Day 5 05/23/22
Bonjoir. Today is ferry day and I'm not talking about wild tales of make believe but the real deal of cars and passengers and a rocking boat that turns men into boys. Yes, these ferries can only be tackled by me with Queen Dramamine onboard or there will be a price to pay of hugging the porceline thrown. Thankfully, we took our seats in the family lounge, smack dab in the center of the boat, where according to one friend, the boat least rocks. It must be true. I made it off the boat not having to undergo losing my breakfast; but, it did not turn out so well for the girl in the next booth over. There always has to be one casualty.
After an hour and a half ride across the English channel we managed to disembark at Calais, France. We found ourselves riding behind a pilot car that showed us the way out of the port. We would have never been able to navigate it on our own. Once arriving on the outskirts of the harbor the pilot left us and we both had this feeling of, "O boy here we go," and off we went.
Immediately, we found the cyçling paths very well marked and accompanied by little traffic. But the frustrations of GPS navigation came back to us with fresh vengeance. The lady who sits inside our phone and calls out directions must have malice in her heart. "Just watch these yahoos turn left when I tell them to, when they should actually be going right." I wish I could say it is no big deal but when you are tired, all mountains are made out of molehills.
We made it to the town of Wimereux and ate our first cup of delicious, all fat, all fun coffee ice cream on the esplanade. It was delightfully naughty! This evening would be our first hosting by a Warm Showers couple, Eric and Sylvie Baudelet. Their home is lovely with a beautiful backyard and they spoke English well enough to more than accomodate. She invited us to eat with them but we chose to go to a brasserie and get some food. The food was magnifique and we headed back to the house as the hosts were heading out to choir practice. Off to bed by 8:00 pm. Our first day had been absolutely, fantastically long and we've got to get up tomorrow and do it all over.
Keep it rolling,
Scott and Sarah
Rode 27 miles
Day 6. 05/24/23
This morning was off to another slow start. Sarah slept hard but me, not so much. Sylvie offered to cook us breakfast but I knew she had some place to go so I turned down her generous offer for a cup of coffee. As I stood there drinking my cup, Sylvie graciously, but firmly, let me know that standing while drinking coffee is not an acceptable practice. No problem, we are going to learn how to slow down and actually smell the coffee.
We headed out onto the road by 10:00am and quickly found ourselves buying some bakery goods at Aldi's. This older Frenchman standing behind us in line just wanted to tell us all about his tandem bicycle. Apparently, by all his hand gestures, he broke the frame and went into wild detail about it. We mentioned to him that we do not speak French and he said, according to my Google translate, "it doesn't matter that we can't understand each other." It seemed the man just loved to to talk strangers.
Our day was on some very flat roads over the most amazingly smooth bike paths. What was outstanding, and has been true so far, is the minimal amount of trash on their roadways. America is in need of much improvement in this area. As we rode on, we came across the British WWI military cemetery at Etaples. It was a somber reminder of the history past where men were laid to rest on a bed of noble efforts.
As we approached 40 miles we started to look for a place to camp. After three wild goose chases and a damaged bike fender, we ended up at the Hotel de la Terrasse in Berck. Not a bad find but the elevator could only fit about two suitcases; no bike. Unfortunately, we were on the third floor so we unpacked the bike and carried it up all three flights to our room. Showers and soup and accomodation planning for the next couple of nights. Let's see what tomorrow brings...
Keep it rolling,
Scott and Sarah
Rode 41 miles
Day 7. 05/25/23
Our day began with a 1:00am awakening by the fire alarm. Thankfully as we were heading out the door we were directed back into our room by another hotel guest. The guest gestered to me with the universal sign that someone had been smoking. Oui, oui and we were back to sleep, sleep!
It is amazing how different this is than riding across America. We haven't had a morning where we started riding before 10:00am. The French seem to be in no rush for anything and that includes morning. Coffee was a warm welcome to start our day with a little, you guessed it, oatmeal with cream. If my cholesterol level is not already high it certainly will be with the French dairy cows.
Our day was spent riding through farmland and enjoying the wonderful sun filled day. The swans have been amazing. At one point both Sarah and I exclaimed, "did you see that," to which I said, " let's turn around and go back. It was the biggest swan, I mean the Bigfoot of swans. Sarah was in full agreement as we wheeled up on this monstrous bird of nature. Within moments we both realized our gullibility and broke out in laughter. It was a metal sculpture.
Pedalling on we ran across a couple of Aussies, Mick and Wendy. We spent some time chatting. They were travelling on bikes as well and it was great encouragement to hear some English. It is the strangest feeling to be a guest in another country; everything, for lack of better terms, feels foreign. But we have been absolutely welcomed by the French. As long as you make an attempt to speak the language it goes a long way.
We are staying in our first campground tonight at Camping de Rompval. The campsites are very nice grassy spaces with plenty of room to spread out. We did learn that the bathrooms are different. You have toilets with no toilet seat and you bring your own paper. We are curious as to the no seat policy but it is definitely a cover and hover experience. To round out the day we realized that we bought the wrong gas for our stove. It was looking like no dinner until Sarah figured out one of the two cans would work. Flame on with sauteed chicken over top Ramen and broccoli.
Keep it rollin,
Scott and Sarah
Rode 47 miles
Day 8 05/26/23
I must start out today dispelling the rumor that the French are rude, we have found it to be just the opposite. They can't say hello enough. They can't say goodbye enough. They give you a mile of room when they pass you on a road. They make the best bread. They don't litter and they slow down enough to actually enjoy a cup of coffee. Just saying, if you think the French are rude well maybe we will have to leave it for another time.
Today we didn't get on the road until 11:00am. I am beginning to think in two weeks time we won't even be getting out of bed before 3:00pm. We keep saying, "tomorrow let's get going early," but croissants and coffee seem to be the French thorn in the flesh.
Once we do get on the road it is like being attacked by a Renoir masterpiece in living color. The hues of the ocean, cast with the most amazing green, draws your breath away. The villages are teeming with intritricate stone architecture and various scents that captivate an array of senses. The food, the produce, the bakery goods all sketch a pallette that make for an overwhelming landscape. I am afraid that we are going to eat our way across France.
Unlike our cycling trip across America last summer, we are riding far shorter distances yet we encounter way more food. Where we averaged 50 miles per day last summer, it is looking more like 30 miles on this journey. At this rate, eating 3000 calories while burning 2000 may require another ride across America!
We pulled into a boulangerie (bakery) today to pick up a baguette. I was ravenously hungy and looking forward to sinking my teeth into this manna from heaven. After making my purchase, I stood on the sidewalk and took a small bite. At that moment the conviction of public baguetterie fell upon me. I cried out to the Google gods with a simple, "Hey Google, is it an acceptable practice to eat bread in public while in France?"
This was her reply," According to expatica, never eat on the go. Therefore munching on anything while walking around in public places is highly frowned upon." I just about choked on my French nugget of delicious bread. We packed up as quickly as possible to find a private place where I could sin in peace. Thankfully, just up the road, there was a park with a picnic bench.
Pulled into our campground late in the day around 5:00pm. At first sight it was a jaw dropping, lakeside, pastural setting. Can't go into the whole story but we were able to buy an adapter for the campground outlet plugs.
The campground owner sold it to us and it was a godsend as we have been experiencing severe battery charging anxiety! Viva la France, we are really beginning to enjoy it.
Keep it rolling,
Scott and Sarah
Rode 37 miles today