France Part 6
29th May 2011 Nemours to St.Benoit-sur-Loire 71 km
Up early at 7.30am the next morning for breakfast at 8.00am in the F1 (Formula One) hotel. Showers and toilets are outside your room, immaculately clean although somewhat compact with wet area features for easy cleaning. Rounded corners with no gaps to trap germs or detritus. The design reminded me of these plastic Japanese executive cubicles for crashing out that I saw on TV once. However 'clean and clinical' is how I would describe them. The rooms themselves have a small wash area which again is clean and clinical. The window, double glazed with white PVC frames, quite small and gave you the impression of being 'sealed in'. Colour decor like a hospital. All you need for a first night's stay at 31 euros.
Breakfast was an 'all you can eat affair' in the front of the hotel. Staff look after the food replenishment and were quite efficient at it. All of this at a modest charge and they are friendly too. There were some bench seats outside and we took advantage of the early morning sunshine to sit outside and enjoy our breakfast. It was rather pleasant on a first day to see a deep blue cloudless sky and feel the sustained warmth on the back of our necks as we sat outside in the sunshine. All the 'Glasgow gloom' suddenly gone, we're suddenly discharged into a foreign country, but a 'civilised' one.
After breakfast we rolled the bikes out of our rooms, paid our bills and stood in the sun outside fitting our panniers. After some photographs, at the back of nine we mounted up for the first time, leaving Nemours in the Seine-et-Marne department in the Ile-de-France region of France and began moving off on the smooth black tarmac at the front of the F1 hotel checking our 'new side of the road' was correct. Our tour leader stopped us briefly outside in the street to look at his sat-nav then waved us on, arm raised. We followed him, gently weaving ourselves out of the industrial estate roads where the hotel is situated, heading out into the town's suburbs at the beginning of our 71km stage. Traffic on the roads was light and so was the wind. After a few holdups at roundabouts, doubling back a bit, going through a no-entry on a parking street, with a huge forested area on our left side ,we blundered on, trying to get our bearings. During this process our run leader fell off on a cycle track entrance. Trying to remain on his bike he tried to clear a style resulting in his pannier hitting one of the posts throwing him off onto a gravel surface. Fortunately he was going slow at the time and with the application of a little antiseptic cream to his leg we got back on our way. Just the kind of shock thing that happens when you lose concentration thinking of other things like remaining on route correctly. Later, on checking the sat-nav we began a more sustained progress out toward the French countryside on the D607 southward on the east side of the river Loing. This road is a long straight A-class road going close by the river but the traffic was light. The route plan was to avoid Nemours centre, get on to the west bank of the river to reach the D40 route by the D40E toward the small town of Chateau Landon. A bridge on the D40E, located at the south end of Bagneaux-sur-Loing off the D607, took us across the water. Crossing the railway at the end of it found us on the D40 which is a smooth B-class road. The terrain here is very flat farmland, misleading to us for what was to confront us in the cycling days to come but it made pleasant riding. The BJ rolled along quietly on these smooth roads producing a relaxed ride. Potholes here seemed to be non-existent.
An hour later we arrived in Chateau Landon. This was our first taste of the real France and it didn't disappoint. We entered the town on the D40, going up a short rise into busy a pedestrianised square. This was some kind of Sunday market and stalls were set up here in the middle of the town. We weaved through the crowds of people and headed for the quieter streets toward the back of the church. This is a nice small town of two-storey high old buildings, unspoiled by alterations and has the old church in the centre, fairly typical of small French towns. It was a bit early to stop for too long, so after a short break for taking pictures we carried on the D7 out toward Sceaux.
We rolled into Sceaux-du-Gatinais at mid-day starting to get hungry. The place was deserted and we entered what appeared to be the only cafe/restaurant in the village, called 'Le Trady'. The lady behind the counter said they had no more room for anyone due to an 'after-church' dinner booking having been scheduled. However the chef overheard our conversations and revoked her decision when we explained our limited requirements to him in our pidgeon French. We were to sit by the front in the cafe area. He made us up some long meat and cheese baguettes which we had with a cold beer. They tasted rather good and it was fine fare for the day ahead. Then it was on for a couple of hours riding south on the D31 through Corbielles, and close to Lorcy, Ladon, Auvilliers, Beauchamps and then the D44 until we stopped at a hostelry called 'Le Relais' at Coudroy. We had a welcome respite here, with a cold beer, inside the pub out of the sunshine and sitting on wooden bench seats along with a few of the locals. From Coudroy we zig-zagged on minor roads, the D88 and down to St. Benoit -sur-Loire. We arrived at our gite called 'Ferme La Borde' about 3.45pm. The proprietor was a farmer called Dominique Bouin who lived on the farm with his wife Mireille. Dominique welcomed us and directed that our bikes be taken across the road to his large barn for the night. The farm was fairly remote so there were no worries about bike security. Afterwards we were shown to very comfortable accommodation consisting of en-suite, traditional style decor with TV and a comfortable bed. French windows with mosquito screens let the afternoon light into our twin bed room casting shadows. After emptying our necessities from our panniers and having a shower we wandered round to a large garden with tall trees and an abundance of flowers. Our evening meal was taken in a conservatory at the rear of the house. This meal comprised of soup, exotic cheeses and home grown produce and of course the local wine. We sat around a large oval table with other guests and members of family. This is the usual arrangement found in gites, as they are called, and the intimacy allows conversation that demands you try out your French. However, if you are shy the folks will speak some English. All very light hearted with lots of pointing, gesturing and laughter. After dinner we sat outside in the garden until it got dark, thinking and talking of our cycling the next day.