Did you follow that link? Yes? Thanks. No? Why not? If you are into your statistics you might enjoy finding out all about the quantative side of my cycling day. But hang on! Today, it doesn’t quite give you the full picture of the cycling. Have you now looked? I’m assuming that you have. Should you be thinking “Hang on, 27.41 km? Has he given up?”, well read on…
It was an early wake up call at my friend Liz’s house in the middle of the French countryside where I have spent the previous two nights. It being a bit ‘off piste’ from the cycle from Tarifa to Nordkapp I took the train to a place called Chateau-Renault on Monday and cycled the remaining 31 km to where Liz lives. Today I had to reverse the journey in order to get back ‘on piste’ in Tours where I arrived on Sunday. Still with me? French trains may be good but in places like Chateau-Renault they aren’t very frequent so I was a bit alarmed to find out when I checked yesterday that I’d either have to cycle the 31 km back to Chateau-Renault for either the train at 9am or the one at 1.15pm. Bearing in mind I still had a spoke to get replaced at a bike shop in Tours the only sensible option was the former but it did mean leaving Liz’s at around 7am. Quick coffee, French style kisses (not French kissing; she’s a married woman!), one smashed mug later (I’ve promised to send her a replacement from Nordkapp) and I was off albeit rather tentatively with one spoke missing on the front wheel.
It was a wonderful sunrise into which I was cycling yet decidedly chilly. Predominantly flat but after about 90 minutes I had found the train station and the wheel had survived. Phew!
“Un aller-simple pour Tours s’il vous plaît.”
“Oui monsieur. Vous avez une carte de réduction?”
I’m good at this after having spent 15 years teaching the train station role play back in Britain.
“Non. Je n’ai pas de carte de réduction.”
“Vous avez quel âge?”
Eh? Why is he asking me my age? That’s not on the role play card!
“Err… J’ai [insert appropriate age] ans. Pourquoi?
“Parce qu’il y a des réductions pour les gens qui ont certains âges.”
Hang on mate. What are you suggesting? It’s certainly not crossed your mind that I might be a teenager so you must be questioning whether I’m a pensioner! I know retirement ages here in France (especially for SNCF train drivers incidentally who regularly go on strike if their generous privileges are called into question) are on the low side but come on…
“Il y a des réductions pour les personnes de 50 ans ou 60 ans…”
There are times when the piece of glass separating client from cashier is well placed. I went to sit on the platform to wait for the train and for my blood pressure to return to a normal level.
“You won’t be able to take that on the bus mate” a second railway employee informed me in French.
“It’s OK, I’m taking the train.”
“No, at 9am.”
“It’s a bus.”
Had I sinned against French railways in an earlier existence? I returned into the ticket hall to argue my case with the guy who thought I might be a pensioner. Before I got to the front of the queue he came out to speak to me. He was very apologetic. I’m not sure whether it was for the age thing or the fact that he’d sold me a ticket for the train that was a bus despite me having a bike. He told me to try with the bus driver and I would be refunded if that didn’t work.
The day took a step in the right direction when the somewhat grumpy bus driver (presumably he wanted to drive trains and retire at 50 because of an arduous life shovelling coal into the engine) somewhat surprisingly let me put the bike into the storage area under the bus “…vous avez une minute” he warned. And you’ll have a hard time explaining to your boss why you drove off with a bike but no owner if you stick to your word, I thought.
About 40 minutes later I was outside Tours station, the place where I had interrupted my trans-continental cycle on Monday. Right, new spoke! I had noticed a bike shop on Sunday called Détours de Loire that was very close to the station. I tried there first and yes, they could replace it immediately. The mechanic dealing with me was a little on the quiet side but he did the job well. Once done he explained that the spokes that I have with me are not the same as the ones in the wheel. The wheels were rebuilt last December; my spokes are from the 2013 trip along the Mediterranean (not read the book yet?) and are actually thinner than the new ones. I bought some spares from him. The parts, extra spokes and labour came to €15. Not bad.
After coffee in the rue Colbert, just opposite my old flat, I set off for the proper bit of today’s cycling; the bit that’s included in today’s statistics up there at the top. It may have been short but it turned out to be the best bit of cycle path cycling I’ve done since leaving Tarifa. All credit to the local council – the conseil genéral of Indre-et-Loire who have clearly invested money into their section of the Loire à Vélo / Eurovelo 6 route. Here’s a picture of the route:
Well sign-posted, almost all off busy road (and the one piece that was had a great concrete barrier separating cars and bikes – see below), good quality surface and they had routed the whole thing through villages so if you wanted to you could stop and buy food etc… Brilliant! To cap it all the views of the Loire and of the countryside when the route moved south a little through Montlouis were sublime. Almost perfect cycle touring conditions. No, perfect. I can’t fault what they have done. Credit where credit is due! One improvement would be to include a mention of the Eurovelo 3 on some of the signage (that’s the one I’m supposed to be following and it is the same as the Eurovelo 6 from Tours to Orléans) but in the circumstances I’ll let them off.
I arrived in Amboise at around 2pm. Should I just continue? It seemed a waste of an afternoon to stop when there were still good cycling hours in the day. But I reminded myself that I had in fact done nearly 60 km during the day since leaving Liz’s and as Amboise is a pretty little place with a good campsite the arguments for calling it a day were strong. So I did.
The town is another one that I know well. I never lived in Amboise but I did regularly come to the Pfizer research centre here to teach English back in the 1990s. They were busy guys at the time being in the process of developing Viagra. It seemed very easy to erect the tent at the campsite. It’s prettier than I remember; the area around the chateau is particularly nice and looks as though it has been spruced up somewhat. Leonardo de Vinci spent his final days here working for the king so it’s interesting as well as beautiful. Recommended!
Tomorrow I need to put my foot down a little and get a good day of cycling under my belt. The average has dropped to 72.9 km/day – it needs to be 75 km/day – so a cycle to somewhere between Blois and Orléans is on the cards, nearer to the latter than the former. Stay tuned!