the open air swimming pool at Beaumont-lès-Valence and bought the final tickets of the season. The attendant recognised us and was happy for us to bring the tandem indoors.
Even at the end of the season, open air pools are bracing and refreshing. At least it wasn’t too busy.
I called the bus to check whether they were on schedule. Pretty much every homeward journey has been at least one hour late, and there was no point in leaving the pool before we needed to.
To my amazement they asserted they were on time, and may even be a little early.
“oh yeah” I thought.
But with this information, we reckoned we should at least be ready on time. So, after a good shower, we pedalled slowly to the meeting point, trying not to work up any kind of sweat. We were planning what kit we’d have to move to which bag, in order to take the correct stuff into the coach.
As we pulled into the street, the bus pulled in from the other direction. They were 25 minutes early.
I hastily grabbed all we’d need for the journey, while the tandem was fixed in the trailer.
The journey home was an absolute dream. All passengers at the later pick-ups were ready when the bus arrived. We have become accustomed to being woken up with
“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s 8am and we’re just approaching the Port of Calais, so you need to get your passports ready.”
Imagine our surprise when the announcement was
“It’s 10 to 6….”
We were chucked off the bus at Thurrock by 9am, and were soon on a train to Ipswich eating strawberries with a very jolly works outing.
Home by lunchtime.
~ Last edited by la marquise on Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:40 pm Cleo
Ah...you make me long for my cycling holiday next July! We won't be touring, though. One base hotel with lots of riding nearby. I love how you printed out the confirmation it was okay to take the tandem on the train....the Norseman flight lesson has been learnt!
It *is* about the bike.
Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:00 am MrsTricky
Sounds like a very relaxing trip - eating, drinking and animal admiring interspersed with a little cycling