So we are now in valenciennes, which for those of you less familiar with the geography of france (like us!) is approx 50km south of lille, in NW france. after leaving canterbury we had a very foggy and rather scary ride to dover – we literally had the option of very hilly, muddy and narrow country lanes, complete with tractors, or the very fast A2. why is everybody going to dover in such a hurry! ended up pelting down the A2 to get off it before becoming road-kill ourselves, thankfully didn’t take us long and the last part is lovely as it is a great big downhill. had a final burger in the ferry terminal and acomedy p hoto of us lined up with the lorries ready to board the ferry – you might think they would have a separate lane for bikes! honestly, the more I cycle abroad the more I realise how unenlightened we are in the UK vis cycling. Anyway, calais needs no introduction or discussion, needless to say we were soon free-wheeling in the direction of St Omer, our first stop. it got windy and hilly towards the end, and seeing as we had cycled 100km (after 100km the day before) we were glad to find a campsite (albeit rather grotty) and set up camp. after dinner it started pouring down so we holed up in the tent and watched 24(the wonders of technology – I am so glad we bought this laptop with us!) until we fell asleep – didnt take long. we were the only people in the campsite whcih was handy seeing as it was raining the next morning so we decided to cook our porridge and have our tea in the shower block, better than being outside! then we were off to lille, another longish day (60km or so) and a good sleep in the very spartan but warm and comfortable YHA. have to say wasn’t that impressed with lille, we had a cycle round and unless we missed something ie the town centre, there isn’t much to see.
today was another 60km to a small but pretty town called valenciennes. the day started badly for pete when he managed to do the classic not-taking-his-foot-out-the-pedal-in-time-and-falling-over-sideways-while- stationary manoevure (at this point pete would like to point out that it wasn’t his fault, he does know how to use cleats, it was because his panniers were unevenly loaded. which apparently wasn’t his fault). thankfully he wasn’treally hurt, only one plaster was required, and even his pride is intact as no-one saw other than me. unlike in vietnam last year when I did exactly the same thing but into a muddy puddle in front of a rvestaurant full of bemused vietnamese people – now that was embarrassing! anyway the main issue with todaywas the wind – so much of it it was actually scary, despite our weighed down bikes we kept almost being blown into the middle of the road – thankfully there was little traffic. the day got better though when the wind turned into a tailwind and we flew along (with the odd low-flying wheelie-bin for company), arriving at our destination feeling relaxed and with plenty of time to do things like blog-writing.
Talking of fitness, overall, despite our combined lack of fitness at the start we seem to have been coping remarkably well with the cycling. Admittedly this has probably been helped by the pancake-like nature of the landscape! But all praise for my saddle (a Brooks leather one), I haven’t so much as winced gettign on it in the mornings. We have also been eating well, or just lots – we have discovered the ideal lunch for cycle tourists, pain frites (chip butty to you or me). carb-tastic!
The wind is due to continue for a few days yet so we are giong to take it slightly easier than planned as it is not going to be a tailwind any longer and a headwind is very hard work. Have been skirting the border of belgium and will probably be popping into luxembourg at some point in the next fewdays but mainly will be staying in france, bring on the pain frites! hope you are all well and that those of you in the UK aren’t too cold!