The End of France
Fougeres to Coutances 99 km
We set off from Fougeres into a dreich, wet, and dank morning. After a brief stop at the Lidl for some bread and cheese, we got ourselves going. We knew it would be a longish day, and as we span the pedals, the weather dried up, and for a few hours, we had a very agreeable morning, through undulating and pleasant countryside. We noticed since we had crossed the Loire, the trees were barer; we were no longer in autumn, we had cycled into winter. We passed from lovely autumnal colours to trees that looked like firewood.
Annette was complaining of feeling vaguely unwell. The previous night she had ordered something from the menu in French, that she translated as “local Sausage”; her French is a little hit and miss…what she actually ordered was “animal plumbing”. It was simply a bunch of tubes of various diameters…inside a bigger tube. For those fans of Terry Pratchett, it was a “Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler sausage”
As she took the first forkful of the “Dibbler”, her expression froze; it was an expression that could only mean one of two things. Either - (A) This is incredibly delicious, or (B) This is unspeakably foul.
It turned out to be (B). The result of which was that she “enjoyed” the experience many times over the day, as it repeated on her... frequently. I cycled a respectful distance away as the process of digestion took its course.
By lunchtime the rain returned, and we trudged along soaked to the skin. There was though to be a final surprise. At 88 kms in, we decided to take a short cut through country lanes. It was a rollercoaster road consisting of some of the steepest hills we had yet encountered on the trip. Like two very tired and hungry drowned rats, we crawled into Coutances looking every inch the old, and knackered cyclists that we are.
The receptionist at the Ibis budget very kindly showed us into the boiler room to stow the bikes. It was sooo warm in there!
We took one look at each other, and felt sorry for the receptionist as she was forced to witness (and smell), two old, knackered cyclists strip off their wet and very aromatic clothes and drape them over the pipes to dry.
The following morning, she wasn't there at the desk. I can only assume PTSD, and wish her a speedy recovery.
Coutances to Cherbourg 88 km
This was another day where the attention-grabbing weather stole the show. It started off pretty well. it was dry…ish, bright…ish, and with a very strong tailwind to help us on our way. We flew along and got the first 30 kms for free. It felt like not a single calorie was expended.
As we alternated between steep uphills and steep downhills, we were getting full value. At midday though, it all changed and took on a different flavour as it pelted down. With the following wind, it was very sporting. Flying down hills at 50 kph, on muddy roads, with only one eye open, getting buffeted all over the road was sort of fun. Luckily, it was a balmy 13 degrees, so no worries today with the cold.
Google maps played another blinder today as it switched itself to car setting mid-ride and we found ourselves with another navigational conundrum as we needed to get off a very busy highway. Fast.
So we ended up with a repeat of yesterday’s roller coaster for at least two hours. We emerged, leg weary, on the wrong side of Cherbourg and found ourselves fighting the wind. The rain was irrelevant at this stage, as we couldn't get any more wet.
When we arrived at the hotel, Annette managed to secure a handy room on the third floor. It could have been worse…any higher and we’d have been on the roof. Three stories with all the bags and kit helped warm us up no end, and we collapsed on the bed.
It started to sink in that we were at the very end of France.
Four countries down…two to go.
So, I'm writing this as we wait to board the ferry. Yesterday we had real difficulties with Brittany Ferries who wouldn't let us book online because of the bikes. apparently it is a new ship and we are perhaps the first cyclists...who knows?
We walked for a few kilometres in the rain to sort it out, and eventually we were able to book a crossing to Poole.
We arrive at about 11pm tonight, so we will spend tomorrow in Poole getting ready to head north once again.
We haven't had time to digest the end of France yet, but it is with mixed feelings that we head for the boat. it has been a lot of fun in France, but not as much as we might have hoped, as we have been simply surviving for much of the time. Hopefully in Poole, we may get a chance to chill for a while and think about the journey so far. We are not particularly looking forward to England at this time of year...but we will see...