La belle vie

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 –

Recycle – bikes for Africa-

Thank you in advance! X

Gladiator ready! at the amphitheatre in Saintes

electricity pylons march through fields of sunflowers

la vrai france!

a fellow cyclist ..

Chenenceau chateau – one of the many in the loire

an idyllic spot at the water mill

monets garden giverny

7 thoughts on “La belle vie

  1. Your writing is becoming more lyrical and poetic as your journey progresses. It is as if you are only now relaxing into your journey, and leaving everything else behind you. Like so many journeys, it is not about where you come from, but about where you go, and who accompanies you along the way. You will have so many stories to tell. Much love, and admiration, Rosa xxx


    • Thanks rosa for all your support – it means so much to me. I am in that limbo state now of knowing that the end is not that far away and that as soon as I stop peddling reality will hit… And that is almost as terrifying as the challenge itself!! Very much looking forward to seeing you when I get back xx


  2. Darling cousin, am sitting on my sofa in Romestaing and thinking of you! You bring everything to life so beautifully through your writing. Don’t worry about the next stage, everything will turn out just fine. Just focus on enjoying every moment of the rest of your trip. The rest will take care of itself. So proud of you – and so envious!!! Love and hugs, Alikiliki


  3. You are looking AMAZEBALLS darling, you skinny mini! And completely agree with Rosa about your writing. You have a really beautiful talent there, always look forward to reading your updates. Please keep writing when you start the next chapter whatever it is xxx


  4. Hi Philippa, Well done on your success so far! Sounds like you’re having fun at the same time as achieving a genuine feat. Your blogs are really nicely written – they capture the atmosphere of what you’re experiencing very well (though didn’t quite get how you found the people happy to give you a meal and hot shower. Was it serendipity or is there a site you find them?!). You’re looking very sleek if I may say – with, presumably, legs of steel. I think I might have gained the weight you’ve lost over the summer. Anyway, you may have cycled 1000s of miles across Scandinavia and Europe’s toughest landscapes but I did Park Street in 1 min 16 seconds! According to my Strava app that puts me 2,440 out of 4,285. Impressive eh? My friend James Stevens (you might have met him) is in the top 10 with a time of 37 secs. Bastard! However, he has an unfair advantage. One of his legs is the same girth as two of mine. That should give him a time penalty. Also, he tells me he improved his time by 10 secs just by using cycle cleats, which I don’t have. (A racing bike would help too) You should try the Park Street challenge when you’re back…you’ll blow the other competitors out of the water. Off to New Guinea next week but looking forward to seeing you on your return. Love Huw x


  5. With even more admiration, I can only imagine you want to carry on your odyssey, long beyond Tarifa. It is such an honour and joy to witness such a journey. You are an amazing woman, dear Phil. Courage for the final haul – wow ! With love, love always 🍀, xxxx


  6. Hi Philippa, Good to see you today. What an amazing challenge you are undertaking. The routing website I mentioned is I’ve let a few people know about your ride so hopefully you may get a bit more sponsorship. Bon Courage. Stewart Baker (Bardenac, France)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s