Archive for April, 2011

Lagny-sur-Marne, France

Saturday, April 30th, 2011
Sandrine & Steve with daughters Josephine & Carolyn.

Sandrine & Steve with daughters Josephine & Carolyn.

Bike trails made entering Paris easy. With almost 12 million people, Paris is one of the world’s largest cities. I still have $200 worth of CFA, the French West African currency, and finally found a foreign exchange that will acccept it. but they charge a 30% commission.  The reason I did not change it at the border of Senegal and Mauritania was because they charged 25%. I told him “No Thanks”. At the Arc de Triomphe we rejoined the route of my first world tour in 1975; which we’ll follow to my birthplace near Metz in NE France. Bike trails along the Seine and Marne rivers led us out of the city and we are staying near Disneyland Paris.

My Arc du Triumph bike jersey has lasted this entire journey.

My Arc de Triomphe bike jersey has lasted this entire journey.

Julie turns down the Champs d'Elysee

Julie turns down the Champs-Élysées.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is on the Île de la Cité in the Seine River.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is on the Île de la Cité in the Seine River.

Paris street performer (with bicycles!)

Paris street performer (with bicycles!)

Boats on the Marne at Torcy.

Boats on the Marne at Torcy.


Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, France

Sunday, April 24th, 2011
The Hall of Mirrors at the crowded Chateau de Versailles.

The Hall of Mirrors at the crowded Chateau de Versailles.

The Paris Texas Cowboy Eiffel Tower.

The Paris, Texas Cowboy Eiffel Tower.

Easter Sunday the roads are free of trucks, and traffic is light until late in the day when families return from holiday gatherings. We stopped for lunch at a flower sale inside a medieval compound in Dourdan, where a small crowd gathered to hear about our world tour. We are staying with Steve and Sandrine Schrenk on the outskirts of Paris. Steve is an old Peace Corps friend of Julie’s from the Twin Cities. They have two adorable daughters. Carolyn is four and becoming bilingual, speaking French with Mom and English with Dad. Josephine is seventeen months old and always smiling (with six teeth). We took the RER rapid transit into Paris one day and bicycled to nearby Versailles another. The dentist found that I do not have a cavity, which I’d hoped he could fill, but a cracked molar. There is a tiny possibility he can fit me in on Friday, otherwise I may put off getting a root canal until this trip is over. ( 29/Apr) I had my root canal done by Dr. Freyschlag during the Royal Wedding. It was a fairly painless one hour procedure that cost $350. I saw only the dentist; no receptionist, no assistant, no bookkeeper. I had the same experience when I saw the doctor a week ago for my infection on a Saturday morning.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower souvenirs struck by soccer ball.

Eiffel Tower souvenirs struck by soccer ball.

We biked 10k around the Grand Canal in the Gardens of Versailles.

We biked 10k around the Grand Canal in the Gardens of Versailles.

King Louis XIV may have surveyed his New World empire on this globe.

King Louis XIV may have surveyed his New World empire on this globe.

A living wall of moss & perennials at the Musée du quai Branly.

A living wall of moss & perennials at the Musée du quai Branly.

Vitry-aux-Loges, France

Friday, April 22nd, 2011
The bike trail passes the St. Laurent nuclear plant. France gets 78% of it's electricity from nuclear energy.

The bike trail passes the St. Laurent nuclear plant. France gets 78% of it's electricity from nuclear energy.

Aspirin improved my condition, but I still worried about my ability to bike another hundred kilometers today. Though I’m still a bit weak, the headwinds of 10-20 kph kept Julie from keeping up with me. We are staying with Roger and Annie Desailly, who we met in Akhfennir, Morocco at the Auberge Yves et Samira (23/Feb). We followed a towpath along the Canal d’Orleans out of the city of Orleans to their restored 1850s farmhouse. They are very hospitable; and in the morning took me to a local doctor to get antibiotics to treat the infection. I’d already made a dentist’s  appointment for next Thursday in Paris.

The Canal d'Orleans at Checy.

The Canal d'Orleans at Checy.

Annie & Roger Desailly.

Annie & Roger Desailly.

Blois, France

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Horse-drawn cart on the dyke near Villandry.

Horse-drawn cart on the dyke near Villandry.

This is July weather in April, as we cycle along the Loire then followed the River Cher to Tours and up to bluff top vineyards. The warm sunny days are great for cyclists, but not for farmers who need the rain.

