10.3.15

Cycling in France - Belville-sur-Loire to le Mee-sur-Seine: 159 kilometres

The Loire at Gien.
Just a short distance from Belville-sur-Loire is the town of Gien. With its imposing bridge spanning the Loire River, it reminded me of our overnight stay in Macon three years earlier.

......It was a leisurely Sunday morning. A few riders were out on their bikes, but on the whole the roads were noticeably quiet and peaceful, a stark contrast to my harrowing experience in Chambéry just two days earlier. Rather sadly, the mountains were now behind me as I eased my way northwest along flat to undulating roads once again. My path through the many small hamlets along the way revealed an abundance of people up and about, many enjoying either a late breakfast or an early lunch out the front of their homes. So close were their tables to the road, you could almost reach out and grab a croissant or a tasty baguette, laden with jambon or poulet.

As I drew closer to the town of Pont-de-Vaux, before turning south towards our accommodation in Mâcon, I found myself thinking of some of the places I’d passed through. There were so many tiny hamlets, villages and larger towns, some vibrant and fine-looking, others lifeless, run down and in dire need of repair. Then there were, of course, the countless numbers of French people who had helped me piece together the jigsaw of roads along my way. The places I was riding through weren’t quite the same, but there was that unmistakable pungent smell of agriculture in the air and the sight of fat cows chomping lazily on mouthfuls of grass. It was vastly different from the Hautes-Alps and the bustling stretch of Mediterranean coast, but full of its own charm and character nonetheless....... Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round.

With its impressive waterfront it was difficult to conceive that much of Gien was decimated during the Second World War. Bombed by the German Luftwaffe, with the intention of destroying the town's bridge to prevent the French Army from retreating, over four hundred of its buildings were razed to the ground.

Windmill along the route.
Once on the outer rim of Gien, the road (the D44) became flat and quiet once more. It was a welcome contradiction to some of the dangerous French roads I'd encountered in the past and the frenetic pace of the vehicles that travelled along them. Clearly, I thought,  I'd planned my route much better this time!
A leisurely 25-kilometre ride from Gien to Lorris, takes you through the Forêt d'Orléans, the largest national forest in Metropolitan France. It's along such roads,  with not a sound to be heard but the gentle rattle of a chain, that you have plenty of time to think. Heading further north, all the time getting closer to Paris, it wouldn’t be long before I’d be missing the beauty of my surroundings. Soon, I'd just be another fish in a dangerous ocean of heaving traffic. Yes, I’d be following another great French river, the Seine, but I had the distinct feeling that my riverside journey wouldn’t be nearly as peaceful as my last few days along the Loire.

It only took me to reach the south-eastern suburb of Melun to find out I was right. I was now riding along roads that were clogged with peak hour traffic and impatient drivers.  as I pulled up behind a line of cars at a busy intersection on the rather ugly D606. Weighing up the traffic at a busy intersection, I noticed a huge truck, the driver looking down on me from his lofty office-sized cabin above.  With him having all the high ground, I simply looked up and waved him on when the traffic eventually started to move. Perhaps seeing the humour of my ‘temporary’ predicament he gave me a warm smile as his gears crunched into action and his giant machine slowly started moving forward. I only hoped that the thousands of other drivers who passed me would have the same empathy.

About an hour later, on arriving at our accommodation at the Hotel Restaurant du Mée, at Le Mee Sur Seine, I was a mental wreck. Roz, who herself had only arrived an hour earlier, had her own story to tell about the tangle of traffic and the impatient drivers, who weaved in and out lanes as if they could set themselves free. Which of course they couldn't.  We could only ponder what it might be like the closer we got to Paris.
Books by Mark Krieger:






‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books


Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante




“I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization.”

                    US author and poet Diane Ackerman








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