Friday (June 5) – 5th ride day
My symptoms of the variant plague continue to diminish, slightly. Yeah.
And, another mercifully short day as we ride without incident to Angers. Quite interesting weather: despite the forecast of another really hot day, the skies open at breakfast for a drenching rain. (Can you guess how often bike riders check the weather?)
By the time breakfast is done, suitcases packed and loaded in the van – the rain is gone. Yeah, again.
More brilliant navigation (good cue sheets, Google maps, iPhones, savvy experience… Maybe some help from above…).
An indication of the posterity of this part for France: not merely well tended fields of wheat, corn, vines… Also, a well manicured golf course. More horses. And, fields of flowers:
Angers has an apparent successful and eclectic approach to business: we stay at a Best Western Hotel (but, originally French design) – across from the Mac Café.
But, wonderful crepe for lunch (not at Mac Café).
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”
Francois De La Rouchefoucauld
And, in a bow to the pig in the previous day’s notes: good Internet. But, not enough time, energy, or good health to post a blog entry…
Sunday (June 7) – 2nd rest day
My symptoms of the variant plague continue to diminish. Yeah.
And, a rest day is just what I need.
A chance to wander about Champtoceaux and enjoy yet another view of the Loire valley.
As in almost every town, there is some monument /sculpture / plaque to the soldiers of France who gave their lives in World War I.
A visit to a local church reveals a similar reverence for members of the congregation whose lives ended in sacrifice. Here not just the Great War, but the others:
- WW I;
- WW II;
- Algeria and IndoChina.
In America, it was called Vietnam; in France, it’s IndoChina.
Monday (June 8) – 7th ride day
My symptoms of the variant plague continue to diminish, slowly. I think.
45 km of lovely hills and farms. Lunch in magic spot. Good food. Photogenic ducks…
Arrive at hotel with most great shower… Can you imagine how many creative approaches there are to “How To Design a Shower” in a nation where aesthetics trump functionality? Remember, a new hotel almost every night.
Great “briefing” in the hotel courtyard before dinner – how to be (and, why to be) a Ride Leader. Echoes of Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership.” Hosting people in one’s home… Helping others to experience a great ride.
Tuesday (June 9) – 8th ride day for most – van day for me
My symptoms of the variant plague continue to diminish, but not if I ride hard on long days. Today is a long one, and I’m very tired.
I decide not to join other invalids in the rented Plague Car (shared coughing fits seem unsavory). But, the driver of the luggage van, Malik has a passenger seat that is available – and space for my bike on top of the luggage…
I get an interesting insight into the logistics behind the scenes as we discuss his role in supporting our ride. We have two languages in common: English and Spanish. Spanish is my second language and his third. We try a few sentences in Spanish. Not too bad. For me, belter than French. Soon, we have covered enough miles to need coffee. Since Malik is French, he knows to stop in the bar on the main square of a small town: espresso for a reasonable price. (Often in France, wine is cheaper than coffee. A fact brought to light as two of the local town folk wander in for a shot of white wine at 10:30 am.) As Malik and I stand up to leave, the woman, who has now moved beyond her first glass of the day, announces (in French): “Damn, you’re tall…” Probably, her first American tourist. We are, indeed, in rural France.
When we reach the day’s hotel, I watch as Malik engages the hotel staff. He morphs from a van driver to a soft-spoken diplomat: special accommodations for the woman whose bad Achilles tendon requires a first floor room; a vegetarian meal for a sensitive member of the group… I use my low-level diplomatic skills to convince him to let me help unload the van. Then, he carries each person’s luggage to the correct room.
Since we are way ahead of the bike riders, I wander into town on foot. Despite my poor French, and without my French-speaking wife, I manage a lovely lunch in local restaurant.
And, since it is still a long day for the riders, I have time to sit inside the relatively simple local Catholic Cathedral. Alone in a sunlight filled stone enclave, I light a candle for my Irish-Catholic father and many others who have influenced my life. I watch another candle lighter: a middle-aged woman with a young child. In what seems a habitual way, she approaches the supply of new candles, drops her € 0.50 into the coin receptacle, places the lit candle in its stand, and pauses. She then slowly exits with the small girl still holding her hand.
Even without a bike, travel can be illuminating.
Wednesday (June 10) – 9th ride day – last one
My plague symptoms diminish, and, since this is a short (31 km) last day, OK to try.
And, four possible stops along the way: Kerhinet, a village fully restored by the Brière Regional Nature Park, (old houses showing thatched roof construction); the Medieval Mall (oops, old city) of Guérande; the Salt Museum (this is the part of France where much salt is produced); and a German bunker from WW II.
Market day at Guérande
Lovely lunch of mussels and French fries (pommes frites) for lunch. We are almost to the coast…
An easy day of riding – despite very gusty winds. At worst, crosswinds that encourage concentration; at best, a gentle push towards the beach at Le Croisic.
And, with the prospect of rain tomorrow – plus limited indoor space for bike assembly, a dash to pack bikes in boxes in the outdoor area beyond the breakfast nook. Success – with the disclaimer that packing for home is less fastidious than packing for assembly in Europe. But, just as difficult…
Thursday (June 11) – last day together
A Very Slow start with a walk to town. Glad it’s not the peak of tourist season. Buy lunch for a picnic on the veranda of our hotel, overlooking the bay!
Yes, we are on the Atlantic!
Prepare for the Last Supper with the gang… A fish extravaganza: appetizer of crayfish + prawns; main course of complete fish. And, sunset from our room:
Friday (June 12) – a bus ride day – Le Croisic to Charles de Gaulle
The weather gods continue to work in harmony with bike folks: the threatened rain comes only when we are inside a plush bus with our bikes and suitcases stowed safely below,
An early exit (pulling away from the hotel at 7:30 am) in a futile attempt to avoid the afternoon “rush hour” in Paris. But, the weather clears, and we have a lovely view of an alternate path between the coast of France and its capital as we watch farmland appear and vanish along a major highway.
At Charles de Gaulle, we are back in logistics mode: check in for us requires a trip via hotel shuttle bus to Baggage du Monde in Terminal 2 with our bikes for another week of storage.
And, sad farewells to an extraordinary band of fellow bike riders.