Discarded Items #2

La Roche-sur-Yon: Thursday 17 August 2017

Unnecessary items amounting to some considerable weight have been identified and discarded today, and are hopefully finding their way to a relevant charity centre, courtesy of the receptionist at our hotel:

– rain-shoe covers
– watch
– jacket
– t-shirt
– trousers
– long-sleeved top
– diary
– ‘tray’ of magnesium tablets
– shades-case
– rechargeable batteries
– WD40
– recorder cleaner
– skin-repair cream
– running top
– running shorts
– wristbands
– padlock
– tape measure
– shirt
– indigestion tablets
– bite spray

Since the previous item-discarding celebration, the following two items have also been deemed burdens, surplus to requirements, and have fallen by the wayside:

– measuring spoons
– egg box

The streamlining continues: we’ll soon have it down to one slightly soiled sock and a used zip-tie.

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Window Screens

Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret) to La Roche-sur-Yon [Part 3]: Wednesday 16 August 2017

11:30am. Sitting outside a typical E.Leclerc, after a light-and-easy 10k from our beautiful overnight spot beside the Lake/River Le Riot du Plessis. We were both awake and up around 7am, having fallen to sleep accompanied by the haunting-yet-soothing hoots of an owl or three.

No real urgency today. We’ve just got a hotel-check-in at 2pm for our rest-day. On some level, it’s reassuring to know we’ve got everything there waiting, without having to cycle from here to here, dependent on various weather conditions or shopping opportunities for what we eat, or when we eat, or even how. A bed is there, also not susceptible to the caprice of the weather.

And that’s nice. It is. The reliable. The sense it’s always there, almost exactly as you left it – and maybe exactly as you wish. It’s what you can have in day-to-day life, with convenience on your doorstep, if you’re willing to pay the price – of your labour; of your life; of most of your time on this Earth; to consume the fruits of your labour at prices higher than those at which you were paid; to keep a cycle going for those unknowns elsewhere, who we see on our screens, wishing that that was us. And life ticks by as we aspire to live someone else’s dream; a dream at the expense of our own. And the Earth spins on, vastly unknown, viewed through windows presented by others.

Inevitably, we tire, our vigour fades, and our market value declines. We’re put out to pasture – to do as we might, though a little too broken to do what we once could have done. So through those same windows we continue to follow the lives – those lives that we chose not to live.

And that’s nice, if vicarious is all that you need, and virtual is real enough. But as the heart breathes and life warmly flows, I want more than simulacra of being.

As one day turns to next, we all head the same way and leave some light footprints behind, so it doesn’t matter so much – your way or mine – as long as it’s the one that you choose.

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Perfectly Plotted

Alençon to Les Cassieres: Friday 11 August 2017

12:31. Alençon. 21ºC. Temperature’s shot up, the Sun’s out, and the clouds are scattered. Hopefully a nice day in prospect. Pissed it down during the night. Hopefully it pissed itself out and we’re not racing the same cloud that’s been around over the last three days.

We’ll see.

As long as we get to keep most things dry by the time we camp and decamp, it’s not much of an issue. Nice to be able to strip off the extra top and bottom layer upon exiting a finely functional Ibis hotel: nice spacious room, great shower, great breakfast selection, very friendly and helpful staff. A toilet-brush would’ve been nice – Ew! – and we could’ve done without one guest persistently trying to toast the inappropriately shaped baguette in the toaster, and subsequently failing on a number of occasions, allowing us and fellow guests to breakfast in the fine atmosphere of burnt toast. He got there in the end, by maybe the fourth attempt. By which time I think he had a point to prove, both to himself and us fellow guests.

And now our journey South continues. Very shortly we’ll be leaving Normandy, which has captured all our senses so very much – the attack of pleasure upon them all that it is. Will all of France continue to cast such a spell? People say, “no,” but experience will tell – and we are looking forward to it, so…

Today we head for Sillé-le-Guillaume – 36k, and toward the tiny tiny village of Les Cassieres, which is less a destination than a direction, as it lies just beyond a forest or wood in which we’ll hopefully make camp.

Away!

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“These are not unspoilt, unmanaged forests, but they are being managed very well, so the bits that are being, let’s say ‘unmanaged’ for the time being, or left to regrow, are left to their own devices, and look unspoilt, so, yeah, I’d say: ‘Very well managed.’ They seem to rip out carefully selected parts and use them for whatever, but then just leave the others to develop pretty much as maybe they have since time immemorial. Of course, there are the more familiar pine-tree forests, which, I would say, are not that native to these parts to be so ubiquitous, but there are still these really old-school looking forests, which are still pretty hostile and wild. So managed, yes, of course, but a balance appears to be being kept. It would seem France knows how to do these things.”

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15:40. Plop! The fish are feeding. The dragonfly are acrobaticking. The island spinney rests before us. France, you are yet to cease throwing up splendid surprises as we make our continuously merry way through you.

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A little bit more ascending than descending today, but none has felt at all unpleasant. The extended downhills have been great, and the vistas at almost every turn of the head are the love of life. After descending out of Mont-Saint-Jean – yes, we had to ascend to get into it first – and pausing for a wee drink and an apple, before making our way to and through Sillé de Guillaume, to stop somewhere for dinner, before, again, making our way towards Les Cassieres and bed, we climbed amongst some beautiful unspoilt-looking forest.

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“Giver of life”

As Agnieszka put it to herself (she thought)
as we rounded a corner.

A lake. Beautiful.

Benches, too!

“Dinner?”

Dinner!

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What a spot! I’d say: “What a find!’ but I now think that France has plotted all these things for us, on a special mission to leave us with a magical impression and destroy any negative preconceptions an indoctrinated English person may care to have. If it has done so to such cynical ends, I thank you, anyway. If it hasn’t, which, of course, I truly believe to be the case, then, “thank you, again.” It really is a pleasure getting to know you.

And, as we have exited Normandy and entered Pays-de-la-Loire, what else does this country have in store?

The nature and everything: nothing feels off limits. It’s like: it’s here, it’s there – enjoy it! Great, just great. That shouldn’t be the exception, as it is in many other places we have visited – and it isn’t here. Another reason to just be; and just be happy 😁

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Timetabled Events

Nürnberg to Aachen: Sunday 16 July 2017

11:40am. Back at Nürnberg Main Station after a pleasant enough night at a typical, neat, functional travellers’ overnight hotel. €96 for a double room and breakfast, but you can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep sometimes, especially in situations that are maybe draining on you in other ways; and the area around the Main Station at 1am on a Saturday evening was full of the usual casualties and suspects, so, despite there being a visible police presence, I doubt we’d have got much in the way of a peaceful night’s sleep between us; and the standard over-indulgent hotel breakfast will stand us in good stead, particularly after our day of empty food and spontaneity yesterday.

We made almost 500k, though: not bad when you consider it took us over 60 minutes to find a way to get out of Vienna, let alone finding ourselves in Germany on a Sunny Sunday morn’.

Just over 800k to Calais now: will probably be a stretch to reach there today, so I think we’d be happy if we cover a pretty similar distance, which would leave us with an overnight within spitting distance of it – and the ferry.

We’d still have 300k from Dover, which is no small thing, but given the fact we’d be on the right patch of land, and the one upon which I roamed for almost 30 years, it would already feel like job done; though I’ve got to say I like the idea of cycling there less than the idea of anywhere in the world – now why would that be, especially as that’s where I spent a childhood nurturing my love of bike-rides?

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