Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Day two - Meaux to La-Ferte-sous-Jouarre 30km 2.5 hours

Cakes: 1 pain au chocolat, and 1 croissant amande; Coffees: 2 each

I am sitting here at a little bar with John, drinking a rather nice local beer, and counting the number of cars that are passing with dings of some sort. A brief, non-scientific sample suggests that about 1/3 of the passing cars have at least one dent or scratch. I suspect that this indicates the narrowness of the streets, as well as the fact that we are either geeks, and/or beginning to relax...or something else entirely! It has an element of absurdity that was also present when, yesterday, we went into a pharmacy to buy some anti-chafe cream. Given that neither of us has a very broad vocabulary in French, it was quite entertaining trying to mime what we were looking for without pointing to the obvious nether regions. The very attractive young assistant, non-plussed by John's description, went to find the pharmacist wherein the process had to be repeated. Finally, a look of understanding crossed her face, and smiles all around as we departed clutching our tube of anti-chafe.

Today was a short, but full day. Chilly, but with some sunshine and a few clouds, we set off to the River Meaux. The road we took swooped downhill (not so good if we had to turn around and go back, given we weren't 100% sure we were on the right track). The dead end sign was also a worry, but the very wise John suggested that we continue in case it was only for cars. Sure enough, we ended up on a lovely track with overarching trees and dappled sunshine. We popped out the end of the track to see...a camel in a paddock. Yup, a camel.

We followed a winding lane through tiny villages stacked with flowers. The grass verges alongside the lane were a blast from my childhood, with brilliant blue cornflowers and hare bells, fields of ripening barley, swathes of corn with stalks so green at the moment, they were almost blue, and the ever present sound of birds. The big difference were the incredible chateaux and old, usually very ornate barns that we would come across in what felt like the middle of nowhere.

The Terns performed pretty well up the hills, and were more stable down the hills with the four panniers on, which was great. Also cool that we could fold them up last night to fit in the cupboard in the place in which we were staying!

We got to La-Ferte-sous-Jouarre just as the market was closing, so loaded up with cheese. I ventured into the boulangerie to emerge after an airing of my terrible French, brief lesson on pronunciation, and a very large loaf of bread...and 2 cakes! The loaf wasn't quite what I'd gone in for, but it's really tasty.

A quick coffee in the central square led to 2 conversations with some lovely guys. The first sat down and talked rapidly in French and once he realised that I knew very little we lapsed into a sort of pigeon mime, and the second one spoke way more English and we were able to touch on quite a few subjects including his relatives in Kansas, and some of the beauties of both France and New Zealand.

We're now sorting out our plan for tomorrow. More cakes, more coffee, and more fabulous cycling.

John's Spot:

Cycling in France again and I couldn't be happier. The views so far have been rolling fields of barley and wheat punctuated by poppies and edged with wild flowers. The canal we rode along yesterday was also a treat - childhood memories of falling from my bike into a grimy canal in Birmingham have now been replaced with something far better. We have moved on from busy roads and high rise estates near Paris and we now pass through ancient villages on empty roads beside the ruins of stately homes destroyed in the revolution.

The comedy bikes are working well. Reassembly was a doddle at the airport and we went from 2 battered boxes to 2 bikes on the road in far less than 2 hours. The easy hills are no problem and they roll along at 25kmh easily enough. Although I do miss the quiet rolling of my trusty rholoff hub. Still a bit wobbly on decent and I am not 100% confident in the brakes, so they may need a tweak. They are also pretty comfortable. The position is rather upright so cycling into a strong wind may be challenging, but that is what rest days and trains are for.

The pastries and breads are as good as ever. We have just eaten too much Brie de Meaux, which was delicious. No wine yet - saving up for Champagne tomorrow.

Highlight of the trip so far has to be watching Hazel leave the boulangerie carrying half of the shop's produce. The result of answering every question with an enthusiastic Oui! I may ask all my questions of Hazel in French from now on.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the commentary & photos... Looks gorgeous & a big improvement on NZ record-breaking low temperatures. Good timing on your part!
    Glad the "gay" bikes are working out well. 😋
    Enviously, Joanna