Riding in France in Summer 2016

A trip to Colomiers in the summer on my Versys.

I had been working for a long time without a break so I packed the bike and headed to Colomiers for a couple of weeks. The plan was to take a few days each way and to keep working once there but at least it was a change of pace.

13 August

The motorways to the Eurotunnel terminal are now familiar and they are quite boring. But the prospect of a nice ride once on the other side of the channel makes it very much worth the trouble.

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It was an easy crossing and the ride in Northern France was very pleasant. The landscape is never spectacular but the feeling of open space is great. The roads are nice with a lot of fast flowing corners. So I had a pleasant ride to my first stop in Soissons.

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The campsite is unremarkable but perfectly good. After setting up camp and resting a bit I went to explore the town.

I didn't see the famous vase of Soisson; apparently someone broke it!

The town is nice and there are a few sights worth checking out.

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I wasn't impressed with the restaurants and ended up in a simple brasserie and ate a fine steak.

14 August

The second leg of the trip was only about 300km to Brassy in the Morvan.

I recognised some of the places I was going through along the way as I'd been this way the previous year.

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It was very very hot and I was dreaming of a swim in a lake or river. I was very tempted to stop in Saint-Père. There is a campsite and the river looked good. I decided to carry on to Brassy. I had seen a lake there on the map.

When I arrive in Brassy I immediately recognised it. I came here last year and turned around because it was much too hot and there wasn't enough shade. But this time, the weather had probably not been as dry and it didn't look as desolate. I found a nice spot to pitch up. The lake was not within walking distance infortunately so I had to ask for directions and get back on the bike.  Of course, I got lost a little bit and went down a difficult rocky path to the lake. But it was worth it.

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In the village, the Hotel du Nord and the Hotel du Centre are side by side. Only one is still open. The other one looks like it has been abandoned in a hurry; the bar is still stocked up and gathering dust.

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I ate outside a fairly average meal. The menu was limited because the chef was away at a regional event. Eventually the drunks on the next table
started to be annoying and I went back to my tent.
## 15 August

I kept seeing signs indicating a viewpoint.  They were always pointing in the direction I was going. So I decided I would have a look. Eventually a sign indicated away from my route and I followed it. After crossing a small village the next sign was showing a distance of 1.9km on an unpaved road. I thought about continuing on foot but I didn't want to get changed so soon after starting the day. The track didn't look too bad so I carried on. The path became rutted and stony very quickly. It also turned steep as it snaked up the mountain. My big road bike didn't feel quite adapted to the conditions. But I carried on, climbing higher, crossing a beautiful forest. It was the slowest 1.9km I ever rode but I made it to the top. The path ended next to a chapel, with a increbible panoram that made the effort absolutely worth it.

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If going up was tough, going back down was just scary.

It is hot again. I made a stop in Château-Chinon and filled up my topbox with fruits and saucisson bought at the market.

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After thousands of corners I arrived near Salers. I turned a corner and the landscape changed completely. It was so beautiful. I need to plan to come back to the Cantal area and explore more thoroughly.

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Séverine and Frédéric were camping in Belcastel that weekend, very near from Salers . But as I was arriving they were leaving. I should really have left home two days earlier to catch up with them.

There is a nice walk between the campsite and the town. Salers deserves its reputation, it is really a pretty town. And I ate well and found some nice beer.

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16 August

Last leg of my trip to Toulouse. More nice narrow winding roads for most of the day.
Along the way, I discovered by chance the Tours de Merle.

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The very end was a bit boring and much too hot. That was some 1450 km since Reading.

22 August

I went to see my dad's photo exhibition near Castillonès. It was great. And I discovered a couple of artists I really like.

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i visited Issigeac on the way back.

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26-28 August
Séverine, Frédéric and I went camping in Belcastel for the weekend. What a beautiful place! The campsite is on the river bank with a view on the village on the mountain side with the castle at the top.

In the evening we went for a meal in a farm.

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We spent a day in Conques, a very nice town with an ugly giant church. That church darves everything else. It is very strange.

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Back to Belcastel.

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Many post boxes in the village are funny scuptures.

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During the summer, the village was organising meals with local food. This happened to be the last one of the season. The main road through was closed, tables were set up instead, farms and producers had stands selling their food. We had a great evening and ate way too much.

The next day, I had time to visit the castle before going back to Colomiers.

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I would gladly visit Belcastel and the area again.

2 September
Rugby match. Colomiers plays Carcassonne.

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9 September
On the way back.

Belvès. Tournon d'Agennais.

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Rochechouart.

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10 September

> Connaissez-vous Saumur?  
> Le bastion de l'ordure,  
> Le fief du bourgeois  
> Mentalité de rats.  
> - TRUST "Saumur", 1980

Now I know Saumur. I don't know if there was a specific event that prompted TRUST to rile against Saumur. From a visitor's point of view it is just a good looking town. There is no doubt though that it is still the fief of the bourgeois.

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I followed the Loire for a bit, not much water.

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The campsite in Chateaubriant is terribly UGLY. But the town is worth a visit.

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11 September

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The day's ride was uneventful, the landscapes I crossed were nice but not memorable, the roads a bit too straight. But I made a stop in Honfleur which was absolutely worth it. The town is beautiful. The restaurants all around the harbour were extremely busy.

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When I arrived in Etretat, in pitched up in the large busy campsite. This was quite a change compared to all the places I had been to so far. It was later afternoon already but still very hot and I had enough time to walk along the breathtaking cliffs until I was exhausted.

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12 September

The highlight of this last day on the road was  lunch on seafront. I would have gone for a dip in the sea if I had been a bit better organised.

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I reluctantly made my way to the Eurotunnel.

Back in Britain, I was surprised to find no traffic on the motorway. This made the boring last stretch quite easy.

Saw strange tuk-tuk on a truckbed on the motorway. The next day I read about it in the press. An Indian guy built a solar-powered tuk-tuk and kitted it out to live in it for a trip all the way to the UK. So he had arrived when I saw it. His only problem on his trip was in France where he was robbed.