We are having a ‘day off’ today. It is Sunday, and very quiet in town and we have been wandering around, resting in the shade in the park, reading and generally relaxing. The cathedral was by far the coolest place and we may yet sneak back in to sleep there tonight. The hotel is hot!
Earnest moment of the day: looking at some wonderful second century Egyptian portraits in the art museum, painted on wood as death masks, and looking incredibly modern and life-like. Said to be amongst the earliest known portrait painting. The museum was in the palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.
We’re just settling down now to watch the world cup final. Then back to cycling tomorrow.
Helen’s track of the day: Belshazzar’s Feast, Rondo a la Turkey, because it sums up the exuberance of Dijon.
We began the day chatting over breakfast with our new friends from Denmark and a family from France, all of us having cycled to Flavigny the day before. Our hostess was very solicitous and provided a delicious meal – eggs en cocotte with bread soldiers being particular extra fare for Andy and I as we would need the extra protein apparently. Anyway, another good days cycling, very hard getting up the first hill with steep gradients, so I had to do some pushing, but there were lovely villages,
and after the first 30 minutes I settled down and we got to Dijon in time for lunch.
The geographical highlight was riding along and then crossing the watershed of France – everything to the left of the road below flows to the Seine and to the right to the Rhone.
We swooped down 1000 feet or so and found a hotel close to the city centre, Le Sauvage which sounds worrying, and will rest up till Monday. A day off! The temperature is still well over 30 C so we will need to stroll round the city rather than do my usual city trail.
I have been amusing myself with noting the music playing in my head each day. Sometimes it is linked to the day’s events, sometimes not, but I will record this here as tracks of the day. I don’t want this to be pseud’s corner but is a good record for me of the trip:
3/7: Cole Porter – I love Paris – obvious choice
4/7: Blondie, Denis, Denis – because we passed through Verts St Denis
5/7: Beatles, We can work it out, because the GPS that shows our chosen route needed fixing and we sorted out the problem with a re-boot.
6/7: Mama Cass, Dream a Little Dream because it is a great lullaby song
7/7: James Taylor- You Got A Friend – for Tim, though worryingly I sang the theme from Champion the wonder Horse for most of the day – must be the heat.
8/7: Stevie Wonder. Superstition – because I woke up with this in my head, again.
9/7: Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More – because it’s a current favourite
10/7: Rachmaninov- 2nd Piano Concerto because I love it and I had time to listen to this in the afternoon.
There was rain in the night – though it is hardly any cooler this morning. But no complaints – this is what we were dreaming of all winter!
Heading south from Montbard we finally left the Armancon valley and climbed into low hills to the east, aiming for the Chateau Bussy Rabutin. But whereas yesterday we arrived by chance just in time for the guided tour of Chateau Ancy le Franc, this time we toiled up the hill just in time for lunchtime closing! Oh well, there are only so many chateaux you can see on one trip.
Things improved greatly at our next stop – at Alesia. This has a significant place in French cultural heritage – as the man in the bar in Montbard had been keen to point out over our breakfast this morning. Here, in their hilltop fortification, the ancient gauls under Vercingetorix were finally beaten by the army of Julius Caesar. Please note the word hilltop. We climbed a long way at 10% plus just for this bit of cultural nourishment – so we are going to share it with you, like it or not! Napoleon III erected a huge statue of Vercingetorix – but really only to celebrate his own claim to have reunited an independent France for the first time since the gauls.
There was a fascinating, though hardly photogenic, archaeological excavation of the Gallo-Roman settlement that followed in the centuries after the battle – amphitheatre, temple, forum and all.
Then back to the valley before a final climb to the medieval hilltop village of Flavigny. This is on the site of the roman camp prior during the siege and battle of Alesia. But it is better known now for being the location for the filming of ‘Chocolat’. I assumed that our small hotel (the first since Paris) would be run by Juliette Binoche – but no such luck, though our hostess is as charming and the evening meal was superb.
Helen set off to scout the village in the evening looking for Johnny Depp. No luck, but we found the chocolaterrie window and attracted the attention of a friendly local who showed us the photo album from the film shoot, with all the locals looking nervous as extras. And there were photos of the two stars – the nearest we are going to get.
Filmic associations apart, this is a truly lovely village. We spent our previous two summer holidays cycling up to hilltop villages in Provence and in Tuscany, so we consider ourselves connoisseurs of the genre (and probably masochists)! This is at least as good as any, in a quiet, undeveloped way.
Today began early for me – did you know that a lot of freight traffic moves around French railways between 2 am and 4 am? No, not a lot of people do know that. We have found the only drawback of this lovely municipal campsite in Lezinnes – too near the railway.
