Ok. Before we get on with the usual business, a plea for help. I’ll say this now rather than at some point below as I suspect many of you just skip over the text and look at the pictures (no? I would…). But this is serious. What is wrong with Reggie and how can I cure him? Ever since I cycled through the flooded path on my first full day of cycling in France last week he has been making an intermittent horrible noise. It’s emanating from the crank(?) or as I would probably refer to it, the bit that turns in between the pedals. The flood was deep and although didn’t cover the crank, it came close and certainly water was washed over it In volume. The noise incidentally is a muffled knocking sound that repeats several times before stopping. It happens in all gears and comes and goes. Have I washed away all the oil from inside? If so, how do I replace it? If not, what could it be. Suggestions would be appreciated. At some point between now and Paris (in just over a week) I’ll try and get him looked at in a bike shop. It would be useful if I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Next question: how do you say ‘crank’ in French..?
On with the story of today. I had breakfast in a local café with Chris my WarmShowers host. He’s an interesting guy who works in the computer science department at the university in La Rochelle designing software to automatically create enhanced digital comics from the traditional paper ones. Comics are a bit thing here in France (and are real works of art – forget The Beano!) and most certainly not for just kids. He’s travelled to Japan to work with researchers doing similar things with Manga comics and also to the U.S. Does he remind you of anyone – see his picture below? It’s uncanny! Many thanks to Chris and Audrey (who I didn’t see this morning) for hosting me.
Still haven’t got to the cycling! First stop was to the tourist office in La Rochelle. The woman serving me was a trainee (a colleague was hovering over her shoulder making sure that she was sufficiently off hand and scowling for a minimum of 50% of the time… No!!! Just jesting. She was charm personified!) but produced what I was looking for within seconds; a leaflet all about the new cycle route La Vélo Francette (yes, it’s still feminine – I asked Chris why and he couldn’t really say either). Not too much route detail but good to know I was heading in the right direction.
A little detour to Decathlon [get on with the cycling!!] to buy a 4th (yes, fourth) pair of sunglasses, pair 3 having a cracked lens since some point yesterday. Hopefully pair 4 will last me until Nordkapp but if you are a betting person, you might want to consider my track record. The new glasses have a rose tinted filter and cycling today [he’s mentioned it, finally!] was a little like travelling through an Instagrammed world (without the ’tilt shift’). The greens were somewhat more vivid with the glasses on than off leaving me more than a tad disappointed when I did cycle without them.
Most of the cycling could have been along canals today; there are plenty of them in the Charente Maritime and Vendée departments through which I was cycling. They got gradually thinner the further I travelled inland but the first one from La Rochelle to a town called Marans, imaginatively named the ‘Canal de Marans à La Rochelle’ (brilliant!) was undergoing some severe renovation work. At the La Rochelle end it had been emptied and diggers were driving up and down the deep channel. In the middle it was a bit stagnant and towards the other end they were doing lots of ‘stuff’ that escapes me because I’m no Isambard Kingdom Brunel. None of the canals were being used by holidaying narrow boats. Perhaps one day.
The Canal towpaths were a bit annoying at times but I persisted. Rough tracks rather than good quality cycling paths. Would I recommend them? Mmm… Perhaps only for mountain bikes. I resorted to taking the roads later on in the day especially as I approached Niort.
A couple of interesting stops: Marans where I was told off by a woman in the Super U for not using the proper entrance. I glared at her like I have rarely glared before as I made my way nonsensically to the ‘proper’ entrance rather than her checkout lane. No such issues in charming little Coulon which markets itself as the home of the ‘Marais Potevin’. Very picturesque – see pictures below. Had I not been intent on finding a hotel with WiFi so as to follow tonight’s election here in Niort I would provabably have stayed at the campsite and perhaps join all the pensioners taking trips around the ‘Venise Verte’. Or perhaps not…
Niort. Never been here before but what a nice place. Sophisticated, well maintained, interesting, minimal riff raff. My kind of town! The journey to Saumur of around 120km (no doubt along some canals…) over the next couple of days will be done in two parts (genius!); the first third of that distance to what looks like a nice campsite in Parthenay called Camping Du Bois Vert befor cycling the remaining two-thirds on Saturday to the Camping Ile d’Offard in Saumur, the site where I worked some 22 years ago. I’m sure they’ll remember me, no?