Breakfast was Spartan. On offer was cereal…and a small croissant, but with no ham or cheese. And no eggs. We are beginning to dream of a full English.
The weather was looking a little overcast and by the time we were ready to set off the castness had moved on from ‘over’ to damp. This merited the use of the waterproof jackets. This as it turned out was a wise move as in just a few yards the dampness of the overcastness had increased to drizzly. This made the first few miles dreary and dull as well as hard work. The roads surface became rough, making headway difficult. This was still champagne country and it seems they spend their money on wine producing rather than on public utilities. We passed through a village called Les Rinceys and through the gathering gloom I noticed they were producing Rose and Pinot Noir. These do not require the baking sunshine of the strong reds produced further south. We were about to leave Champagne-Ardennes for the next red wine region of the Cote D’Or of Bourgogne.
The miles slowly ground onwards and we cursed the lack of attention given by the good Burghers of Champagne to Mr MacAdam’s road surface application. Fortunately by this point the CI was down to a 1 or a 2. The flatlands had given way to more varied countryside and I even saw a small herd of grey looking jersey cows. I think that’s what they were, but cows are not my strong point. I can eat one, but I can’t identify what I have eaten.
We stopped in a little village ironically called Villedieu (God’s Town) as it was neither a town and I did not see God. However, having propped the bikes up against a wall by an open window I could hear a family preparing ‘proper’ breakfast. There was children’s laughter, a father’s chuckle of anticipation, a mother’s carefree humming as eggs and, I swear to god, bacon was cooking. Eggs! If you go tomorrow to your local shop, any shop, you will find shelves stacked with any variety of egg you care to mention. You probably have not given this a second thought as you gaily go about your morning’s business after a hearty breakfast which indeed may have featured an egg or two. You probably take the availability of eggs so for granted that you may even have foregone that option and had porridge instead. You may have boiled them, or fried them on toast, scrambled or even an omelette. You lucky bastards. When I get home I am going to eat eggs until I am sick. The French do not do eggs for breakfast. I am going to write to Msr Le President Hollande and ask that it becomes law for eggs to be offered for breakfast, and I don’t care if that crashes the Euro. So taken was I with the the thought of what I might call ‘oeufs a la anglais’ (boiled eggs), that I nearly set off without my cycling glasses.
The first stop for coffee also allowed for Kirsten to visit the boulangerie and buy some pastry stuffed with dog (remember we are in France). It was bloody delicious, especially the sweetmeat. I always love it when physical activity makes you so hungry you will eat anything and be proud of it. That is why the lower classes are so fat. They often can do no other work except for the manual sort and so work up an appetite that can only be assuaged by eating anything that quickly comes to hand, such as dogs, horses and chrysanthemums. The inclemency of the weather began to change from grey and a bit drizzly to drizzly. The sun tried to shine, but it was a weak effort. One could see a yellowish ball trying to poke through the clouds but the clouds won.
So we battled onwards. I often think that during a challenge that there is always a point when it seems difficult and morale can be sapped. If it was all easy then it would not be a challenge. Today was one of those days when I thought that we were in for a bit of a slog and it would be a case of just getting through to the end. The road surfaces, the weather, the cool temperature and the incipient challenges of ‘Chalfont alerts’ would keep minds occupied. However, we are British and empires are not won by being a big girl’s blouse.
France is big, France is very rural. Well, the countryside bit of France is rural anyway. We were also in the bit of France where large agricultural lorries, tractors and things I can’t name, trundled along the roads. I say trundled, but some of the wagons thundered along like the charge of the light brigade with no fear for their own safety or anyone else’s. I wonder where the nearest hospital is and how one gets ones various bits there?
Afternoon ‘tea’ was blagged from a very helpful shopkeeper who obliged with the necessaries even though the cafe was closed. We were in a place called Baigneux les Juifs which I think translates as something like ‘Washing the Jews’. Kirsten also noted a small shop calling itself ‘8 a huite’, which suggests it is open from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening. We were there at about 4 ish. It was closed.
Today is Sunday.
Having paid Madame for the coffee we then set off to complete the last 14 miles to St Seine L’ Abbaye. It was raining lightly as we left the square. This would be the last easy stretch to our destination. Kirsten left to organise the rooms at the hotel.
However, soon the rain turned to be quite heavy. So heavy in fact that we had to stop at a layby to sit it out. The rain decided it would be a cloudburst that lasted for a couple of hours. We stood and got wet, very very wet. Then cold. Then wet and cold. The spray from passing cars and lorries, the water collecting on the surface, and the reduced visibility made it dangerous to continue and so we had to call Kirsten to pick us up for the last few miles. The earlier prediction about this being a tough day was verified. Clocked up another 57 miles.
Dinner: Rognons for Kirsten, lamb for the chaps. A wonderful ‘amuse bouche’ of red wine marinated onions, and of course escargots de Bourgogne all accompanied by a vin rouge de Bourgogne. Grant asked our waiter if there would be eggs available for breakfast, suitably assured we retired for the night in eager anticipation.