Friday, 19 June 2015

Coast to Coast (or 70 km bike ride + SNCF)

As is usual on overseas trips, I wake up around 4:30 to 5 am.  

Good thing too, because the longest day of the year is near and both beaches and villages look entirely different this early in the morning.

Today I'm cycling back to Abbeville and then I'll take the train.  From now on I have to travel almost exclusively West and that's where the WIND is coming from.  After the ride from hell (TM), I have decided that it might be wise to accept the help of the French Rail Service. So the plan for today is to cycle 35 kms, take 3 trains, and then cycle another 35 kms to today;s surprise destination.

Leaving the hotel at 8:30 am I discover that today is market day and consequently the main road that I have to take is blocked to traffic.  Since it's still early and half the vendors are still busy erecting their stands, I deem it safe to slowly cycle right through it.  Then there is a ~50 year old with a huge midsection and a reddish face pointing at me and shouting (Imagine Obelix in a foul mood).  

When I slowly cycle past him, his red-in-outrage face and his outstretched fingers, I shout at him "Je ne parle pas de francais".  I keep going until I hear someone being murdered behind me. No murder of course, it's just a red-faced person being ignored.  So I wait for him to catch up and rant.  I ask him in very poor French whether the market is open yet, to which he blows a fuse when answering yes.  When I then ask him in English for directions to Rue, he just turns around and steam-rolls away. I add to his boiler temperature by shouting in English after him "Excuse me!  EXCUSE ME !  Nothing one of those ranting control-freaks hates more than if you don't speak his language ;-)
Not my pic; not my older lady (mine was fancier ;-)

I then turn to a little old lady who has witnessed this from close by and is watching with eyes wide open.  A gentle "Pardon, Madame" and a smile has her instantly on my side. I point at the blocked market street and wave my hands around to indicate that I have to get around it. She puts on that lovely French dignified facial expression and posture and goes to extreme length to explain to me every step of the journey to Rue.  I just smile and nod.

Most French that I've met are extremely helpful (If you have to lift your bike up somewhere and you only wobble, hands from all sides are coming to your help and other hands help lift the bike.

Anyway, after my little old lady saved the honeur and face of La Grande Nation towards foreign visitors, I feel better about the loud lout.  But even though I know that there will always people like that and I try to shake off the bad feeling, it remains under my skin.

So it pays to remember that I'm cycling through gods country, especially when I start thinking about how much time I have left to catch the train.  Relax. There always is another train.  Even if I don’t make it to the hotel tonight, I will be out of a bunch of Euros to take another hotel, but it’s not worth to over-worry about these things because that would defy the entire purpose of this trip

Potato plants

Wetlands with wild horses

The little swans are so cute. Parent swan instantly manoeuvres itself between me and them.

.So I go take pictures of pink potato flowers, I go see that young colt on the pasture, with whom fall in love instantly, and rejoice when he slowly comes over to sniff my hand.   All the stuff one can miss by constantly look at one’s watch!

So this is where the babies come from ;-)

Buy a train ticket from Abbeville via Amien and Rouen to Yvetot for 32.50 Euros and do some translating work in this fabulous pub right next to the train station.

In Amiens there is a short panicky confusion on how to get from my voie (track) to voie 2, but I figure it out reasonably quickly and the 2nd train arrives just when I get onto the platform.

This time there is already another bike in the compartment, so I decide to give the meat hooks a try. Wow, this works surprisingly well and no huge effort is involved getting the bike into that position. 
Bike on the hook

 My seat has two (2!) electrical power outlets next to it, so I can recharge the bike battery AND my laptop while I do some translation work.

This day has been going tooooo smoothly up to now.   It was palpable that something had to go amiss.  But I'm extremely fortunate that it happens in Rouen, a truly gorgeous city.  Something went truly amiss in the French Rail system today.  Trains from Paris are two hours late.  The train I'm supposed to switch to is 40 minutes late and there is another coming in an hour.  Ah well.     Usually a good way to see a city ;-)
No point in fretting.  Denise had told me that Rouen is a nice city and I’m going out there to double-check her taste in cities (Congratulations Denise, you have passed that test Summa cum Laude).
From the space in front of the Gare, I just keep heading towards the nearest church spire.

If one shoved the skinny house above across the street it would fit perfectly into the narrow gap below.

Even a smallish city like Rouen has a pick--a-bike program. Shame Vancouver!
Along my wanderings I find another Darty store. My old camera (bought in St Malo 2 years ago and replaced for free by Sony last year) has been acting up badly lately.  Since I bought this fabulous machine at a Darty in Saint Malo, I don’t hesitate to get another Sony camera in this Darty here in Rouen.  Tomorrow;s pictures will show whether that was a good buy.
I use the waiting-for-a-train time to sit in a ‘pub’ in the train station (pas de food, you guessed it, but I still have sandwiches from yesterday in my backpack) to take a big bite out of the translation that arrived at 3 am my time and is promised to be completed by 3 am my time. It’s a tough life being a traveller, citizen and translator of the world ;-)

The train from Rouen brings me to Yvetot, a small town in the middle of nowhere.  What am I doing here? You'll find out later ;-)

But first I have to deal with wind again; fortunately it's coming from the side and not head-on.

France's Area 52?

After Rouen, I am glad to see some countryside again

Then I arrive.  The town is called Sassetot-de-Malconduit.  I almost would have slept in that castle behind the bike tonight, but I found a better option for less money and internet that works in the rooms and not just in the lobby.

I check into my hotel instead, an old coach-relay station. Same price, better internet ratings!  And look at this bed ;-)

What my internet research had not told me is that the owner of this 4 or 6 room hotel is also a chef.  Not just  a chef but a CHEF.  He asks me whether I'd be joining them for dinner that evening and I answer "Oui, s'il vous plait!".

Not only do I get a bit of pre-dinner chat with an elderly but extremely sharp and witty British couple at the table next to me (they are a hooot!), I also get the BEST food of the entire trip!

After I eat the olives (with crunchy mustard seeds inside?) and two different baked goodies

another freebie arrives

Cabbage and sea-snail in curry sauce. How anyone could ever think of this combination is beyond me but it is SOOOO good.

These are all show-off-appetizers. I can't wait for the food that I actually ordered ;-)

Yet another reason to learn humility is the fact that I have a computer with internet sitting in front of me, so instead of just assuming that the huitres baked in Camembert would be beans (haricot), I could have just looked it up and anticipated oysters.  I don't think I had oysters before in my life, and I'm not sure I'd ever touch raw ones, but these are GOOD ;-)

The seafood creation looks only half as intricate as it is delicious. The different tastes of the different types of fish scream to be differentiated. And look at that prawn.

The dessert crowns it all. The two mint leaves actually have an intense mint taste. And the strawberry does actually taste like strawberry.  There are hard dark chocolate bits in the softer chocolate mass.  You can just taste that this chocolate thingie was made today.

  I could eat this every day for breakfast lunch & dinner. 

No comments:

Post a Comment