We passed through a town called Les Tourrettes. As we quietly entered I thought I would play the part and release an outburst of my finest French. Pierre didn’t quite catch on and got such a fright that he nearly fell off his bike. A slight contrast to the Halloween night in Dijon when we pedalled through town and Pierre sent a costumed girl running down the street screaming just by saying a single ‘boo’. The beauty and stealth of being on a bicycle.
Since Lyon we’ve been following the ViaRhôna along the River Rhône. It has been a great experience with a welcome change in terrain and terroir. Travelling downstream a massive river such as the Rhône is always going to be very welcome for any cyclist on a loaded tourer. Dotted along the slopes of the river valley in the perfect terroir are some of France’s finest vineyards. The produce of which any touring cyclist is obliged to sample and providing us with the welcome warmth at the campsite on these chilly autumn evenings.
The ViaRhôna was a superb find. A beautifully laid out cycle track that follows the full length of the Rhône. From the Source close to Geneva all the way down to the mouth in the Mediterranean. The route is mostly free of cars and trucks and winds its way down through forests and small reserves with good birdwatching in season. It slopes gently downhill all of the way with very few hills and passes through some great towns and cities of which most are worth a visit.
Being off the main roads is great for finding a wild camp spot. Most campsites are closed this time of year so our options are limited in a country where wild camping is basically illegal. Fair enough for a country where there is a star-rated campsite in almost every village. We thought that if we were to find the local closed campsite and camp near enough we can at least say that we tried. We have yet to have anybody approach us other than interested passers by and the fact that we are crazy enough to camp this time of year garners a certain level of respect.
We have tried our luck with couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org and had a mixed response. Some beauts we’ve had include:
“Sorry, the couchsurfing season is over!”
“If you read my profile you will see that I only have space for one girl, not two guys!”
It’s almost worth trying our luck just for the amusement. After many attempts and 29 days we got our first host in a beautiful town called Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux.
Marion had other plans but she went out of her way to include us and put us up in her tiny studio flat. The following day was a bank holiday and her and her friends were up for a massive night out. She fully understood the needs of a travelling cyclist and let us go to bed at her place whilst she partied on in town. That was after she included us on a big table booking for dinner at a great restaurant in the hills out of town.
Thanks Marion for your kind, thoughtful hospitality, your lengthy very amusing Sunday evening email explaining your predicament, patient translations, finding us accommodation in our next town and breakfast. Sorry for the burnt brioche and setting off your fire alarm. A night out of the rain and cycling on with a dry tent is a massive bonus.