Friday 30 August 2013

Friday 30th August. Spending the toll savings on wine! Vineyards visited Sancerre * 2 , Chablis *1, Bourgone *1. Now in Champagne region. Full text to follow later! The Mille en Feuilles is a family run hotel, or to be more precise run by one man on our visit. He checked us in the day before, served our dinner that evening and in the morning he was serving breakfast and checking us out. The breakfast was basic but did include fresh fruit and Fromage blank. After breakfast we had a quick walk around the old town centre. A look at the church who’s main cloister had been destroyed by a fire in the 17th century and never rebuild. The remaining walls had been left in tack and used for the front and side of houses. We purchased some cycling maps from the tourist information for a future visit and then left for Sancerre. The first stop was Dauny and organic wine producer in a the small village of Crezancy en Sancerre about 10 km from Sancerre. Just like our previous visit we needed a couple of attempts to locate the producer. The postcode I had written down was too general for Kate to locate the exact position. Next time take the full address. This time we were served by the owner’s wife. We selected several bottles’ and then went back to the village to try Jack Pinson and Fils. Another tasting and a few more bottles safely stored and we were off again toward Matouges. Kate wanted to take us via the peage. It would probably have been quicker but we decided the more pleasant route would be to cut across country towards Tonnare and then Troyes. The route had the added advantage it took us thought the village of Chablis. We stopped for Brexton lunch just outside Chablis. A goats cheese crotin and some carrot and celeriac salad we had purchased as we left Sancerre. The picnic site had an information board that told us that Chablis also made a little local wine. We headed straight for the cooperative Cave and after a tasting selected some Chablis village and Bourgogne red. Tasting number 3 and more bottles safely stored and we were off again. We have not got enough “red” said the chief navigator. Just after Tonnere we spotted another local cave. We turned around and headed up the drive. The gates that had previously been open were now closed and it look like the family we on their way out in their car. With the prospect of losing a sale the gates we soon unlocked their car reversed back into the yard and we followed the owner in the cave. His Chablis was very good, better than the cooperative’s and cheaper! We also got some of his Bourgornes red. More wine safely stored and we made it to Matouges without any further diversions. We arrived just after 6:00pm. The pool was open and we were informed that the water temperature was a rather pleasant 27.5 degrees. We opted for a quick dip rather than a bike ride. We had booked demi pension. The evening meal was very good but service a little slow. The Muse bouche arrive before the drinks we had ordered! This is the third time we have stayed at the Auberge des Moissons. It a little expensive but offers comfortable rooms with and good restaurant and excellent breakfast. It’s in an ideal location around 3 hours from Calais.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Thursday 28th

We are now at La Charity Sur Loire. Post to follow later.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

A ride along the Garone Canal

A ride along the Garone Canal Breakfast was taken on the terrace and we enjoyed the pleasant view across the valley from Le Clos Castel. We had not planned a ride but eventually decided on driving to Damazan and riding along the Canal de Garonne. The minor roads around Casteljaloux would make an excellent bike ride -something we will try on our next visit. From Damazan we cycled along the Garonne in the direction of Agen. The path was of tarmac and some sections of the route were along minor roads that ran alongside the canal. Just before Agen we crossed the second Pont Canal of the day to reach the city. A magnificent structure build in 1849 to cross the Garonne and spanning 539m on 23 arches each with a 20 m span. We rode into the city far enough to locate a boulangerie to get some provisions for lunch and returned to eat it by the canal. After lunch we retraced our steps back to Damazan. We purchased a cake and watched the local men play boules. We returned to Le Clos Castel in time for a swim in the pool. The water temperature was 25 degrees C. It felt colder but was pleasant once you had got in. We capped this off with a dip in the spa pool where the temperature was a lot warmer! We booked an evening meal at the Chambres d’Hote where sat outside with Alain, Veronique their daughter and their daughter’s boyfriend. We started with an aperitif. Lyn had Floc de Gascogne an Armagnac fortified wine. Some of the ladies had a glass of Rose but the men had Alain’s special flavoured rum. The aperitif was served with small freshly cooked sausage rolls and the starter was Alain’s duck liver pate. The livers had been sliced and soaked in wine. He had added some currants to the pate and soaked these in port before cooking and pressing the pate. This was served with a white Duras wine. The main course was confit du canard served with homemade rosti potatoes served with a Duras red wine or rose. There then followed a cheese course of local cheeses and then a desert of ice cream strawberries and homemade Chantilly cream. Veronique then suggested a digestive to finish! Our French and their English improved as the evening progressed. Fortunately it was only a short walk to the room. An excellent meal that we really enjoyed in good company.