Morning brought a panic – we had lost the power cable for the laptop. But Tim is saving the day by sending out a replacement. Many thanks.
Back to the hols. It was a very hot day – with many locals telling us it was too hot! It was over 30 degrees from early morning, so just 25 miles today. We visited the 17th century chateau at Ancy le Franc and had a very interesting guided tour. The place had a pleasing sense of calm, symmetry and elegance – especially in an inner courtyard which was built in Renaissance style by an Italian architect.
Back in the real village we watched the market stall holders pack up for home at 12.30 as we hid in the shade of a bar to eat salad and drink as much water as we could hold. The vineyards of Burgundy are being wasted on us at the moment – all we want is beer, coke or water in this heat wave. Or ice-cream.
Last night in Lezinnes we had pizza from the local van, as it was the only food in town. Andy really knows how to show a girl a good time! And then we found a bar to watch most of Germany vs Spain. Delighted to see Spain in the final!
The days are starting to merge into one another nicely now as we adapt to this new, and very agreeable, lifestyle! Last night we managed to find a tv in Brienon to watch Holland beat Paraguay. (Not the bar – that closed at 7 pm – but the sandwich shop that stayed open until 10 pm. Very odd.) Then back to town for breakfast and more cycling under blue skies.
We decided to give the canal towpath another try.
But the results were the same as before – slow and bumpy progress. So back to the nice smooth tarmac. And the roads were getting quieter as we headed up river and deeper into rural France.
The highlight of the day was a sightseeing stop at the Chateau de Tanlay. Here we were asked to believe that the family survived the revolution – Chateau intact – because of their good relationship with the villageois. And they are living there still – in decaying splendour. We spent a happy hour wandering around.
Tonight we are at another of these excellent municipal campsites.
Slightly bigger and busier roads today – but faster cycling! Having rejoined the Yonne at Sens we set off up river. Coffee was at Villeneuve sur Yonne, and lunch at Joigny.
From there it was a short hop upriver to the start of the Burgundy canal at the confluence of the Yonne and Armancon. We set off along the towpath of the canal, following the course of the Armancon.
But the (lack of) surface was not kind to the backsides, so we were soon back to the road again. Just as well that we weren’t planning to ride the towpath all the way to Dijon! Tonight we are in Brienon sur Armancon.
Last night’s camp site was beautiful – right next to the confluence of the Seine and Yonne. We had an evening walk beside the river.
Today we had our first boulangerie breakfast in the nearest village of Meret sur Loing, scene of famous Sisley paintings of the church.
There followed a wonderful day’s cycling on small lanes, through beautiful villages and across rolling farmland. Tonight we are in Sens, on the municipal camp site having just had an evening meal in the Cathedral Square. The cathedral itself is the biggest building in Sens – though the town hall runs it close. Just like Ripon really.
Our second day began early with Andy waking me at 4 am. He went off to tell the staff in the hotel that “il pleut dans ma chamber”, a phrase that covered it in his best school boy French. There was indeed water coming through our ceiling, so we were offered a drier room and went back to sleep.
The day improved after breakfast, with a leisurely ride through suburbia, woods and country lanes in a warm sun with both of us feeling well. The bikes are working well too, and thanks go to expert bike mechanic Alex for sorting out my bike, the gears are now working beautifully.
Vaux le Vicomte was our first tour of a chateau, and we really enjoyed the formality of water gardens, box topiary, and grand vistas that French aristocracy managed to master so well. I particularly enjoyed finding a soft drinks machine in a beech hedge, supplying a very welcome coke today.
We went on to Fontainebleau, spending time in the town rather than more chateau watching as we had been before. The locals were in party mood, with street musicians attempting a medley of one chord country songs in a marquee, whilst everyone else chatted or smoked, or in our case, drank beer.
Then we pedaled on to the campsite and a well deserved beer.
First things first. This trip is dedicated to the memory of Anne Mustoe who inspired it.
But second – don‟t let that sideshow in Rotterdam this afternoon distract you from this, the start of the real cycle event of the summer. What are Wiggins and co doing – a mere 3 countries and 3 weeks? Whereas this is the real thing – 9 countries and 13 weeks!
And we are under way! Thanks to Tim for dropping us in York for the trains to Paris. Our ‘official’ start was from outside Notre Dame.
And the first stop came 300m later at Berthillon‟s ice cream parlour!
Then we cycled along the Seine towpath and through the Foret de Senart to end at a posh hotel. Please note that our prologue was three times the length of some other cyclists we could think of. Did we mention that this is our 28th wedding anniversary and we are in Paris?