Note Number 56…All about our Trip to France…

I’ve recently spent two weeks in France with The Man, where I’d hoped to cycle along the banks of the Loire, picnic in the sun with a glass of Rosé from Provence. Relax and enjoy the flowing of the river, the afternoon sun and listen to him read poetry lovingly in my ear. Well, the weather put paid to all that. Torrential rain and heavy low cloud, mist and showers followed us from Cherbourg to Biarritz, here, they said the weather had been bad for several months! It was hard to believe. I did manage to get on the bike a few times and twice with The Man, so all was not lost but what a disappointment. This blog post has been a long time coming and I’ve got no man here to check for mistakes. He’ll read it later and no doubt be emailing comments or writing them in the comments section below. We can’t all be perfect though can we? (I fear some of the French spelling could be suspect). Anyway, take it or leave it, I won’t be offended.

first ride out Biarritz

First Time Out on the bikes – Biarritz (nice château in the background – our home for two nights – see photos below)

We did stay in some beautiful hotels and some not so good but the accommodation, on the whole, ranged from comfortable to luxurious and as you’ll see by the photos it didn’t rain ALL the time.

We travelled from, Cherbourg to Vannes, then on to La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Burgairalles, Vaison-La- Romaine, where The Man cycled up Mont Ventoux three times from three different start points on three consecutive days — Chapeau! (that’s what they say in the cycling world apparently). After Provence, we headed to Bourges, Saumur and finally St Malo where I left him in the drizzle and mist to cycle his way back down through France to Nice. (Mad or what?) I drove back on my own to Cherbourg where I caught the 18.30 ferry to Poole and home to Dorset before midnight.

I’ve picked a few photos from each place and given a little narrative to accompany some of them. We had great food, wonderful wine, visited many interesting little towns and loved it all — in between the rain. Enjoy.

The Streets of Vannes — our first stop. Nice hotel with plenty of parking. A galette for supper, quick breakfast the next morning and back on the road.

La Rochelle — Lovely, I enjoyed this town and the evening stayed fine for us. We managed somehow to eat lunch and dinner which we don’t often do but both were most enjoyable. But with only a one night stop there wasn’t enough time to really explore.

 

Bordeaux. Stunning Cathedral and the Buildings of the City are uniform in colour and architecture.  I found it a little overwhelming, so many people. No parking at our hotel and we had to park the car in an underground car-park and walk. Which, is okay but not ideal. Things were a little tense in the car with me driving and Geoff navigating via the satnav and google maps but we made it without coming to blows. We had a good walk round in the evening but I was happy to leave and move on in the morning.

Beautiful Biarritz

It was very wet on arrival at this gorgeous hotel, we were early and our room wasn’t ready but they welcomed us into the house and we sat in the sitting room to have a snack. I took the opportunity to drink a glass of rosé and tried hard not to be too miserable about the weather. We drove into Biarritz for supper but as it was a wet evening we didn’t spend any time looking around. Another time perhaps. I did like the place.

The Hotel Chateau de Clare de Lune Click to view

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Biarritz Bike Ride

We cycled from our hotel to Anglet and then along the coast to Bidart and back to the hotel. Negotiating some pretty steep hills to get us up from the beach and onto the higher coastal road. Thank goodness for my battery.  I don’t know how Geoff does it, must be in the thighs.

We stayed in a small town called Brugairolles whilst visiting friends who have a house in Cailhau, both villages are close to Carcassone, but we didn’t visit this time as we’d not been impressed on our last visit. The landlady at the B&B was very sweet and couldn’t do enough for us, but she was unable to give us a key and waited up for us to come home. We were very late the first night and felt like naughty boarding school children when she opened the door to let us in!

Mont Ventoux

It’s all about The Man and why not? I was very proud of him cycling three times up this amazing mountain which features frequently in the Tour de France. It’s 21k (approximately) of cycling uphill and then zooming down the other side. At the top, it can be cold, 9deg on one day when it was 25deg at the bottom. He set out to do it and he achieved it. Well done Geoff! I only drove up once and that was enough. The other two occasions I met him at the bottom.

While Geoff cycled I explored the area around Mont Ventoux visiting the towns of Sault and Malaućene.

Sault — a lovely town in the centre of the lavender growing area. We were a bit too early in the year to get the whole experience but I would like to go back when the fields are in full bloom. July/August I think.

Main Street on a Saturday in Malaućene. . .I bought some local strawberries from smiley man and then thought the lady at the other stall might be a bit upset (didn’t want to mess with her) so I bought cherries too.

Aurel Village - lovely

On my way back to collect Geoff I passed through Aurel a delightful hamlet

washing

I also visited the launderette !!!

As a treat we stayed in Le Beffroi in Vaison-La-Romaine for our last night in Provence – it was beautiful, check it out here.

Onwards — to the Centre of France and Bourges…long drive but worth it.

Hotel de Panette Probably one of our favourite hotels. Lovingly restored and they’re still working on it. Click here to take a look at their website.

The photo below is the main door to the hotel and their next project is to restore it to its former glory — you can make a financial contribution if you like 🙂

door to hotel

More of Bourges — click on a photo to see caption

laundrette again

Oh…and I went to the launderette again…

Our last proper stop-over was Saumur and I loved it. The sun shone (a bit) I went for a bike ride to find the Cadre Noir de Saumur (it’s all about horses) and we went for the longed-for cycle ride along the Loire Valley for 36k. Great apart from where the river had flooded the cycle path and it turned into a kind of obstacle course with The Man carrying the bikes up the thirty-nine steps (with a little help from me when it was my bike).

Our Bike Ride along the Loire

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My visit to the Cadre Noir de Saumur is worthy of a blog of its own but I’ll just leave you with these few photos. I spent a wonderful hour and a half looking around. It’s the National Riding School of France and the students, masters, grooms, helpers, in fact, all of the members of this unique school seem to be genuine horse loving people. The horses live a life of hard work and pleasurable relaxation. They have every facility that any equine could need. Then, at the end of their working life, they’re sold on for only around 1000 euro but they must go to a good home where they will have an easy retirement. They check every year to be sure they are being well cared for. Ahh… isn’t that lovely?

Saumur Hotel Château Bouvet Ladubay and a few shots of Saumur

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And finally, St Malo where we stayed in the old town. A wonderful example of a fortified city. The satnav refused to find the road where our hotel was situated and as we wound our way through the narrow one-way streets it was easy to see why. Rabbit warren doesn’t even come close.  The evening we arrived the weather was not too bad but the morning when Geoff set off on his bike ride was cloudy, misty, dull and disappointing. What a shame.

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I said goodbye to The Man and sent him on his way. I drove to Mont St Michel but the carparks were enormous, full and a queue a kilometre long so I began to wind my way towards Cherbourg and stopped on the way to admire the windmill and view the mount in the mist in the distance.

bye bye GB and lads

BYE BYE, YOU MAD LOT! St Malo to Nice June 2018 

Mont St Michel and the Little Windmill 

coming home

Land Ho! Dorset Here I come…

I took so many photos it was hard to choose which ones to upload and even harder to edit and in the end, I confused myself. So If you see one that is in the wrong place just keep it to yourself and bear with me. Bye for now.

Note Number 55…If you can’t beat ’em Join ’em…

bikers

The Man and I in a few years time…

I have succumbed, I have given in, it was not my intention EVER to say yes but I have…and now, I am the proud owner of a bicycle … it is an E-bike which means it has a battery and can help me up the hills. Without this I would definitely not have said yes. Since we relocated to the UK from Italy, a couple of years ago, The Man has been cycling mad. This year he has planned many long, day rides (100 – 200k) and a big ride from St Malo to Nice in June (fifteen days I think) We are leaving on the ferry from Poole at the end of May, driving around France staying one, two, three nights here there and everywhere and he plans to ride almost every morning to keep up the fitness before the big ride. I’m going to abandon him and leave him to cycle across France and I’ll collect him from Bristol airport a couple of weeks later. I don’t think I’ll be attempting anything too adventurous on my bicycle, but you never know.

Jpeg waiting

‘When we’re in France you can walk the dog and I’ll ride the bike, I’ll be back by lunchtime and then we can do whatever you like,’ he said.

I wasn’t so sure about this arrangement and the dog didn’t look too happy about it either. I could tell what she was thinking.

