This blog has turned out to be a big project. Right now it’s a work in progress and only half finished. So please check back later to see the rest.
Maybe the best part of the whole trip was the two weeks I spent riding my Brompton folding bike along the Loire River valley. They call it the Valley of the Kings, because many of the French Kings built chateaus and ruled from there. Unlike many, I wasn’t really interested in going out of my way to see the famous ones. But there were plenty along the route that I could see from my bike.
The second part of the trip was to visit a friend near Barcelona, Spain. I stayed in the resort town of Castelldefels (“CastaydeFEL”), for about a week before deciding to ride my bike up the Mediterranean coast and to Girona.
Spain and southern France was too hot in July, so I then took the train back to Paris, then on to Amiens in northern France.
After getting to Reims in northern France, I thought about returning to the US, but as I’ve been interested in seeing Eastern Europe, decided to go to Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
I had no firm plan before landing at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris on June 8, but I’d done a lot of thinking about it. So, the morning of June 9 I took an Uber from my hotel to the train station at CDG and bought a fare to Orleans, which is about an hour and a half south of Paris on the Loire River.
A main shopping street in Orleans (which the French pronounce more like “Or-lee-aw”)
Orleans is associated with Joan of Arc, since it’s where she helped defend the city from a siege by the British in 1429.
One of my first nice French lunches on this trip. This was at a cafe at Joan of Arc Square.
My touring setup behind second Airbnb in Orleans. I brought camping gear this time. (I later figured out the backpack was more secure laying across the seat post rack. I also eventually found some super strong bungee cords for it.)
The bakeries in France are, of course, heavenly. Every morning I’d open Google Maps and type “bakery” to find the nearest one with a good rating, then get either a croissant, chocolate croissant (pain au chocolat), and café au lait.
And every meal would include some pieces of fresh baguette
Very nice Airbnb on the second floor of an old building
I eventually rode the 15 minutes to the Loire River. It sprinkled momentarily, which gave me an opportunity to try the rain cover for my front bag.
I decided to take the plunge and now travel by bike down the Loire toward the Atlantic and when I got ready to leave my room I knew there were several items I didn’t really need. I wanted to travel as lightly and efficiently as possible. I sent the room owner a text and photo of the things I was leaving behind. He offered to ship them to me, but I said no thanks.
The Loire is the longest river in France. It begins near Grenoble in the southeast and flows north to Orleans, then west to the Atlantic. Though I had no firm plan, I ended up riding about 200 miles over ten days to Nantes, staying in municipal campsites along the way.
This photo from Wikipedia shows how wide and wild the river is for much of its length. It has several tributaries and there are many large islands; some with towns on them.
Sunday morning I started cycling on the south side of the river toward my first municipal campsite in Beaugency.
On a bridge over one part of the river I came across the first of many swans who inhabit part of the river with slower current.
This was one of the first towns I came to after crossing the river. I’ve forgotten its name, but it was remarkable that there were no people in sight. But it was a Sunday and many people stay home, apparently.
After the town came the first of many miles of farm fields. Instead of triggering an alergy, the aroma of the ripe wheat seemed like a nutrient. Apparently, red wheat is dominant in the US, while white wheat is grown in France. Some say the US type has more gluten and chemicals. Anyhow, despite consuming a lot of baked goods in France, my digestion was still better than in America.
A youtuber said to search for “municipal camping,” so I did and was happy to find several campgrounds interspersed along the river at regular intervals. The one I stopped at for the night was called Camping Val de Flux, which google tells me is not French, but Luxembourgish, and means “valley of the flow.” All the campgrounds have decent bathrooms and showers, and many also have laundry facilities, small shops and snack bars. The fancier commercial ones even have pools and other stuff. Most of the ones I stayed at cost around 10 euros.
From the time stamp on my photos, I guess I went in to the village of Beaugency to get something to eat before settling in at the campground. This first day of cycling I felt like I was in a medieval wonderland and so much seemed exotic and rare. Over the bridge and to the left was a walking lane that went through a stone arch, ending in this square.
Surprisingly, a striking young woman exited the building with the red door and strode commandingly across the square and out toward the street. She seemed remarkably out of place; tall, slim, dressed in goth black tight jeans, a white T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, like an American punk.
One thing you learn quickly in Europe is that most restaurants are open from around 11:30 to 2:00 for lunch, then close until around 7:00 when they open for dinner. In between those hours you can sometimes get a charcuterie board of cold cuts and/or cheeses. I had to pedal and walk up a steep hill but eventually found a spot where I got this wonderful snack, with some great local white wine.
I got all set up in this nice spot and had just lay down on my sleeping pad for the night when two white cargo vans pulled up beside me and the two young couples started having a party in one of them. I used my noise cancelling headphones until I realized I’d have to move. After pulling up the seven stakes, I could lift the whole rig by grabbing the frame from the top, then walked the whole thing a hundred yards away. So, though these campsites are cheap, they’re not without issues.
Some municipal campgrounds have a simple restaurant/snack bar. This one by the river was cool, though again, I had to don my headphones to mask the terrible “music” they had on the speakers. (But that’s the subject of a different rant.)
Bridge across the Loire at Beaugency
Along the Loire à Vélo (EuroVelo 6) bike route the next day were two nuclear towers, only one of which was operating.
Coming across bridge toward Camping Municipal Bellevue, which you can see on the right.
I pitched my tent near a water spigot and a tree and strung a line between them to hang my wash on. Not long afterwards, about twenty adolescent French kids and their adult leaders set up tents near me. They were kayaking down the Loire, which seemed like an excellent thing for young people to do. Though they were nice kids, they were still full of energy and made noise until after ten p.m. Oh well, such is life in a public campground.
Just outside the security gate to the grounds was La Cabane bar. I had their tasty version of a hotdog and some decent white wine in a plastic cup. After I’d eaten, a British couple invited me to join them. Very nice folks who are veteran bike tourists.
The next morning I found a nearby bakery for the usual breakfast.
Then packed up and got a woman to snap this photo before heading off.
I stopped for lunch in the town of Bois and had the special. The pork was OK, but a little dry and there was too much of it.
It was a popular spot.
It took me a while to figure out how to follow the EuroVelo 6 bike route. The signs are rather small and occasionally absent when you need them. I used Google Maps a lot to find my way. On this day, I made the wrong choice I guess and ended up riding along a highway with only about six inches between the cars and the edge of the road. The surface was flat and fast, but it hardly made for pleasant pedaling.
I’d gotten an Apple Watch, mainly for the heart rate monitor, last fall. I brought it on the trip, but only used it a few times. Unlike Strava, a free app which also tracks your route via GPS, the Watch does not auto-pause when you stop to check your map or answer the call of nature. Plus, you have to charge it every night. So, this is one of the only screenshots I took of the data it sends to my iPhone.
There are several opulent castles along the Loire where kings used to put up their girlfriends. I don’t have much interest in typically touristic things like this, but may wander over to one.
I’m more interested in enjoyment than speed. I’m riding about 20 miles between campgrounds, stopping to take pictures and check the map.
Jacques-Gabriel Bridge at Blois
Tuesday, June 13 I spent the night at the municipal campground, Grève de Loire (grève meaning gravel). Here’s my one-person REI tent without the rain cover (which I always put on, for privacy). The Brompton folding bike, by the way, is unique in how the rear wheel folds forward under the crossbar.
Coming down the hill into Rilly-sur-Loire
Exiting the village of Mosne, the Loire à Vélo signs took me up a steep hill away from the river and through some vineyards, then down again. There’s a cliff made of limestone on the south side of the road into which many caves have been dug. Troglodytes (literally, “cave dwellers”), have been occupying them for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Many are still used in the local wine business and for a variety of other things, including as homes.
I was lucky to find an excellent restaurant that was made out of one, called Le Pied Dans Le Plat (“the foot in the plate” !). The cook owner met me at the door and I was soon convinced this was an opportunity I shouldn’t pass on, even if it was a bit more expensive than my normal lunch.
After lunch I carried on to the town of Amboise, which was cool, but quite touristy and busy.
That night’s campground, Camping municipal de l’Île d’Or (“golden island”), was on an island in the middle of the Loire.
Lots of tourists up by the castle
I love the deep red roses in France. Sometimes they are on climbing vines.
The town of Tours (the s is silent), was just 17 miles down the Loire and, as it was threatening rain, I decided to check in to a hotel there for a night. As I got close to the center of town, the street was not very bike friendly.