I have a sore tooth that has become infected. I felt weak and lightheaded on our rest day here when we biked 58 km to see Chateau Chambord, biggest of the Loire valley chateaux.

Petit dejeuner at La Petit Pree.

Petit dejeuner at La Petit Pree.

Breaking for bread and pastries at the bakery in Savonnieres.

Breaking for bread and pastries at the bakery in Savonnieres.

Crossing the bridge to Langeais.

Crossing the bridge to Langeais.

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Swans on a sand island at Cour-sur-Loire.

Swans on a sand island at Cour-sur-Loire.

Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the double-spiral staircase at Chateau Chambord.

Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the double helix staircase at Chateau Chambord.

Château de Chambord (1519).

Château de Chambord (1519).

Rigny-Ussé, France

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
Riverboats on the Loire at Montsoreau.

Riverboats on the Loire at Montsoreau.

We are now cycling up the Loire Valley on a route I highly recommend, even for novices. La Loire à Vélo is a well-marked bike route on quiet roads or bike trails through a fairy-tale region of medieval Chateaux (castles), Cathedrals, charming villages and vineyards along Europe’s last untamed river. A entire 280 km stretch of the valley is a Unesco-designated World Heritage site. Tonight we are staying at La Petite Pree, that is one of our favorites of almost 500 different lodgings in the past two years. It is a rural Gite, or Chambre d’Hôtes, a French-style B & B hosted by Domninique and set in an 1830′s farmhouse along the Loire River with a view of the Usse Chateau 1.5 km away. It’s not expensive by French standards at $63/night, including breakfast highlighted by homemade bread with chestnut butter and a mirabelle (cherry plum) custard. Simpler breakfasts in France cost $15-$20 for two.

I’ve caught up to that young man I used to be, and have cycled further than the first world tour that ended in Amery on 22/Dec/1977.

We cycle on top of the dyke along the Loire.

We cycle on top of the dyke along the Loire.

The Chateau de Saumur (956) is high on a bluff...

The Chateau de Saumur (956) is high on a bluff...

...overlooking the city of Saumur on the Loire.

...overlooking the city of Saumur on the Loire.

The town of les-Rosiers-sur-Loire.

The town of les-Rosiers-sur-Loire.

The Chateau d'Usse inspired Walt Disney in the creation of many of the Disney Castles.

The Chateau d'Usse inspired Walt Disney in the creation of many of the Disney Castles.

French cyclists Claude Giron & Constant Marche on a 3-day tour.

French cyclists Claude Giron & Constant Marche on a 3-day tour.

Angers, France

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

The Black Swan
The Black Swan

We’ve slowed down in France, taking it easy, visiting medieval villages and cycling below average distances…so how did I get four days behind updating this blog? After a late start, we dawdle around the town we arrived in late the night before, shopping for food or replacing worn bike clothes. Then to avoid busy roads find bike trails that wander around; or delightful country lanes that are not laid out in a grid, but meander between little towns. It is a challenge to avoid getting lost, as I’m using free tourist maps and not the detailed Michelin maps. Most intersections have signs pointing to the next village, many villages have maps posted and all the towns have tourist information offices. We stop often to get oriented (after being disoriented).  So by two pm we eat a picnic lunch (pique nique in French); and back on the road at three have only covered 30 km today.  With no time to waste, we push on to a new, closer destination. Stores close at 7:30 pm just as we enter; and as it gets dark check several hotels in search of an affordable one. They all have WiFi and though I’m too tired to blog, stay up late surfing the web. The whole week has been like that. Now that we’ve taken a rest day in Angers, home of the Count of Anjou and the Anjou Plantagenet dynasty, I am able to catch up.

Bicycle parking in "doghouses" at our hostel.

Bicycle parking in "doghouses" at our hostel.

Hwy D65 goes through the woods near Vizens.

Hwy D65 goes through the woods near Vizens.

Saint-Maurice Cathedral (XII & XIII century).

Saint-Maurice Cathedral (XII & XIII century).

Bells ringing for Palm Sunday mass.

Bells ringing for Palm Sunday mass at St-Pierre-des-Eschaubrognes.

Chateau Angers, made of slate & limestone, houses the Apocalypse Tapestry (1382).

Chateau Angers, made of slate & limestone, houses the Apocalypse Tapestry (1382).

Ferrying ourselves across the L'Authion.

Ferrying ourselves across the L'Authion.

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Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, France

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

angers3We almost got an earlier start today, but after stopping at the tourist office and chatting with a retired Australian couple who are house sitting (four months in Italy & two in France), it’s almost noon when we head out of town. Not far away on quiet country lanes we stopped for lunch in Vouvant, “One of the most beautiful villages in France”, and a Petites cités de caractér according to icons on the tourist map. There is a fairytale legend about it’s creation, with conflicting versions of the story on different brochures. You’re supposed to pay for a key to climb the tower, but we followed up after a British couple who left the door open. They didn’t mind at all after hearing about our travels.

There’s an affordable old hotel in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre (L’Hermitage), and a cycling and hiking Rando is starting between 7:30 and 9:30 in the morning. That will be our incentive to get an early start. This is another unexpectedly historic place (from Wikipedia):

Some 25,000 visitors per year arrive at the town, for it is the burial place of two well known Roman Catholic figures: Saint Louis de Montfort and Blessed Marie Louise Trichet. The Basilica of Saint Louis de Montfort at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre is an impressive structure that attracts a good number of pilgrims each year.On September 19 1996, Pope John-Paul II visited the town to meditate and pray on the adjacent tombs of Saint Louis and Blessed Marie Louise. Pope John Paul II’s strong Marian devotion was highly influenced by the Mariology of Saint Louis de Montfort. According to his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the pontif’s personal motto “Totus Tuus” was inspired by St. Louis’ doctrine on total consecration to the Virgin Mary.

Melusine's castle at Vouvant.

Melusine's castle at Vouvant.

The castle interior is cave-like.

The castle interior is cave-like.

The Basilica of Montfort

The Basilica of Saint Louis de Montfort

French alleycat.

French alleycat.

Sunday morning Rando registration for hikers & bikers.

Sunday morning Rando registration for hikers & bikers.

Fontenay-le-Comte

Friday, April 15th, 2011
Transporter bridge across the tidal Charente river.

Transporter bridge across the tidal Charente river.

A unique transporter bridge, built in 1900 and now used only for bikes and pedestrians, was closed on our way into Rochefort last night. We cycled back around the royal shipyards to view it in action. On the way back through town a huge InterSport store caused further delays as we shopped for new cycling clothes. Our route took us through flat country laced with canals.

Swans in a roadside ditch.

Swans in a roadside ditch.

Mustard-yellow field of rape (Canola).

Mustard-yellow field of rape (Canola).

Rochefort, France

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
The road enters the fortified town of Brouage.

The road enters the fortified town of Brouage.

The laundromat was closed last night so we spent the morning doing laundry, then left town on a bike trail along the north shore of the Gironde estuary. Though it was getting late we had to check out the fortified town of Brouages, home of Samuel de Champlain, French explorer and founder of Quebec. A bike trail (we find them all over France) led us into the city of Rochefort. The streets are laid out on a grid because it is a “ville nouvelle” or new town. In December 1665, Rochefort was chosen as a place of “refuge, defense and supply” for the French navy. We discover places like this by accident, traveling without reservations, never knowing for sure where we’ll end up.

Ivy-covered house in Moeze.

Ivy-covered house in Moeze.

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Healthy & hearty picnic lunch.

Royan, France

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
The Moulin (mill) of Vandays.

The Moulin (mill) of Vendays.

“Coo-coo, coo-coo, coo-coo” wakes us up to a freezing dawn (2°C). They are birds. not a coo-coo clock. After quickly striking camp and a one kilometer ride into town we warm up with croissants and cafe lattes, two each.  A music video on TV shows Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing Over the Rainbow, with his huge arms playing a tiny ukulele. The sunny day warms nicely as we bike from the pines to the vines. A road sign directs us to a bike trail through Bordeaux’s vineyards. In the Twin Cities new bike trails are sometimes kept secret, and I only discover them accidentally. A ferry carried us across the Gironde estuary, Europe’s largest and the site of heavy bombing in WW II. In the rebuilt city of Royan we looked for the cheapest hotel in town (back to the MO of my first world tour) and found a room at the Astoria Hotel above a bar for only $39; hosted by Stefan, a charming barkeep who speaks English.

Bike trail from the pines...

Bike trail from the pines...

...to the vines of Bordeaux.

...to the vines.

Memorial to British submarine kayakers at Le Verdon.

Memorial to British submarine kayakers at Le Verdon.

The Vineyards of Bordeaux.

The Vineyards of Bordeaux.


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