Hanoi to Hoi An

Mon 19th Jan: Hanoi – Nimh Binh

So, 1st day of our trip to Ho Chi Minh, only 1200 miles or so to go! I know Ann is a bit anxious seeing as she’s been laid up on the couch recovering from her wrist reconstruction, best start pedalling then!

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Getting out of central Hanoi was exhilarating, dodging all the mopeds waving all over, adrenalin certainly seems to jave kicked in with Ann as she’s off…..Thank goodness she’s got all the luggage or I’d be struggling to keep up.
So a 60 miler to start, happy with that, and happy with the Nha Nghi, both of us are on a high and looking forwards to tomorrow.

Tue 20th Jan: Nimh Binh – Quang Chinh

We met a couple madder than us today! They’re doing 5 continents in 5 years. We overtook them actually, and no wonder as the bloke was towing 2 child trailers….one with their 1 year old (he’s huge) born in Spain last year, and another with some of their gear. They’re on the way to Singapore to show of said monster to the grandparents.

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I was so excited I forgot to get their names. .doh!
Of course they were a tad suprised that Ann had nearly all our gear (what little there is of it) and I was very quick to point out that 1) she insisted (and who am I to argue & 2) she does have a motor! I think I could be feeling a bit defensive cos all I’m doing is drooging along sucking her wheel
Wow, I’d forgotten how hard the mattresses are over here, or possibly I’ve become accustomed to easy living, as last year we’d already been on the road for 3 months roughing it! So not the best nights sleep and my legs were aching a tad too.
Still…not far to go?

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Wed 21st Jan: Quang Chinh-Dien Chau

Back to our early starts with breakfast on the road after 10 miles or so. Today was BBQ’d pork bought at a small roadside market

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Lunch was Pho with quails eggs

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Lovely!
An excellent day until half way through the afternoon, when, as I was drooging along sucking Ann’s wheel and daydreaming, I managed to hit a big rock in the middle of the hard shoulder with my big toe on the down stroke. Nearly ripped off the front of my toe

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OUCH! 😨

1st aid administrated in front of laughing Vietnamese chap (on the phone to his mates I think) who wandered over 4 lanes of traffic just to check out what was going on. Then a couple of minutes to get my breath back before heading onwards. Ann went easy on me for a mile or so, but I soon got bored with that and told her to push on again.
Actually pushed out a steady 55 miles in the end and found a comfortable hotel -the Nha Nghi looked ruff as- for less than a tenner. Had a hobble around town after refreshing ourselves and picked up some TCP and a few plasters to dress the Toe.

Thurs 22nd: Dien Chau-Ha Tinh

Breakfast was included in our hotels price…result! However the northern Vietnamese tend to like their Pho somewhat spicier than Ann prefers, so shes starting to go off it…me, on the other hand, I can’t get enough. …really. …I’m starving!
Stopped for lunch after 30 odd miles in Vinh, quite a major city that the Ah1 bypasses but we didn’t. As Ann really couldn’t face Pho twice in one day we had baguettes spread with condensed milk sounds fowl but actually delicious.

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The condensed milk tasted like honey.
Couldn’t find a Nha Nghi but found a hotel where I negotiated a deluxe room….with bath for less than £15. Lovely soft(ish) bed, cotton sheets and duvet, however the hotel was a bit 20 meterish…..ie from 20m away everything is fine, but on closer inspection. …not so good, for instance the washbasin was double action, that is you were able to wash your hands and feet at the same time!
All in all tho, another good day, 55 miles covered at average of 12.7mph. I haven’t mentioned it before but Ann’s front brake disc got bent in transit and even tho I’ve loosened it off as much as possible it’s still binding. ….good resistance training for her, and her battery range is +60 (i hope) miles at the moment.

Fri 23rd Ha Tinh-Quang Trach

Long hard day today, 65 miles. The road is being widened and repaired all along the route……no hassle tho, just ride on by and avoid the heavy machinery.
Ann’s battery just held out! Probably because she’s pushing it out on her lowest setting.
We’re still in the northern part of Vietnam and the eating habits are slightly different than further south

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See no, hear no, speak no!

Sort of Dog eat Dog as it were!

Sat 24th Jan: Quang Trach-Xuan Bo

A short one today of only 46 miles. Chicken and rice for lunch after managing to get the translator on the phone to work. …result!

Sun 25th Jan

We thought it might be quieter on the road today, but nope, everybody seems to work 24/7, the French influence has definitely sloughed off!
Stopped for breakfast at lakeside eatery on stilts……fresh fish straight from the ‘keep net’.

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Cooked as above and served with veg and rice soup

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Pity that they didn’t gut it 1st tho….ho hum!
Another 50+ miles today, into a head wind too. Also met another cycling traveller……it seems only common courtesy to stop and at the very least exchange photos!

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Didn’t get his name either! Bugger!

Mon 26th

Somewhat off the beaten track tonight, and a 65miler to boot! Google only showed a couple of Nha Nghi, but once we got there we found loads!
Place called Mui Chon Dong, lovely beach, small market and not a lot else….did us tho.

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Tomorrow the plan is an easy 40 odd miles into Hoi An voa Da Nang

Tue 27th Jan

The best laid plans of mice men and Dyl! The ‘plan’ was an easy 40 miles to Hoi An, unfortunately it was bollocks! The Ah1 goes thru a 3.7km tunnel, however bikes and scooters not allowed! Must use old route over Hai Van pass

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At only 8%

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I must say I got a bit of a sweat on staying on Ann’s wheel and wasn’t overly impressed when she asked if I’d like her to switch to”sport” mode a get a shuffty on!

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Ha Long Bay

18th Jan 2015

There was no way that we weren’t going to visit Ha Long Bay whilst in northern Vietnam. Originally we were going to cycle but decided as it was in the wrong direction we’d “do a tour” so during our perambulation around Hanoi we popped into a free tourist office that did it all! Trips excursions money changing $10 sim cards etc etc.
So in one fell swoop we got ourselves 2 unlimited data sim cards and a trip to Ha Long Bay for $55 each. A tad pricey I thought, but hey we won’t be coming back!
The trip to&from is in a Transit which collects you from the hotel (so long as you’re in the old quarter) & drops you back.
Our collection time was 0800-0830…..  so plenty of time to have a lay in, grab some breakfast and be in the lobby for 8, so when the phone rang at 0750 to let us know our guide was in the lobby I realised I should have put the alarm on LOUD. Bugger! Still 5 mins panic dressing and packing & we were on our way down stairs.

The tour guide was a very friendly pleasant chap, but as we were in the naughty seats at the back & he spoke in a sing song voice I couldn’t understand a word! A 1 1/2 hr dodgem like ride later we were deposited at a Vietnamese version of a Mencap workshop. It was a bit voyeuristic & also a slap in the face to the Americans amongst us as all the disabilities were blamed on them dropping agent orange allez uber der platz during the war. Still, they had some very nice “western style” toilets and sold chocolate, which enabled me n the boss to have a very healthy breakfast of chocolate chip cookies, a snicker & a mars bar. This was followed by another tedious 1 1/2hrs sans Transit before arrival at the dock for the tourist boats for the bay

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This was ours

Its all very efficient and only minutes later we were joined by another 2 vans worth of tourists but the boat wasn’t crowded at all.
1st order of business was the safety briefing, then lunch before arriving at the floating jetty via parts of the bay.

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Our 1st tourism experience:- a trip in a native boat propelled by a tiny Vietnamese lady. Now I’m no lightweight and John (a very pleasant American chap) was 1/2 as big as me again & we were accompanied by the boss and Rebecca (John’s partner) who are both slim but dwarfed our propeller.

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Not ours, but the same size!

So 1st tourism adventure over, it was back up the rickety steps onto the boat for experience 2

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A climb up a load of steps to a lighted cave which neither us or John & Rebecca could be arsed with so we stayed on the boat chatting about previous trips & poverty around the globe, but mainly about the difference between American poverty ie. Destitute&hungry and English poverty ie. Outofwork&only2holidays…..too fat to work….12 kids and counting etc etc
I must say they nearly fainted!

Well…That was the last experience apart from a pleasant sail around some more of the bay before boarding our minibus for a further 3 tedious hours return trip to the hotel. All in all it was 6hrs in a minibus for 4hrs on a boat. ……was it worth it? Well yes actually. ……very much so.

After our jaunt back to the hotel we stepped out to find some scoff & found BBQ corner…..the premise is simple, your given a plate of raw food and a jell fuel cooker…..the rest is up to you!

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Raw food

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Cooker & griddle

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Voilà. ...gourmet!

Ann & Dyl in Vietnam…… again

15th-19th Jan 2015

Storm warnings.

The weather in dear old blighty was forecast to be destructive gales, thundersnow (whatever that means) and wetter than a haddock’s bathing costume, so me n the boss (Ann) packed up our ‘Van

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toute sweet and headed for Hanoi via Heathrow & Singapore! 30 odd hours later we were booking into the “Posh Hotel”

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In the centre(ish) of Hanoi’s old quarter.
This time we’ve decided to take our own bikes with us, so our luggage consists of 2x bikes all wrapped up in cardboard and hand baggage (weighing less than 7kg)

Knackered in Hanoi

1st things 1st……rebuild the bikes, nothing seemed to be damaged which is a good thing considering the (shit) state the boxes were in when we picked them up off the carousel in Hanoi…..which took a couple of hours to get to ‘cos immigration is a tad slow! Still, it all worked out ok, immigration that is, as we got a letter of introduction of t’internet which we handed in at the ‘visa on landing desk’ along with our passports and a photo each which were processed in about 10mins & given back all stamped up for the princely sum of $45 each. (We only need a single entry 30 day visa). Then Q up to go thru immigration…..ages.

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Having booked a lift from the airport to the hotel (fortunately they sent a 16 seater) all was hunky dory, except, on checking my tools I found I’d forgotten to pack tyre levers and zip ties. Bugger! I’m hoping we won’t need the tyre levers at all, but the zip ties are always handy for roadside repairs.

So, its now Saturday, Hanoi walked, tyre levers purchased, altho no zip ties as yet.
We have a day trip tomorrow to Ha Long bay then on Mon we head off to Ho Chi Minh which is about 1200miles or so…..in 25 days…..so no pressure then! You may be asking why 25 days? Well, that’s when we catch our plane to Australia :)

Mont St-Michel to Dieppe

Wed 6th Aug.

A late start due to extreme laziness, compounded by buffet breakfast and the fact it’s tipping down outside. Eventually I summon the get up n go and head to the campsite to pack up the tent we left to air! Its not too wet, so pack it up, return to hotel and reorg for sight seeing day at MSM.

You can’t get all the way to the mont using your own vehicle’s now (as you used to be able…..tide depending) cos they’re building a causeway, which is a bit of a shame in my opinion, still, can’t have nature ruining your revenue stream I suppose!
However, there is a free bus service in some rather natty double ended wood clad buses with driving cabs at both ends

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We spent a good few hours wandering, exploring and ‘avin a bit of cake!

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One thing I should mention is that the higher up the Mont you go, the more expensive it gets!

Did some Petes pants

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Following which we headed back to Pontorson, repacked again, spa bathed….again, then scoffed at Le Relais Gascon. …….again. This time a melt in your mouth Lamb steak; lovely.

Thu 7th- Fri 8th

After making full use of the buffet breakfast (cheese n ham rolls for lunch!) Not forgetting the spa bath one last time, it was off to Pontorson station to catch the train to Caen. We’ve already “done” this part of Normandy so agreed to cut it out and concentrate on the new!
Therefore train it was, with one change. ….using the aforementioned back wheel/rear load up the escalator system!
We reached Caen in the late(ish) morning and started up the canal to Pegasus bridge, crossing over after paying our respects, and heading north…..after Petes pants of course

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The coastline between Caen & Dieppe is a tad undulating with deep river valleys heading to the rugged coast, interspersed with long sandy beaches. However, just up the coastline is Merville, which apparently is quite important to the Paras of WW2 vintage, and looks well worth a visit

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The campsite for tonight is in Cabourg, a seaside town and resort centered around a mahoosive Casino and founded in the 1850’s.
Unfortunately on the way to Cabourg I noticed Anns rear wheel was slightly wobbly, and on closer inspection realised another spoke had given up the ghost …..bugger!
Once the tent was erected I took said bike around a number of bike shops but to no avail!
The stormiest night so far endured under canvass, torrential rain, thunder and lightning with storm force winds……..should have pegged out the guy ropes I thought……altho to be fair I haven’t yet and it turned out “Bertha” huffed and puffed and didn’t blow my tent down.

Sat 9th

Morning Greetings from another savage hill! What a way to start the day. We continue treading along the coast looking for a bike shop to repair Anns wheel.
We came across many

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With a variety of different machines, but unable to fix a wheel

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After what seemed and actually was bloody miles we arrived in a posh townfull of people who “DO” and I managed to persuade a shop to fix the bike, altho I supplied the spoke (Surly has spares) and it still cost €30! Still. ..it was done and we started moving along again.

Ooh-says Ann a mile or few further on- look at the size of that bridge! Mmm says I, forgetting to mention we’d be crossing it…..when we eventually reached it.

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Its high, there’s a traffic jam all the way across….Ann hates heights, but buggered if she’ll let a load of French bloody holiday makers know it

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The view off the side from same position

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Our 1st selfie

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Miles to go yet to tonight’s campsite at St Juan Brunival, but there’s surplus adrenaline sloshing around in Anns system and the afternoon flashes by.

Sun 10th

Another stormy night courtesy of Bertha. ….who apparently is planning on hanging around for a week or two. ….excellent, NOT! the plan it may be a changing.
We manage to get up and pack between downpours. Out of camp, turn left and in 100yds it starts raining, in 400 and I’m as wet as I ever could be and it doesn’t matter how much more it rains I’m as wet as I can be…..oh joy!

On the plus side (my glass is always half full-at least in this weather it is) the wind is behind us pushing us forcefully towards Dieppe. …..mmmm isn’t there a ferry to England from Dieppe? Oh yes!

Its wetter than the proverbial Haddock’s bathing costume. There are also a number of rather savage (as in steep down into & long up out of) river valleys to negotiate along the way, with rivers of water flowing down the roads too.

On reaching Fecamp we retire to the Golden Arches for respite and sugar. I was hoping to catch a train but unfortunately the 1st one out of town is at 1700hrs….so we soldier (or should that be sailor) on! On the bright side…..Anns black dye from her home dyed saddle has transferred onto her cycling pants…..which left a very interesting “pattern” on the Mc Donalds white leatherette seat.

After brief respite in the golden arches we set off again and lo….after only 35 miles it stops raining!

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Altho looking at the sky ahead you’d be keeping your jacket to hand.

At the Maccie D’s in Fecamp I utilised the free wifi and booked an F1 in Dieppe for that evening. ….1) so we’d have a dry night and 2) so we’d have to get there!

It worked. ..we got there up one last mother of a hill…….why are they always always at the top of a bloody great hill?

Using the F1’s free wifi I checked out the weather for the next week and lo! Bertha was a visitin for a week or two. …..so I checked the ferry times and after a quick discussion we decided on cutting short our continental sojourn and catching the ferry to Newhaven then the train home.

The only fly in the ointment was the ferry left at O my God its early! So we’re a peddling to the port at 3 in the morning. ….with no lights & it’s dark! We finally get to the port after an horrendous climb up & over & around about to find that thankfully the ferry is running late cos of Bertha….so yes there’s plenty of time to check in.

Checked in and Q’d up we then get free entertainment watching the -attempted- illegal stowaways getting hauled out from beneath the lorries, shouting out they’re behind you to the police as more climb the fence,  before they are rounded up and herded away by rather nasty very big dogs. All joking aside….its chaos. The risks these people are taking are almost beyond reason. Why on earth do they want to come to England after crossing most of Europe?

So…the end of another adventure, but…….we’re off again soon, this time Budapest up the Danube to Basel, then down the Rhine to Hook of Holland.

