Tuesday, May 25, 2004

So you're saying Brad Pitt is in a different Troyes?

We spent a couple of days in St Quentin before catching the train to Troyes. We had an hour and a half in Paris to change trains so spent the first 75 minutes milling around and eating sandwiches. We spent the last 15 minutes pushing our bikes the wrong way up one-way streets transferring from Paris-Nord to Paris-Est station. We had given up hope of catching our train as successive Parisians ummed and ahhed about the best way to get to the station but somehow, with only 30 seconds to spare, we managed to drag the bikes and BoB onto the decidedly non-bike carriage. The conductor was pretty unimpressed with us and gave us 2 helpful lectures on the subject of "Arriving in good time for your train".

Troyes itself is a nice spot. It's the former capital of Champagne but is now famous for having a vaguely Champagne cork shaped old town, a mid-table second division footy team and a rubbish mini-golf course. At least that's what it says in our Lonely Planet.

The terrain in the Champagne region is of the rolling hills variety which is putting steel into our legs whether we want it or not. The weather before Troyes had turned cold and cloudy but we have had nothing but blue skies since then. Well, the odd nocturnal thunderstorm to test our new bike garage (4 bin bags Gaffa taped together) but that adds to the fun in a tent.

Like all free bars, once we ran out of Champagne we were into Burgundy, a region which manages to be even more hilly than its neighbour. Our route took us through such notable towns as :-

Pretty, no campsite despite the rumours. Spent a couple of days flicking through French TV in our cheap hotel waiting for Eurovision to start.

Pretty, campsite atop the worlds steepest, biggest (ant) hill

Makes Harlow seem pretty and friendly. Totally closed at 3pm on Thursday. Was scene of wild rejoicing on leaving.

Olde worlde pretty. Free (closed, camped anyway) camping. Home to amorous or pugnacious cat population.

Dijon : Full

Yes, our legs carried us up mountains and down the hills all the way to Dijon. We arrived at 3pm to be told that everywhere for miles around was fully booked. I looked incredulous. The tourist office guy explained that there were many exhibitions and sporting events happening that weekend but didn't go into details although he did let slip one such attraction was a classic motorbike rally in a town 20km away. If only we'd known...

Anyway, it was Dijon's loss as we took the news stoically, decamped to the station and got the next train to Lyon. This turned out to be a much more accommodating place despite having the undoubted attraction of the then two time, now three time, champions of the French league. Sadly for them they have a counterfeit Juninho playing for them but I think Vic and I are the only ones who've noticed.

The ride to Dijon saw PBs tumbling as the longest day (both in Kms and from (tent) door to (hotel) door) and highest daily average speed records were shattered. The stats may be updated to reflected this.

From here we are planning to head down the Rhone valley to Marseille.