We have given ourselves three days to ride to Spain. That should work out to be two 300km days and a big one of 400km - supposedly.
After a coffee in our room we set off about 9am - seems to be the time we get everything on the bikes and are ready. This is our first day of riding with Chris. GPS navigation planning was done last night and the route agreed.
The French countryside is beautiful. Lush green pastures, pine forests and quaint villages. We noticed that all villages have at least one church but very few of the small villages have a supermarket - we assume God will provide! We happened upon our first stop quite unexpectedly - we went around a curve and there it was - the village of Crevecouer-le-Grand, a stunning town square complete with church, pattiserie, Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) and plenty of parking. We decided on a cafe and our only problem was what to have from the extensive menu available. We settled on baguettes with cheese, egg and tomato - delicious. The shop assistant was really helpful and had a basic understanding of English which made lunch even more memorable. Greg asked about young shop assistant in his best French "Ou est la toilette?" - "where is the toilet?" the girl led Kerrie away, out the back where the bakers were working and allowed her to use the staff facilities - can't ask for more than that! Who said Greg can't speak French?
Back on the bikes with full bellies we continued our ride to Giverney. This town in France may not be familiar to you but Kerrie knew that it was the home and burial place of Claude Monet, the famous French Impressionist painter. Many of Monet's paintings were scenes from the Giverny area and the local economy depends on artists who descend on the town in hoards. The only artist we know personally is Howard Michaels aka "The Swank Yank" who we taught with us 42 years ago in Warren, NSW. We wandered around for an hour, snapping photos of the flower gardens that inspired Claude. Kerrie bought herself a scarf with one of Monet's painting depicted on it.
We rode on to our appartment for the night where we were met by our host Emilie and three of her four sons, Augustine 6 and twins Leon and Victor about 2. Later we met the 4th son, Simon - 16. Our accommodation was a beautiful, self contained loft above the main house. Dinner was purchase from the local Lidl store and a bottle of wine washed it down.
Breakfast was eggs and a baguette prepared by Kerrie before riding on, we were about 300km closer to Spain!
Clad in our wet weather gear, today we continued south. Kerrie's friend Sandy Wilson, had told her about a place in southern France that we should visit, so we did! Brantome is a truly picturesque market town with an impressive Abbey. It is unique in that the main part of the town is an island surrounded by a fast flowing river -stunning, thanks Sandy for the recommendation. After a wander around, a warm coffee and a new fridge magnet we continued south.
Tonight we would stay in Lourdes looking for a miracle that the weather would be fine in the morning. We had riden 450km mostly in the rain. Greg and I visited Lourdes in 2011 but Chris had not been here before. After a warm bath, followed by dinner, we found the famed Grotto where in 1858 Bernadette, one of three small girls, saw a vision of The Blessed Mary. We watched the Procession of Lights, true believers holding candles, reciting the rosary and paying homage with many seeking a miracle cure for whatever ailed them. The procession occurs every night at 9pm rain (tonight), shine or hail. Kerrie and Chris visited the Grotto and blessed themselves with the Holy Water pouring out of the rocks.
We returned to our hotel, wet but happy that we had been able to witness this profession of faith. Maybe we will get to Spain tomorrow!