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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Through France to the Pyrenees Seven: Hand cream and unisex toilets

The Loire River just before the storm
The search to find Carol’s favourite hand cream took a few thousand miles but we can report has now ended.  As some friends will know, the Olive and Almond cream by Le Petit Marseillais is an essential part of Carol’s beauty routine and we had looked for the distinctive pale green tins in every supermarket we visited.  We thought we had an early success when we found it in one Carrefour but all four tins they had remaining had been opened and tried.  However, Auchan in Le Mans came up trumps and the van is now loaded up with a year’s supply.

Continuing our journey north, we spent a couple of nights at Saumur on the Loire and were able to cycle along the river and return on the opposite bank.  The Loire cycle route is well sign-posted and not as flat as you might expect as it often takes you away from the river and the busier roads.  We had our lunch overlooking a small lake in a wood of tall pine trees set high above the river that only lacked an Osprey to make us feel in Scotland.  It was a splendid day’s cycling and we were lucky to reach one of the few cafes we passed within only a minute or two of a massive thunder storm.  We remained warm and dry with hot chocolate and ice-cream while the rain beat down on the bikes outside and the only downside was the soggy saddles we had for the last few kilometres.

Unisex toilet and shower facilities have been the most common set-up on French camp sites and they make perfect practical sense, making best use of the available facilities.  Reading some of the reviews in the camp site guide, they are clearly not liked by everyone but really if you are not happy sharing with different sexes then camping in France probably isn’t for you.  Gender really didn’t enter in to the equation when Anthony heard someone using the next door cubicle to him one morning; the groans and moans the occupant made were really uncalled for in a shared facility.
The pronunciation of French continues to cause us difficulties, although we do our best and always try and speak some French when we first arrive at a camp site or use a cafe or shop.  While walking and cycling most people greet us with a hearty ‘Bonjour!’  On these encounters we have heard more different ways of pronouncing ‘Bonjour’ than there are varieties of French wine, making  us sure we will never master this language proficiently.  A French phrase that we thought was from the world of ‘Allo ‘Allo only and had nothing to do with real life French was ‘Oo La La!’  However, when France beat Switzerland so resoundingly last weekend, to our delight the French man sitting next to us uttered this wonderful phrase.

An old farmhouse in the Eure valley
Another valley, another Voie Verte; this time north of Chartres in the Eure valley.  We camped at Marcilly sur Eure at a site mostly used as an overnight stop by English vans.  The Voie Verte follows the Eure valley for about 20kms and was surprisingly pleasant cycling in this little frequented area.  The cycle route follows an old railway line and is good tarmac and flat cycling through the Cheshire of France.  The Cafe de la Gare in Ezy-sur-Eure is worthy of special mention in a country of cafes; it was a charming and individual cafe run by Annie and watched over by her vicious Yorkshire Terrier.

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