French Cycling Saunter – July 2022

Day 3

Issoudun to Donzy – 72 miles & 762 metres climbing

A cold and (traffic) noisy start but with gas for my stove I could make coffee and have porridge. This was all a morale boost and off I cycled. It was a flat start but on a busy road. I find French traffic is very tidal. It seems in England that it’s virtually busy all the time. Not so in France. They start early and then it all goes very quiet. Not least around lunchtime, which they take very seriously. Bourges came into view in no time. There was an option to stay on a route National dual carriageway but ever the quick learner and worrying I may be on a criminal database now I dropped off onto a windy B road. McDonalds was my reward. How about some beef protein? It was truly awful. I used to love MaccieD’s but it’s getting slowly more and more inedible. Whilst I’m there I speak briefly to Anna who’s very chatty and glad to have contact with the outside world. Eventually I set off for Donzy.

Decisions decisions…
Great building but neglected. So typical of rural France

I pedal past arable fields full of cereals. The soil is very rocky. Harvesting seems complete. Large stones are evident that must play hell with the tractor tyres.

The ‘terroir’

Suddenly I am cycling across a bridge over the very wide Loire river. The river is very low and not navigable. Again a victim of drought. France has had widespread fires and whilst there is plenty of greenery in places it’s suffering. This region produces the delicious white Pouilly Fumé wine and there are fields full of vines and places selling their produce.

On a canal that runs alongside the Loire

Donzy is a small town that Google Maps tells me has a municipal campsite. I could cycle on a bit further but it seemed a nice town so why not call it a day at 4.30pm? I find an empty campsite with the barrier down preventing entry? However, camped there is a small tent with a bicycle near it. As I hover wondering what to do a lad ambles across. He speaks English (obvs.) The site is open but you have to go back into the centre of town to La Marie. In this building you can pay to stay. This I do. Again gratuitous form filling for €8.22 for overnight. I pedal back and pitch my tent. My fellow camper, in this vast empty site, that is pretending to be shut, is on his mobile speaking to lots of people.

I shower and walk into town. I had it in my mind that walking might help clear up the residual cramp, it does. A lot of rural France is abandoned. It seems as if WW2 was a watershed for a slow exodus. Many quite small towns look in disrepair with former beautiful grand buildings neglected. No wonder the British buy them up. I found a restaurant and fancy a pizza. My French speaking host advises pizzas are only on vendredi. Today is mardi. So a steak it is. We needed to agree how well the steak would be cooked. I advised ‘bien cuit’ but in the end what turned up I reckon a good vet could have got it up off the plate and back walking around a field. It was chewy.

I still had one important task before sleep, that is to try and find the hole in my mattress. In the town was a small slow flowing river. It looked clean enough and dunked my inflated air bed into it try and find escaping bubbles, after all I had a puncture repair kit. A passing woman enquired as to what I was doing? Not unreasonable given that weirdly a tourist, at 7pm, is floating a Iilo in a river in the middle of a town. I tried to pacify her with “Je cherche un trou dans le matelas.” She answered back in English… “then are you going to swim there with it?” “Yes”, I replied (not) “all the way back to ‘kin Queensland where I bought it to ask for a refund.” Anyway, I couldn’t find the leak. More midnight inflation beckoned.

Back at the site there were no other campers. The town’s strategy for preventing use was working well.

The shower lock was new, which begs the question of why spend all this money if you’re trying to keep the site a secret? I discover the young lad is 16 years old! He’s German and cycling over a few days from home to a destination further west. Quite an adventure for a young man and he must have very confident parents. I offer him a baguette I’d bought. I was starting to worry that his mother will be fretting about his nutrition but he’s not interested. Anyway I have a night ahead with a soft mattress.

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