Sometimes the journey is so eventful that it’s impossible to recount even a fraction of it. Especially with my attempt to make each blog post about one specific subject. And due to skipping ahead in the last post, there are many untold tales from France. So to return back a little, here’s another edition of single frame stories.
On a side note, this update is probably the only one so far without any nature photos.
In the quaint little town of Cluny, we stayed several days at the home of a lovely madame called Elisabeth. She was in her sixties and enjoyed traveling, so was happy to host a couple of exotic nomads. After all, meeting people from faraway lands is the next best thing to being on the road. Her home was one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever seen, with very zen-like decor. She practiced Tai Chi and meditation with calm music in the background.
Outside was less relaxing, because we happened to be there during the Festival of Light:
On our third day in France we were desperate about finding a place to sleep. We were stranded in the city of Metz after sunset, and cycling in the dark without bicycle paths wasn't an option. We even called some hotels, without any luck. By the Metz cathedral we discovered a Christmas market with a huge Ferris wheel, and forgot about our homelessness for an hour to drink mulled wine and take some photos.
As is sometimes the case, you find what you need only when you stop searching for it. Because soon we met Nora, a Moroccan girl with a constant smile on her face. She was working as security for the market, and didn't speak English, but used Google Translate to talk to us. Explaining that she liked to help travellers, she invited us to stay in her home nearby after her shift. We ended up having long conversations with the help of the app, and it really opened up a whole new world of communication. English isn't widely spoken in France, so this tip has saved us many times since then, and will be priceless in the future.
When Swedish people travel the world, they have an advantage that the rest of us don’t. It’s called Ikea. Apparently there’s a grocery store in every Ikea store selling genuine Swedish food. Isabelle nearly fainted from sheer joy when she saw one near Metz in France. Then spent what felt like three hours shopping for delicacies from back home while I guarded the bicycles.
Later we stopped so Isabelle could cook some of her new-found treasures for lunch. It’s nice to have some special food every now and then. But I do like traveling with someone who doesn’t require things like fancy restaurants and swimming pools. With bicycle touring the surroundings can get rather unluxurious. If you can be happy cooking Swedish meatballs with frozen fingers in an abandoned warehouse, life is pretty easy.
Then again, it's mostly not dirt floors and spray-painted walls when we stop. Along the Voie Verte bike path we had lunch with a nice view of the fortress of Berze. The sky was mostly overcast, but I noticed a sliver of light passing through the hill and got a picture just in time. In the second photo I took only ten seconds later the light on the castle was again flat and boring.
Earlier I wrote about Dutch hospitality, but I must say the French are no less generous. We've spent almost every night in warm beds after eating three-course dinners (with cheese and wine) with the family we just met. Even when I was cycling without two cute girls for a week people still opened their doors and welcomed me inside when I asked for help. And in the mornings they offer breakfast and even pack us lunch. If there's one thing the French consider important to share, it's food. Below we're eating lunch baguettes prepared for us by a cheerful old lady who hosted us in Chainens.
One of the challenges we’ve had while traveling together is our different speeds. I’ve been much faster with my lighter bike, which sometimes results in me being bored or cold while waiting. Or Isabelle can be stressed about feeling too slow. To balance out the weight and our speeds, we finally came up with a decent solution. All it took was a little rearranging: