Il Pleut Comme un Vache Qui Pisse (Suerre to Chalon-sur-Saone)

As if to make up for the lousy night in the local gym, breakfast this morning was really, really good. Arrangements had been made to eat at a local cafe, and it was the best breakfast we’ve had in France, probably the best of the trip so far! Great coffee, a German-style cheese and meat platter, and good juice. Free WiFi, too.

The ride was short again and fairly straightforward along the canal, and we found our lodging easily enough.

The local cycling group and the tourism people hosted a short wine and canapes reception on a motor barge moored near the city centre, and while there we had the first of a string of epic thunderstorms march in, with crazy heavy rain and even hail.

I learned a new and slightly off-colour French phrase while watching it rain from inside the barge, “Il pleut comme une vache qui piss”, literally translated, “It rains like a cow who pisses”, ie it is raining very hard. Useful phrase, that.

We had an abbreviated guided tour of the old part of town with a very nice English-speaking guide, cut short as we watched yet another thunderstorm march in.

Managed to get back to our hostel without getting soaked. The place is normally student housing so instead of multi bed dorms I had a single room that was effectively a bachelor apartment. Nice and quiet, lots of space to put stuff out to air and do a bit of sorting.


Two Rivers and a Gym (Dole to Suerre)

Nice easy ride today in good weather, with one minor route-finding error that saw us doing some minor trespassing along an active rail line for about a hundred metres before finding the road again and the marked bike route.

Aside from that it was the usual mix of canal paths, farm tracks and minor roads, with a lunch stop at a bar in a tiny village that did very good, cheap sandwiches.

Suerre is a very small place, a couple of thousand or so. No hostel, so our lodging was going to be une gymnase again, a community sports hall.

Turns out that the quite nice modern sports hall on one side of town was closed for renovating most of the summer, so we were in the old gymnase, an asphalt-floored, pigeon-haunted barn on the other side of town. Oh, and only cold water in the showers.

A few folks headed to the local camping bungalows or small hotel at the news of cold water showers; the rest of us stuck it out.

Dinner was picnic-style on the side of the canal, then it was back to the gymnase for some sleep, with some sort of kid’s concert in the adjacent schoolyard providing a soundtrack of sorts.


Two Thirds Down (Besançon to Dole)

Easy ride along the river and canal today, pretty much dead level for the whole 60km. We’re somewhere near the two-thirds mark of the trip, both in terms of time – just over two weeks left – and distance – about 700km of 2300 left to go!

Dole is the home of Louis Pasteur, he of pasteurization and the rabies cure. The medieval/Renaissance quarter is well preserved and we got a guided tour of it, about two hours long, courtesy of the local government.

Before the tour, though, I had to deal with the first (hopefully only!) bike repair of the trip: I’ve worn through the tread on my rear tire thanks to the load on the bike and hundreds of kilometres of unpaved trails since Vienna. The red liner centre liner of the tire was showing in dashes around most of the tire. Thankfully the local bike club volunteers had met us at our hostel and one of them rode with us out to the nearby good bike store, where twenty Euro and about five minutes in the shop got me a new Michelin tire.

Dole is a neat little city to visit, but the local hostel, the Foyer St. Jean, is… interesting. The rooms and bed linens are are clean, but the whole place needs maintenance and a scrub – burned out lightbulbs, peeling paint in the bathrooms and hallways, and disorganized staff – no room assignments when our group rocked up, just a disinterested staffer telling everyone to find their own bed, that any unlocked room was available.

I’ve never been in a hostel that didn’t bother assigning beds/rooms before. Really odd.

Off to the small town of Suerre tomorrow, with a short ride of under 50km along the river and canal again.


A Day Off, Finally. (Besançon)

Slept in, late breakfast by recent standards, 0830. Wandered into Besançon old town, had a look around and a picnic lunch on the banks of the Doubs.

Free guided tour of Besançon’s Vauban-designed citadel, a huge fortress on one side of town and a World Heritage site. Our guide was a fluently bilingual and highly knowledgeable man playing Vauban, although when he got into some particularly interesting point he tended to give us a two-sentence English summary after going on in French for a bit.

I was actually able to follow quite a lot of his French as well, as I already know a good bit about Vauban and the fortress design of his era, and many of the specialized terms are universal – often left untranslated from Italian, actually, as they pioneered a lot of the stuff Vauban perfected and became famous for.

After the fortress tour we got roped into an overly long presentation from the regional government. Bad PowerPoint is universal, it transcends all language barriers with its completely incomprehensible awful design. The canapes afterwards were really quite good, though.

Random observation after listening to a number of people translating things for us recently: “Touristic” is not a word a native English speaker is likely to use. It crops up regularly in German and especially French translations, though.

Off to Dole tomorrow, 60km west along the Doubs River. Weather looks like it will continue hot and clear, with some chance of showers.