Today was my fourth and final day of holidaying alone before my wife arrives. In anticipation of her arrival I have upgraded accommodation from a cabin on a campsite, to a lovely countryside ‘gite’ in the pretty village of Pouancay. First thing this morning I prepared myself for some cycling, loaded up the car and checked out of the campsite before heading over to Montreuil Bellay, a nearby town to our gite. After an espresso in the town centre I headed off on the bike, with no plan other than to kill a few hours and enjoy the sun-drenched countryside.
Over the course of a couple of hours I meandered my way down to Thouars through vineyards and sleepy villages. After my previous unsuccessful attempts at getting lunch after 2pm I made sure to arrive into Thouars just before 1pm and set about quickly finding somewhere to eat. For somebody who’s always in a hurry, and living in a country where everything is a rush, my lunch was a rare and enjoyable experience. I was there for almost two hours at a sunny table on the pavement watching the town on a Saturday afternoon stroll by. A few people stopped to talk to me about cycling; the waitress’s nine-year old daughter was taking orders and clearing tables and the only difficulty was when I forget the french for ‘medium-rare’ and had to ask for a ‘quite red’ steak!
I have often heard people say that when out cycling you can’t really eat too much. If that is a rule, then my lunch today was the exception to that rule. My first hour of cycling after eating a feast fit for a king (plus a small beer) was not beneficial to my cycling efforts. I was genuinely looking for a tree to nap beneath when the heavens unexpectedly opened. It was only a brief shower but was surely a sign from Merckx & the cycling gods to keep going and work off the excesses of my indulgent midday feast.
After an undefinable period of time I arrived at the town of Le Puy Notre Dame. Even on my local scale map it was only denoted “Le Puy-N-D” and I would probably struggle to find it again, but it was well worthy of stopping to take a few photos (and to take a rest on a nearby bench in the shade of the beautiful church).
From here I headed further north in search of a “point of interest” icon on my map. It turned out to be the ‘Abbaye d’Asnière’, some sort of seventh century abbey seemingly forgotten by the rest of the world. This is the beauty of pootling around in France on a bike – you can just stumble across stuff like this, have a quick look around, maybe stop to take a photo or sit and contemplate and then hop back on the bike and fly off again. Sightseeing by car (or worse, organised tours) just never seems this easy and simple.
From here I made my way back to Montreuil Bellay where I stopped to have a beer at a small bar and chill our and talk to a couple of locals about the Tour de France which started today. This holiday is proving to be a world away from real life and very relaxing.