I’d found Hotel Mondial on booking dot com. Though old, it was nice enough. The trouble came around 2:00am when the local university kids left the bars and started shouting in the streets below. Again, I think it was my Bose headphones that came to the rescue.
I found a laundromat the next day run by a young French couple who helped me figure out how to use the machines. It was also a cafe, which made the wait nice.
The next night I found an Airbnb outside the city center and up a hill in an old mansion. The proprietress, a short and almost frightfully energetic and extroverted woman spoke no English, but relied on Google Translate on her phone to communicate with foreigners. She had named the few rooms she rented out after authors. Mine was called “The Rabelaisian,” which she said was for the writer Rabelais. (Google tells me “Rabelaisian” can also mean, “marked by gross robust humor, extravagance of caricature, or bold naturalism.”)
Being in the upstairs attic room, when an earthquake occurred around 6:30pm, the whole place swayed violently a few times. I rushed downstairs only to be told by the owner I must be imagining it, as they felt nothing. But later, she said another guest had also felt it and it had been confirmed on the news.
Huge dining area on ground floor
The next day I rode about 18 miles to Langeais (pronounced like lingerie without the er), passing some gorgeous scenery along the way.
An example of the kind of sign I had to keep an eye out for. Often not easy to spot, and occasionally missing or obscured by vegetation.
Midday in the village of Savonnières, I met a friendly local woman who was walking to her favorite restaurant for lunch. She helped me order a salad special, which was good, but too heavy.
Langeais itself was like something out of a fairytale.
Though we often think of “chateau” as, say, a mansion at a winery, it simply means castle in French. This one was open for tours, but I didn’t take the time to go in.
Next to the chateau was an outdoor cafe and this lovely view. Ah, France.
The campground was less than a mile from the town. Though simple, it was one of the quieter ones on the trip.
As a bit of rain was in the forecast again, I decided to find an Airbnb in Saumur, 30 miles westward. I ended up staying five nights in that town. The last three nights were in a very comfortable two-bedroom Airbnb. At about $75/night, it was way more expensive than staying in a campsite.
I think I’ll wrap up the rest of the Loire River Valley trip by saying I spent three more nights in consecutive campgrounds before making it to Nantes, where I checked in to a business hotel on the outskirts of town to plan my next move, which turned out to be a flight to Barcelona, Spain, to visit an acquaintance from my Tokyo days, Yuka Nakasone. I’d ridden about 200 miles along the River of Kings, and it had been a real adventure.
Castelledefels (pronounced castay-de-FEL), is a resort town 30 minutes southwest of Barcelona on the Mediterranean. I’d met Yuka Nakasone through a mutual friend in Tokyo back in the ’90s and we had reconnected through Facebook. She picked me up at the airport and we went to have lunch near the beach.
Yuka had a spare bunk bed at her place but, frankly, she also had a very self-possessed teenage daughter who I was not interested in being around, so I opted to stay in local hotels while I was there.
Yuka has a business doing localization, which is similar to translation, but also takes into consideration the different cultures that you’re translating for. Still, she was able to meet me a few times.
One day she offered to drive an hour north to the Santa Maria Abbey in the jagged Montserrat Mountains.
The church has a history that dates back to the tenth century. It’s interior was ornate bordering on gaudy.
Eventually we made it to a short flight of stairs that went up and to the left where there was a room above the alter holding a small statue of the Madonna and Child known as the Virgin of Montserrat. Apparently it’s considered the patron saint of the Catalonia region and miracles have been attributed to it. The woman below is one of the true believers who prayed in front of it for a few minutes. When it was my turn, Yuka urged me to step up and make a prayer to it, which I did. Though, as an atheist, I felt uneasy about it. The whole place was impressive, but I couldn’t help feeling odd that many of the people there took it quite seriously.
View from the abbey
Another time, Yuka took me to a restaurant at a marina on the beach where we had some of the most delicious mussels I’ve ever had. Apparently, they cook them on a grill, with olive oil and spices, and covered for a smokey taste.
Every morning I’d cycle a mile into the town away from the beach for my usual croissant and coffee. This cafe was run by an Italian guy and his wife. She would come in later with their yellow lab, who she would tie up at the front door. Most of the patrons and passersby would greet the friendly dog.
