Sunday, 28 February 2010

Costa Brava

When I started writing this post, two men upstairs were skinning and butchering a huge wild boar in the kitchen. I am staying with Kike and his dog Tate in Saint Feliu de Guixols on the Costa Brava after having ridden 80km down from Roses and it is quite a contrast to my last host, Joaquim. After last writing I went and met Joaquim at his flat in the centre of Roses. I put my bike in the garage, was shown around the lovely modern flat and took a very luxurious shower. He is a Catalan teacher at a local secondary school and is a few years older than me. Although he thinks his English is bad, I would disagree and I listen to him talk passionately about his culture as we eat a delicious healthy dinner. He shows me the tradition of eating Pa am Tomaquet, toasted bread with a special local variety of tomato rubbed upon it along with a sprinkle of olive oil and salt. The tomato is one that can keep for a year if hung on its vine, and is expensive to buy in the shops. The Catalans tend to grow these themselves, keeping seeds within the families and passing them down through generations.
I hear a concise rendition of Catalonia's history, how Franco tried to eliminate the identity, language and culture of Catalans, but after his death how it became the first region of Spain to gain autonomy. How although it is one of Spain's most prosperous economies there are still tensions between the cultures of the mainstream country and theirs.
We talk until the small hours about all manner of interesting topics about life and society, but I struggle to take it all in as I am very tired.
The following day I take a well earned breather, I cut my hair, do the laundry, go to the internet cafe and stock up on food. I then think I deserve a siesta, so when I wake at 6pm I go with Joaquim to Figueres where he goes to Japanese lessons and I go to the Dali museum. Alas it is closed, so I take a coffee and watch the world go by, a lively bustle of Spanish city life on a Friday night. It is true, lots of locals of all ages are out and about, dressed up and enjoying themselves. We go back and meet another couch surfer, Tom, an Israeli girl who is working her way around Spain working on farms (wwoofing). It is another interesting night talking away until the small hours.
I set off relatively early and get going, cycling inland past the local industries of fishing, boat sales and repairs and smallhold farms. The land is flat and populated with small villages and cattle farms, but as I progress the dreaded headwind picks up. The runs alongside a new dual carriageway construction and even on an off season Saturday it is apparent why a bigger road is being built as traffic is heavy. The route guides me between three sets of hills and back towards Palamos, where the evidence of the area's main industry, tourism is apparent. Being off season, I pass huge ghost towns of empty high rise blocks, never ending lines of Dutch and British caravans stored closely packed in fields. The headwind is still relentless and the distance remaining reduces painstakingly slowly, and yet again the knee begins to hurt. I get to Saint Feliu where I grab a coffee and phone Kike (or Henriyk) who comes and meets me by the bus station. We walk a short distance to his place that he is building. Once a garage with an unused floor below, he has converted it into a home with found and recycled materials. It is quite a contrast, with a fancy granite topped kitchen aquired when a rich family wanted a newer one, to the simple shower involving a bucket of heated water and a jug. He lives a 'good life' with 5 hens, a vegetable garden, occasional fish he catches when snorkelling, and meat which his English friend Nick has just arrived with from a hunt. We drink beer and lend an occasional hand in ripping the hyde off this impressive beast, with Tate the huge alsation cross looking hopefully for some scrap. Kike works about 6 months of the year as a surveyor to pay for luxuries like car, broadband and beer but is well on the way for living pretty self sufficiently. As well as living he seems to have a good community of friends and a very content life, so it seems strange to hear his band, some of the angriest sounding metal punk I have heard. I like it though. We drink beer till the small hours and I get the feeling I'm not going to make it to Barcelona tomorrow.

Here is his band...

Friday, 26 February 2010

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Estoy en España!

