Saturday, March 23, 2013

Cycling with Blue Belle

French Village Diaries Cycling Charente boucle 33
In St Fraigne, notice Ade's new toy on the back of the car.
Yesterday's weather was beautiful and delivered a much deserved dose of warm sunshine. It was perfect for the first bike ride of the year, although still a little early for me to be dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. We debated stopping for lunch while out, but decided on a picnic instead and packed the car to the accompaniment of some rather blue language from our neighbour who was struggling with the spluttering engine of his rotivator. I know we too should have been gardening but we did sow some more seeds in the morning. Blue Belle, my lovely retro bike and I were fit and ready to tackle the 34 km route Ade had chosen, or so I thought!

We were following one of the Charente marked cycle routes, No 33 B, and although this one was new to us we've always found them to be well marked. They are also well planned to take in the prettiest of the villages, avoid the busy main roads as much as possible and pass through at least one town big enough for a beer stop. Route 33 B was no exception.

French Village Diaries Cycling Charente boucle 33
Lunch at the lavoir
We started in St Fraigne, where there are some lovely gardens by the river that are well worth a visit in the summer. We stopped for our picnic in a pretty village with no name, in a quiet spot by the church and lavoir (old wash house) with only birds and butterflies for company. It is so unusual not to have a sign with the village name on it as most places in France tell you not only where you are entering but where you are leaving too, here there was nothing. 

French Village Diaries Cycling Charente boucle 33
A walnut mill stone in Tusson
After lunch we continued through more sleepy villages and spiky stick-like vineyards, meeting very few people or cars until our beer stop in Aigre. 

French Village Diaries Cycling Charente boucle 33
A well deserved beer in Aigre
There is nothing quite like a cold beer in the sun when you have really worked for it, and by then (28 kms) my whole body really felt it had worked for it. However we were not all in agreement. Mr Super-Ski-Fit was quite a nag; "Do you think you can go any faster?" (No, or I would be!). "If I go any slower I will fall off" (Oh well). "Keeping up OK?" (Yes thanks, so long as I can go at my pace). Nothing in my life is measured on how fast I can get somewhere or do something - life for me is all about the journey. How I managed 80km in a day on Ile de Ré last year I have no idea. But I do know I have a long way to go before I could do that sort of distance again. Oh winter I hate that you make me wobbly and unfit.

For more information on cycling in the Charente see here for all the route information and links. 

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