Monday 26 August 2013

Voie Verte

A ride on the Voie Verte
Robert wonder where to put the window plank that keeps the shutters open. A view back to St Savin from the small chapel. Hotel Les Roches
Left the car in the car park just down from Les Roches and decided to do a short ride from St Savin. We descended the hill to Pierrefitte-Nestalas to join the voire Vert that is routed along an old tramway to the ski resort at Cauterets. The surface is not tarmac by compacted stone. A short tunnel was illuminated so lights were not required. Most of the path can be ridden but a short section where it diverted from the original tramway had to be walked because of the narrow path, steep descent and fence. After About 4 km the route was barricaded. We decided to continue via the road. We could see where the path had fallen into the river so we were wise to divert. Just short of Cauterets we could see where the valley had flooded and major construction works were taking place to replace the road that had been washed away and reinforce the river banks. Lunch was taken on a park bench in Cauterets before we headed back to Pierrefitte-Nestalas. The decent was a lot quicker than the ascent with over 30mph recorded. Lyn was much more sensible. We rejoined the voie vert for the last 4 km. We then did a short section of the velo vert towards Lourdes before climbing the hill back to St Savin. The short ascent was steeper than the Tourmalet in places! A quick walk round the church and were on our way to Les Clos Castel a short drive from CastelJoux. The drive was just under 3 hours. We were greeted by Alain and a welcome beer. He had made several alterations since our last visit and now has a sauna in addition to the Spa and swimming pool! He had also added some “architectural” planting round the pool and in the garden. We had to eat in the town and had pizza in the Grande CafĂ© in the main square. We sat outside and were surprised by how many of the dinners smoked and the amount they drank before driving off! The heavy rain in June had washed part of the Voieo Vert to be closed

Sunday 25 August 2013

Resume by Lady Grey

I am taking the opportunity to write some memoirs of the holiday so far whilst Robert is descending down from his big ride today (25th August) – I have just had a message to say he has reached the top! I did not want to slow him down so let him go on his own…! My climb to the Col d’Aspin a couple of days ago was hard enough as I am not in condition with very little cycling since Mallorca in April. I may try the Tourmalet one day. The weather has been mainly good for us apart from a couple of days in the Pyrenees which were low cloud and drizzle – but one of these we cycled up Col d’Aspin into sunshine. We have made the most of this with some lovely bike rides. One round pretty villages (with their mud walls) from Le Neubourg, another along a very pretty Voie Verte between Sarlat and Cazoules which had plenty of cool shade. The next one was from our B&B in the Gers region where we spent 4 hours in rolling countryside with the temperature increasing – but with excellent views. The next was our trip up the Col and we also did a circular lower level route, still with some climbing, in cloudy conditions in the Pyrenees the following day. Other activities have included a very enjoyable canoe ride from Montignac in the north of the Dordogne region on the Vezere river. We also visited the gardens at Valmer in the Loire valley. These are not the biggest or best gardens we have visited here – but were very enjoyable all the same. I was enticed there by the free entry allowed on my RHS card for one of us. We managed wine tasting here, purchasing 3 bottles before leaving! We also tasted wine, Floc de Gascogne and Armagnac in the Gers region from a local producer suggested by our Chambres d’Hotes host. The only other ‘sight-seeing’ as such, has been a short afternoon in Auch with it’s cathedral and newly restored staircase to the river Gers, including a statue of d’Artagnan. We did visit the chateau of Lavardens in the same area, mainly to see the glass exhibition we had read about on the internet! Food and company have been excellent so far. This has included a pizza by the river in a restaurant in Montignac, watching the ducks and a friendly frog that ascended from the river. Also a night food market in the same town with food and wine from stalls, sat on trestle tables, talking to the locals – actually some other English people! We have had two excellent meals in the Chambres d’Hotes in Antist with the company of the hosts and the other guests. This is an especially interesting experience if you do not mind what food you eat and like most foods. Usually you also need to be able to converse at least a little in French. Last night we had a good, but simpler, meal in our current hotel where they display the menu for the day at the reception in the morning so you can decide to take it or not. We have eaten in an expensive restaurant which was also good and we were lucky to get in as we arrived late. For two of our nights we had a small kitchenette and were able to prepare our own meal for a change. No swimming so far this holiday although we came close yesterday when the weather was bad, investigating the thermal spa in Bagneres de Bigorre. We did stay in one Chambres d’Hotes with a pool but did not have time to use it even though the weather was hot. So we have only worn our swimming clothes for canoeing. Finally whilst the cat is still away, I must do some of the craft activities I have brought with me especially for the occasion – the teapot cosy started in Mallorca and perhaps also the bead bracelet started at the same time!!

