An average day in several ways but most obviously In that I cycled 75 km, my target average (which is currently exactly 74 km).
I was out of the tent early. The fact that I didn’t know where I was going today must have been playing on my mind. By 6:30am I’d already packed up most of my things and loaded everything onto the bike. Apart from the tent. It was a little damp – from dew rather than rain – so I left it erected in the hope that it would dry while I was working out where to go.
My in depth research consisted of putting the words ‘cycle’ ‘Orléans’ and ‘Paris’ into Google. Quite a few tracks laid down via Strava, Garmin and the like were thrown up but only one qualitative description. John Hayes was the writer’s name and this is this link to his website. He said the following:
I was aware that the Eurovelo 3 (that I’m supposed to be following) followed these canals but it was good to hear first hand about the experience. It gave me sufficient confidence to give it a try. It became my Plan A.
Next up was a couple of hours in Orléans and you can read all about that here (if scrolling down a bit is too much of a challenge).
Finding the Canal d’Orléans wasn’t difficult at all in that it slowly eased itself away from the Loire, the river that I’ve been following since Saumur but after a few kilometres it did start to edge in a different direction and cut its own channel through the countryside of the Loiret départment. All very pretty. If this continues, I’ll be happy… But of course it didn’t. The narrow stone path that John mentioned in his description became annoying to cycle along (John is clearly a more patient man than me) so after about 10 km I decided to start following a route along the roads instead. Initially this was adjacent to the canal but shortly after Sury-aux-Bois the two separated. What I gained in ease of cycling I lost in interesting things to look at. Much of the remainder of the ride was along average roads with average views under an average May sky. It gave me time to reflect upon other matters which were on my mind and put the job of cycling into the wider context of life. It was perhaps what I needed.
The chateau at Bellegarde was a surprise lurking around a corner (it’s the tall red brick building surrounded by a wide most below) and as I cycled through the rest of the small town it struck me that it was probably the first of the trip so far that I would describe as being ‘northern’. Not just northern France but northern Europe. To a certain extent this made sense. The French often refer to the Loire when dividing their country into two. When I lived in Tours in the 1990s I was always glad to live south of the river by a couple of hundred metres as the weather forecaster frequently told me that it would be cold and wet north of the Loire. Having now started to move north of the Loire it was inevitable that the northerness thing would soon kick in; I just wasn’t expecting it so soon.
Just to the west of my destination, Montargis, I noticed on my map that there was an opportunity once again to join the Canal d’Orléans which is exactly what I did. At times the path was just as thin and annoying as before but at least it was so much more picturesque, even when the low motorway bridge gave a dramatic juxtaposition between old and new forms of transportation highways.
I had high hopes for Montargis (it sounds as though it should be a really pretty town, no?) and in the great scheme of things it’s OK. The main street struck me as more British than French however, packed with chain stores along a pedestrianised road that had been transformed somewhat half-heartedly. A world away from the gleaming boulevards of Tours and Orléans with their smart new tramways. My mood wasn’t high; a reflection of the averageness of the day and the thoughts on my mind and I toyed with a hotel, but the campsite was near the town centre and at least merited investigation. Wooded, quiet, cheap… It was difficult to find a reason not to stay so I paid my €6.55, erected the tent and left it to dry. A gourmet meal courtesy of the local Lidl followed. It’s been a funny old day…