Eating habits in Spain are: The main meal is is lunch, around 2:00–3:00pm. Dinner is not as big, and late: 9:00–11:00pm. Ever since my trip, I’ve gotten in the habit of having my main meal early–usually before 4:00pm. I’m rarely hungry after that, so go to bed with a relatively empty stomach, which has been good for my digestive system, etc.
There was a simply place in town on a busy corner where I got a burger and the local beer, Estrella Galicia, which was good.
As the high season had begun in this beach resort town, even the cheapest hotel was now about $90 a night. Still, as I hadn’t decided what to do next, I was stuck paying this price, and for the most basic accommodation.
The bare bones Hotel 170. At least it was clean and quiet.
I knew I had to leave Castelldefels, but to where? I’d thought of doing the Camino pilgrimage in northern Spain, but that’s better on foot. I’d also wanted to try “Working On an Organic Farm” (“woofing”), but there were few opportunities in Spain to do that.
I’d gone in to Barcelona one day on the local train with my bike and rode to see the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral by Antoni Gaudi. Friends had said it was a must-see, but I was so turned off by the masses of crowds taking selfies in front of it, I couldn’t stand to be there. The area was choked with tourists toting roller bags and I couldn’t get away fast enough. Perhaps some other time I’ll buy the necessary ticket online and go in the off season.
A big gate in another part of town.
I finally decided to start riding my bike again, heading up the coast from Barcelona. The first day I missed a transfer on the train out of Barcelona, which added to the time it took to get to the first campground.
It was only about 25 miles, but first through a slummy area, then into a stiff headwind on a sandy surface along the coast. Finally, i gave up and joined the cars on the main road.
I eventually made it to the Camping Barcelona campground and set up my tent. There were, I think, six French people (who enjoy camping more than Spaniards, apparently), in the tent in front of me. Suffice to say my headphones saved the day again.
My 1-person tent
Unlike France, there didn’t seem to be any cheap municipal campgrounds in Spain, only privately run ones, and there were a lot of slots occupied by RVs that looked like they hadn’t moved in a while. But the facilities were good, with a pool, store, restaurant and things for kids to do. At around 20 Euros, the price was about double that of France (but still cheap, in the scheme of things).
One of the perks was a shuttle van that would take you three miles back south to the Roman era town of Mataró (population 126,000), where there were decent restaurants for dinner. Being a busy Friday night, it took a while (again, with my bike, which I’d put on the van), to find a place that wasn’t fully booked up. (The empty tables were already reserved.)
A lane heading up the hilly town
The next day was a great day of riding up the Mediterranean coast. I’d noticed a few other cyclists sharing the road with cars, so followed suit. Though not ideal, the surface was flat and fast, and there were signs for motorists to respect bicyclists, which most did by veering wide as they passed.
Med coast on the ride north
I’d found a campground near the beach in the town of Calella (ka-LAY-a), but when I arrived, a young woman was just exiting and told me there was going to be a punk rock festival there from today. Since that was essentially my nightmare scenario, I got busy finding a better option, which turned out to be a place called Camping Roca Grossa (“big rock”), a mile back south of town on a steep hill across the highway from the sea.
Across the highway from the campground were stairs going down to the beach.
If I hadn’t jettisoned my swim trunks in Orlean, I might have been tempted to take a dip in the sea. But I wasn’t crazy about staying any longer at the campground on the steep hill.
Yet I could see how the Mediterranean got it’s reputation as a beautiful place to relax.
The morning of Sunday, June 9, I packed up early and again went in search of a croissant and coffee. While the Italian-run bakery in Castelldefels was high quality, unfortunately what I found in Calella was second rate.
I only had a vague plan of heading north up the coast toward France, but as I headed out of Calella that morning, I found the road I was on that pointed inland toward Girona seemed much nicer than roads along the coast, so that’s basically how the decision was made to go there. (Plus, I’d heard from a friend that it was cool so….) It turned out to be kind of a marathon day. Though 40 miles is easy for a lot of cyclists, it was the farthest I went in one day during my entire trip, and temperatures being in the 90s made it even more challenging.
The first part heading inland had an excellent bike lane on the right side of a highway, but there were some significant hills.
Around noon I stopped for lunch at a nice (and fairly expensive), Catalan restaurant. Next to it was this bakery.