A day in the mountains and a day kniting

A day in the Mountains and day Knitting A short Climb. One of the reason why we choose to visit the Pyrenees was for Robert to climb the Col be Tourmalet, 2115 m with around 1404m of ascent from Luz Saint Sasuveur. More from Saint Savin The flooding in June had closed the road but it had recently been reopened with restricted access during the week but it was fully opened at weekends. The better climb was from the east, from St Savin it was approximately 12 miles to Luc Saint Saveur and the start of the climb. It was a gentle ascent to Luc Saint Saveur and good way to warm the legs up. I left around 9:00am and the main road was not too busy as it was a Sunday and I only spotted a couple of cyclists on the road. About 7 miles down the road I realised I had the left the puncture repair kit, inner tube and pump in the car! The Schwalbe Marathon pro tyres have proved very puncture resistant so rather than heading back I continued onto Luc Saint Saveur where with the help of the tourist information office was able to locate a bike shop that could sell me a spare tube. Most cyclists were on racing bikes so whilst they carried a spare pump and tyre levers any inner tube they carried would have been the wrong size to help me out. As I climbed out of Luc Saint Saveur I could see the devastation caused by the flooding in June and it continued up past the Ski resort of Bareges. The climb of the Tourmalet was easier that the Galibier I did the previous year. The maximum gradient was around 9% but most of the climb was around 7-8%. Much to my surprise I only saw a couple of cyclist’s on route. I past one and caught another and let him pace me to the top. In under 2 hours the summit was reached. Photos were taken, Lyn texted about my progress and I decided to head for the Pic Du Midi. To reach the top a gravel track starts by the souvenir shop. Its only an addition al 522 metres to the top. The first half of the ride was a fairly gentle ascent on a loose stony track. (It felt gentle but I have just checked the profile it starts at 6.8% and the continues at 7.9%). The last 2 km up to the observatory could not be cycled. (The profile shows it starting at 10.3% and finishing at 11.7%)No wonder I was getting several comments of Bon Courage as it passed walkers on the first part of the climb. The sensible thing would have been to leave the bike at the bottom of the final path to the top but were had started the journey as a team and were going to finish it together. Towards the top the path passed under the track used to get provisions to the top. There was just enough room to get the bike thought sliding it on its side. The view from the top was fantastic. Some of the area was only accessible if you had a cable car ticket but there was a good viewing platform for those that had made their own way to the top. The ride down was a reverse of the climb. The bike had to be pushed for the first part and then it was 24 mile all downhill back to Saint Savin. The ride down from the Tourmalet was a good decent slowed down by a couple of cars.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Day 9 Saturday 24th a Low level ride and 18 holes

Another excellent meal in the La Buala Maison last night.An aperitif of apricot stuff with cheese and wrapped in bacon, Leak and ricotta pancakes to start followed by "boeuf en daube" and with a vanilla bavois desert. Was down with a never ending carafe of wine. More to follow later

Friday 23 August 2013

Day 8 A day in the mountains

Thanks for your commnets Kaja . Posh hamper is now back on line! After a good nights sleep we were greeted by a splendid breakfast. Freshly baked bread, croissants , local cheeses, cold meats and a selection of homemade jams. The only disappointment was the weather . A fine day had been forecast but we awoke to light rain a drizzle.The colour of the sky appeared to improve over breakfast but the rain did not stop. Our host checked the web cam further up the valley and announced they was clear sky up the valley. We delayed setting off as long as possible but eventually decided to head for Col De Aspin. The waterproof stayed of for the the first few miles but were not required after we stopped for provisions. The road gently climbed to the start of the Col. We were invited as impromptu guests at wedding but had to make our excuses and move on. Just after the turn off for the Col de Aspin the sun came of and stayed out all the way to the top. The first 6km were fairly gentle with the occasion step section but the gradient increased for the last 6km after the ski resort. We eventually made if to the top we a lot of rest stops for Lyn. Photos were taken as it was now 3:30 we sat down to a well deserved picnic lunch. Admiring the view down the valley and the bright sunshine. Windproof tops we put on for the descent. We decided against more suncream and 8km do the valley we were in mist which then into light rain. The 20 mile downhill run to the BB was easy on the legs but we had to stop for an additional layer to keep warm. It had rained at the BB all day. The climb to the top was 950m from Bagneres so would be over 1000m of ascent from the BB. The other couple that are saying tackled the Tourmalet and had excellent views from the top. We are looking forward to tonight evening meal and we are getting the smell of it cooking as we are sat outside updating the blog and diary.