Well I have made it to Spain, and I'm now in an internet cafe in what appears to be the arabic part of Roses, a coastal town at the foot of the mountainous border. After I left you last I went to meet my host outside the hospital of Narbonne. I had assumed he was called David, so when greeted by a Sarah I was slightly confused. In case some of you may be wondering about the trend of hostesses and not hosts, so am I. I ask a few people in each place but seem to have only had responses from young ladies. Mustn't grumble!
So we went to her flat around the corner and I had a cup of delicious tisane or herbal tea, seemingly more popular in France than UK. Much of it is home made and hand picked, and Sarah´s lemon, rosemary and honey blend was so refreshing. Sarah is yet another great hostess and quite funny as well. We talked for a few hours and then I went to sleep. In the morning I was delighted to have a fruity porridge and two of yesterday´s croissants, and we both left for work. My job was to get to Perpignan, though I had not had a definate reply from any hosts tonight, only a suggestion from a Guilguid that I come to a cafe at 7pm where the Perpignan couch surfers are having a meeting. Somebody there may well host me.
So to my delight I was back on the Canal de Robine again, guiding me south and over the beautiful Etang de Bages. The canal and railway come together and follow a narrow embankement separating freshwater and saltwater lakes. The view is incredible with the misty foothills of the Pyrenees in the distance and the wetlands in the foreground. Eventually the canal leads me into a forgotten industrial complex which reminds me of Newport in Wales, so when I realise it´s called Port la Nouvelle I chuckle to myself. I get onto the D709 but it is not a particularly pleasant road, and when the Peage (toll) avoiding trucks merge onto it I go back onto the coastal road to Leucate. This is my first taste of Mediterranean holiday town, and I imagine how much like Lego the architecture would look if it were all painted in primary colours. The road leads straight along wide palm lined boulevards, but being far from tourist season the place is deserted. I am passed by a big group of lycra clad cyclists, and then pass a slightly older group who up their pace to keep up with me; I'm sure it's probably quite disheartening to be overtaken by somebody heavily laden and ringing a bell on a vintage bike.

The route guides me inland, and holiday architecture gets replaced with industrial and more humble residential architecture, eventually becoming more and more built up as I enter Perpignan. I have a little while to pass before 7pm so I get a big baguette and chips, and amble along to the Porto Cafe where I'll sit outside with a coffee. I'm amused to witness a fiery row with the barman and one of the drunks, the dog barking and other locals joining in to the friction. Guilguid gets there at 7, and one by one the Perpignan couch surf hosts come together to have a social. Like all of my previous hosts they are all different, but share the same humanity and happily meet up regularly to socialise. It inspired me to do the same when I get back to Bristol. After a few amarettos, I gladly accept the offer of Nico's couch, where American Anna is staying too. We go home and eat some food and chat away. He tells me a bit about Perpignan, how it is the capital of northern Catalunya, and how the French authorities banned people from talking Catalan in his grandmother's day. Some Perpignan inhabitants want to unite with the Spanish Catalans and reform Catalunya. We chat away until 1.30. It's going to be a struggle to get to Roses tomorrow!

I rise tardily and bid farewell to Nico, then I get on the bike and set coordinates to Cebere, the coastal village on the border. It's 65km away which I think will be easy progress as I fly out of Perpignan with the wind behind me. It is easy progress for a while as I shoot past more holiday resorts, but as the misty blue foothills loom ever closer I realise the flat road won't last. I stop on the beach to admire the view, have lunch and oil the bike, then push on. It feels like a long while since the front gear has gone down to the smallest cog for a while but it's going to be pretty necessary for a while now. Uphills are a laid back 10 km/h and then the downhills glide along as the road twists and turns through hairpins, but the Route de Banyuls is slow progress. It is 4pm when I get to Cebere, so when the GPS shows it's another 46km of twists and turns, ups and downs to Roses, I think better of it and decide to give my knees a break and camp. I take coffee at a cafe on the Place with Annie et Bob, two curious Parisiens who instantly ask questions about the bike and then the ride, couch surfing and all manner of topics. I get a pizza along with some groceries and as the light fades I climb up the enormous hill towards the border. 100 metres from the border is a little track which splits to another blocked track, the flat stony ground is the best I will find, so I erect the tent and get an early night.
I wake up at dawn, but I am in no hurry to leave, I have until 6pm before my host Joaquim finishes work. By 9am I am in Spain, and I cruise down the hill to Portbou where I wake up properly in a bar with two expressos. This is the first time I am unable to converse, which is especially a pity when passing time. Still I happily pass more than an hour before I get back to climbing, up and round three headlands and four towns before going up into the natural park of Cap de Creuss. This is not the direct route, but for once I think I'll hapilly go the longer and challenging uphill route. I've got time to kill. The gradient isn't too bad as the road weaves through some rocky jagged hillsides. It's quiet on this road, but towards the top there is a gusty wind that almost knocks me off as I come round the hillside. I'm passed by several road cyclists and eventually I get to the summit, 280 metres up. The downhill sweeps into Roses, I'm at my destination by lunch time. About time for a breather.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Canal du Midi

