Saturday, 21 May 2011

'Tout droit, tout doit, tout doit...'

'Tout doit, tout doit, tout doit'.. (straight on, straight on, straight on)

I can't mention how many times I have heard this phrase since being in France! My cycling companion, Astrid and I have spent the best part of two weeks asking for directions - especially out of big towns. The French have this appealing way of saying ''straight on'' three times in a rythmic, sing song way and seems to come with every answer. Mind you, it makes sense when you realise the distances and how spread out everything is in France. Everything seems to point to straight on, with the odd, a droit (on the right) alors, a gauche (then left) alors.. tout doit, tout doit, tout doit''.

Which really is appropriate for me as I am continuing my journey of and carrying straight on towards SE France and on to Italy. And what a three weeks it has been!

Since leaving the Royal Academy of Arts in London on 1st May, where my friends gave Astrid and myself a great, fun packed send off, it hasn't rained once. It has been 21 days of hot and sunny weather. I'm one of the lucky ones that goes straight to brown in colour so I am very brown even this early on in the trip. We've packed a lot in aswell. Sarting in Belgium and having a lovely weekend with my friends Jorg and Melanie and seeing the sights there. On to Paris through stunning Champagne country, the vineyards and the little champagne villages. Then Astrid and I went our separate ways in Paris, as she was due to go home, while my friend Sue came out to spend a few days with me in that City of the Arts. That was a packed two days. A train ride to Giverny, (Monet's house and gardens)with a sight seeing tour the day after and then on the Thursday, I pedalled out of Paris on my own for the first time.

I'm heading SE and am writing this from Troyes and tomorrow on to Estoyes where Renoir lived for many years. Then on to Langres to pick up the route taken by the person who inspired me to do this trip, Anne Mustoe who 30 years ago took to cycling around the world.

I've had a wonderful start to the trip, and Astrid helped me with her experience to get my cycling touring legs in and I learnt a lot of useful tips and hints about getting about and getting accommodation. We've mainly camped (cheaper) but also stayed in Chambres d'hotes ( b & b's) She was very patient with me too, as having such a heavy bike, it sometimes came to almost walking pace up the hills. However, now, I can easily do about 45 - 50 miles a day without too much effort as my legs and stamina improve by the day. So it was great fun to cycle with her for the first two weeks and great to see as many friends as I did at the beginning of my journey. And we have had a fun time. But the hightlights for me so far have been the visit to Auvers Sur Oise, north of Paris , where we visited Vincent Van Goghs attic room (left exactly as it was in his day)and he and his brother's Theo's, grave. Vincents room is only 7ft x 7ft with the single chair so familiar in the famous painting but you have to be there to see just how small that room is. And this is also the room he died in -very very moving - with a single skylight in the roof.

When you are on a trip like this, the day is made up of little events. One of which I was quite proud of. Yesterday in Provins, a picturesque medieval town where I stopped for morning coffee, I gave directions to the tourist office. in French! to a French woman! And guess what, I said to her, ..'''a gauche, alors a droit a l'arc, alors, tout doit, tout doit, tout doit.'' She thanked me and walked in the right direction, so I must have said something right!

But there are so many tales to tell, that I will only be able to do that in the book I shall be writing when I get back. All I can do here is keep you up to date with my adventures and hope you enjoy sharing it with me.

So, so far - Really enjoying it and used to solo cycling now. I'm feeling a great deal more confident than when I started out and feel settled into the journey now. There is a saying that says .. ''its the people you meet that you'll enjoy, the museums - less likely'' Never a truer word. I have met some fantastic people so far, who have shown nothing but kindness, from the little old man in his garden who came out with a large bottle of Evian water to fill our drinks bottles up and have a chat, to Daniel, the propietor of La Maison du Papidon, who brought us a small bottle of champagne to eat with our dinner, to the manager of a full B&b in Ypres who, late in evening, used his own phone to ring round and get us a Chambres D'hotes nearby. And when we got there we were greeted by our wonderful hosts at Da Poteze, Paul and Mimi who when we were too tired to cycle into town to eat, brought us up a slice of pizza each and greeted us with a glass of his best wine.

I am having a relaxing day on a tranquil camp site today to catch up with things and then tomorrow, its...'tout doit, tout doit, tout doit' And more of the stunning French countyside and villages. Ah! La vie en roads!

catch up with you again next month -


(copyright Deborah Anne Brady)