‘I don’t mind being in the car for a few days then stopping in one place for a month where I can lay in the sun and chill. But, stop, start, stop, start every other day and only putting my paws on terra firma for a maximum of three days in one place does not sound like fun for me.’

dog thinking

Jpeg…’thinking’ 

 

I took her advice and booked her into the kennels for 19 days — not sure that was quite what she had in mind.

kennels

I’ve been out on my bike several times and I love it. I’m not hooked (yet) and I’m not out there trying to win any Strava segments or be Queen of the Dorset hills, but I’m happy to pedal along and zap up the power when I need it. The battery only works if you pedal, so you can never just sit there and do nothing, unless you’re going downhill of course. I’ve been shopping a couple of times and have to carry stuff home in a back pack — but, not for long, the panniers have been ordered. Not exactly the same as the ones below as mine will be blue.

bike panniers

 

I cannot wait to get to France and cycle along the Loire Valley, stop in a beautiful place and wait for The Man to join me (as I can get up the hills faster than him) for a picnic, which I will have transported.  I will lay back on the grass, snooze a bit and be inspired to write — I hope.

The dog, may not get off so lightly. I’m investigating the ‘harness and lead’ for bike riders so she can run along beside me. She doesn’t know what she’s in for!

 

My bike is a Volt Pulse LS Step Through E-bike from Volt bikes at London Bridge. I think I got the last one! LOVE IT.

Note Number 51…Guest Blog from The Man…

The Man needs no introduction…read this, it’s from his Strava ride notes…I think he should be a bike blogger don’t you?

Grand Balon

You’ve got the bloody thing taking up space in the spare bedroom, it’s raining, why aren’t you on it?

ahhh ma cherie I murmured, that same thought crossed my mind not a nanosecond ago, but I am of course most grateful for your kind words of encouragement …

with a patently false, devil may care expression attached to the bon visage, I creaked my way up the stairs and proceeded to get it on!

But before you get on it, you need, a bottle, a towel, your expensive shoes with the pro cleats, 2 new batteries for the Garmin Vectors (shoulda changed them last time) the laptop, two boxes to stand the laptop on, the bedside cabinet, and the wifi booster thing.

Suitably armed, climb aboard and get on with it – well not quite yet because the reason that you aren’t getting any resistance even in the big gear, is that you didn’t clip the wheel to the flywheel before you started, so, climb off do that, get back on and pedal … Oh shit I forgot to start the f***ing video of the German chap riding Liege B Liege with his mates, in the rain, last year, so I have to hang out over the handlebars holding on with one hand and attempt to fire up the laptop with the other, find Favourites, click on the vid, sit back down and …. Christ! I think I might have twisted my knee doing that …..

and so it went on – but I did eventually get in the zone and managed to crank out an hour’s worth at 30kph, so that’s only just over 200km of the LBL still do do AND IT’S BLOODY HILLY by the look of the video, yer man on screen was pedalling single figure kph for lots of it and the profile is very jagged – hmmm – better think seriously about the lardshedding eh!

Perhaps not today though as one of LBN’s exquisite Thai green curries is on the lunch menu …

 

 

Note Number 40…Cycling, Creating Havoc, Circumnavigating… IOW

Er...someone taking the P?

Kelvin, The Man and Lou…someone’s ‘aving a larf! 

This wasn’t my first visit to the Isle of Wight, if you remember, we went in August 2016 – for The Man to cycle round it. He went again a few weeks ago so you would have thought he’d had enough but no, he had to do it again. This time it was a team effort with the members of Bridport Cycles. It was the inaugural Kapton Krypton HandiKup IOW. A cycle ride for a club member who has the big C and wanted to set something up for the time when he might not be here. It was decided they should make the first ride in 2017 and that he could participate in his own memorial ride, (which would be a first). Twelve of the riders cycled from Bridport Cycle shop in Symondsbury to Lymington on Friday 13th to catch the ferry.  On Saturday, thirty-two of them cycled around the IOW and then on Sunday, ten cycled back to Dorset and their various homes around the county. A bloody good show I say. The Man did the whole thing and I was very proud of him…around 215 miles in total. I tagged along behind, carrying bags, spare parts and a pump…  One member was lost on the Friday due to mud on the road and a subsequent broken wrist, he bravely cycled on to the half way point of the morning, Ruby’s Cafe in Wool and then cycled home again…What a star.

Broken Wrist

Brave Man…home at last nursing a broken wrist…There’s always next year Lloyd  (photo curtesy Liz I assume) 

On Saturday evening there was dinner at the Albion Hotel, who, despite very late notice, managed to turn out a scrumptious meal for thirty at a very reasonable cost to all. In fact, they were only given our menu choice at 7.30pm and dinner was served at 8pm. Not bad eh?

I wrote this poem on Saturday afternoon and I’m sharing it with you here.

KK HandiKup – Isle of Wight Circumnavigation

A couple of Richards, a Tom Dick and Harry,
A Cat and a Bev, don’t think there’s a Sally?
I find it hard to remember the names
And when in their Lycra they all look the same.

