When I woke this morning, the first thing I noticed was the pain in my left knee. A good night’s sleep had done nothing to ease it. However, as I moved around the apartment, I though it possible that if we took things easy, we should still be able to cover the required 40 miles of riding to keep us on schedule. We agreed to split it into four ten-mile sections and to rest in between each. It should hardly be the most challenging of excursions.
After the usual confusion of trying to find the right way out of town, we found ourselves pedalling along quiet D-roads in glorious sunshine, albeit into a strongly northerly headwind that was to stay with us for most of the day.
I took a couple of ibuprofen to ease my knee pain and our Komoot navigation soon had us heading out into the countryside to continue our journey. A few parts of the route were on unpaved surfaces reminiscent of the L’Eroica vintage bike ride, but it was easy enough to navigate the potholes.
Large parts of the route were virtually traffic-free and we did see a few French cyclists. Just as in the UK, Sunday seems to be the main day for cycling. They’re not a particularly sociable bunch, most of our cries of ´bonjour´ being ignored.
We encountered a typical French market in one of the small towns en-route and stopped to pick up more water. We were also looking for a pharmacy so that we could buy more painkillers (for the misbehaving knee) and some sun protection cream, but it soon became clear that every French pharmacy, and most everything else except bars, are closed on a Sunday.
As we came to the outskirts of Chateuabriant, we were directed onto a cycleway that was once a railway line. At first we thought it was going to take us out of our way but Komoot directed us along it for 15 miles or so. The surface was perfect, the surrounding deciduous woodland so much more alive with birdsong than the pine forests in the South West we’d passed through earlier in the week, and we were sheltered from the wind, at least for a while.
After covering 35 miles since we’d set out, and having left the cycleway for roads again, we stopped to discuss where we should stay for the night. I looked up my blog post from 2012 to remind myself about the name of a loverly Auberge where i had dined and stayed overnight back then. It was 40 miles away but my knee was suitably numbed and so we set up a route to the destination in Komoot and started pedalling. One hour later we decided to check that the Restaurant Auberge La Tourelle would be open when we arrived. To our disappointment, it would not.
We carried on travelling North and at 5pm stopped in the town of Janzé to consider our options for a bed for the night and food. They were limited – no hotels in the town and one pizzeria that was due to open at 6pm. Further research turned up a gîte in Domloup, just northwest of the larger town of Chateaugiron. We booked a room and pedalled on into the continuing northerly wind, but at least it was sunny. It was our first totally dry day of the last five.
We arrived at La Métairie a little after 6pm to be greeted by Jo-Jo, the owners’ dog. The room was great but had just one double bed, not the two we thought we had booked. Alain, the husband of the couple running the establishment quickly reassured us that this would be converted into two singles while we were out for dinner. He then furnished us a bottle of local apple juice that we gratefully consumed while watching the swifts dart around the courtyard.
Being a Sunday evening, there was only one restaurant in the town open, and it was 2km away. Alain kindly offered to drive us there and back. The restaurant was a rather odd, modern, self-service place on a business park but the food was fine, if not exceptional, and we were glad of it, having cycled a little over 60 miles.