After last writing I went and telephoned my Toulouse hostess for the evening, Audrey. I took her instruction to go to the station and sent her a text when I got there. I heard a phone beep and she was right next to me waiting. I'm sure I'm not hard to miss.
We crossed the street and went to her flat. I put the bike in the courtyard and we sat down for tea and chatted away. She cooked some chick peas, lentils, cumin and marmite concoction which was very tasty, then we chatted away drinking tea until about 11 when I became very sleepy. I passed out on the sofa and slept like a log until the next morning. Audrey was great to talk to, she had a very easy friendly manner and seemed very wise. I was tempted to hang out the following day but I was on a mission and had some catching up to do, so after going to an internet cafe to 'book' the next couple of day's couchsurfers and buy us some breakfast I said my thanks and goodbyes and got back on the saddle. The Canal du Midi was going to be my path for the next couple of days and was right on her doorstep. It was completed in 1680 by a rich farmer, Pierre Riquet, though he died with huge debts months before his completion. The Midi and the Lateral link the Mediterranean with the Atlantic, a huge strategic advantage to the French as navigating goods by boat around hostile Spain was very long and dangerous.
This older stretch was noticably less straight than the Lateral (as the name may suggest), and it didn't take long before I realised how much of a headwind I had to negotiate. I got away from the shelter of built up Toulouse and out onto the open plains and the wind only got worse. I was normally able to cruise at 15 mph but today it was very hard going at 8 or 9mph. It didn't take long for me to realise my goal of getting to Carcasonne, 65 miles away was going to prove to be an almighty challenge. I stopped at Villefranche for lunch (I was so glad to have brought stuff with me as everything was closed on Sunday), and it was quite demoralising to see how much further I had. I had asked the potential host to text me if it was ok to stay, but I had not had a reply so it was looking more likely I would camp this evening. After lunch the wind seemed to die down a bit, but I was exhausted and my lunch wasn't quite enough. By Castelnaudary I was so hungry, and realising Sunday meant the only thing open was a Mc Donald's, I stuck my two fingers up at my principles and devoured two Big Mac meals. The ride past Castelnaudry was much better, both being full of dirty food and no wind at all to slow me down. Furthermore the grey weather had been replaced with a beautiful evening sun, and the canal and landscape had become more interesting. I rode about half an hour into the pitch black, then scoped a camping spot in the wild as I was actually quite near Carcasonne and had ditched the hope of a response from the Couch surf host. I found a spot in a huge flat field, far away from roads and paths. There I passed out in the comfort of the tent and fell into a deep sleep. I was exhausted.
I woke up at 8.15, promptly upped sticks and left. It really wasn't far to Carcasonne and there I stopped for coffee and croissants. It didn't seem too appealing and so I continued on down the canal. The landscape was stunning but the weather was not. I pressed on but was still hungry so kept my eye out for more food, monday morning however was not good for business in rural France. I did however find a boulangerie and picked up a job lot of yesterday's pain au chocolat.
As the day progressed the terrain of the track deteriorated, and I had to negotiate muddy singletrack lined with tree roots. Some bits were incredibly slow going, especially as the headwind had picked up too. On and on I pressed, I realised that I didn't have such a massive distance to do today so I stopped in a charming village called Ventenac en Minervois. The first cafe I found was open, and once inside it was apparent that a stranger had come to town as all eyes looked my way. It didn't take long for the curiosity to turn to warm hospitality when the barman asked where I had come from en vèlo. The place was full of old and young bon vivants of many nationalities, including an old London chap called Peter who took insulting banter from his Belgian friend. Peter gave me his son's address and number in Spain in case I needed a familiar helping hand. Yet more humanity to keep me going. I pressed on with only 25km to go, and at the last 10km the canal split into many parts. A sign and the GPS helped me distinguish which arm to choose, but what was unclear was how to cross either the canal or a massive wier cutting the way. I asked two sets of old ladies who gave opposing directions, neither of which made sense to the GPS and sign, so when they intersected each other I let them realise this and they showed me a tiny singletrack. This led up to a big old steel railway bridge. A load of old ramblers had come off the bridge and ensured my confidence it was the way, and although not exactly mainline, the silver surface of the tracks suggested it was still used. I chuckled to myself about the nature of the navigation on this final stretch, descending a ramped wall to to the correct final stretch of canal and finally getting back onto some smooth gravel track. The old bike had taken a beating today, and as I cleaned out the dirt from the mudguards I noticed this great iron sculpture, the claws of destruction. The last straight bit of canal quickly descended into Narbonne, and I reflected on the last five days of almost completely off road travel, Atlantic to Mediterranean, it had been extremely tough and solitary at times but beautiful and satisfying as well.
I'm now sitting in an internet cafe waiting for my host to finish work. The city feels daunting and unfriendly, there are lots of people talking to themselves and this cafe is full of photos of guns and knives, but I've got a warm feeling of the adventure I've had so far.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

1000 km in!