They cycled around either clockwise or anti
Some followed their own – modus operandi
Stopping for coffee, tea and for lunch
They really are an eclectic bunch

It wasn’t a race but they wouldn’t be told
Some of them rushing as if going for gold
Others taking time, enjoying the ride
Cutting the corners – I’m on their side

I drove the back-up, following the mob
Well, actually, I wasn’t really sure of my job
I decided at lunch they could manage without me
And retired to my hotel for cake and for tea

Nobody wanted a pill or a plaster,
On the day, there was no major disaster
Surplus to requirement, of me there was no need
So I set about organising the evening feed

We had dinner on Saturday at the Albion Hotel
Which is stuck in the 80s, not a great sell
They did their best with the troublesome lot
I fear, the managers, may have lost the plot

But, prizes were given, people did shout
Others moaned and gave a good pout
But, I hope they all had a jolly good time
And didn’t find it too much of a pantomime!

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The photographs are not all mine but I hope nobody minds me using the odd couple that aren’t.

Note Number 33…When The Man’s Away…

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve not had time to write much (not on my blog anyway). Poor excuse I know but The Man rode his bicycle for a week in the Alsace (Vosges)  and then instead of coming home on the 25th June he took the opportunity to cycle four epic climbs in The Alps and the Pyrenees. I am so proud of him!

Check out the Slide Show!

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I made the most of his absence by tidying up the garden and painting the garden furniture. It all looks fabulous. Paint used was Ronseal Garden paint and I can highly recommend it. We had some great weather in June…no complaints from me.

painted garden stuff

Newly Painted Garden Furniture

border

Splendid Work on the Herbaceous Border 

Other things I did while The Man was away.

  1. I attended my third Black Venn Poetry workshop in Lyme Regis. I find these highly stimulating and never fail to produce a piece of work of which to be proud. I’ve even entered one for a competition, I’ll let you know how it goes.
  2. I entered a 2700 word short story for a competition run by the Literary Trust…It had to be a modern version of a fairy story. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, (I’m sure a few others will have done the same). I will let you know what happens, if anything, later in the year. I was pleased with it but don’t hold out too much hope as there will be plenty of brilliant entries I’m sure.
  3. I went to Bristol and to Weston Super Mare for my grand daughter’s first playgroup outing. It was…err…memorable. The day before it had been 30 degrees but the day of the outing, the rain clouds came in and the temperature dropped over 10 degrees the wind got up…

    So the sand ended up in everything, not just our sandwiches but in our hair and underwear. (think there’s a poem there somewhere). The baby ate the sand and the four-year-old got it in her eyes. But she still managed a donkey ride and an ice-cream before we beat a hasty retreat back to Bristol for a cup of tea and a piece of cake!

  4. I deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom in our cottage.
  5. I watched Poldark on Sunday evening.
  6. I have started doing Driving for the Disabled with the Forde Abbey Driving Group. Driving is a branch of Riding for the Disabled but we have ponies pulling carriages which are able to take wheelchairs if necessary.
    DRIVING

    Driving through the Arboretum at Forde Abbey

    I joined the group at the end of last year and so far, for many reasons, I have missed several sessions but I’m back on track now. It’s something I did for years when I lived in Devon and had my own pony, Ginger. Lovely he was. I don’t feel the need to get another pony but I am enjoying other people’s. I have to be re-assessed as a Coach Driver – more form filling and courses to attend. More learning and stuff to remember, for my poor brain to cope with. Hoping it won’t take long.

  7. I went to the ballet in Bridport and saw  Ballet Central. It was an excellent performance of several short pieces. The company is made up from students in their final year. By the look of things some of them will go far. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. How they managed to adapt to the small stage,without loss of performance, was quite remarkable. Well done all! 
  8. I read a few books, some better than others, but I enjoyed them all. The last one was My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding. I loved it, a beautifully written memoir of her childhood up to her twentieth year when she went to Cambridge University. I don’t know much about horse racing but I do love horses and dogs and that is the basis of her book. It’s written honestly and openly.

I think that’s most of the important stuff covered. Oh I did fall over and graze arm and knee pretty badly and when there’s no-one at home and even the neighbours are away you just have to get on with it don’t you?

It got worse before it got better but thankfully nothing broken…Oh wait a minute, I broke my tooth the following day. That’s three things then…no more to come, hopefully.