With this the day for the birthday boy’s cycle ride to match miles with years, it was wonderful to be flagged off from Fisherrow harbour by a friend wielding a Saltire the size of Scotland on a pole about 12feet long.
It was such a lovely thing for him to do, especially so early, and it cheered us on our cycle run down the coast.
It was a nifty fifty to North Berwick and back for me, but His Lordship had a weighty eighty to do in order to prove that age has no hold on him.
He arrived home rather earlier than expected, but in time to share some of his cake with daughter# 1 who had popped in with a birthday card.
And so with that milestone birthday and its attendant challenge out of the way, we can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with the rest of our lives.
So it’s farewell to Nantes and the 75thSemaine Federale.
We are all packed and ready to cycle to find our Yorkshire Bikeliner bus.
It’s been a wonderful week, sunny and warm with little wind and only a few hours of rain on Thursday.
We are both much fitter, if not lighter, than when we arrived last Saturday, and surprised that we found the cycling not nearly as onerous as we had feared.
We have cycled every day bar one and enjoyed the company of friends on the way.
We have not felt the fattest or the oddest couple in our revealing Lycra, and sometimes we have even been colour coordinated.
Last night we ate a 4 course meal with unlimited wine in the company of 1000+ people, sitting at long tables of 24.
The noise was deafening as people spoke across tables and an accordion playing cyclist regaled us with music. It reached even higher decibels when the dance band struck up.
We danced, yes even His Lordship managed to shake a leg although he had to have several glasses of wine to accomplish that feat. He’s not admitting to a sore head this morning, but I suspect he is not firing on all four cylinders and he has reneged on the breakfast.
A bus journey to Ouistreham, an overnight ferry crossing to Portsmouth, a bus ride to Hull, a car journey to Edinburgh and we’ll be home tomorrow evening all being well.
Au Revoir until then.
This was our last day in the saddle and with the sun shining on our bare arms, we cycled through the Muscadet country of Sevre et Maine. Vineyard after vineyard with the grapes hanging heavily on their stems, but not yet ready for picking.
Our route went through the small village of St Fiacre sur Maine, where 40 years ago our family exchanged houses with another in the countryside just outside the village. It was at Easter time and was very cold with a little snow.
The photos taken at that time show the children muffled up in duffle coats and Breton hats.
We made friends with their French neighbours and hosted their student son at the Edinburgh festival time that year. When he left, he gave me a present of Mrs Beeton’s Cookery book. I think I got the message!
In contrast, today was hot as we cycled on to Vertou for the accueil in a park at the side of the river Sevre a tributary of the nearby Loire before chalking up our 45+ miles through the busy towns of Haute Goulaine and St Luce-sur-Loire back to the Permanence.
Tonight we are joining thousand of cyclists for the last dinner. We have never braved this before, but there has to be a first time and we have been told it’s a very festive occasion with unlimited wine…….. I can imagine! His Lordship has been well warned.
We are walking there!
The sun doesn’t always shine in Nantes as we had thought, but as luck would have it, today we were off saddle and on foot and could dodge the smirrs of rain and miss the heavy thunder shower after lunch.
We took a bus into town and then hopped onto the little train that took us round the centre of the old quarter and down to the river, giving us an idea of the layout of the city.
We had an obligatory coffee outside under cover and looked at the beautiful Cathedral of St Pierre, and the Chateau of the Dukes of Bretagne with its moat.
Last night’s meal was a great success given the presence of a thousand other cyclists, and with the unlimited wine on the table, His Lordship was wont to strike up a rapport with his French neighbour.
Vivre L’Entente Cordiale!
‘Amazing Grace’ played on the Breton Pipes just for His Lordship and me at the Semaine Pique-nique in St Sebastien-sur-Loire, because we are fellow Celts.
The picnic is a special accueil in a huge area with lots of entertainment for all the cyclists, and usually included in a cycle run that is not too long- 35 miles today.
We sat under a tree and ate our baguette with cheese and tomatoes carefully sliced with the knife in HL’s trusty Leatherman tool- it makes him feel like an intrepid back woodsman, the ‘him Tarzan, me Jane’ effect.
With 5 days cycling under our belts, we are having tomorrow off the saddle to have a look round Nantes itself. So far we have skirted the city, the rides being routed round the outskirts.
However tonight we are eating with the cyclists in the Permanence. We have never done this before, so it should be interesting but very noisy.
Instead of the prescribed Semaine run today, we cycled with our London friends east along the Loire to Champtoceaux, a quiet little village on a hill, with a white limestone church and with a panoramic view of the river east and west.
We had the roads to ourselves in the main without the hordes of other cyclists and few cars. In fact a lot of the miles were along a tarmaced path running beside the river.
The lunch in the village bar restaurant was a treat for His Lordship’s up and coming big birthday, and as you can see from the photograph, the helpings were in keeping with the 20 miles to get there and the 20 miles home. The wine of course was a bonus, as was the Irish coffee afterwards.
Our dinner tonight is a picnic in our room of bread, cheese and tomatoes, and that is when we feel hungry again.
The best day yet in Nantes, with friends, cycling in the sun through a landscape of river, corn fields and vineyards.
Nothing could be better.
Gallic disorganisation struck on today’s cycle ride when the proscribed route had a ‘Route Debarre ‘ on it and although we managed to get the bikes past the huge lorries digging up the road, the coloured arrows stuck on the side of the road telling us which way to go were absent, and from then on until we got ourselves by the main road signposts to St Etienne- de -Montluc we were simply following the herd.
Thankfully we picked the arrows up again and found our way to the ‘accueil’at Vigneux where these lovely ladies dressed in Breton costume were mixing with the cyclists and seemed very happy to have their photos taken- well three of them were at least.
Although it was a shorter distance of 40 miles for us today, in many ways it seemed harder with more hills, more people, and hotter, so we were very glad to get off our bikes at the end and have that lovely cold ice cream.
But it doesn’t take long to recover, and we are entertaining our London friends to drinks at our hotel tonight.