It was a joy to wake up in the tent. The birds were bellowing away in the trees, and the Moorhen who lives on the river that meanders by the campsite was cheeping plaintively to her three chicks. A watery sun was just making it's way through the branches of the trees.
A little on the chilly side, we still enjoyed a good breakfast before heading off for a short cycling day to Reims. It was a pretty easy day, with a lot alongside a canal. A highlight for me was seeing several horse and buggies going by...like an antique car rally but with horses :) They were all beautifully turned out, and the driver and passengers were wearing what looked like Victorian period costume. A little surreal, but marvellously picturesque.
The jaunt along the canal was punctuated with a quick stop for some sublime pastries, which helped ease the small section of sandy track where we had to push our bikes before jumping on to a tar-sealed lane all the way into the centre of Reims. No traffic, and there was even a lift up from the canal to road level, where we cycled pretty much directly to the incredible edifice that is the cathedral here.
I'm going to keep this short and sweet because John has added his bit below.
I am writing this while sitting at a street cafe in Riems in the late afternoon sun at the end of a glorious Saturday, watching the world go by and waiting for the very busy waiter to reach my table. Very, very civilised; very, very French.
My last post was after our second day, and a few miles and kilometres have rolled under our pram sized wheels since then. The bikes continue to work well. The 8 speed cassette and internal 3 speed hub gear (for the Brits, think chopper bikes and Sturmey Archer gears) are good, giving maybe 11 gears and an easy way to drop 3 or 4 gears in one go - very useful when you stop all the time to read the map. The technology is good as well as I use a map app on the iPad mini to plot and follow the route. But I do need paper to plan the route.
The other evening we had a lengthy discussion which I would summarise as a robust debate on the correct PK ratio for a cycle trip where P = pastries (I have conceded that pain au chocolat should be considered a pastry) and K = kilometres. I think this should be around 1 cake per 20km and I also think there is a limit (yes, even for me) of 3 cakes a day. Hazel's view inclines towards fewer cakes and more kays. I made my case well but, needless to say, I lost that argument.
The very next day we set off to cover a greater distance. I upped the anti in the patisserie department sneaking in a cafe eclair and hazel set her sights on the distant town of Epernay.
Despite the extra pastry power I was still reduced to a wobbly mess after a few unexpectedly long and deceptively steep climbs. 5 kilometres away from our destination I could go no further. We found a shop that was open (no small thing in rural France where shops are open fewer hours than the churches) and in a hypo glycemic (sp!) fit I grabbed anything that looked like a carbohydrate in a wild trolley dash only to then queue for 10 minutes fighting off dizziness while the lovely but slow 95 year old cashier rang everything up with one finger on a machine from the 1800's - at least I would be able to pay for my goodies in the event of a power cut. I ate the lot and after a few minutes absorbing the sugars I was back on the road. Slow progress behind a slightly worried looking but somewhat smug Hazel towards the home of Moët.
Two days later and we are now spending the weekend in Reims sucking up some culture. I like to think I play the longer game, but it was probably all part of Hazel's master plan.
Highlight of today was ordering a cake called a Paris Brest and being corrected in my pronunciation by the gorgeous cashier.
And here's the waiter.