Saturday May 2
With a break in the weather forecast for the first half of the day, we set off to head to Goussainville, to try and get some miles in before the clouds opened again and, according to the forecast, stay open for much of the forthcoming week. We stopped first at the supermarket for Steve to grab some lunch and elevenses. We parked our muddy, pannier-loaded, pedal-powered wheels beside a couple of very flash looking silver and black motorbikes and while Steve was inside, I waited with our “poor cousin” bikes and watched the people coming in and out on their Saturday morning excursion to do their shopping. I watched a lady come out of the supermarket with her shopping bags, she was a small, grey haired woman, in her late sixties I’d guess, with a round and rosy face, gaberdine slacks, cardigan and flat black shoes. Guess what she did next? I wasn’t expecting it. She…walked up to one of the flash looking motorbikes! Yep! She put her shopping in the pod on the back, threw on her helmet, fired up the machine and off she went! How brilliant! Wasn’t that a terrible assumption and misjudgement on my part, not to expect that?! I could see her getting into a little hatch-back car, but I was not expecting her to hop on a motorbike! I really must open my mind even further and stop the pre-conceived notions I obviously, and unintentionally, have! Good on her! It was great to see!
Most of the ride was planned on a cycle route and we left Compiegne along a path by the river, before turning onto a path alongside farmland. Despite the grey and foreboding sky, it was a lovely place to ride, passing by the river scenes with all the fishermen out along the riverbanks and all the greens and yellows of the rural scenes. We passed by a lake and stopped to watch a white swan paddling serenely by the bank. As we were there, another swan came gliding towards the lake, preparing to land. It took a wide arc, lined up its landing, broad wings outstretched and then, with a graceful glide and swiiiiiisssshhhh, it came to a graceful stop on the lake. Well…that serene looking swan that had been paddling by the riverbank soon lost all its serenity because it was not having that other swan on its patch! It started flapping furiously, getting up speed and it became a white torpedo, heading straight for the interloper! Its feet paddled wildly on top of the water, running along the top of the lake, flapping flat out, trying to get some lift. The visitor saw this torpedo coming in its direction and made a swift u-turn and began its frantic take-off manoeuvres…
“I see yer Jezza! Don’t think I don’t see yer! I told yer if ya came ‘round ‘ere again, I’d see yer orf! Get orf me patch, ya no good son of a dodo. I aint forgotten what yer said to me about Darleen and I’m not ‘avin’ ya ‘ere!”
“Fair go Wal, I’m just ‘avin a paddle, don’t lose a feather over it. All that with Darleen’s over and done with aint it?”
“I said, get oooooorrrrrffffff….” flap…flap…flap…
And just like that we watched Wal put the run to Jezza in a flapping and splashing of white with biceps and pecs fully flexed and pumping those big bodies into the air. Jezza was soon a speck in the distance and he’d been no match for the wrath of Wal, who soon went back to impersonating a quiet, serene and placid swan, gracefully paddling along the edges of the lake. It was an entertaining swannish soap opera to have watched!
The path soon took us through a forest, which was absolutely beautiful. It also gave us some hills to contend with, but that was a small price to pay for riding along a path with the quiet forest, in all it’s green glory, on either side of us. It was just magic. The forest had multiple paths running through it and we saw a couple of runners, a few mountain bikers and evidence of past horse riders. As we slogged up one hill, a pair of cyclists came whizzing down and the woman gave us a cheer, as we climbed past her exuberant downhill rush.
The forest path eventually took us out into the town of Senlis, where we stopped briefly for elevenses, sitting in a small square. It looked like a lovely little town, with quaint shops and cobbled streets, providing a story-book backdrop to the Saturday morning bustle.
After a quick snack, we bumped along the cobbles to exit the town and then for the last 20km we were back on a busy highway. This part of the ride was less fun, because the road was busy and the traffic was moving fast, but it was only for 20km, so it wasn’t too bad. We passed another war cemetery, this time for Dutch soldiers. It was another example of these cemeteries and memorials being created along roadsides and, like this one, had been developed to recognise the contributions of the forces from another country, who came to the assistance of France. Those who paid the ultimate price for this act, have been laid to rest in a respectful, cared for and beautifully maintained place of remembrance.
As we rode along the busy road, we approached Charles de Gaul airport and could see planes taking off and landing in the distance.
“Would you like to be on a plane instead,” I asked Steve.
“Yep,” he said, “going to New Delhi!”
The backstory to the response: Whenever we happen to stay in hotels, usually the only English speaking channel we get on the TV is BBC news. When we watch the international weather, Steve keeps commenting on the 45C temperatures in New Delhi. “Look at that!,” he cries, “forty-five degrees! Can we go there? Let’s go to New Delhi!” I think he’s a bit over the cold and rain we’ve had here for the last week or more and is dreaming of warmer climates! So the question about the plane sparked an immediate response along the lines of that fantasy!
We arrived in Goussainville after 61km of riding, having beaten the rain and checked into our accommodation. After a shower and some lunch, we headed out for a walk around and a bit of an explore. It seemed there wasn’t much to Goussainville at all, but we walked through the small municipal garden and through some run-down streets. Here I saw what looked like a pop-up book exchange, with two bookcases on the outside wall of a building, full of books. It actually looked a little more permanent than a pop-up, but it was still nice to see those books sitting there, inviting people to choose and swap something to read. There should be more of it!
We continued wandering up to the supermarket to get some supplies, knowing everything would be closed on Sunday and it was as we were leaving, to walk the 1.5km back to the hotel, that those clouds decided to open again! Down came the rain to give us yet another soaking as we power-walked along the road. This wet seems never-ending!
Sunday May 3
This wet seems never-ending! Today it’s once again raining cats, dogs and elephants, so we are staying put and waiting for the forecast relief that’s supposed to come tomorrow. We took a wet ride into the town to visit the laundrette and then spent some time reading, planning and deciding on our next pitstop. I commented to Steve how much I’m missing the tent and yes…I actually am missing the tent! I like having our own space and really, the only positives about a hotel are the shelter from the weather and a conveniently located bathroom, and maybe a heater if it’s really cold, but I’m looking forward to when we can pitch again. Steve’s reply: “I’m missing the nice warm weather that would let us use the tent!” So we are going to try and find a campsite this week, despite the fact there is more rain and even thunderstorms forecast. We’ll see how we go.
With the wifi still not working at the hotel, we have taken the liberty of using the free wifi provided by the nearby McDonalds while Steve pays for the privilege by happily inhaling a Big Mac and fries. As I’ve said many times…adapt and overcome!
So we are almost on the outskirts of Paris and will finish making plans for how and when we venture into the city and where we’ll stay, including whether we’ll be staying within solid or flapping walls. We’ve got some more pedalling to do tomorrow, possibly soggy, possibly windy, we’re getting used to dealing with the elements and they seem to be having a right old time with us! We’ll have to wait and see what games the wild and wascally weather wants to play with us! One thing’s for sure though…we won’t be taking our bat and ball and goin’ ‘ome!