Hemp, Champagne & Music!
We woke up and felt cold, the first time on the trip we’d felt this sensation! Worse still, we were actually happy! The irony wasn’t lost on us as we put on an extra layer and waterproof jackets. We even managed a slightly earlier start than usual, setting off in the rain with smiles on our faces. Riding in the cool air after 10 days or so of cycling in stifling temperatures was a real pleasure and we clocked up the kilometres fairly quickly as we headed in a general north westerly direction. A quick blast of Google Maps at night mixed with local tourist maps had proven to be a great way to travel across Europe without worrying too much about whether we were on the exact road we should be on to make maximum distance. We were restricted slightly in that we only had 3 weeks to get back to Glasgow but there was something refreshing in not worrying too much about where we were as long as we were heading the right way whilst enjoying our surroundings and the experience of the journey.
With this attitude firmly rooted we made our way onwards through France passing Saint Dizier then Reims. Even a casual remark from Louise about the canal was enough for us to check it out. We were able to really push on after we realised there was a good path following the canal in the direction we were heading. Perfect, no traffic, flat, cool weather … happy days! We stopped for lunch in a small out the way cafe. The old couple running it were really nice and brought out plate after plate of delicious food which we wasted no time in devouring, along with a couple of cold beers of course! There was even an old style penny sweet counter inside and Louise stood like a kid choosing her 20 cents worth of chews to keep her sugar intake up for the afternoon as we cranked out another 110kms before we stopped at the far side of Chalons sur Marne.
Leaving in the morning we decided to try a bit of cross country to avoid the busy main road. This didn’t quite go to plan thanks to rough tracks heading off in the opposite direction. We did pass some huge fields full of hemp growing quite the thing in the French countryside as far as the eye could see. I stopped and had a p**s on the field, it’s not everyday you get to do that on a whole field of the stuff and well I wasn’t going to smoke it. Shortly after we cycled into and through the Champagne region of France, the fields of the area filled with pristine looking grapevines and people busy tending them. Hemp, champagne, what next I wondered? The answer of course was music!
We cyclied into Reims and discovered that the city was holding a music festival. We found a hotel in the centre and spent the evening enjoying the musical street performances in this vibrant French city.
The thought of getting to Calais was never too far from our minds though and we got up early the next morning and headed out of Reims and into the countryside once again. The air was still cool and pleasing to cycle in and we were both lost in our own little life is good bubbles as we passed by the first of many graveyards found in this part of France to commerate the dead from the Great War. Two particular graveyards caught me off guard and made me feel almost guilty about being able to freely and happily cycle without a care past ground where so many people died. The first one was so big, each grave marked with a cross. The next had a sign for yet another British Military Grave. We stopped here and for a time we just sat silent, thinking about what happened here and how lucky we were to be doing what we were at that exact moment in time. So many young, so many dead.
Onwards we went though and on day 16 after 1259km’s we cycled into Calais itself. We both felt a real sense of achievement in that moment. We hadn’t planned any feelings like that and we still knew we had a long way to go when we hit the UK but it didn’t matter, for that moment we were on a high! We quickly sorted out a ticket for the short journey across the Channel after which we began our next stage of the journey but that is another Ae7 blog!