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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Cycling in the Loire Valley (Cyclisme le long de la Loire)

The station at Orleans

The trip to France didn’t pan out quite as we expected. Mea culpa and all that.

We’d booked the ferry tickets (North Shields to Amsterdam) months ago. Likewise the train: Amsterdam-Paris, Paris-Orleans. Just that I forgot the bikes bit – or rather, left it until the day before departure when I rang the train company. It was Lerwick to Bergen all over again (see my posting of precisely one year ago, 2 July 2012): yes, we accept bikes but you have to dismantle them into thirty-eight component parts and store said parts in a box small enough to fit through your letter-box. I exaggerate, but not as much as you might think. The upshot was that we left the velocipedes at home, and rented in Orleans. 11 euros a day – and not a bad deal, really.

You can’t go to Orleans and not be aware of Joan of Arc. She’s there, slap-bang in the middle of the main square, le Martroi, currently being re-paved with considerable disruption.


But, road-works apart, it is a truly lovely city. My favourite buildings were the station (top of the page) and the cathedral (below).


My favourite feature was the tram – which I forgot to photograph; so here instead is a shot of the tram lines. Artful, don’t you think?


Biggest let-down? Joan of Arc’s house. You approach it with visions of long queues and an Ann Frank sort of experience. Then you read the sign at the door. First it tells you – and I’m synopsising here – that the sainted lady lodged here with a city elder for nine days around the time of the troubles with les Anglais. Then it mentions, in a casual kind of way, that the house was destroyed ages ago and has been re-constructed. Thankfully it was past closing-time. We repaired to a fish restaurant and indulged.

I’m having to race along. There is much, much more to tell. But… it’s almost nine, my Chinese contact has deposited a large sum of money in my bank account, and the task of being a sci-fi writer for four months or so starts here. And now.

I will endeavour to return to France (in a manner of speaking) over the next few days. I have one or two fine shots of a splendid house we stayed in down near Angouleme. Belongs to some friends who bought a small hamlet (not quite a village) and have spent eight years restoring it.

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