After lunch I continued cycling down the same road I’d come on, which turned out to be closed, and I had to carry my bike over a barrier and some dirt to get to a highway. Eventually i realized bikes were prohibited on that road and it took my close to an hour to backtrack. Finally, Google Maps told me to head north on this dirt path. I was afraid I might once again end up on some rutted cow path, but though there was another spot where I had to backtrack, it was better than the expressway.
Around 2:00pm I was in some very quiet countryside and saw this post with a scallop shell symbol, telling me I was on the Camino Catalan (yet another pilgrimage road ending in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain).
As the midday heat was pretty intense, decided to lay my tent’s ground tarp on the side of the road in the shade by the marker and have a siesta. (One car did eventually come along, and the driver must have surmised I was only resting; not deceased.)
I took this photo in the next small town I came to, to show the contrast with houses in Loire, France. Though I’m sure there are parts of Spain that are lovely, a lot of what I saw around Barcelona and environs seemed lackluster, to me, compared with France.
I’d heard you could refill your water bottle at churches and cemeteries, and eventually found a spigot near a church in a village to get some water, as I was parched. Not longer after that, just a couple miles outside of Girona, a woman on a bike asked if I needed water. I stopped to talk with her and her friend and found out they were both from the Seattle area! Turned out we were also staying in the same hotel and we hooked up a while later in the common area.
In the end, Girona was too touristy for me. Though the old part of town was very photogenic, the staff at the restaurants and shops seemed jaded, as if they were really just interested in the money you had in your pocket. I took some pictures one morning, then did some thinking about where I could go next.
Several guided tours
Some wonderful cobbling
Very cool cafe, but with prices to match
Maybe someone knows why the rocks in this wall are so varied.
There was a disgusting amount of graffiti in Spain
Back to Paris
It looked to me like the weather in Northern France was about perfect for more cycling. Though there was no clear EuroVelo route there, thew map showed plenty of little towns connected by roads, so I figured I could just bike from one to the next and make my own way.
Before going to the underground train station in Girona to catch the high speed train for Paris, I had to 1) get breakfast, 2) do laundry, 3) find a hardware store and buy some cardboard for packing my bike, 4) pack my bike into its bag outside the hotel, and 5) use my collapsible trolley to walk to the train station. It was obviously a busy morning, but I managed to get everything done. The train was delayed out of Barcelona by about 45 minutes, but eventually it came and, having paid a bit extra for a seat in the first class cabin, it was a wonderful trip back to the big city.
Now high season in Paris, the cheapest room I could find was still around $100 per night. Unfortunately, when I took my bike out of its bag, I discovered an essential part that’s used to secure my Brooks saddle to the titanium seat post I’d bought (to save a few ounces), had been left on the sidewalk in front of my hotel in Girona, and as this was a custom bit of kit (as the Brits say), a replacement was not available anywhere in Paris.
So, I booked an additional night at the crummy hotel to figure out what to do about it. In the end, I had no choice but to go to the big Brompton shop in town and buy a standard steel seat post and saddle clip. I rode the 2.5 miles, standing up the whole way (reminding myself constantly *not* to sit on the empty seat post!), which was a pretty good workout. (I kept the titanium seat post, strapped to the outside of my bag, for a couple weeks, until I realized it was now only a burden; then left it in a trash can somewhere.)
The bike tech at Brompton Junction in Paris did a rush job installing my saddle on a new seat post so I could still make it to the Gare du Nord train station in time.
Turns out there are over 30 “Notre Dame” (Our Lady), cathedrals in France. The most famous one, in Paris, tragically caught on fire in 2019 (due to reopen in 2024). The Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens (Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens), was built in the thirteenth century, and is the largest cathedral in France (roughly twice the size of the one in Paris).
Local saints including the decapitated martyrs, Victoricus and Gentian, are featured on the facade.
Accordionist at cafe on square in front of cathedral
Though he was actually born in Nantes (where I ended my Loire ride), Amiens lays claim to the author Jules Verne (Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872)), who moved there when he was 18 to attend a friend’s wedding, then found a bride of his own.
Art Nouveau ‘Naked Mary’ Clock at Dewailly Plaza. When I was there, I thought the clock was a tribute to Jules Verne, but my research makes no mention of him.
I went to one wine bar and had a very nice glass, but the “music” was the horrible, thumping, braindead type. I left a scathing review of the place on google (which the owner took umbrage to). A night or two later, I found a place called “V and B” with much better music (and prices), had a couple glasses of nice Viognier from the Languedoc region in south France and wonderful charcuterie board.