Nantes & Mont St-Michel

Mon 4th Aug

A lazy rest day yesterday and a short 5 mile “leg turner” then a catch up with the notes for blogging.

Initially we planned an unloaded trip to St Nazaire. Didn’t happen. A late start then getting as far as Nantes where doing the tourist thing took over. I mean,  who’d expect to see an Elephant giving rides in Nantes? Well Petes pants did!

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Anyway the plan has changed yet again, we’re now going to catch a train to Avranches and do the Tourist thing at Mont St-Michel, then onward&upwards to the Hook of Holland. Mainly cos we’re running out of time to catch the ferry back to Harwich so as to be in Norwich for Carls birthday.

Tue 5th Aug

Gentle droog into Nantes Gare SNF, a little bit of buggering about getting the bikes to the correct platform, but only because the French fat controller doesn’t know which platform the train will leave from until 20 mins beforehand, therefore everybody hangs around the info board, then its a mad rush to get to the platform. We’ve been very lucky with the Velo friendly trains so far and our luck continues! Slight issue of changing trains at Rennes so we wait on the platform we arrived at- hoping we wouldn’t have to change- until info boards announced relevant platform…..unlucky! Mad rush for platform 7. Ann went with the lift and I went with the escalator. Now I’ve had one or two dodgy moments on escalators with a fully loaded bike, so this time I thought deeply about what I was doing and wheeled the Surly on backwards ( this prevents the bike flipping up n over…..not good!) Hurrah,  it worked, and with the panniers braced against my leg and me holding seatpost said treader was going nowhere.

Whilst sitting back enjoying the journey I happened to discover the train stopped at Pontorson, which is the village closest to MSM…..result! So a quick 5mile tread toward MSM to the campsite I had selected when bugger me it was full…..in August? What? Is everyone on holiday? So 5 miles back to Pontorson to camping Halitosis. ….also full, but they’ll let us put our tent up besides the kiddies play area for only £20 per night…..not impressed and it started raining again. …oh joy.

After erection duties me n t’ boss headed into town in order to find some accommodation for the following night as we wanted to spend a full day at MSM in order to do it justice. We found a very nice Best Western called Hotel Montgomery, originally the home of count Montgomery, with parts of hotel built in 1600’s, on Pontorson high st and entered into negotiations. Initially we had a standard room for the following night, but after stepping outside and seeing big black clouds in t’sky we promptly went back to reception, renegotiated and secured a deluxe room for two nights. ……sod the camping! Back to campsite collect bags (but leave tent to air) back to hotel and move in. Not only is room huge but the huge bathroom has a huge spa bath…….boss is in heaven! This, we decided, was our wedding anniversary treat to ourselves.

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The hotel receptionist also recommended a very very nice little restaurant just around the corner for scoff on the Rue de Tanis called “Le Relais Gascon” check out the moulles, with local cider…mmmmmm! (sorry Leslie!).

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Being our anniversary we had a drink or two with our repaste

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Apparently I can’t handle it anymore?

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Loire downhill continued

Thu 31st

Tours to Savigny en Veron, 40 mile Loire a Velo (LaV) version of Paris Roubais. Ooh that route planners a card! Cobbles& more cobbles, but only a few climbs today. Thankfully by this time I had learned to look at the route, the landscape & ignore certain directional instructions therefore cutting out Alp d Huez and stayed on the flat very busy (not) D roads following the river.
Savigny en Veron is in the middle of nowhere, but on the way was a handy supermarche where ee bought tea: 3 legummes in a jar (potatoes, petis pois carrots) and belly pork slices. So we boiled them up & put to 1 side covered then fried off the pork in 2 batches (there was a fair amount after cutting it up with 1st aid scissors) with onion, keeping it warm on veg pot.
For a paltry €1 the owners allowed us to charge all the electronics- 2 phone 2 garmin – in their office, nice and secure, whilst we did our T thing and then wandered around the -deserted- village

