CURRENT LOCATION: Camping Municipal des Viennes, Nogent-le-Rotrou
To answer Joe Stafford’s question (that he posted to YouTube a few moments ago) immediately; yes, it’s hot but if you take the necessary measures to protect yourself then I think you’ll be fine. Joe is coming to France soon but as long as he does what we are told to do; cover up (I’m on my second hat of the trip…), plaster yourself in factor 50 (I’m still looking very pale compared to the French), drink lots of water (my two Cycle Touring Festival bottles are drained at least three times a day) and keep eating (no problem there if you are burning lots of calories), you’ll be fine.
Public service duties over, let’s get in with the show… Chartres certainly lived up to its reputation as being a nice place to wander. I paid an early morning visit to the towering cathedral this morning and you can’t fail to be impressed by the skilled craftsman (and hopefully women but…) of a thousand years ago. It has to be admitted that the French take a very different approach to restoration than the British. From what I understand, English Heritage are very much into preservation. If things have been replaced with modern versions, it must be obvious. The French tend to restore things to how they were when they were made and present them as such. There’s a fair amount of this going on at Chartres Cathedral but I don’t have an issue with this approach at all. If we want to admire the craftsmanship (and, err… womanship…) of centuries ago, it’s good to see what it would have looked like originally. This is what people do with vintage cars, no? Or vintage bicycles come to think of it. Discuss.
Anyway, the ecclesiastical theme continued throughout the day with me poking my head into another three churches. Not bad for a devoted atheist. Aside from the aesthetic pleasure of doing so, they are naturally very well air-conditioned. The frescoes at one church were impressive, the ceiling at another glorious (although the third was a little humdrum in comparison). Watch the video for more (and keep watching to the end!)
On the subject of which… it’s been Bastille Day here in France and the place basically shuts down. Although that means it can be a little frustrating locating your baguette of an evening (I did, finally, in a fastish-food place – ‘fastish’ as I was being served by the new employee who was struggling with the till…). But at least it means it’s nice and quiet on the roads. No trucks and very few cars. The farmers are still hard grafting in their fields making hay (because the sun is shining of course); I must have been passed by more tractors than cars as I made my way across the predominantly farmed land between my departure and arrival points.
In terms of the route, it coalesced with the Saint-Jacques à Vélo route (which presumably goes as far as Santiago in Spain) for the first half of the day before heading west as the pilgrim route heads south in Illiers-Combray. The town is also home to the Vallée du Loir á Vélo route (not to be mistaken with the Loire route or EuroVelo 6) and the local authorities make much of the fact that it is a crossing point of all three. In fact it is second only to Marcel Proust who was brought up in the town. Listen to the next episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast for more news of him. Did you listen to episode 053 that was published last night by the way? You can find all the links at CyclingEurope.org/Podcast.
So what can I complain about today? Well… the wind. It’s been blowing quite strongly and, alas, from the north-west. That’s been a bugger, especially with the subliminal climb over the course of much of the day that you never really realise until you wonder why you are feeling quite so knackered and consult the GPS profile. At which point you feel quite miffed. Climbing big hills involves the hard work but you get the sense of elation when you arrive at the summit. These subliminal days of climbing are just the hard work without the elation thrown in at the end. Over 79km here is what it looks like:
I suppose I was at least allowed a nice descent at the end of the day. A descent which brought me to a rather curious campsite. It’s the municipal place in Nogent-le-Rotrou and, err… has been closed to everyone in a car or a motor home. They also appear to have sacked all the staff aside from two teenagers who came round to collect the fee earlier. (Perhaps they have nothing to do with the campsite and are just…) There are four groups on the site tonight; me, two other single cyclists and a family of four who are cycling back from Mont-St-Michel. The wash block is still open but give it a few years and it will take on all the features of a dystopian city that has been abandoned by its residents. Perhaps the whole campsite will. All very strange but at least we are spared the sounds of the internal combustion engine…
Tomorrow it’s Alençon and the nearby Musée du Vélo!
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