When it comes to many things French, that’s very true in my case. I can order coffee. I can buy bread. Even purchase a train ticket! And once I actually managed to buy a bleed valve for 1995 Renault 19 using nothing but french (and a little miming!). In fact on that occasion, the chap at the spares counter was so impressed with my french that he gave me it for nothing. Although this was probably due to him collapsing with uncontrollable laughter at my ‘tentatives de français’.
Anyway, following a recent post on Facebook on a cycle touring group, I was telling its worldwide members about this trip and any advice on the route etc would be much appreciated. The response was very positive and my phone very quickly filled with many enthusiastic messages with advice and guidance on where and where not to go, what and what not to eat, plus ideas on little detours to make to see various landmarks/ mountain ranges/ national parks etc etc etc. Then, after a day or two, a message came through questioning my sanity. The chap in question, whose name eludes me now was of German origin and went on to say (read it with a german accent, it comes across better!).
Why, oh Why, are you cycling to London from the south? Have you not heard of the Mistral? You must be one crazy man to even think on doing this! You will have headwinds for week! And vertical hairs! Last year, I cycled through the Rhone Valley to Avignon from Munchen and I saw 2 men crawling northways on bikes! They had their legs like fur-trunks! Everyday, 50km winds to the head! You must not do this! It will break your soul and your legs! Your bike will be in the Rhone and you will be on the train! Travel south! Buy sails and a mast!
Well, I wasn’t expecting this! It certainly made me think and cast a bit of a shadow of doubt over all the research and planning I’d so far done! What if he was right? I immediately googled it. He was right. Although it’s only bad at certain times of the year. Well, the climate these days isn’t exactly reliable (it was in the 20s here in Devon earlier this week – 7 days before that, we had a frost!) so do I chance it and keep my english fingers crossed that La Mistral isn’t at home for those days I’m pedalling through. Wikipedia does say it’s at its worse betwixt winter and spring. Sod that! I’m not going to chance it. I’ll go t’other way and listen to my fellow german cyclist.
So, all accommodation dates have been changed and the routes finalised this very afternoon. Kick off starts at 6am on 18th September at Marble Arch in London. All being well, on the afternoon of 28th September, I’ll be dipping my sweaty toes in France’s Mediterranean Sea!
I had a nice little training ride this week. It was cut short due to the traditional Devon rain but I managed 33 quickish miles on a touring bike fully loaded with what I’ll be taking. The ride was up in North Devon on the Tarka Trail. It’s made up mainly of a reclaimed railway line that came under Dr Beeching’s axe in the 1960s. A crying shame for rail travel and a real lack of foresight I guess but, it has been transformed into the most beautiful cycle route. It forms part of the NCN Routes 3 and 27 coast to coast from Ilfracombe to Plymouth. The C2C in Devon is very possible and can easily be tackled in a leisurely 3 days. However, some have crossed the county in much less time. Those that feel a little more adventurous can continue south on the ferry to Roscoff and pick up La Vélodyssée – The Atlantic Cycling route that will take you down as far as France’s border with Spain. It’s on the list for me that one is!