Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Manche to the Med - Day 5: St Loup Lamaire to Poitiers

I looked at the map this morning before breakfast. Already we seem to have made a sizeable dent into the journey - the little graphic on the left gives you an idea. When planning this adventure I was hoping for a slow meander through France. There's something immensely attractive about slowness. Something that borders langour and tranquility maybe? Think of those lunches that slip into tea and cocktails, of switching off the computer and taking an hour on the couch, of slow-ripened tomatos or peaches, of a slow stroll to the pub or the occasional loll in a hammock, a slowly handwritten note or a hand-picked posy of wild flowers, slowly sitting down to read a book maybe... So the idea of slowly picking our way through to the south of France, taking time to see things, to smell the terroir, to taste the air... it all sounds just right doesn't it? Now I wonder if we're actually moving too fast? - already things are becoming a bit of a blur.

Breakfast today was okay - but okay over here is like disappointing at home. The bread was faintly stale - probably a day old and tough like bread is when there's no preservatives or additives to keep it soft - still tasty though! The usual spread of cheeses and meats was somewhat miniscule by comparison and we were left wondering if we might find a shop open in the village to stock up for todays ride. We left the hotel at around 9.00am - We rode the bikes to the town hall and the car park there - Gary needed to do some maintenance to his bike - he's been having trouble with the disc brakes on his Dawes Galaxy and some slight adjustments were needed. After that we rode around the village for some exploring - we found a shop - but, being a Monday, it was closed. By 10.00am we were heading out onto the road to Poitiers - immediately upwards from the river - a 100 metre climb so steep and long I felt sick.

We were climbing pretty much constantly for the first hour this morning - then we were back on the dreaded unpaved roads. Not quite as bad as those encountered yesterday - but bad enough to shake us, the bikes and our luggage.... rough, rutted tracks strewn with rocks and debris. After a couple of hours we decided to find a proper road and plot a new route using good old fashioned paper maps! The weather wasn't particularly good either - the full english - rain, wind, rain, a bit of sun, more wind and a final splattering of rain.

Poitiers - main square
Poitiers is a provincial French city, capital of the Poitou area of western France and county town of the Vienne department. It is a historic city that has conserved much of its old-world charm - and has catered for passing travellers since Roman times. It is home to one of the oldest churches in Europe - the fourth-century 'Baptistry' as well as the Notre Dame La Grande from medieval times. The town is also a major university and bustles with many students. As we approached the city I switched back to the GPS to get us through the busy traffic - we found ourselves on a long descent, probably a mile or two, taking us down to river level - then an immediate climb of 40 metres back up to the old town sitting on a plateau above the rivers which surround it on three sides. We found our hotel without incident, tucked away in one of the back streets a short walk from the main square.

More off-loading and unpacking of panniers - a ritual that takes up half an hour at the start and end of each day - then showers and out into the town. Just around the corner from our hotel we're in the thick of it, wide traffic free streets lined with bars and restaurants and then the main square, again with a mass of bars with outside tables. It's sunny now and we sit outside to enjoy a couple of petit beers - there's the comfortable background noise of early evening enjoyment; laughter, conversation, the clinking of glasses, then we find a restaurant for food. Le 16 Carnot is refined, spacious and comfortable - we start with a delicious plate of eggs benedict followed by a simple burger - not perticularly adventurous but very tasty - we both agree, the best burger ever! - the bottle of Merlot was excellent too!

Another early night - we're tucked up by 9.00pm

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