Category: France

Heading to the ITT

Got another nice ride in – a lovely route around to Aunac, with a stop for coffee.

Bastille Day celebrations were fairly subdued – no huge parties or fireworks that I could hear or see.

We got away mid-morning on Thursday – we’re both pretty organized and packing up the campervan didn’t take long.  The trip south to the time-trial course took about 2 ½ hours as we travelled on smaller, quieter roads.

The yellow route marking arrows weren’t up yet, but it’s pretty easy to tell when you’re on the route…

We looked for a parking spot along almost the entire route, starting in Libourne and going almost all the way to Saint-Emilion before pulling over and claiming our spot. 

We’d passed quite a few campervans already and knew many more would come but didn’t want to risk getting stuck on the wide shoulder as the ground looked a bit soft.

We’re in a nice wide spot with room for one or two more campervans, right next to a large vineyard.  This is a UNESCO Heritage area and is well known for it’s excellent wine – we’re beside a field of Merlot grapes.

They’re doing spraying of the vines right now – great timing!  We kept all of the windows shut for part of the day but luckily the sprayers knocked off fairly early.

We’ve discovered a problem with the campervan – the sink isn’t draining properly.  There’s a bit right at the top that’s a plastic piece of crap and has broken so all of the drain water flows directly into the cutlery drawer underneath.  I am now doing dishes in the bathroom sink.

The town of Libourne had their fireworks on Thursday night – I was already in bed but listened to them for quite awhile.  Mo heard them too and did her usual little barky/growly thing at them before settling back down on my feet.

Just after breakfast Friday morning a fellow pulled up in a car beside us – the vineyard side, not the road side.  We wondered if we were going to get asked to move, but all he did was warn us to close all of the windows as the sprayers would be coming soon.

We knew the machine was approaching, but appreciated the warning and kept the windows closed for an hour after he’d passed.

In the afternoon we took a walk back to the next group of campervans and on the way passed a very beautiful garden that must belong to the owner of the vineyard.

We had a rather lazy day – I finished the last of the three Genghis Khan books and was left wishing for a fourth.  We found a second problem with the campervan – the freezer has stopped working and the chicken as well as the salmon were both completely defrosted.  Chicken is Friday’s dinner so that’s ok and I made a teriyaki marinade for the salmon so it’s all good.

Late in the evening a bunch of vehicles pulled up on the road, including a semi-truck and several vans. They commenced to put up large signs and some barriers.  Apparently we’re right at the ‘4 km to go’ point.

The team had men from several different countries, including a fellow from Louisiana who said he used to do setups for the Cirque du Soleil.

It was quite a production and they didn’t finish until almost 10:30.

Manx Missile Explodes – We Ride for Coffee

A week ago Friday there was a dinner at the bar – we both chose the scampi and chips.  As usual there were quite a few Brits there, although they’d put the tables a bit further apart so not so much socializing.  During the lockdown last year Edith and Sylvain had used the time to re-decorate a bit – it’s lighter and spiffed up, and looks really good.

When returning home from Ruffec one day we stopped to say a quick hello to Tony and Joyce in Fontenille.  It’s the first time I’ve seen Tony since he did the two beautiful paintings for Colin based on two of my photos so I finally go to thank him personally for doing them.  One of them is in Papiano, so I’d already seen it last year but the other – of Mo and Benny – I didn’t see until we got to Mansle ten days ago.

We’ve taken a couple of walks down to the campground, and the river is still pretty high, although after the flooding several weeks ago it actually has subsided.

They’ve finished putting the new windows in the Mairie and it looks pretty good – Colin is especially pleased that they’re no longer flying the EU flag.

Last Sunday there was a regional cycling race and Colin drove the lead car while I took a few photos.

Unfortunately the weather sucked and there were a couple of periods of torrential rain where I had to go and take shelter in the car.

During one break in the rain I took the opportunity to walk home before the next downpour hit.

We’ve gone for a couple of nice bike rides – the first up to Aunac for coffee.  I have to say it’s very pleasant to ride on roads that aren’t just pothole after pothole – even the small back roads here are in much better shape than most of the ‘main’ roads in Italy.

This Friday we took a day-trip to Cognac, with a quick stop first at a bike shop in Angouleme to get new pads for my front brake.  By the time we got to the campervan store near Cognac they had already closed for lunch so we took the opportunity to find a place to eat.

We came upon a cafe in a nearby village and had a lovely roast chicken lunch alongside a bunch of locals.

A very very exciting Tour de France stage a couple of days ago – Mark Cavendish has now tied Eddy Merckx’s stage win record with his fourth win of this year’s race.  After being a last minute choice to even go to the TDF, and almost a write-off in some people’s minds makes it even more special for the Manx Missile.

Yesterday we went for another, longer bike ride, this time up to Aigre for coffee.  A very good last minute decision was to wear my rain jacket/windbreaker – we were halfway to our destination when the clouds opened and we just got poured on.

The coffee was good and strong, although I do miss Italian cappuccino – cafe creme is not the same!

On the way home we got more rain, but thankfully it didn’t last very long.  At the village of Villesoubis there are several cute stuffed ‘scarecrows’, two of which depicted bike riders.

Another special day at the TDF yesterday – Cdn. Michael Woods is now the proud wearer of the King of the Mountains jersey.  It would be great if he can keep it until the end next Sunday.

Finally Mansle

After a bit of a sleep-in we had a morning cappuccino at one of the beach bars, then headed off at 10:00.

In no particular hurry we had a leisurely drive generally west and a bit north, passing through Gap, which was a bit of a drag.

The current highway goes right through the city, although they are finally building a bypass.  Maybe next time we come this way we won’t encounter the same issue.

Somewhere between Gap and Die we encountered a road incident – several police cars were gathered near a dump truck that hadn’t quite made a curve in the road and had run headon into a barrier at the side – totally smashed the front-end in.

Our last night on the road (this time) was spent at the edge of the village of Le Champs de Raphael, where we’ve stayed before.  I recall that last time I set up my tent and spent half the night wondering if I was going to get blown away in the wind. 

The view is awesome, and you can just hear the clanking of the cow bells in the valley below.

When leaving in the morning we encountered a ‘deviation’ that was somewhat confusing.  After going about 10 km in the direction we wanted we had to turn around and retrace our route almost completely, as did at least a couple of other vehicles.

We eventually joined the road that Colin was familiar with and made it up to Clermont-Ferrand where we turned west for the rest of the journey.

Whether new or old, viaduct or bridge building use the same basic structure….

We stopped for a quick bite to eat at a small park that had some interesting wood sculptures.

Continuing on refreshed we reached Mansle in the early evening.  Had a very welcome hot shower and a nice dinner of salmon with new potatoes and green beans cooked by Neal – very good ‘homecoming’.