(Written by Dave)
Today was our first day in France since we left on March 1st of this year. I am happy to report that much of our French speaking has come back. There wasn’t that much to begin with so having any come back is a good thing. We had a couple interactions today with folks who spoke no English and managed to get by. Folks always say that they don’t speak English but most speak a little. This combined with our limited French worked out ok on day one.
Being back in France means boulangeries – French bakeries. Long time readers will remember that we did an extensive study of these when we stayed Nice over the winter. Here, like with our French language study, our hard work in Nice has paid off. We instantly recognize a boulangerie and stopping for croissants is skill that you never lose once you’ve been to France. We made a couple stops today and will surely continue to hone our skills in the coming days.
We were not sure that we were going to ride today. We were both pretty tired from public transportation day yesterday and we needed to sort out our phone SIM. We slept a little late to give the phone shops time to open and after breakfast at our hotel, we headed out to try cracking the reportedly difficult rules on buying a French pre-paid SIM with data. We stopped first at Orange, the largest carrier in France. Their website said that they had a solution that we could use. No luck, the clerk either didn’t know of these products or he simply didn’t want to help us with our bad French. There is no point in arguing with a Frenchman so we left, knowing a second Orange was just around the corner. Before we made it far, we spotted the Bouygues shop. They didn’t speak great English but were more willing to help us. We got a SIM with data plan for a pretty good rate. Or at least we think we do – you never know for sure when someone is reading a mobile phone contract to you and telling you to sign. Maps and email work, so for now anyway, we are happy.
It was only 10:45 when we finished SIM shopping so we decided to get in a short ride as it wasn’t raining. Hotel check-out was 11:30 so we hustled back and loaded the bikes. We rolled away from the hotel at 11:27, only to make a stop at 11:30 at our first boulangerie of the day. There is always a fear that the next one may be closed, better safe than sorry.
We haven’t ridden much since we finished JOGLE and felt pretty fresh today. We had a nice 40+k ride on quiet back roads. Nothing seemed overly steep (compared to Cornwall and Devon) and we had a nice steady ride. Later in camp I noticed that there were several uphill arrows noted on our map, on the route that we had followed for the day. In the UK I don’t think you get an arrow unless it is over 15%. We never went over 7% today and it almost felt flat. Either we are in great shape (not that great) or the hills and map makers of France are much more reasonable (I’m sticking with the latter for now).
We made it Portbail around 3PM and got the story on campgrounds from the information office. They first thought that most would be closed for the season but found two that were open. After one more boulangerie stop we headed out to the one just south of town. Check in was fun, another person who spoke no English, but we managed. The campsite is just off Lindberg Beach, where Charles Lindberg landed having flown across the Atlantic. We plan on making a stop by the beach tomorrow on the way out. I’m sure that there will be some sort of plaque but I’m guessing not much else. It doesn’t seem overly touristy here but that may be more to do with us being out of season again. We are two of maybe 6 people in the entire campsite.
After dodging the rain all day, it has started raining now. It’s darker than we are used to as well due to France being an hour ahead of the UK. With few other campers, the rain and early darkness, it really does feel lonely here. Well, at least we have the boulangeries to keep us company. Life is good when you get fresh French croissants for brekkie.