When I’m not camping in a hideaway field or by a stream I sometimes use a “warm shower”. This is not as dodgy as it sounds! Rather like sofa surfing, the worldwide cycling community open their doors to random strangers who know how wonderful a bed, a shower, food at a table, and local knowledge can be. I have found this the best way to meet people from the countries that I am travelling through and their kindness and generosity are humbling. In France Jean Noel took me to see the Amiens cathedral son et lumiere, Eric came out on his bike to meet me and escort me back to his house, Yves Marie the bee keeper and his friends gave me beer and delicious honey.
Even without the warm shower community when I have rocked up and asked in my faltering French if I can camp, I have been welcomed. No more so than Corinne and Herve who live in a beautiful water mill on le Loir. I am always on the lookout for the perfect pitch and after a very hot day of cycling, jumping into their mill pond with dragonflies and lily pads was as idyllic an end to a hot day that I could possibly have asked for. Not only that, the next day they took me to see the best of the Loire chateaus and we spent two balmy evenings on their terrace discussing everything from brexit to the best route south. It could not have felt more like “la belle vie”. All these people feel like an extended family supporting me along the way with their hospitality and kindness with no expectation of anything in return.
I have left the vast open vistas of northern France behind me and the brick houses with grey slate roofs are evolving into the white stone and red curved tiled roofs synonymous with Southern Europe. The huge army of electricity pylons continue to stride through the landscape delivering power to the French nation. The fields of sunflowers that stood so proud before are now bowing in their final homage to the sun. The distances between villages is lengthening and I have to remind myself that shops (when there are any) close not just for lunch but for the whole afternoon. I can spend many hours on roads and only be passed by a couple of cars and the landscape feels like mine alone especially in the early morning when nothing stirs. Village churches provide respite from the heat. Autumn mists reveal a patchwork of undulating vineyards and there is a smell of pine and scorched earth that pervades the air synonymous with the heat and languidity of warmer climates.
The heat and the hills of Spain loom large, and as I take a couple of days rest staying with my godfather and family in his beautiful house near Bordeaux I am nervous and excited by this final phase.
Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far – I’m about a third of the way towards my target. My goal is to raise £1 per mile so if you can sponsor me a few miles along the road it will really help to motivate me in my final push.
Youth Adventure Trust – https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodysseyYAT
Recycle – bikes for Africa- https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodyssey
Thank you in advance! X