Fri 1st
Savigny en Veron to Angers, 45 miler today with cobble ambushes thrown in just to keep us alert.
Ann hit one set at quite a clip, dislodging her back pack which snapped the rear back mudguard’ holder on’ere’s & induced a slight buckle in her rear wheel. We stopped earlier at the 8 mile point -no sign of Eminem tho- and I tried bodging, but it only lasted a couple of miles, so at the bosses suggestion we used the 1st aid scissors to trim the rear mudguard  & zipp tyes the lose fixers to the ones further up…I’ve not described this too well…so see picture:-

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All bodged up

Altho this sorted the mudguard issue the buckle was getting worse note to self….I must learn to “true” a wheel & carry the tool reqd…..
Ann was noticing the buckle because as her tyre is the biggest we could fit ( fatties don’t fit fine) it was rubbing against her frame. ….the sun shines on the righteous tho, cos literally just after I said we’d have to find a bike shop which are fee and far between. …low and behold up popped cycle obsession of Gennes, velos-reparations-location the proprietors of whom were just finishing lunch al fresco outside their fine and much appreciated establishment.
With scoff polidhed off the very nice velo mechanic “trued” Anns wheel, whilst I browsed the extensive merchandise. ..only buying some chain lube.
20 mins & €22 later wheels straight, chains lubricated and tyres inflated we’re off again.
The campsite we found wasn’t actually in Angers but to the SWest at Camping de L’Ille  du Chateau,  les Ponts de Ce. A tad expensive at €19, with no bog role or yogi bear tables….still needs must!
The bar was the only place we could charge the electronics, and the odd beer may have been drunk whilst watching highlights of Wales woman’s rugby team being given a right good stuffing by their french counterparts. Vive l’French!

Sat 2nd Aug

A biggy today;  60 miles or so to just short of Nantes.
Turned out to be an excellent route with much to see, including some sculptures in both stone and wood spread along the route

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Not a sculpture!

The LaV route planner managed to fit in 2 savage climbs, and I mean savage!

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Ann cresting LaV version of Mont von Tu!

Happily for us the worst climb was going up river. It was very long and steeper than a steep thang! To be fair to LaV tho it was a diversion whilst the flat bit was under repair. Ooh it was steep, everyone we encountered was using their lowest gear (walking).
We stopped en route for a café au lait that turned into café au lait and cheese n ham toasties next to a rather interesting sculpture

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Oh she's a big lass & a canny lass & I like her Rear....

Petes pants were also represented

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Tonight’s campsite is Camping Belle Riviere just outside Thouare-Sur-Loire.  Absolutely brilliant little place, I’d say just about the best we’ve stayed in on the Loire Velo route both this year & last! €14 per night, all normal facilities plus a marquee dining area with microwave,  1 yogi bear table between 2 tents, comfy bog role very nice kids play area and only 1k from large supermarche and 8miles to center of Nantes along cycle route.
Turned out a 63 mile day in total. ..Well impressed with the Boss, she’s carrying hslf our total load at present,  but that’s going to change. I had a good think & have worked out a way to lighten her load and help me burn more calories ‘cos according to my garmin I’ve only spent 25800 since Hoo…..not enough!
We’re having a rest day Sun, then an unladen trip to St Nazaire on Mon before heading on again. Route not finalised, but probably train to Anfers then tread north to intersect Paris- Mon St Michel route…from there who knows?

90 miles to Paris

A wonderful nights sleep for me, but everyone else seemed to be kept up by dog fights, cat fights, dog & cat fights and the trundle of the harvest being gathered all thru the night. Excellent! Less chance of me being droped on the 90 miles into Versailles.
After little more than 5 miles I had another rear blowout, again blowing the tyre off, at the bottom of a steep hill……me thinks I could be over inflating. Whilst liaising with the van to bring the spare tyre – as I reckoned mine was shot – as well as gathering some more spare inner tubes, a very sprightly old gentleman emerged from the adjacent farm, showed us his ID proclaiming him to be in the 90’s and then showed us a hole used by the resistance in WW2. Not sure if he was involved but wow! How lucky was that?