I am in Toulouse, and I'm burning up in an internet cafe. Having come in from the cold, I'd like to take my fleece off but I fear the stench may offend my neighbors (having not washed for 2 days).
So where was I last? Oh yes, Bordeaux, feeling a bit down because of the knee and the slow progress. So I went and saw a doctor about it, who said it was an inflamed tendon due to RSI and prescribed some voltasomething and some anti-inflammatory gel bandage. I also picked up the wheel, which was a bit better but confirmed my theories about these trendy fancy bike shops as it still wasn't perfect. Still, it'll do and I was past complaining again. Besides, I just want to go. That evening I made a quiche and bought an earthenware flan to bake it in as a little thankyou gesture. It really wasn't enough for the superb hospitality I've been treated to.
On Thursday morning I packed up and left, happy to have some very clement weather to enjoy. I rolled down the riverside and crossed the almighty Garonne on the Pont de Pierre. I carried on upstream on Bordeaux's less classy side, which gradually became industrial and then rural. I was looking for la Piste Roger Lambert which was a disused railway line cutting a windy section off the Garonne. I wasn't exactly sure how to find it (as it wasn't on the GPS) so when I eventually passed a cyclist going that tiny bit slower I asked him. He was out doing a spot of exercise, so he decided to change his course and take me there. I spent 20km chatting away with Charles about life and bikes so I didn' really take in the scenery. I was astonished when he told me he was 58, he could have passed for 40. We went our separate ways (I think he'd gone well out of his way) and I took his advice to have an early lunch at this restaurant. I had a delicious seafood salad, boudin noir (huge black puddings) and chips and some kind of meringue and custard all for 10 euros. I could have also had a carafe of wine with that too but opted for water. I seemed to be the centre of attention again, and talked with an old postal worker who looked like David Attenborough about france, country living and Burma, but had to excuse myself when the conversation got a bit heated about politics with an homme droit (David was gauche). I was back on the saddle, and the old railway weaved through some stunning countryside. I'd passed some old boys who'd stopped so I asked them if they were 'en panne' -I was determined to make use of my heavy tool bag some point. There had been so many opportunities to chat away
but I had to continue, as I had decided my knee was good and I wan't going to take the 40km lodging option.
I was quite surprised about the gradients for a railway, going was occasionally quite tough as the old line got up to some high ground with a bit of a headwind. Here the old boys in their lycra were gone, and it didn't take long for the feeling of solitude to kick in. 60km in and the railway route stopped, I had to rely on the sketchy directions of the GPS. The hills got harder and the way became wigglier, and I switched to an arrow waypoint and got onto some tiny tracks. I was getting a tiny bit concerned about the time, but there was little I could do but to press on. Eventually I lost a lot of the gradient, and had my first near miss as an old lady decided to cross the road without looking. I am so glad I had replaced the old 70's brakes on the bike! On to the flat and I decided to ditch the GPS directions and take the busy D road as it was straight and flat, and daylight was running out. As I got into Marmande, I phoned Edwige from the station, and she came and met me instantly. I heaved the bike up the stairs and realised how exhausted I was, I had ridden a pretty hilly 120km.
Edwige gave me tea, I had a shower and she cooked me soup, pork and pasta and Normandy perry. Edwige is a young sage femme (midwife), who works in Marmande and is quite adorable! We went out to the local bar, had a drink and then crashed.
I had a leisurely start with a great petit dejeuner and went out for a quick coffee with her midwife friend. I left not long before noon, heading south to find the Canal Lateral. I got on the towpath which would be my route to Toulouse, about 150km of virtual solitude. The going was good, dead flat, pretty straight and some fairly interesting relics of industrial heritage. But it was solitary, and yet again it really set my solitary feeling which is quite deep and at times daunting. It was times like this that the mp3 player is a godsend. I kept a good pace with little rest for 5 hours, passing my goal of Agen, where the canal crossed the still enormous Garonne on an impressive aquaduct, one to make Dundas or Avonmouth look piddly. The canal swept round past a town of hills on one side, plain on the other, and I was happy to keep going, knowing that tonight would be another night under canvas. Evening came and I looked for something larger than a hamlet on the GPS, finding a big village. The nature of it's welcome gave me an incling of the bored kid factor, loads of really noisy mopeds ragging about, and sure enough while waiting for my pizza by the riverside I was surrounded my some intimidating kids, smoking and spitting. When they asked what I was up to and I told them, their hostile nature changed to one of surprise and disbelief, and dare I say it, smiles and respect.
I stuffed my face with pizza and left the town with dusk falling quickly, getting back onto the canal to scope for a hidden camping spot. I had plenty of energy and was happy to be fussy, so when I found my spot I was a good 10km away and in the pitch dark. I popped the tent up, spoke to parents on the phone and went to sleep very quickly. Another 100km day.
The night' sleep was ok, but there was a lot of condensation in the tent and I was slightly damp. It was colder again, and I got the tent away quickly as it started to rain. I got 10km along before finding a pleasant market town with a thriving market and about 10 hairdressers. I got some breakfast, lunch and a coffee and chatted to a woman interested in the bike.
Back on the towpath and the weather wasn't great, but I handled the solitude easily today. It was yet more industry, massive power station cooling towers and railway line running parallel with the silver streak of the TGV flashing by. I wondered if the canal's summit would be Toulouse as each set of locks indicated about 5-10m incline and there were a hell of a lot of them. A flight of locks was bypassed with this set up, I can only guess is a boat lift, one of the strangest vehicles I've ever seen. After lunch, with yet more hostile weather, monotonous canal increasing headwind and general tiredness, I was pleased to see the landscape fade back into what I'd seen as I left Bordeaux, except this time Toulouse changed into city over what seemed like a much larger distance. So here I am, in the centre and it's about time I check if my host is free (wasn't sure by the email and I'm a day earlier than expected).

