Overview: Orleans to Geneva
575.2 km,6500 m climbed,31h – 1000+km in total
Leaving Clément’s house, I quickly approached Orleans. I must say that I have seen A LOT of cathedrals along the way, but this was the most grandiose. The two tall towers were dominating the skyline of cobbled streets and wavy colourful flags. What I really liked about Orleans was the promenade with sunbeds and floating terraces over the Loire. I do wonder sometimes how(if) French people do any work…
Departing Orleans, I had my first encounter with a transit canal (many to follow). This was unusual in his placement, sitting calmly beside the Loire. The colour contrast between the 2 bodies of water and the speed of flow made it look like 2 rivers going side by side, one cold and one hot but never touching each other – like 2 nervous teenagers.
In France, the canal system has been used for centuries for transportation, with a wide spread network spiking in all directions. It’s the paradise of foreign tourists that rent small yachts and slowly navigate from village to village with the complementary glass of wine in the right hand and a big grin on their face. Not envious at all! Especially when I had to fix a puncture right next to one of this yachts on a 35 degrees’ heat. Part of the job description!
I spent my night just passed this beautiful castle in Sully-sur-Loire a UNESCO area of outstanding beauty. After a long day cycling 120 km. one just wants to sit down and enjoy his hard worked, freshly baked pizza. But who knew I was enjoying the Loire from the comfort of a beehive. To complement the 5-10 bites, I obviously dropped my pizza on the ground. Don’t worry, I still ate it – you know what they say about the 5 seconds’ rule. Taking the positives out of it, this was my only “injury” so far. Lucky lad!
The next day – I say the next day because I have no idea what day it was – I found the heat as a pretext to have a lazy day. After reading a bit of my book Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini , a clever book about the psychology behind selling and persuading people into buying – check it out if you are adventurous and are selling anything to anybody in your job.
The path took me on one of Loire’s canal, the day being animated by locks at every other kilometer. I find them fascinating how clever they are for a 1800’s mechanism. To bring the entertainment of the day to a new level, I have passed a village that was partially closed for a celebration. You could tell how much the agriculture is in the centre of rural France when they have 3 days Agricultural Celebrations. A parade made of themed cars was in place and the cars were alternated by orchestras – each of them representing a different village. A beauty to look at and listen to.
Bye-Bye Flat Ground
And continuing on the ascending note, I decided to treat myself with an Airbnb for the night. Where do you think I slept? In an 1800’s chateau being restored by Molly and Chris, a lovely couple. I virtually ticked one item from my bucket list (sleeping in a castle) which brought me to actually creating a bucket list. What crazy ideas do you have that you think I could do on my trip? Let me know in the comment section below and I will do my best to achieve them!
(My last glimpse of the Loire)
Freshly rested, I said goodbye to the Loire and started climbing. The phrase from Hacksaw Ridge “you are not in Kansas any more Dorothy, keep climbing!” kept coming to my mind. By the way, I strongly recommend this film, my favourite Oscar nomination of this year. The hills had a roller-coaster profile and have constituted a great training for the mountains following in the next days. The Rhone-Alps area has left me amazed with Germanic-like stone houses and farms overlooking their assets – plantations of vegetables and animals from the top of the hills. I felt in my natural habitat with hills to climb and a scarcity of people populating them – a flashback from my mountain biking days in Transylvania. Coming close to my host’s house I could see a massive rock in the way and only the thought of having to climb that made me question my life-choices. But my relief came in a form of a small opening at the base of it – I believe the technical term is a “tunnel”. A designated train tunnel has been turned into a cycling path, with a length of 3 km it has provided an exhilarating experience. Outside the thermometer was indicating 35 but in the tunnel, it couldn’t be more than 5. This 30 degrees’ difference produced mist at both ends of the tunnel offering a floating through clouds sensation. Must do experience!
Fully immersing in the french culture
My 3rd Warm Showers host was a lovely family living next to Macon. Lorient, Myriam and their 2 kids, Marceau and Basile made me feel like I was part of the family! After a lovely dinner and the “mandatory” cheese plate that I could not stop eating, the boys of 9 and 11 delighted me with a private concert. The rock stars, Marceau playing the drums and Basile the guitar, showed The White Stripes how Seven Nation Army should be played. My 3rd Warm Shower host and my 3rd concert – it’s a theme apparently! I had the pleasure of learning about the region’s wine-making and what I remarked was that everything that I was served with was homemade! They were even making their own cheese, non-the less growing vegetables, fruit and making delicious gem. My first experience of cumin tea ended the most genuine experience in the French culture and habits. You form a special connection with people that are so kind and giving and I could only hope that the time will give me the chance to return the happiness that you have provided me with! Until then, I could only hope that my stories, knowledge and ability to make you smile could somehow account for it.
Hands on heart, I would love to have a small cabin and live my life the way they do, making wine and having a view of the Alps – on clear days you can see Mont Blanc. For my retirement, this place is on top of the list so far! Anybody still wants to live in London?
(myself, Lorient, Myriam and their 2 kids, Marceau and Basile)
Da(n)vid vs. Goliath
The following 2 days were the queen stages of my “Tour de France”. I could not choose worst timing to cross the Jura Mountains. With a red code heat alert in the entire Europe I put my cycling-climbing booths and managed to slowly but shortly climb peak by peak. With 3700 m climbed in 3 days, I could finally say that I deserve the polka dotted jersey ( the climber t-shirt in Tour de France) and I am a semi-serious cyclist. Probably my spirit animal is a mountain goat or something. Talking about mountain goats, is this the place where one would spent the night? Cause I did. Overlooking Lac du Confas, it was the best camping spot one could hope. Breath-taking.
And the final test that France has gave me was the Col de la Faucille (1323m.) – a mountain pass to Switzerland. The landscape was only getting more spectacular with each meter climbed, burning more of my low energy and my sensitive skin. The final day in France was truly heroic – on a 37 degrees’ heat I managed to climb 2000 m. and still smile at the top of the mountain – the last French based smile for my trip!
Find out in the next article why I cried on the other side of the mountain pass, how I have done a Sound of Music remake and how it felt to skinny-deep in the Lake Leman (Geneva) under the moonlight!
Until then, Au Revoir France – you have been truly sensational!