We met the van a few miles on and I swapped the tyres, then  we headed onwards. This was quite a challenging day with a number of steep & long climbs, hats off to Bob who struggled on manfully with his limited gear selection until at yet another steep little number caused his chain to commit hari kari by throwing itself into the gap between rear cassette and the wheel, snapping 2 spokes in the process. Thank goodness. ….a rest for all whilst the support team of Leslie, Bernie, Joc & Ann, which we had not long left after lunch in a small market town square. …literally, a selection of ribs n chicken bought from the market stalls and consumed on the steps of the town hall, which I don’t think was quite what they were expecting when we arranged to meet for lunch!

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"Bill" pose post Mkt square scoff

Anyway, with a few extra tools Nobby was able to bodge – with much verbal assistance from the rest of us – Bobs wheel back together with a couple more gears and so onwards we went.

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This was the last 25 mile push into Versailles, Dave the Map brought us in around the outskirts of Paris by a most excellent route…thanks once again for all your work mate!

Then suddenly. …another blow out, only this time it was Bobs front tyre being blown off and spreading green slime allez uber! I think your bikes trying to tell you something Bob.
Fate however was smiling down on us as only 10yds up the hill was a cool shaded pool/washhouse that you find spotted around, so we all- except Bob – took shelter from the blistering sun and dipped our feet in the cool waters….Bliss!
Dave had explored somewhat further up the street and had found a small bar where he got a round of coke in, and they also happened to be showing the last 13ks of that days tour (the one with the big crash 2-3ks out) won finally by a french chappie….vive le french!
Once we were all suitably refreshed we restarted our tour into Versailles. Dave somehow managed to bring us in via cycle paths, green lanes and royal parks right to the RV in the Palace gardens next to the Waldorf hotel where we met the “cherie’s” and Jennie and Clare….Pete’s (the dastardly front wheel knocking out from under buggers) wife and daughter. Oh…did I forgot to mention how Pete…..after having accepted my last fruit pastel, then despicably contrived to do a 90° turn to the left directly in front of me from the rhs causing me to fall in front of a rapidly approaching juggernaut (ok I made that bit up). And he wouldn’t return my pastel. …I’m sure he’d only been sucking it for a minute or two!

So Hoo to Paris completed, a number of incidents but no casualties and a fine time was had by all!

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Our planned accommodation for the next few days was to be the campsite we had stayed at last year….but it was gone! So we stayed at the Ibis in St Cyr along with Dave. 1st night on the 2nd floor, which was a bit of a mare with the bikes, next 2 in the disabled room on the ground floor (yes yes, thank you,  but please try and refrain from any so called humorous comments. ..thank you!) which was excellent.

Sat 26th – Sun 27th

On Saturday me n the boss went shopping in Versailles- spare tubes, Co2 regulator and bulbs…I am converted! and another tyre to match the rear one (from Bob) now fully treaded out with Schwalbe Marathons plus….which is my 1st choice of tyre. The only reason they weren’t fitted is I was using what was already on the Surly.
Then seeing as we’d done Versailles last year we went around the more remote parts of the gardens

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on our bikes before meeting up with everyone in the German restaurant of the Hotel Paris Versailles……what?
Still an exceptional traditional German bit of scoff

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-altho the staff were typically french, no lederhosen to be seen- followed by a small medal presentation and a very bright pair of shorts for Pete I can’t remember exactly what they were for, but Pete with great regret (sic) declined them and allowed me to commandeer them for various photo opportunities around Europe,
Petes pants

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so here’s me in the “Bill” pose (as taught to us all by Bill…..apparently it makes you look….thinner?)

Sun

The colonials, along with Dave & Nobby took an early start so as to cycle, into on and back from, the Champs Elysee before the tour arrived. Me n the boss declined on account of having to put the bikes and gear together into ‘touring’ mode. This also allowed us a cheeky lay in!
The plan, as agreed the night before, was to RV at the Arc d Triumph at 1400hrs, but because they dithered and gushed so much they didn’t actually make it back to Versailles until 1330. Still…we were there and were very happy to ogle

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C no hear no...bugger not enough hands

and take in the woman’s race- won by Marion Voss, quelle surprise!