Monday, 15 February 2010

Down the Medoc and the going gets tough.

So after a bowl of coffee and some homemade crunchy oat cereal with cocoa and almond milk (yum) I left the Baudot's. It was yet another bitterly cold day and I headed west from Saintes on a mixture of GPS and Jerome's directions to try and find la route Royan ancienne, or D150. The old road kept merging into the new dual carriageway N150 and so I wiggled north and south on some very minor and roads and dirt tracks, some of which were full of frozen muddy ruts.

By the time I had reached Royan, the old back wheel was wobbling about quite a bit, due to a broken spoke. I was pretty close to the centre of this deserted tourist town, so I limped to the port to check the ferry times across the Gironde, then went and got a pizza and coffee. Before the ferry arrived, I tried to true the wheel by tightening the adjacent spokes but another one snapped. This made the wobble so bad the bike was barely rideable, the tyre wasn't going to last long rubbing on the frame. I phoned James, my Bordeaux host and he suggested I get on the boat and try a bike shop in Soulac, 6km from the port. If all else failed there were trains from there to Bordeaux. The crossing was about 15 mins across the enormous estuary, and I
hopped onto the cycle path to Soulac, immediately taking in the pleasant woodland trails.

It was a long 6km, but eventually I got into Soulac and found Ericycles. They took the wheel with a big smile and hurried off to operate on it. After aking where I'd come from/going to they seemed to erupt into a wonderful cacophony of joy and happiness to meet such a nutter (nous adorons les gens fou!). I was touched when they did not charge me, 'c'est pour l'humanité' after hearing the trip was for Médecins sans Frontieres.

