First day back on the road and it was the coldest yet, 15 C and raining. Thankfully Grenoble was the easiest place yet to navigate out from, in fact we would be on the D1075 right from downtown for 60 miles the whole day. After generally flat terrain the first half of the day continuing through the valley we had a mountain pass to contend with. The rock formations atop these mountains always seemed to be smothered in cloud and as we gained elevation we headed straight for them. Soon the cloud was flying across the road in front of us turning from tail to head wind around each bend.
Wet and shivering we had an unpleasant downhill on the other side with the wind chill almost freezing us. My toes and fingers were numb, after pulling in the first service station we could find I sank two coffees immediately then proceeded to put two extra layers under my jacket, new socks and my thermal leggings on. Warm as toast.
The sun had came out that evening, leaving the mountains and heading further south the forecast for the next 5 days and probably until Lisbon was reading clear skies and sunshine. The ride between La Faurie and Tulette was possibly the most beautiful I have ever been on, even Eals first flat tyre (1 a piece) couldn’t spoil the mood. Carving our way gradually downhill through canyons in top cog and coming out the other side in wine country. The last 15 or so miles I was surround on either side of the road by vineyards. We rolled up to the the campsite to find it was completely full but the small town of Tulette a few miles back had a municipal campsite with swimming pool, a really nicely kept place. The whole area is a few classes above the northern regions of France we passed through, money in those grapes.
Drinking a small bottle of wine and then riding past the very vineyard it came from the next morning is quite satisfying. More glorious weather we racked up the miles navigating through one small french town after another. I take care of the maps and the garmin and Eal is happy for me to navigate, but it also means im responsible for every climb we have and each wrong turn we make. Somedays I have to think heavily about the route we’re on and towns to included for rest/food/drink etc. I think the sun must have taken its toll on me today as towards the end of the ride and a tricky days navigation I managed to fall sideways on my bike still clipped in the left pedal whilst stopped in one of my less glorious moments, nobody saw though! The bikes are so heavy once they start going its hard to stop, slight graze on my upper thigh but no real harm done. Campsite La Bastide made me laugh and Eal spent the evening switching tyres. His puncture from yesterday was possibly the result of a worn looking rear tyre which we will need to get changed sharpish.
After assessing the next week or so riding into Spain it was clear bike shops would be very limited so today we decided to take a half day riding 30 miles to Montpellier, get the bikes checked in a shop for tune up and have more new tyres fitted. On route we had a great encounter with a local farmer who saw us checking our maps. He pulled up beside us on the hard shoulder and gave us directions. He thought we were German as he said “Auf Wierdersehen” but then paused and checked to find we were English, he said “Good One!” and rolled off chuckling.
After 3 nights camping since Grenoble we found a 2* hotel to stay at round the corner from the velo shop we had just taken the bikes too. Both agreed Montpelier is the nicest city visited so far we strolled round for a couple hours before returning with supplies to watched the England – Sweden game.
Only 2 days left until Spain, we are going to miss France. Back home a lot of people have jibes at the French… “The problem with France is its full of French” etc… but everyone we have met has been incredibly friendly. Whenever I’m chowing down a pastry on the side of the street every local that passes wishes me bon apptetit! Its a nice social gesture that you wouldn’t get back home whilst drilling a Greggs in. Likewise on an evening when entering a shop or bar I am going to miss being greeted with “Bonsoir Monsieur!” from a smiling french lady spotting me as an outsider in my chino shorts and check shirt from a mile off…