Tour de France with a difference – part 1

In the middle of the Covid crisis we took a decision to book a channel tunnel crossing for our motorhome in mid September hoping at least that we could travel to France for some cycling fairly safe in the knowledge that by using the motorhome contact with crowds would be kept to a minimum. In July England imposed a 14 day quarantine period for those returning from France but after studying the infection figures and confirming that for a small additional fee our travel insurance would still cover us we decided to continue our planned trip and take the quarantine on our return.

Fast forward to 24th August and an announcement by a French minister that France was going to introduce a 14 day quarantine for travellers from UK as a tit for tat measure. Not wishing to cancel our trip we brought our Tunnel booking forward and 36hrs later we were on our way to Folkestone to board the 01-23 train to Calais. 

Arriving at Eurotunnel Folkestone we were greeted by number plate recognition to check in followed by a silent passport control who stamped our passports, we were on the train with not a  word spoken.

A very quick 35 minute crossing before we were spat out the other end onto French roads and after a few of hours driving to clear Lille we pulled over for a couple of hours sleep and then breakfast at Aubencheul-du-Bac. 

Our first stop was for a couple of days at a Camping Car Parks Aire at Seurre on the banks of the River Saone, good value at €13-52 for 24 hours. After parking the van and getting set up we enjoyed an early evening stroll to the river bank to look at one of the massive river boats that operate cruises on the river before a couple of beers and dinner back at the van.

Friday morning we were woken by the thunderous sound of heavy rain on the motorhome roof, it was forecast so did not take us by surprise so after a leisurely start I settled down to some route planning for a Saturday ride around the area.

When the rain eventually stopped we were keen to explore the nearby town centre. Leaving the campsite we immediately stumbled across an interesting architectural feature in the form of a pair of 150 year old gates and brickwork pillars that had been left in place and an extension to a house built behind them with a strange recess left around the feature, very quirky. The tourist information office was closed as was 75% of the shops in town the exceptions being a boulangerie, a hair dressers, 2 chemists, a few estate agents and a couple of bars that seemed to have cornered all the  town visitors on their street tables. The town is home to some lovely old buildings of timber frame and brick that had been lovingly restored but the majority of old properties had fallen into a state of disrepair and it is difficult to imagine the investment needed to regenerate the buildings and although property seemed very cheap you would spend more than the purchase price again to return the property to good repair.

Spot the mistake…..

A grand townhouse that has seen better days.

A popular crop, bamboo

 

Log stack envy.

Saturday morning dawned with a cloudy start as a weather front was clearing the area, a hot air balloon floating across the sky, a good indicator of stable weather and light winds. Leaving the campsite we crossed the River Saone and were immediately into open countryside which was mostly arable with crops of sunflowers, sweetcorn, beans and bamboo !! , Farmers were already busy with the plough and by the abundance of new John Deere tractors it must have been a very good harvest. The other popular crop seemed to be logs, as in firewood and by the care taken with the stacking I am sure the best kept village garden has been augmented with best log stack to include size, design and kerb appeal.

The roads were good and drivers slowed down and gave plenty of space when they passed and the area is well served with marked cycle and walking routes.  Along the Route de Montagny we were overtaken by a serene line of Citroen 2CV’s all looking better than new on an owners club rally and at Longwy-sur-le-Doubs we came across a flock of 25 storks feeding in a grass field next to the road, in fact over the entire route there was an abundance of birds of prey on fence posts and overhead cables waiting for lunch to appear.

Chateau de Neublans

At Neublans we came across a beautiful 10th century chateau and church that looked to have been subject to an expensive renovation and was in its time the seat of power for a vast surrounding area. The country lanes were a joy to ride as we criss crossed the Rivers Saone and Doub, returning to Suerre from the West we stopped at The Boulangerie for fresh baguettes and a Quiche Lorraine for our lunch. The town was very quiet for a Saturday which was a bit disappointing but a sign of the fear that Coronavirus still hold over the community. A lovely route (link below) that gave us an insight into the surrounding area and met with Kaye’s approval as it was flat. An afternoon spent sunbathing and checking the bikes before we push on to Provence tomorrow 

Route here: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/55186534

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