So it felt like a speed machine after the mechanical and mental big up, but wasn't long before the light was fading.
Jerome had talked about wild camping in freezing conditions, and he advised I should christen the tent when I wanted to, not when I had no other option. I'd been against the idea for a while, but since getting on the Medoc I was up for it. So I got into Montalivet les Bains and found a restaurant where I got the squid, steak and chips and ice cream, relaxed while watching France win against Ireland at rugby, watched the foreca
st warn of -3° and then went out into the wilderness. Finding a spot was pretty easy, so many deserted spots to choose from. I popped the tent up and got snug, and despite being sub zero I was more than cosy.
So I woke up having had a good night's sleep, but by the time I was on the bike I felt the cold. I went back to Montalivet to get some breakfast but the place was dead. I found a young guy outside a cafe waiting for his boss to arrive to open up, but after 15 mins gave up and found somewhere else. This cafe felt like the centre of the world, bustling with locals. So by 10 I was back on the road, heading for James and Stephanie in Bordeaux, 55 miles away. The long straight empty cycle track vanished into the foggy bleak horizon, and the surrounding pine woods seemed to repeat like the backdrop of a Flintstones cartoon. The tarmac eventually ended but the GPS lead me straight on down a sandy track. I had come 5 miles down the tarmac, so I was reluctant to turn back, instead I continued down the sand track, pushing the bike with the optimism that the junction 1 mile away displayed on the
GPS would be tarmac again. It was not, and the track became more and more sandy, making even pushing the bike a real effort. I headed inland, assuming I would evenually get to the road parallel to the coast. By the end of it, 3 miles of pushing had challenged my patience no end,
and I had lost at least an hour of valuable riding. The road was yet more endless cold horizon, in some ways satisfying to go in a straight flat line but psychologically very arduous, especially as I had a cold headwind to battle against. About 20km from Bordeaux I got off the bike to text my hosts to tell them I'd be late. As I got back on the bike I heard a snap and to my dismay another one of the old back wheel's spokes had gone. I wonder if the cold affected the brittleness of the spokes, but whatever my spirits were quite down by now. Still, the first van I stuck my thumb out to picked me up, and the kind couple who had been to maintain their holiday house took me all the way to James and Steph's door, way out of their way.
I was greeted by a James at the big door of their beautiful riverfront apartment. His radiant smile lifted my spirits in no time, and after a cup of tea, shower, glasses of wine and spaghetti carbonara and delightful company talking english I was happy as Larry.
I woke to this beautiful sunrise, and after a coffee and a spell planning the next few nights on Couchsurfing I went out with the tired old wheel to find a bike shop. It was pleasant strolling through the spleandour of Bordeaux's grand streets, and eventually I came across a bike shop. A rebuild was going to cost the same as a cheap new wheel and tyre, and I took the shop's recommendation to keep the quality old wheel, as I've been told hand built wheels are better than factory built ones. I found a knee support and Ibuprofen (yes I've kept quiet about that, it's not just the old bike that's been suffering) and wandered around the old market, picking up a few provisions. Afternoon was spent reading, shaving, washing up and watching the Office on DVD. I went to pick up the wheel and got back, but was frustrated to see that it was a shoddy job as the hub wasn't centre. So annoyingly I won't be leaving Bordeaux early tomorrow.

Friday, 12 February 2010

So when I last wrote I was having a well earned day off. I was happy to spend the whole day in the warmth of Laetitia's flat without any guilt about stying in. She returned in the evening and we went out to Niort to a very fancy restaurant with her friend. I enjoyed a salad of strange meat things, a fancy steak and chips and a creme bruleé. No matter how much I tried, she insisted she pay the bill which I felt bad about, it's not like she hasn't looked after me enough already. The following morning I set off in the icy cold and snow towards Saintes. The siberian wind blew me south through Niort, along a desolate back road over the plains, where I got my first puncture. Changing it in the snow with numb hands was a testing job and I didn't hesitate.
Onwards past Niort I got onto a busy D road, dead straight with the occasional truck thundering past but not much else. The icy wind blowing me and the snowflakes along meant I kept up a good pace, averaging 20mph. I stopped at a true trucker's Les Routierés where I had another steak and spaghetti, proper carbs. The GPS took me away from the straight flat line, making the going more interesting but slightly more challenging. A couple of roadies passed me, the second one intrigued by me poids lourdes, congratulating me on such an epic adventure. I descended into Saintes and found Rue Arc du Triomphe where I found Jerome and his elderly mother. The house was an incredible time warp, it had been in the family for over 100 years and was slightly dilapidated, but had such a charm to it. I was so intrigued by the various meubles situated around the house, including this ancient bicycle belonging to Jerome's grandfather. Jerome is probably more of a cycling fanatic than me, having traversed Canada a few years beforehand. They fed me with some very healthy food, raw veg and no dairy and homemade chocolate hazlenut and date pudding. Yet more delightful hospitality.
The following morning I woke up with a bit of a fever. I initially decided to only go a short distance, but with no lodging sorted and the freezing weather I have decided to stay a bit longer and recuperate.