Vive- la- France

Writing this blog I finally feel as if we have made it! Sitting on a sunny balcony in old Lyon, eating French bread and drinking coffee in the sun, the grey of Glasgow seems a long way behind us. But between Lyon and our last post, there are many stories to tell…

Leaving Swanage on ‘Super Saturday’, we arrived in London to stay with our pal Gareth. Dumping our stuff, we immediately settled down to watch the rugby amongst old friends. After a fraught ending to the Wales vs France game, there were high expectations for the final match of the day, Ireland vs England. A wonderful stay with the most generous of hosts, was only hampered by what can only be described as a depressing result for the English side, and the gloating of my dearly beloved. Before leaving London we caught up with Hannah, Sarah and Rob, and then drove through the London traffic to Surrey for tea with Rich and Anna then on to stay with Ryan’s sister Caron.

Leaving without having chance to say hello to the new born lambs (the highlight of Caron’s farm living), but having spent the night scheming (read on to find out), we circumnavigated the M25, to Essex and the Rum Shack. The Rum Shack (acquired by my wheeler dealer of a father for his garden) became our home for a couple of days, as we gradually made more and more mess, spreading our belongings throughout the house, as we tried to organise our hastily packed bags. During our time in Essex we managed to complete the final jobs on the bike, fitting a chain oiler to my bike, adding charging points to enable us to charge our devices, and putting on new brake pads in the hope of being able to stop within a five minute window!

After finding Ryan cuddled up in bed with Ruby (the dog) one too many times, it was time to hit the road. Ryan was gutted to have to say goodbye to his new love, but after a fantastic Essex night out, we hit the M25 once more on our way to carry out our evil plan. Violet, Ryan’s mum was over in Surrey visiting Caron, blissfully unaware we were even still in the country, let alone pulling up outside. Caron conveniently ‘really needed a wee’ as we knocked on the door. Typically however, Violet didn’t hear the door and after about 10 minutes of ringing and banging (and Caron having spent an awfully long time in the bathroom), we let ourselves in and crept up the stairs. Now the words that came out of Violet’s mouth when she realised it was us, are far too rude to repeat here-but let me say this it involved a lot of ‘fbombs’! And I thought Ryan came from a nice family 😉

The next day, early in the morning we woke full of anticipation, with butterflies in our tummies to make our way to Calais. It was foggy and cold, the weather reflecting our troubled minds. On reaching Calais, we settled our stomachs and warmed our fingers with some hot chocolate and made some final calls. The Kent police raised our spirits with their friendly chat, and promises to follow our adventure, and after assuring customs we were definitely not carrying too many weapons we boarded the ferry.

We couldn’t believe what we saw when we reached Calais-the most mythical of things to anyone who has spent time in Glasgow-a blue sky! With grins on our faces we drove off the ferry yelling ‘Vive le France!” and began a beautiful cruise along the small roads of the North coast of France. Endless views of sea, and rolling green hills, alongside empty roads we headed for Paris. A few hours later, spirits were waning as Ryan’s renowned navigation skills led us at one moment to be 135km from Paris, and then 5 minutes later suddenly 175km from Paris.

Luckily for us, Anna Malzy, and her landlady Mdme Aubrey were not worried by our late arrival, and as soon as we arrived had us drinking French champagne. Mdme Aubrey, keen we did not leave France without eating real French food, had cooked up a feast! Snails, offal and tuna, to start, followed by Lyonese sausage with potatoes and cabbage. Ryan was at this point overjoyed to find that the French had adopted the Irish classic ‘colcannon’ and felt right at home! The beautiful weather continued into the next day as we toured Paris, recreating the Hunchback of Notre Dame, hiking up the champs Elise and dreaming under the Eiffel Tower. Thank you Anna and Mia for such a wonderful first stop in France.

Excited to be on the road once more, we planned a short riding day to Fontainebleau, a forest not far from Paris, famous amongst climbers for the boulders that are scattered amongst it. Pulling up in the town, we were surrounded by bikes. Our machines, were certainly the ugly ducklings amongst the vast array of polished classic and sports bike. But they certainly attracted attention. Having given our blog details to a number of friendly bikers, we set off to find our first wild camp spot.

We had both been nervous about this. When you ask about wild camping in France, (which is illegal by the way), you hear stories of farmers with guns shooting to kill and setting their vicious dogs on you. Buoyed by the lovely French people we had met so far, we decided to risk it, and took one of the many tracks that lead into the forest. Our first bit of off-roading was a success, and we pulled up in a clearing smattered with sunshine. The tent was quickly erected and then we both climbed into the hammock to relax. It was the dream. As with everything on this trip however, ups are quickly followed by downs, and this time it came in the form of a small forest fire.

Because we were in such a rush to leave Glasgow, we had not had a chance to use our new stove. It is a multi fuel burner, that we plan mainly to use with petrol, but can burn most fuels we will come across on the road. All was going well until Ryan attempted to turn the thing on, at which point a huge jet of petrol came shooting up into the air, narrowly missing Ryan’s eyes. Having got over the shock of this, Ryan decided the obvious way to light the stove was to light the streaming jet of fuel. The forest around the stove was immediately engulfed in flames and we danced over them with our heavy boots, cursing! Round two of stove lighting was less dramatic, and we managed to make a cup of tea and boil some pasta.
Regretfully and ashamedly we did no climbing in Font, and instead under more blue skies, headed south to Lyon.

Victor who is our host here, welcomed us into a flat full of people from all around the world, chatting and sharing food. It was fantastic, we whiled the night away on the balcony, learning about different cultures and discussing everything from politics to women. The past few days we have been exploring the beautiful city of Lyon, becoming enchanted by its winding alleyways and breath taking architecture. We met Victor for lunch at a famous market, stuffing ourselves with oysters, mussels, snails and sea urchins. The latter of the two are not for a weak stomach!

Last night, we enjoyed the warm evening with a tense game of petanque, stirring up British and European rivalries. Luckily a few beers managed to heal the fractions, and prevent any lasting bad feelings!

We plan to leave Lyon tomorrow, and head to the South coast towards Italy. Lets hope the weather holds out! For now, I will return to my sunbathing and coffee drinking!

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