Day 8 – Vichy to Montceau-les-Mines -102 miles

So with 353 miles under my (reducing) belt I had breakfast, at the hotel, and was out into a very quiet Vichy. The reason for this comes later.

After the dilapidation of Thiers then the outskirts of Vichy were neat, tidy and cared for. I’m not enthusiastic about cycle paths but if this was to lead to Rotterdam then I might not complain. Rotterdam was to be my ultimate Continental destination. After badgering P&O (the ferry operator) on Twitter it appears that they will not be opening the Zeebrugge, Belgium route to tourists any time soon. I always suspected it didn’t make money as the ferry only ever seemed sparsely occupied on my many crossings. The pandemic has turned ‘bad’ into ‘disaster’ no doubt. As you can see below the suburbs were attractive and again spookily empty.

Before long I was away from the city and into the countryside. The brutal hills of the Massif Central were behind me but I was regularly climbing and accumulating impressive height gains (today was a bonkers 1,525m). You may think the following sign is a ‘red letter’ day. I think you’ll find most cycle tourers expect that ‘what goes down goes up’ and so it’s hard to enjoy this brief plummet. Even though I had been on the bike every day I think yesterday’s minimal riding had been restorative.

From terrible average speeds here I was nicely into double figures. Below is a canal path I cycled over. I would eventually have my time on them.

The eating plan is to have one hot meal a day and to eat whilst cycling as well. At night, on the campsite I’m always pressed for time and so maybe a whole baguette, a tomato and a large chunk of cheese might suffice (plus a cake if the boulangerie obliges). A French staple lunch time is ‘Plat Du Jour’. Many bars or restaurants do them. It’s reasonably priced, has little or no choice but is served quickly. The latter service is to accommodate the busy person who wants to be back behind his desk or shovel loader steering wheel. Here are three course and the bill I found at a restaurant:

Main course, some pork is beneath the sauce. All this comes with a basket of bread
Pear tart

The damage was reasonable, n’est pas?

Gone were the gorges or mountains but rolling hills. All were given over to cereal production. Now the day and lunch had made things idyllic and a good mileage was being achieved. However I identified Le Creusot as a place to stop over. I got there and there was no camping, a hostel or hotels that I could find. I was looking for smaller places. The reason for the latter lack of open hotels was because today was Bastille Day. It’s a bank holiday and a lot of things are shut. It is France’s National Day and it’s origins go back to storming this Paris fortress/prison in 1789 and was, in effect, the people rising up against the monarchy.

So using my Apps I’m all over town trying to find a roof over my head and time is elapsing. I ring Anna and ask her to book an Ibis hotel a further 14 miles south. This meant going backwards, not a happy activity but needs must.

A giant steel press at a roundabout. Love it.

Just before getting to the hotel I found some food. After this distance and being late I could have eaten a horse. Actually I have seen this meat on the menu. However, not at McDonalds.

Checking in to the Ibis was a trial. It had been paid for on line, by my bride, but they made me pay again. I had further meetings with other staff who spoke English, but I expect I’ll have to resolve something between Ibis, Amex and when I get home.

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