My cheapo place last night should have been called Hotel California. It was almost impossible to leave. The only exit east was a motorway bikes are banned from, or an absurd backtrack on scruffy lanes through retail and industrial estates. The only sensible way to get out of North Avignon’s badlands was by a short train journey (pic).
Clearly, France’s nationalised railways are struggling mightily: even with cheap fares, bright well-staffed stations, lovely spacious clean trains with plenty of bike spaces, and regular services even on little branch lines, I saw few passengers. Compare that to our privatised railways, which are so popular that many routes – even with high fares – are standing room only.
Anyway, I cycled east up the Gorges de Nesque on the D942 (pic). My guidebook says this is ‘arguably the best 30km you can ride in the whole of France’. It’s certainly spectacular, and the even gradient made the height gain of 400m totally painless, like my dentist. When she drills my teeth she doesn’t feel a thing.
I’m shy about putting pics of me, but here I am (pic). That’s the confident smile of someone who went shopping for chocolate at Aldi yesterday evening. There had to be some benefits from staying in the middle of a retail estate.
There were zillions of other cyclists doing the same route, most English, and all in lycra and helmets (pic). I was the only one wearing M&S shorts and a sunhat. However, I did meet an excellent couple of friendly lasses from New Zealand – a decade or two older than me, and with a similar down-to-earth approach to cycle touring – who were wearing something identical to me: broad smiles.
I’m staying in Sault tonight, a road-cycling Mecca for those wanting to go up Mont Ventoux. As I will be, tomorrow, so I’ve started banking calories for the 1200m ascent by troughing some custard cakes for dinner. The locals preferred less strenuous activity (pic).
Miles today: 37
Miles since St Malo: 847