After a week on the road it seemed like a good idea for a rest day to re-stock, cleanup and let the legs recoup after the initial riding. The issue was Grandpré, the town we had camped in, was tiny with few amenities, not the type of place you want to take a day off. The situation was complicated by our first bout of rain, heavy rain, which showed no sign of letting up. We packed sopping wet tents away in the rain whilst getting drenched ourselves and decided to ride 27 miles to Sainte-menehould, a bigger town with a few hotels. It was raining sideways with a strong headwind the whole way, some rest day!
Upon arrival we wolfed down a pate poulet (chicken pasty) then scouted out the hotel options, just the 2 it seemed. The first place was closed so we headed towards the other hotel, Le Cheval Rouge. It seemed way too classy, a restaurant encompassed the grond floor with no obvious access to a hotel reception. Looking like a wet dog I parted my hair to the side and strolled in to see sharp linen clothed tables filled with patrons enjoying a Sunday dinner. Thankfully the bar turned into a hotel reception round the side and the tendant clocked me straight away and got me a room sorted for just 55 euros, he even got the kitchen door round the back open to store our bicycles. In the room we used the bathtub to do our a laundry and even caught the queens jubilee flotilla making its way down the Thames in pouring rain.
Clean jerseys but socks still damp we packed up and left the next morning, no rain but bad headwinds again still feeling a little cheated by our non-rest day. The next campsite that evening was probably our worst yet, bug city, uncleaned shower/toilets. Some guys were painting fences around reception, I don’t think its quite holiday season in France yet as the place seems pretty dead which might explain the poor conditions, probably untouched since last September time. We have unintentionally enjoyed a tipple every night so far but that looked like ending until we made the decision to plow back a couple miles to a shop in a previous town for a bottle of wine to share and so it continues.
“Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English, total kop out but about 75% of the time it can resolve the situation as their English is often better than my French)
“Bonsoir! Vous avez une chambre/camping pour deux personnes?” (Good evening, do you have a room/camping for 2 people)
Last but not least the all important breakfast order at any pattiserie, my favourite:
“Une pain aux chocolat et une pain aux raisin, s’il vous plait”…and don’t forget your merci’s!
I have been a little embarrassed by my poor french skills. I’ve decided as a 3 year long resolution I will attempt to learn 3 languages to a reasonable degree. Starting with the easiest one brushing up my German before improving my French and Spanish.
Feeling leggy the following days we rolled on to Langres for a 4* camping experience followed by a blistering hot sweatfest to Besancon. All french towns in this area are perched on the top of the steepest hills dotted with forts from settlements hundreds of years ago. It makes for an agonizing climb at the end of each ride when at your weakest with the lactic acid screaming in your thighs. Major difference to the USA, when I rolled west following the same pattern the land was settled, each town was bang in the middle of the flattest valley for farming etc, makes sense.
Upon arrival in Besancon we had hit rush hour, little did we know quite how big the town, or city rather, was. Traffic made it impossible to navigate towards the centre, we were overheating, exhausted, out of Garmin juice for directions and stuck in the middle of a commercial district. First motel type place we saw said they were full, the car park was empty. The second place looked full but gave us a room despite relucatance. They obviously don’t appreciate two homeless stinking cyclists walking around the complex filled with business men attending functions. Eal managed to misplace one of his gloves and I had taken us on a few wrong turns earlier that day. No rest days is catching up to us, we are making mistakes and both nursing tired legs. Showered, fed and beer in hand with a bed to sleep in soon brightens spirits though. Its all character building besides some people have to work for a living.