Days 4 & 5
Donzy to Eaux-Puiseax – 72 miles & 978 metres climbing
Eaux-Puiseaux to Châlons-en-Champagne – 68 miles & 674 metres climbing
As planned I’m away by 8am. My fellow camper has to visit La Marie with the shower block key, it crosses my mind the staff might not be there until a lot later. Happily I cycle on empty roads. Occasionally a van or tractor rumbles past. I put on my headphones and listen to the news on Radio 4. They’re interviewing people about the train strikes. Frankly, it’s nice to be away from all that unhappiness. It’s coolish but pleasant and perfect for cycle touring. I follow the news with a spot of Steeleye Span on Spotify.
I stay in touch with all and sundry on WhatsApp and messages ping through during the day normally. This morning good news, the son in law (Matt) has passed his driving test. I stop at the top of a hill to text my congratulations. Eventually I get to Auxerre, it looks beautiful. My only conscious recollection about the town is that for a small place it enjoyed top flight football for many years.
On the route is a Burger King and I capitulate. It’s far superior to McDonalds! Leaving the city I head north into a steady headwind, there’s lots of climbing and my progress is slow. This made me start to think about a rest day. It’s too early in the trip to do that but I start thinking it through. I’d usually stop in a hotel in a town with a laundrette and plenty of things to see and do. In hot weather you can’t possibly spend the day in a small tent on a campsite, you’d fry. Pulling off a major busy road I find a site a little short of Troyes. The site is massive and lovely but maybe a quarter full. It seems that all holiday traffic is down.
I check in and get a discount card to use on my 12th visit where I could stay for free! I suspect the Dutch and Belgians might like that benefit. I find many migrating Dutch heading south or home. This is a stopover site for them. In line with the bucolic setting I am molested by a large hen that hunts around my possessions and food. It even puts its foot in my dinner as without a bench or table I have to prepare dinner on the grass. The other campers wonder why I’m bellowing at a pestilent fluffy fowl as I urge it to bugger off! A call home finds a snuffling Anna still dealing with covid. I offer the appropriate sympathy and then clamber into my hen free zone for a deflating sleep.
I made a good start just after 8am at Eaux-Puiseaux but my Garmin immediately sent me back to the big road and the trucks. France is a big country and big countries spawn big trucks to transport stuff big distances. I’d chosen quite a direct route as I had a limited number of days and this meant travelling broadly in a straight line home. The road is never steep but it remorselessly climbs up and down. A slow climb on a heavy bike for 200m was met with a gentle descent and so it all began again. As a balance then the weather nestles into the mid 20°s and is mainly overcast.
It was farming countryside with tractors and busy combines. I plugged in to my usual Radio 4 fix and then Spotify with Angel Olsen and a Manchester band from the 80s called Any Trouble. I look at the map and how far I want to go and confirm a rest day and Châlons-en-Champagne it is. I book my hotel on Booking.com. I’d happily arrive at a hotel and not use the App but I possibly wouldn’t get the best rates. I’m always nervous that they will have a problem with storing my bike and hope that it’ll be no problem when I get there.
The hotel I booked online find in the centre. I trundle in and am met by a sour faced receptionist who claims not to have received the online booking? Something about problems with the internet? Seems bullshit but there’s no negotiating this declaration and I walk a couple of doors down and check into an Ibis for a couple of nights.
Later I walk around the city centre believing it to be good for the legs. I can’t be bothered with a sit down meal and buy a takeaway pizza and take it to my room. The bed doesn’t deflate overnight.