Today was partly another “GPS Special” but finished with a lovely ride by the river. The day actually started with a run! Yaaayyy!! Now, Steve is not a morning person…at all! He likes to stay in bed as long as possible, whereas if I’m still in bed at 6:00am I consider that a sleep-in, so we have very different wake-up body clocks. This morning though, bless him, he got up early to chaperone me on a run along the canal in Noyon. It was so good to be able to get a run in and it felt great! Steve rode the bike beside me or went ahead to scout out a route to get to the canal path and then I ran along as the sun came up and Steve pedalled along behind. I did a nice easy 7km and it was a perfect start to the day.
Back at the hotel, we packed up our things, loaded the bikes and prepared to set off on the pre-planned GPS route. As we were about to put foot to pedal Steve said, “Only 25km to get there, we can take our time.” At that point, my worry about things being easy and never turning out that way, kicked in. “But don’t be overconfident!” I replied. We pedalled up the road and within 200m, we came to our first change of route…yes, so soon! There was a new road, that wasn’t shown on the GPS map. We rode around for a while and could see the original road, but that was no longer accessible, so we had to go on the new road whether we liked it or not. It was a busy road too, so when the opportunity arose we turned off, to get away from the traffic and to try and find the original route.
On we went on another chilly and windy ride. The GPS had directed us onto a canal path and that was to be our main route. When the canal path arrived though…um…well…surprise, surprise, there was no path! It was just a grass strip beside the canal! Where does this GPS get its information!? We stayed on the road and one direction would take us back onto a busy main road, another direction would keep us on quiet back roads. We chose the quiet option and the GPS set about rerouting our path. Off we went, back the way we had come, so we could get onto the quiet road. We turned down a road the GPS chose and before too long, a sign appeared before us…Route Barrée (closed road). These are two words we have learnt well! We’ve had them appear before us on numerous occasions, so …here we go again! Nothing to do, but turn around and find another way. Off we went, down a newly designed route from the GPS, down a different road and…Route Barrée! Are the road gremlins conspiring against us today!? So, we turned around again, went back the way we had just been and took the other option, that we knew would have us on a busy road, but at least this road should actually let us through!
As it turned out, the road wasn’t too busy and we got to ride through avenues of trees, with forest beside us, which is always lovely. We stopped in a village for a quick elevenses and took refuge in a bus shelter to try and stay out of the wind, but there was no escaping the cold. Steve added socks to his layers to try and warm up his chilly feet and we speedily set off again to try and make it to our destination of Compiegne and out of the less than pleasant weather.
Finally, for about the last 6km of the ride, we were on a cycle path and part of this was beside a river, which was very pretty and it was lovely to be back on the flat path, with trees and water beside us.
This path took us all the way into the city and we soon arrived at our accommodation. It just turned out that our 25km ride became a 36km ride! All good though, 36km is still a nice short ride and we arrived in good time. The navigation falls on Steve’s shoulders because he works all the different Garmin programs on the computer, uploads this and that and uses the information to find a route for us to take. I think he does a magnificent job to process so much different information and then try to direct us as we go, and have to make changes on the fly when the GPS sends us into dodgy places. It’s not easy and I know it can be frustrating. I think his words this morning did jinx us a bit though! He says I’ve jinxed us in the past, so I think the jinx was his today!
After lunch and a hot shower to warm up, we went for a walk to a museum in Compiegne that we had read about, the Royallieu Internment and Deportation Memorial. During WWII,when France was occupied, this building was used as a transit camp by the Nazis. People from all over France, including Jews, communists, political prisoners and members of the resistance, were sent to this place to be “processed” before being sent on to the concentration camps. One of the most confronting things was right at the entrance. There were long glass panels with all the names of the victims of this camp written on them in plain black text. There were thousands of names, in small, crowded writing, that just magnified the extent of the price paid by those who walked through this building’s doors.
We walked through the original buildings, where information told the story of the facility, including stories from the prisoners and life inside the camp. Prisoners would stay there for no more than a month and would then be walked through the streets of Compiegne to the train station where they would be loaded into the wagons, to be transported to the concentration camps. It was another sobering view of French history during WWII and quite moving to think we were standing in the rooms where those people had been held in terrible conditions, before being sent to an even worse fate. We have learnt so much on this trip so far, about so many different things and experiences like this just continue to open our minds to events in history.
It’s experiences like this, like our travels around the WWI and WWII battlefields that remind us we have NOTHING to complain about when we think things feel tough. NOTHING!
So I thought today was a good day. Apart from some wrong turns, back-tracking, turn-arounds, GPS bungles and a few extra kilometres than planned, I thought today’s ride was pretty good. Yes, it was windy and yes, it was cold, but we still got to ride through some beautiful scenery and the final part by the river was lovely. It finished with another interesting and moving lesson in history that will stay with us forevermore. Tomorrow we have another day in Compiegne and then we’ll figure out what to do, depending on the dodgy weather that’s forecast for the next week. Is the GPS in charge of weather too? It wouldn’t surprise me, it would fit its wacky sense of humour!