We woke up late. Lou was completely covered in insect bites and had been up in the night to smoke them out. We went down to breakfast and I scoffed loads of my new discovery – little pots of applesauce. I’d only previously seen them on Trans-Atlantic flights before and found them odd, but they have fruit in, and that’s not easy to come by here in France.
We hurtled out of town down the hills stopping only briefly for me to panic that I had to go back for my helmet. It was on my head but the cold wind on my wet hair made me feel like it wasn’t. When we got to the bottom we stopped in the pharmacy at St Satur. Lou got some anti-histamines at the chemists and we carried on, but not for long. We stopped for coffee and cigarettes and Lou complained of feeling tired.
It was cold and raining with a fierce headwind and the anti-histamine had made Lou sleepy. They also acted as a diruetic. We stopped at every bar we passed for a wee, taking ages to get to Cosne Cours sur Loire where the church was locked and the bar we stopped at had a pissour, nobody wants to use a pissour at the best of times, when you’re feeling sub par and your legs are wobbly, it’s not a good option. Sadly and slowly out of town, Lou was really struggling and had to stop in the woods to pee. She was unsteady on her legs and managed to get nettle stings on her bum.
We spotted a roadside cafe at Lere, L’Escapade, although it was slightly set back from the road. It only offered four course meals. Lou nipped in for I pee while I asked if it was possible just to have a sandwich. The girl behind the bar asked a large man who said yes. We agreed on one chicken and one cheese sandwich after a quick mime to ensure we didn’t get two cheese and chicken butties.
Drinks proved more difficult, we wanted juice. There were lots of questions and I couldn’t answer them. I dug out my translation book but with no success. I finally understood as an old drinker at the bar was muttering about velos and bidons. I shouted “Bidons! Oui!”. I knew what they were, so said “Non, n’est pas pour bidons, c’est pour ici”. Go me on the advanced French. He filled our bidons with fresh water too.
The baguettes were huge and scrummy. Hurrah for L’Escapade. Boo for the church which was locked but had lovely looking windows. The little towns here are pretty with varying awards from 1-4 flowers for their floweriness. Belleville deserves an upgrade, it far outshines its measly two flower rating.
It was still cold, it was still windy and it was still raining. We went along and I regularly looked back to check Lou was still awake. We spotted the rocky track up to ‘Pont Canal’, the entrance to Briare. Hurrah. At the top was the canal aqueduct, taking the canal across the Loire. Quite bizarre. We cycled all 662m into the ‘mosaic capital of France’.
The church was richly decorated with mosaic outside. It was really impressive. We went to the tourist office to get a room before we explored. There were 3 hotels. One was closed and two were full. Lou went outside to cry. The lovely tourist office person offered Chambres D’Hotes way out east but I showed her our route, a 30km detour wasn’t an option.
We agreed Gien was our best option and we’d start with as many stars as possible and work down. She got us a room in the Hotel Rivage – without a Loire view – I could live with that.
We said we’d be there in two hours, paid out E1 fee and went off to explore the church which was as mosaiced inside as out. We took photos and accepted pitying glances as we sadly set off out of town. It took a few minutes to cross over the Pont Canal this time on the other side which had a nice tarmac road up to it, which I wish I’d known when I carried my bike up the dirt track.
I kept myself going through the now familiar 1,2,3,4 counting system, getting up to 8 when I felt stronger against the wind and rain. Lou shouted that my panniers were wobbling. I stopped to look. It was hard to see through the rain dripping off me and the bike but the rack had lost its retaining bolt by the gears. I effected an emergency repair by putting three cable ties in its place. It would get us to the hotel on the flat, but wouldn’t withstand a descent.
It was late Saturday evening, bike shops would be closed until Tuesday. I worried about what to do as we pedaled gingerly on. We could see the massive Chateau in the distance, which would be impressive if water wasn’t squelching from my shoes as I pedaled.
I spotted our hotel on the other side of the river, but we had to cycle on to the bridge into town and back to it. Lou smoked in the archway as I dripped in the palatial lobby. The chap came and unlocked the ‘box’ for the bikes which was a shed/cellar. Lou ate all the sweets on the desk as we checked in.
We walked down through freezing drizzle to a bistro we’d seen on the way in. Two grannies shouted something like “You’ll catch your death dressed like that, silly girls”, it was like having our mums there, but we were wearing all the dry clothes we had. There was a pizzeria but it didn’t open until 7 so we sat and had a beer in a bar. I ‘read’ the paper whilst Lou did the Sudokos.