Monday, 3 October 2011

c'est chouette

Hello tout le monde and happy monday morning from le francais

apologies for the capital letters and apologies if any letters have strayed into the wrong places, like zs or ws or qs or as. the french keyboard still insists on being different to the english one. instead of qwerty it is azerty.

Yesterday we had a much needed rest day, I spent 5 hours on the beach reading my book (ghostwritten, by david mitchell – he is a genius and I highly recommend it). I also sat and watched the local francaises enjoying the heatwave and generally being very french. royan is auite a swanky area, stark white houses with the endless blue sky and coffees that cost 3 euros instead of 1 euro 50. it’s not my kind of place in all honesty, but it was hard not to be happy as I basked like a beached whale on la plage and rested my very weary muscles.

james found an internet and did a blog update instead, I was emotionally defeated yet again by the total lack of internets to be had in francais. along with hypermarchés that close at 8pm on a weekday and 1230 on a sunday, it’s all a bit much sometimes. I know sunday is the holy day of rest, but even god must sometimes need to do some shopping on a sunday afternoon. I suppose that’s what you get in a socialist country like this, but it is too early on a monday morning to be trying to make political and societal comments so i’ll shut up.

james thinks I am good at French, in reality I am good at saying the following things in french.
  • It’s closed? What a surprise.
  • Where is the nearest internet/campsite/hypermarché that is open in this (goddam) town?
I feel like they should put a sign up as you get off the ferry in roscoff that says: francais est fermée pour septiembre.

I actually cracked and went into the police station in marennes on friday afternoon and said in my best French please can you help us find a campsite please? They directed us up a road we’d been to just 2 hours earlier. ah yes I said, you mean en face de la piscine, that one is fermee. ah no he said not opposite the piscine but straight on, you will find the municipal camping. you owe me 2 hours of my time I threatened james, as I had suggested we go straight on at the piscine rather than the other way. that day we had made so many wrong decisions after a really beautiful day of cycling – if we’d have been up everest then we’d be well dead after that kind of series of wrong turnings and bad decisions. question – why at altitude does it take longer to boil your cup of tea – is it due to the lack of oxygen in the air, or the air pressure, or are those 2 things the same anyway?

Anyway, I digress. we are in royan, going to get the 12noon ferry, unless it’s decided to close since we checked the timetable this morning. we will then be in Verdun, over the water. from here it looks sandy and beautiful, so I don’t imagine the coffees will be any cheaper. we will then tootle down a coastal path towards the end of france, with bordeaux to our left and the sea to our right. we may have another rest day on tuesday to enjoy the last of the heatwave if rumours are to be believed. cycling in 36 degrees, once you get used to it, is really lovely. I have got a bit of a tan. james has got some sunburn, which he refers to as a sun tan. he wants to buy some aftersun. I wondered why not just use before sun instead. 

Round these parts of france (the south), they don’t seem to like cyclists as much as in the north. I think they are too busy trying to look beautiful to be able to give you much space on the road, one even honked at me as he went past and it wasn’t to say hello. I cursed him in my best French. 

Here are some statistical updates
  • Croissants consumed so far – surprisingly few, probably only 3 or 4
  • Pain au chocolats consumed so far – 1 this morning - more than croissants, but less than baguettes all in all
  • Compliments on my French – 1 from the bike shop man in boufféré, I said thank you but it’s not true, and one from one of the campsite owners.
  • Complaints by me – countless – more than baguettes even – about various things, but mainly the lack of open shops, internets, and signs directing you to campsites. James has the patience of a saint whereas I have the patience of a piece of dead lettuce, ie none. interestingly we stayed at a hotel called saint james on the day his bike spokes broke in bouffere as there was no camping near enough to the bike shop. Funnily enough we haven’t yet seen anything called saint lucy.
  • mosquito bites – countless. all incurred in the 15 minutes of putting tents up in marennes (police station town) on Friday, the day we would have died if it was everest. the campsite was a farmers field of brown spikey grass, with rock hard ground and some long term campers in their little mobile homes with fences round them. there’s a lot of sites that seem to have people living there year round, perhaps because they like it or perhaps because times are hard? The farmer on this site was friendly, he had cows and a really cute cat who sat on a haystack in the barn and looked at me, and a giant spider in the sink I was going to brush my teeth at but then changed my mind.
  • Punctures – 2 – one on my front wheel, one on my back wheel. in the space of 30 minutes. it was a hot day, and i’d had both tyres pumped up the day before, thus forcing them into the bits of glass and stone that were lodged in my tyre, or in the case of the back tyre forcing the inner into the top of the spoke as the rim tape had broken somehow.
  • Broken spokes – 3, all on jameses bike resulting in the bike shop trip mentioned above.
  • Other things bike related to note at this point - my pannier rack has become bent due to me sitting on it one day as we had to leave jameses bike at the bike shop and both ride back on mine. Not the best idea.
Have to go for our ferry now, so I will leave you with this parting thought/question – how does fairy liquid manage to get through plastic ziploc bags? It’s like a ghost going through walls; it’s amazing. I wonder if you left some fairy liquid for long enough in a ziploc bag if the 2 would merge together and make some kind of fairy liquid ziploc bag composite. is it because they are both oil based? In that case wouldn’t everything oil based merge with everything else oil based; ie everything in the whole world? There are so many things I don’t understand.

Another final comment is – cycle touring is exhausting and it has taken me a long time to get used to my limitations in strength. it is also really good fun. so far its been as hilly emotionally as the hilly bits of brittany we had in the first 5 or so days.

A bientiot mes petits poulets rotis et j espere que tout le monde is enjoying la vague de chauffage (ha ha does that mean heatwave I hope so). xx

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