We reached the summit at Montgenevre by lunch the next day and we were soon crossing into France. It had been quite a stiff climb to get here with a few very long tunnels to climb through – especially the very last – we were glad to have got up here. France here we come! This would be our last foreign country and we both felt it was a bit surreal crossing the border. The views were fabulous and I got quite emotional!
We needed to get to Lyon by the evening of the next day so I could catch my flight back to the UK for another interview. Although we had reached the border we hadn’t finished climbing yet – we still needed to cross Col du Lauteret which would be our last pass over 2000m.
We celebrated reaching France in typical style by feasting on fresh baguettes, three types of French cheese and a bottle of French wine for lunch. Then we started tackling the climb and managed to brake the back of it by 7pm. 8km from the top we found a great camping spot off the road on top of a disused tunnel and we finished the wine while lapping up the view of the glacier dominating the mountain range across the valley.
The next morning we set off early as we had to reach Grenoble by mid-afternoon so we could catch a train to Lyon. It was a beautiful day and we stopped for a quick picture at the top. It was still early but the hotel and cafe was packed with bikers and cycle teams and there was a celebratory good atmosphere.
We enjoyed the downhill after that before reaching a reservoir where we had to endure another short climb before zooming down to Grenoble. The temperature climbs as we drop down and by the time we hit Grenoble it’s well over 30 degrees. The whole of France is experiencing an intense heatwave right now.
Amandine and Jean were our kind warm showers hosts in Lyon and despite them having just moved into their new flat they were super welcoming. We enjoyed a dinner with them when we arrived and loved hearing about their cycle trip in Africa which they had completed a few years ago.
The next day I flew home to London and started my epic journey down to Plymouth for my interview. Paddy enjoyed his few days in Lyon despite the weather which reached into the high 30s. It was the summer solstice the evening I returned and Paddy and Amandine had been out partying -enjoying the street music festival which takes place all over France every year on the longest day.
The next morning we had a late start as I was super tired from all the travelling. Paddy literally had to kick me out of bed in the end. It was incredibly hot and our departure was delayed because we left the battery pack in the flat… Paddy managed to retrieve the house keys from where we had just deposited them in the letter box by using the magnet on our tent lamprey. We managed 44km before pulling the bike up a wood lined verge where thankfully there was a running stream nearby for us to cool off before climbing in the tent.
We managed an early start on the bike the next morning and we were cycling by 7.45am. I doubt we’ve been cycling this early since our dash across Turkmenistan… After an 8km climb we were soon crossing into the Loir region and making our way to Roanne. It promised to be very flat from now on so the 80km day average we have to keep to ensure we reach Cherbourg in time shouldn’t be too challenging.
Day 3 saw us complete a 103km the first of what would turn out to be a string of 100km plus days! We’ve been following the canal routes and are enjoying teaming up with the great Loir river every so often. We see lots of birds of prey hunting in the fields many many herons and the canals are home to many ducklings who we spook out of their reed nests as we cycle past.
There’s quite a few people holidaying on canal boats and we pass some impressive barges and boat houses. Soon we reach our first locks and enjoy watching the boats come through as we stop for lunch. We’re both tiring of the soft cheese and are dreaming about Irish cheddar already.
The good weather continues and we have been doing well at getting up early so we can escape the Suns high point for a long lunch. Even if the morning is cloudy the sun has been burning away the clouds by noon every day. There are lots and lots of camping grounds along our route but we’ve just been camping on the side of the canal mostly. Locks tend to make a good spot as there is always a patch of grass to pitch the tent and even sometimes toilets.
By day 4 we were making really good headway and decided it was time for a shower and charging session. We keep getting caught out by Sunday’s in France. Everything closes on a Sunday and we were low on food and diesel. Annoyingly France has been the first country to impose a minimum fuel allowance at petrol stations – 5l – which means we have to wait for a diesel car to turn up and ask if we can pay them to fill our 75ml fuel bottle when they re-fuel. Luckily Paddy has enough French to explain why we need it!
We met up with the Loir again and found a beautiful campsite right on the banks of the river. Because we hadn’t been able to find any open food stores we had to just cook what we had in the bottom of the bag and the meal wasn’t the most appetising but we did wash it down with a lovely crisp bottle of white wine which we procured from the friendly campsite owner.
From here we head to Orleans and into Normandy!