We burst into France thinking here we go, Switzerland and the hills are behind us … wrong! The first thing we had to do was tackle a 1100m climb up to the village of Les Hopitaux Neufs via the picturesque Jougne. Now, first piece of advice on entering France, when you need lunch, make sure you get somewhere before 2pm. We entered the first place in the village of Jounge only to be told “Non” when we asked for food, the reason being that it was now 2 minutes past two!! The chef was not in the least bit interested that we had just cycled up the big climb to get there and several of the French customers protested on our behalf to no avail … “non!”. I did wonder if he was a distant French cousin of the chef from the Laroch Bar in Ballachulish? A few kilometres on we did find one place open and at last we sat down to some delicious French food, well, crepes to be exact!
We then commenced another downhill section and for the rest of the day we pedalled up and down relatively easy ground until we reached a tiny town called Nods and began the search for a hotel. The locals informed us we’d have to cycle another 8km to Vanclans where we’d find somewhere we could book in to. We set off, both of us feeling weary in the heat and it was with a mix of relief and delight when we spotted the hotel. As we approached though feelings of confusion kicked in, there were no cars parked in the car park, no people walking about, no lights or movement inside, the place was closed!!! By this time it was almost 8 at night, so we found a local restaurant and the staff there phoned around as they helped us to search for another hotel nearby. “I have found hotel for you” said the waiter smiling. “How far?”, we asked … “only 28 km’s” he replied … “f**k that” retorted Louise!!! We cycled on for a bit hoping the locals just didn’t realise they had other hotels in the town and when we stopped at another bar to ask there, a ten minute conversation ended up in one of the locals inviting us to stay at his house for the night, top lad! The dog was kicked out of the spare room for the night and we had somewhere to rest up.
Next day we said our thanks and goodbyes and headed off on route to the wonderful city of Gray! Now, I’m not sure if it was named after me or not but I made use of every photo opportunity none the less! On the way there we passed through Besancon. The road into the city from the hills above was steep and we crusied downhill banking into the corners that took the severity out of the route. We veered onto a slip road to the right just before the city and cycled into a small village where we found a great little restaurant which had just opened it doors for the day. In fact it seemed like the owner was cleaning up from the night before but he was more than happy to knock up a couple of omlettes with fresh chives cut from his garden in front of us. We were the only customers at that time of the morning and from our shaded position in the garden we could see the chef & his wive preparing croissants and bread for the day in the kitchen. The smells were awesome, as was the fresh ground coffee, for once not brewed too strongly and we had one of those moments where everything just seemed good in the world!
Shortly after that we entered Besancon and both of us were wowed by the beauty and the feel of this little known city with it’s riverside path leading to a old cobbled city centre. New tramlines were being built and along with the electric buses already running around the city, this mix of modern and old gave the city a cool vibe. The bikes bounced over the cobblestones and the sweat poured out of us, the temperature now in the mid 30’s. We kept clocking up the kilometres despite the toll the heat was taking on us. Every peddle seemed twice as hard as it should be and it was a relief to crank out the last few kilometres into Gray.
The next couple of days we followed roads through rolling countryside and flat valleys, passing fields full of haybales and wheat as we made firstly for ancient fortified hill top town of Langres, then the small town of Joinville in the Marne valley. As the temperatures continued to soar, the tarmac on the road started to blister and chunks stuck to our tyres. Later in the day holes appeared on the road where cars and trucks had churned up the tar. That afternoon we ditched the helmets, tying them to the gear racks. The roads were quiet, the heat too intense to wear them and we rolled into Joinville 782km’s after the start of our trip in Milan.
The forecast warned of thunderstorms and we could see the cloud building up in preparation. We couldn’t wait for that the skies to open up and this is one of only a handful of times in my life where I actually wanted it to rain!! Not something you hear a Scotsman say often! The stuffiness in the air needed a good downpour to clear it and with it a much wanted drop in temperature. That night we got our wish. The heavens opened as we devoured pizza and beer whilst watching the lightning show in the skies above. The next morning it was with wry smiles that we donned our Endura jackets and made for the next destination … that however is another Ae7 blog.