We had a fantastic holiday this summer and with two digital cameras with us we took over 500 photographs. It's fair to say that the vast majority were pants and will be deleted as we process them. The ones that have come out okay are being uploaded to my Google/Picasaweb account and can be viewed now. I've also been going through our previous year's holiday snaps and uploading them too!
Some of the albums are private/invite only. Public albums only contain places and have no identifiable people in them.
Yesterday was a travelling day. We left Brioude around lunch time and took the SNCF Ter back to Paris. It's mostly pretty country side and we had nice sunny weather so we had plenty to look at on the way. Once back in Paris we took the tube back to the flat and had dinner with family.
Today we went for a walk in Paris. We first took the tube out to Bois de Vincennes, a large forest/park on the edge of Paris. In one corner is a large flower garden - Parc Floral - which is free to get into mid-week. The had plenty of flowers on display, so I took lots of pictures - in particular in the Dahlia section. After the flowers we pottered about the forest, which is a good place to ride a bike or horse, then went back into the centre of Paris for shopping. A hot and slightly more walking than expected kind of day, but still very good.
Tomorrow we go back home on the EuroStar.
Yesterday we spent all day in Le Puy-en-Velay. It's an amazing city and well worth a visit if you in this part of France. I think I've taken another 100 photos - there is so much to snap. We also visited the Hotel Dieu - possibly the worst museum in France I've ever been too. The interactive digital displays, brand new this year, often didn't work or when they did were dreadful. For a modern museum there was zero multi-language support. Even the static non-multi media displays were dreadful, someone spent a lot of money on bling and no substance.
This morning we said good-buy to Le Puy and caught the train back to Brioude. Just one night here as it's a better staring point to get back to Paris in the morning. Brioude is a bit like Le Puy only much smaller. The Cathedral is the larges Romanesque Cathedral in the region and very pretty - much better than the one back in Le Puy.
Yesterday was our final day walking with Mignonne. It was another beautiful day and was a fine day for a walk. Our only issue were the poor quality of the IGN 1:25000 maps. The region we've been walking in isn't popular with walkers, we saw no other walkers on any of our walks and it's clear than IGN haven't bothered with the maps - there are paths on the ground not on the map and vice-a-versa and paths in the wrong place. Without a GPS or a baring it can be very confusing. Thankfully yesterday was fine and dry and bearings were easy to take.
When we got back we unloaded our companion for the last time and crashed out for a rest. In the evening we debriefed our donkey owner about the route - we were the first to do this version and he took copious notes.
Today we woke nice and early, packed our stuff and went to find Mignonne to say goodbye. She was in a field with her family but she responded to us when we shouted her name. You can get really attached to a donkey very quickly - they are quite smart and very friendly. The taxi collected us and we were dropped of at the station with about 60 seconds to spare for our train to Le Puy.
We arrived at Ley Puy around lunch time and made our way to our B&B in the heart of the old city. After dropping our stuff of we went out to take pictures - it's a very pretty city so lots to photograph. Tonight we'll forage for food in a restaurant instead of a hedgerow!
Pictures are now appearing in an album in my Picassa account.
Yesterday was a bit eventful. When we awoke we discovered our donkey had gone AWOL again! However we quickly located her as she had gone into an adjoining paddock to play with the donkey in it. We left Saint-Arcons-d'Allier without any significant delay and set off on the short walk to Chavaniac-Lafayette, birthplace of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette.
By about ten-thirty in the morning the nice sunshine had left us and it had clouded over quite a bit. Around eleven the heavens opened. We took refuge under some trees and had an early lunch in the hope that the storm would pass. It didn't. We were getting cold so at around mid-day we set off through the rain - however the path down the hill had turned into a raging torrent of mud. Mignonne our donkey wasn't best pleased with all the mud, but went down the hill with great skill.
By early afternoon the storm had stopped and after some banana Soreen we felt much better. About 1 km from our goal we had to descend to cross a valley floor, however this time the bottom wasn't as dry on previous days, it was a raging torrent, and half way across the bridge Mignonne lost her nerve and ended up in the river. With some coaxing we got her out and we were forced to make a 2 km detour to the town. She had some small injuries but otherwise seemed to be okay.
We then had a long wait to get into the gite, when we all got rather cold. Yesterday wasn't the best day I've had but we all ended it okay.
Good news today, we checked on Mignonne and she was okay, no lasting injuries and she was happy to see us. Todays walk is the penultimate day and went pretty uneventful and we arrived in the village of Allègre on time. It's yet another nice town and the owner of the gite it a donkey owner, so lots of donkey books and stuff in the place
Tomorrow is our last day with our donkey.
