Week 4, Humbled by the elements, cycling through the pain & Champagne to Mustard. Total 1601 km’s
An early start from my makeshift campsite on the side of route N 77 north of Troyes, frost covers the ground like a white sheet, a thin layer of ice hugging the rolling fields of the French countryside, my fingers numb from packing my frosted tent away. Destination Troyes, to publish the weekly blog, grab a quick meal and continue south in the direction of Dijon. I roll into Troyes and head straight for the pharmacy to stock up on Deepheat (muscle relaxant cream) & painkillers which at this stage are my closest allies against the morning cold and my heavily strapped up knee.
I’m sitting in this pokey little internet cafe publishing the weekly blog when through the door bursts a fairly eager looking rather large fellow with his (9 or 10 yr. old) son and heads straight for me rambling away at a frenetic pace in French, now unfortunately French is not one of my strong points but I hear the man out before interjecting with some vaguely French retort surmising the fact that I have no idea what he’s on about. After a fair bit of gesturing and fumbling about we come to an agreed understanding that he had seen me earlier on in the day many miles away and he gathered that I must be doing an extremely large journey by the looks of all my gear. Taken aback by the magnitude of the trip as he glared over my shoulder at the now visible route on the PC monitor, translating to his son that was glowing with excitement at the thought of a man travelling so far on a bicycle. We must have shared a half an hour exchange without a single word of a shared language, a lovely example of when body language and the will to communicate and convey a message openly can cross language barriers. I feel we both walked away from the exchange richer men.
Leaving Troyes was once again trickier than finding the route out of smaller towns but after a bit of circling about and backtracking I finally started to head in the right direction on my desired road for the day towards Chatillon a gorgeous town in the north east of the Bourgogne province.
I was eager to get south of the frost and make my way to warmer weather so I had been pushing quite hard and had not had a day off since leaving Brussels, I set up camp that night in the forest thinking that I might be getting far enough south to beat the morning ice, little did I know that I would wake in the middle of the night to a freezing cold sensation, I had rolled over in my sleep and my hand had touched the now frozen walls of my tent, crystalised on in the inside, I was far from beating the frost and had a few miles yet to get through before I would be waking up with any feeling in my fingers and toes.
Spoilt by some beautiful countryside I rolled into Dijon after a good days ride, Dijon (like the mustard). Another great city nestled away in the eastern half of the province, architecture from the med evil period that is truly spectacular, I would have liked to stay longer but my quota of 400 km’s a week was beckoning and Lyon was calling out to be conquered. I slept in an empty campsite just outside Chalon-s-Saone that night another evident reminder that it was winter and the locals had closed all the camping facilities for the colder months, a reality I was well aware of by this stage. I had popped into a Boulangerie (bakery) which was soon becoming a favourite past time of mine cycling through France and grabbed some stunning baked goods and made tracks for my deserted campsite for the evening.
Back on the road towards Lyon where I had arranged accommodation with a Local bloke Tifen, that was a bicycle mechanic in a workshop that recycles old bikes and gets them back into the community at an affordable price. Bicycle culture in Lyon is alive and buzzing and there are some stunning old school steel frames bobbing about. The workshop has in excess of 1500 members with a yearly subscription fee of 20 – 30 Euro’s depending on what you can afford. The workshop and all it’s tools are then at your disposal provided you can squeeze in the door and find a spot to work. A fantastic community project that helps to foster an already buzzing bike culture in this groovy city in the south. A couple of days off in Lyon soaking up some French culture and a little splash out on some gorgeous French cheese and wine before I would be back on noodles in the tent.