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Lizzy Armistead fell quite heavily.
Then we soaked up the atmosphere. …which was electric

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The closest the English came to cycling Champs E

Next year we’re going to bring, hire or buy step ladders so as to see more of the action

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Once Mr Nibili had been crowned victorious we declined going to a Parisian restaurant with the guys as we needed to get an early start, Dave joined us as his Paris transport map skills were sadly lacking and we headed back to St Cyr, stopping off in the St Cyr station Kebabery for 3 very good burger and chips avec coke total cost €18.
Then back to the Ibis to finish packing and hand off the now unwanted gear to Dave who would pass it on to Nobby -lighter is better! – for collection from Hoo at a later date. Everything packed n loaded it was off to bed!

Mon 28th. Start of “Our” Tour

A very quiet breakfast sans the gang at the Ibis, cheese but no ham, they’re budgeting! then down to St Cyr station for the journey into Paris Mont something or other.  Oh the joy of heaving the bikes up stairs to the platform. …it was a bit of a bugger getting them onto the train too cos the train was leaning away from the platform on a quite steep adverse camber….at least 2ft step…..hey ho!
Once we got to central Paris it was a gentle 2 mile bimble to Gar d Austerlitz, a 10min Q for our tickets to Orleans ‘avec velo’ then a quickish jog to platform 21 where after another brief struggle loading we settled comfortably before departure for Orleans. …our start point. (Again as we did last year)

We’ve changed our plans a number of times (and to be honest they’ll keep changing) but for the moment we’re now going to cycle down the Loire to St Nazaire then up towards the Hook of Holland, altho we still haven’t decided how/which route to take from St N.)
So….back to Olivet, 11ks south of Orleans apprez a quick tour of Orleans centre ville

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(very European) for a bit of grocery shopping & a drop of fuel before the big off tomorrow.

Tue 29th

Whilst in the campsite I found a brochure; A Loire a Velo that advertised an App….so lazy bugger that I am I thought I’d download it to save on some map reading, route planning campsite finding etc & blow me down but it works….& is even in English.
The only downside is the lack of gradient indicators on the route map…..which has earned it a stern talking to by the boss! Now cycling down the Loire you’d kind of expect to be going downhill. ….however I think the french Loire a Velo (LaV) route planner has a great respect for the TdF chap and in his honour has followed his lead by adding a few category climbs (and they’re definitely category climbs if you happen to be loaded down with luggage, children and trailers) each stage.
Our daily target is 40 ish miles per day give or take, so not quite trusting the LaV app & in truth not having fully investigated all its glory, I used Google maps & we headed of to Blois to a campsite at the top of a hill that doesn’t actually exist. The silver lining was a Carrfor supermarche where Ann did the shopping whilst I guarded the bikes and hastily investigated the ‘points of interest’ function that pinpointed an existing campsite at a grand total of only 55 miles for the day!
It was a large sprawling campsite “go where you wish” with all the facilities, right by the river and only €8.40. WIFI by the office & not too bad really

Pete’s Pants

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Oops...wrong leg forward

I cooked scoff whilst Ann preped the next days cheese n ham roles…..we just got pitched and settled in before it started raining

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Eye of newt etc etc

We’ve now gone back to the 10-12 miles before breakfast routine which works for us!

Wed 30th

Chaumount sur Loire to Tours via Amboise. A short day today in lieu of the extra miles yesterday and so we can do a bit of sightseeing in Tours. That was the plan soon fubar’d by a late ish start but horrifically compounded by a mountain stage by the LaV route planner.
Seriously, altho the route is on the quietest of roads, if its taking you away from the Loire then by definition you’re going to be doing some climbing. …and the sad thing is there’s no need cos the D roads running along the Loire are so busy NOT! I’m not sure if its cos of the time of year, but after 20 miles of a few deviations into ‘them thar hills’ I ignored the Col d Up a Hill sign and stayed on the roads where, if we were lucky we were passed by 20 vehs per hour.

Point of interest function found us a very nice camp for €13, again the facilities. …with Yogi bear tables to hand were very good including loo role wifi and a bar. The beer was a tad expensive at €9 for 1 large & 1 small…but hey…..only 28 miles covered (including trip to Le Clerc Supermarche) but metres climbed….lots!