2009/11/20: Arcis-sur-l’Aube 107 km
Our morning coffee stop was in another PMU bar. PMU is a franchise for betting on horse races, and often the village coffee bars we stop in are outlets for this chain. They’re usually full of colourful characters. Each time a local walks in, he shakes hands with all customers in the establishment, local mates and foreign cyclists alike. The bonjours and handshakes we receive have become especially jolly now that the Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived. Our morning stop was lively, and we were given local advice on a piste cyclable along the canal, along with good-humoured and well-lubricated warnings about being careful not to fall in.
As lunchtime approached, we found a bakery in a village and treated ourselves to a delicious pâté en croûte that came accompanied by a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau – a seasonal special. This made for an excellent picnic on a bench a little further along. It was a good thing that Chris had called the consulate about his lost passport before lunch!
We were travelling across the Champagne-Ardenne region, which has picturesque villages set in a flat and rather boring agro-industrial landscape. Beside the road were enormous piles of turnips. In hindsight, what I thought was a pile of celeriac in Switzerland was probably also turnips. We were passed by many huge trucks loaded with turnips, and saw them turning in at a large-scale dehydration plant. I’m pretty sure these turnips are not destined to be a table delicacy but are being processed to make cattle feed or bio-fuels.
We made a good distance, arriving in Arcis-sur-Aube and finding a quiet little hotel by the river.
2009/11/21: Provins 84 km
After another PMU morning coffee, we ventured along a narrow track on the grassy bank of a canal for about 10 km. It was getting late as we arrived in the medieval town of Provins, but we rode up to the old fortified town to admired it and to get our bearings. Eventually we installed ourselves in a chambre d’hôte, along with Elisabeth and Olivier from near Paris, and with whom we went out for an excellent dinner. Provins is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site because of it’s importance as a centre for fairs and trading during the Middle Ages.
2009/11/22: Bussy-St.Georges 62 km (odometer passes 17,000 km)
After a later-than-usual breakfast and various farewells including to two very friendly bichons at the chambre d’hôte, we headed off in the direction of Paris. We piled on all our rain gear when the monsoon and wind descended upon us. In the afternoon, we had a discreet roadside bonfire to use the last of our stove fuel. We rinsed and aired our fuel bottles in the hotel, so as not to have to do anything that makes a foul smell at Anne’s when we arrive in Paris. Practicalities of the end of a long journey.
We’ve pretty well decided that we’ll wrap up our journey in Paris, and buy homeward plane tickets once we’ve seen to Chris’s passport problem. It only makes sense to stop cycling in Paris: The weather is deteriorating, Christmas is approaching, and the roof of our house in Vancouver is leaking and in need of attention. I guess all journeys must end.
We look forward to family and home, to our own beds and rest, and to not having to pack each morning. We keep talking of our return and the adjustment it will take after travelling for this long. But in the corners of our minds, we’re also dreaming of where we’ll go next.