Though I’d been hoping for temperatures in the 70s, it turned out the weather there was considerably chillier (mostly 50s and 60s), partly cloudy, and with even some sprinkles. Pleasant, but not ideal for bike camping.
I’d checked into the dependable B&B business style hotel, which is clean, quiet and modern. After a hectic few weeks, it was perhaps a bit too comfortable and I ended up staying there five nights. With a population of about 130,000, Amiens has all the modern stores and restaurants you need, and I’d have to say it’s one of the prettiest towns I’ve been to.
It took me a few days of random exploring to happen upon the gorgeous Saint-Leu area by the River Somme.
I found the statue “L’homme SurSsa Bouée” (the man on his buoy), in the middle of the river hilarious.
Finally on July 18 I managed to pry myself away from the comfort of the B&B Hotel in Amiens and ride a short 8 miles east to the village of Daours.
Here you can see Amiens, about 85 miles north of Paris, and the short 8 miles I rode to the village of Daours (“Dour”).
I’ve forgotten how I learned of the Warmshowers organization but, based on my experience, it’s great. The wiki says it evolved from something called the Touring Cyclist Hospitality Directory that a guy started way back in 1976. In 1993, a Canadian couple continued the idea and founded Warm Showers. Then, in 2005 the warmshowers-dot-org website was created.
As the name implies, people in the bicycle touring community offer their homes (and showers), to those who are currently on the road with their bikes. So, it was through this app that I contacted Alexandra and Jean-Jerome (“Jee-Jee”), who agreed to put me up for the night. Both Jee-Jee and his wife work and wouldn’t be home to meet me until evening, so I rode around the village a bit and stopped in to the only cafe for a beer in the lovely back yard.
On the road going through the village was a bridge over this stream
My wonderful hosts. Jee-Jee works at a bike shop in Amiens and has done a couple cross-continent bike tours!
Just a few miles east of Daours I pedaled briefly around the village of Corbie where I found this old church, which, like some others I’d seen, is now only home to the pigeons.
A school for acrobats
I tracked this day using the Strava app
As I noted in Strava, Google Maps took me down a grass path at one point. I almost gave up and turned around, but it eventually came out onto a road again.
I was roughly following the River Somme, but as you can see, it’s a rather ill-defined, marshy waterway. Eventually I found myself near a canal that ran along it.
There was a very nice bike path along the canal
I stopped for a quick lunch in the Bray-sur-Somme farming village and took this photo near the burger place. “Sauf” means “except” (no parking except handicapped).
While I’d ridden through some farmland near the Loire, northern France is industrial level farming, and the fields often extend to the horizon.
July, it seems, is when the hay is harvested, and there were lots of huge farm vehicles on the roads.
As it was cloudy and a bit chilly, and there weren’t any campsites en route, I unfortunately had to stay in hotels or Airbnbs every night but one (besides the Warmshowers hosts). While there were still many nice towns and villages in northern France, it was much less conducive to leisurely bike camping than the Loire.
When I got to my hotel that night I was a bit disappointed to find it was a couple miles past the town of Péronne, instead of in it. So that night after checking in I had to cycle back to town for dinner. Here are a couple shots I took in Péronne
Chateau (castle) from 12th century (I think)
The next morning, instead of going back into town, I decided to find a bakery en route to my next destination.
Un cheval est un cheval, bien sûr, bien sûr…. (A horse is a horse….)
I spent two nights in the town of Saint-Quentin (sounds like “sawn k’taw” in French), at a nice and quiet Airbnb-style accommodation I found on booking-dot.com. It was funny to see this American ‘Wild West’ fair that had been erected in a main square.
I looked in my photo file and see I took several of the huge, old church, a park and some other shots. But as the reader must be overwhelmed by now, I think I’ll leave them out.
In fact, I’ve been wanting to say that, while I felt like I was in a kind of Disneyland when I got to France in the second week of June, at this point, having spent almost six weeks pedaling around rural areas, it was starting to seem less special and more ordinary, which I guess is understandable. I’d have to say that Saint-Quentin was one of the most lovely places I’d been to though. Like so much of France, you can tell they have gone to great lengths to keep the old, historic buildings and streets in tact, which is a really wonderful thing, and one of the main reasons I love the country.