Monday, September 5, 2011

Chinon 5 Sept 2011 - Lost in the Forest

Chinon 5th September 2011

I did a lot of swearing today.

We set off from Azay Le Rideau after a lovely breakfast at the Hotel de Biencourt. We made quite the impression at breakfast because our disabled room door opened straight onto the salon so after Luke took a while fiddling with the lock we burst giggling into the room full of people being studiously quiet over their croissants. The English couple looked at us very disapprovingly and things didn't improve when i decided to try Pamplemousse (grapefruit) juice and nearly spat it all over the table in disgust, then collapsed in hysterics. Luke decided he liked it and drank two glasses with quite the squinty face.

See that door on the left? That's the door to the room we were in.

There is a scene in Groundhog Day when Phil goes to have a shower and there's no hot water. He tells the owner about it. She laughs dismissively and says "Well, there wouldn't be today." That, right there, is Monday in France. We got up and looked forward to buying picnic supplies at the little grocery store and charcuiterie. All closed. It's Monday, silly. They wouldn't be open today.

At the one open boulangerie we encountered two other Australians on the same rental bikes, expressing the same confusing over the Monday thing. We managed to buy eclairs and a baguette to go with our pilfered cream cheese from breakfast.

Fortified, we set off into the forest of Chinon. Except we didn't, for about an hour and a half. After missing the very first turn and riding up a steep hill, we managed to make it into the town of Cheille. Which we circled and were lost in for a very long time. Our official map and directions were dreadful and we ended up riding in a huge loop, heading  back where we came from. Our second take on the town wasn't much better as we set off on the wrong road again. This was made worse by the steep hills. It seems every wrong turn involved going down a hill and riding back up it again. This was repeated throughout the day.

This was early on in the day. We found some abandoned troglodyte-style sheds with jars of preserved fruit in them.

The one good thing that came about from our wrong turns was eating a delightful peach from a wild roadside  tree.

We finally found the road into the forest - the sign with the road name was facing inwards and couldn't be seen from the crossroad. It was accompanied by several INTERDIT red signs that clearly said we couldn't go down that path. This happened several times too.
View from the road. We passed this three times.
(Actually, it says NO FIRES but my French was crap at this point of the holiday)
We made our way along dirt tracks into the ancient forest as the weather turned cool, cloudy and windy. We ate our baguette on the road and then began squiggling through countryside, still taking wrong turns and becoming increasingly frustrated.

Our ride was supposed to be 30km but I suspect it was 40 by the time we finally made it into Chinon at 5pm, exhausted and less than impressed. It should have been a relatively pleasant ride but we spent the whole time worrying we were about to be lost in the forest. We also didn't see any birds or wildlife, perhaps due to the wind.

Lunch stop
A very simple peasant's lunch of bread and chocolat eclairs

The side trips we went on weren't very interesting either.
Wondering if we're on the right road, yet again.

Sunflower: I'm an individual!

Meanwhile, Luke's front brakes and rear gears failed. This made the steep descent into Chinon rather interesting.

Thankfully the Hotel De France in Chinon was swish and welcoming.

This is the size of a standard room in France.
We sat by the Vienne river and had a cider before showering and then talking to the bike rental repair guy, who reckoned there was nothing wrong with Luke's bike. It took about 45 minutes to sort it out, by which time it was 8.30pm and we were very late for dinner.

Our pre-paid meal at Bonne France restaurant wasn't that great. The room was packed with diners and the lone waiter was rushed off his feet. He spent the whole time running around like Basil Fawlty trying to serve everyone quickly. We were last served and it was fairly ordinary. The strawberry soup made me sneeze.

Strawberry soup, the dessert of champions. Or masochists.
We didn't get to bed until 11, utterly tired and sore, not keen on another day's cycling. We didn't see much of Chinon at all, only rode past the imposing fortress on the hill which is apparently empty inside anyway.

Our view of the fortress from the bedroom window.
So, not the best day. But still, we're on holiday and it beats working.

In the garage of the hotel was this car:

A little parked in, perhaps. But handy in a tight spot.

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