Yesterday started well enough. We were up and ready to stroll but when we got to the paddock that contained our donkey, she wasn't there! We then spent an hour looking all over the place to find her. We've still no idea what happened to her, but she was fine. We had another longish walk, but arrived in Chilhac without any problems. One village before Chilhac the heavens opened and we took refuge in a farmer's barn with his hens. By the time we arrived at Chilhac it had stopped raining and we had a very pleasant evening in yet another pretty village.
Today started better than yesterday, our donkey was where we left her! Another long day as we walked to Saint-Arcons-d'Allier. It's a very strange sort of village this one. It's perched on top of yet another mighty peak and was apparently almost abandoned in the 70s. It was taken over and turned into a giant hotel, basically almost all the houses in the village are actually hotel rooms. It's a bit Disney but very pretty. We're staying in a vast but thankfully almost empty gite on the edge of the village - it's a bit cheaper than the €250 per night fee of the cheapest hotel "room".
Yesterday was our first day walking with our donkey. She is called Mignonne and is very nice and well behaved. The walk was a short stroll from Berbezit to Frugières-le-Pin. It was a rather hot day and we ran out of water - unlike last time we did this we didn't find much potable water in the little villages. At the gite we played Pétanque with the staff and the other guests.
Today was a longer walk and in pretty hot conditions. However we had plenty of water with us and arrived at the camp site in Villeneuve-d'Allier okay if a little tired and dusty. The camp site is okay - not as nice as yesterday's gite. Our donkey walks well - very fast up and down hill.
It's holiday time!
Yesterday we took the train up to London to catch the Eurostar to Paris. We got a lift to the station, which was good as it was pouring down at the time, and had an uneventful trip to London. The Eurostar was fine except for some annoying kids in the seat behind us. Their mother was obviously unable to cope with them and had pretty much given up with them - she looked exhausted.
Today we tool the Ter to Brioude via Clermont-Ferrand. Then we went by Taxi to the Gite where we start the donkey trek tomorrow.
Yesterday I went for my birthday present. I went to fire and drive the Southern Railways No. 850 "Lord Nelson" steam engine. It was a fantastic morning and I had loads of fun.
After having fish'n'chips in Alresford we went to have a look at some furniture in the Benchmark shop. We were really disappointed, the Thonet designed chair wasn't FSC/ PEFC certified of even made in the UK. They were very expensive and the finish on them wasn't very impressive.
Final day in Paris. A second rest day and no bikes again. Today we went looking for things we didn't find yesterday, such as the IGN shop hiding behind BHV.
My hands are still feeling very strange - that's going to take longer to fix than I first thought!
Tomorrow we take the Eurostar back to London.
Official rest day, which is very good as I woke up with no sensation in my left had and pins and needles in my right one... No bikes today, so we went shopping on foot today.
We went to the Go sport Velo shop and Franscoop to have a look at bikes, which is much easier than riding them intercity!
To Paris! We started on time, full of food, pain-killers and hope. Today is as long and steep as day 1, so we had to be sensible after day 2 hadn't gone so well.
Most of the way was on smaller empty roads in Normandy, we had lots of fast down hills and a few slower up hills. I got stung twice by bees/wasps through the air vents in my cycle helmet!
As we got closer into Paris, the roads changed to busy in-town traffic or town parks. We had a brief down pour but as we got closer to our goal the sun shine came out!
More or less on time we arrived at the Eiffel Tower - we had done it. We hacked through Paris traffic to another in-laws house for tea! Over all a rolling distance of 328.16 km (door to door), an average speed of 17.4 km/h (better on day 1 and today), max speed of 56.9 km/h on a 2 km 7% downhill and a total rolling time of 18:48:59.
Today was a planned rest day with the in-laws. Lots of sleep, lots of food and lots of pain-killers.
We had a sensible breakfast at the B&B and set off for the ferry terminal in Newhaven. After a very long time waiting in the cool morning air we were off for France.
The crossing was uneventful and we arrived on time in the port of Dieppe. We cleared customs and went down the D1 for the start for the "Avenue Vert".
Once we joined the Avenue Vert our problems started. We had head winds almost all the time, it was clear that we hadn't fully recovered from yesterday and I had horrible back pain most of the afternoon. Even though it's a dead flat cycle route, requiring no navigation effort at all, we were travelling slower than yesterday.
After about 40 km we called out in-laws in Normandy for a rescue. Not a good day.
We set off early in the morning for Waterloo station. The train was busy but not full and we had no problems with the bike reservations - SWT can be a pain in the arse.
We started the actual bike ride around 10am as we threaded through the not so busy streets of London. People may have once said they were paved in gold, I'd say they were paved in rubble! It was very slow going and it wasn't until we were long free of the core of London that we were able to pick up any speed. Going over the North and South Downs via our route wasn't too bad and we made it to our B&B in Seaford in good time.
We had a light dinner and plan to turn in early for a good night's sleep. All things considered a good day, nice sun shine and plenty of Soreen to keep us going.