Thursday, July 24, 2008

River Dream: Loire Valley to Burgundy

Chateau Sully

Bressan farm

Loire after rainstorm, Chatillon-sur-Loire

Escargot de Burgougne


Orleans, Chateauneuf-sur-Loire, Gien, Chatillon-sur-Loire, Saint Satur, Nevers, Decize, Digoin . . . the nine days I spent on the Loire drifted by like the river. An ideal day went something like this: up early, pedal into town for ''un petit cafe" and "pain au chocolat" and pick up a fresh baguette. Cycle up river through the fresh morning; after an hour or so, find a picnic table for a morning tea (fired up on the pocket rocket stove). Cycle on, arrive in the next town around 2; set up camp across the river from the town, maybe take a dip, then cross the bridge and check out the historical center. (Every bridge is a bit of an event in itself, with its sturdy spans braced against the river's flow.) Then, usually as the first customer around 7:30, dinner in town--a different terrine to try as entree each night, a different cut of steak or salmon with delicious sauces, various wines, and desserts--creme brulée or local ice cream. I kept myself well-fueled.

The Loire has been through the centuries a key route for the carriage of local products and commodities such as wine, salt, and grains, and there is a lively culture of the people of the river--the "mariniers" (boatmen), the fishermen, the millers (working their boat mills), and the "lavandeuses" (the washerwomen). Also, in the old days, there were the tax collectors watching the boat traffic from their posts high on the chateau walls and taking their lord's due from the passing cargo.There's lots to celebrate about the river culture, hence the ''Caravane de la Loire" in the first week of July. Each day, a different community had a schedule of music, drama, acrobat feats, and parades. The Caravane was progressing downriver, toward me, so I aimed to intersect with the festivities in Gien. There on the grassy banks of the Loire under threatening skies, I gathered with an audience who knew the words to enjoy the Loire Mariners Choir, "Le Fils de Galarne.'' The choir was about thirty high spirited men who looked as if they'd come straight from their boats, having put on their choir outfits seconds before disembarking: traditional black tri-corner hats, white shirts and red scarves. Their songs were bawdy and sentimental, with the Loire as mistress--"j'aime ta voix, j'aime tes contours"--as well as the site of shenanigans between "les lavandeuses" and "les mariniers". Arms punched the air, hats flew.

And always a chateau to visit, though they're humbler than those the other side of Orleans. I find it hard to ride by when the moat bridge is down and the portals open.

On my road, corn and wheat gave way to vines; I was in Loire wine country. And as I got further east, the land started to rise. I climbed up to Sancerre, a wine-producing town since the first century (although the Augustinian monks really got it established in the eleventh century). It had a panoramic view of its vineyards and neighbouring town, Saint Satur, enclosed in ancient walls. (I learned another expression from the lady who gave me directions to Sancerre, that I've since had frequent occasion to use, on approaching Switzerland: "Ca monte!")

The weather in the first week of July was wildly changeable. Several times, intense heat and clear skies gave way by day's end to dark clouds from which thunder cracked and boomed; then came wind and torrential rain. I cowered in my tent at these times, unable to read or write for the flashing sky and the percussion on my tiny tent. But these storms didn't last long, and after a half hour or so, the drumming slowed to intermittent taps, the inside of my tent brightened and became too hot, and the birds resumed full song. The river steamed in the aftermath, and the evening sun lit the departing whisps on the moving river.

As a result of these storms, the river is a bit higher and faster than usual. I saw that this had caused the cancellation of at least one annual event which involved bridge jumping, but holidayers were still able to rent canoes. I was sitting by the river writing in my journal one afternoon, and had observed the rapid speed of the flow, and how the water dragged the branches of a tree on the steep bank. There was an extra splash behind the tree, and then I heard a small voice call "Mummy!" I jumped up in time to look down on a family of four, hanging on to their submerged canoe. It looked like a routine wet exit practice to me but when they looked up at me and I asked if they were OK the woman shouted "help!" and the family continued bobbing downstream and disappeared from my vlew. I realized I knew nothing about navigational hazards on the river-for all I knew, Niagara Falls awaited them-so I ran back to the campsite office where among other things, I may have informed the woman there that the family had been deeply moved ("bouleversée"); nevertheless, getting to the heart of my message, she asked if we needed "les pompiers". I was pretty sure they had something to do wtih rescue, so replied "oui, oui, les pompiers!" and she got on the phone. The firetruck arrived about twenty minutes later with the siren hee-hawing, but by then Dad, Mom, and the two kids had got back on land not too far down river. Brother and sister were enjoying the aftermath of the drama, but Mom and Dad were frantic about their money and passports, floating in a large white barrel fast toward the Atlantic. It seems they had foreseen the need to keep these items dry, but not the need to attach the barrel to the boat. Bedraggled and still wearing his lifejacket, Dad was next seen running down the road to town. About fifteen minutes later he appeared as passenger astride a jetski, which seemed to barely touch the water as it overtook the current downstream. The jetski disappeared from sight and sound and I learned later that they did recover the barrel.

I was reluctant to leave the Loire (would like another time to continue to its source, and head from there to the Pyrenees--just one of many French cycling itineraries I have in mind for the future) and so, after a scant 25 kilometres on a canal-side bike path, stopped off for a couple of days in Paray-le-Monial. This town is a kind of spiritual centre, a twin city to Bethlehem, which must have been a coup. It has one of the best preserved basilicas associated with Cluny, which had the largest and most powerful church in Christendom in the Middle Ages. There I met the owners of the 5-day-old Café des Artistes, visited the Basilica and some amazing mosaic exhibitions, and took some reading and writing time at my camp, which also had a small but spotless pool.

From Paray-le-Monial, you can go north on the (unsigned, future) Eurovelo 6 route, following canals and the Saone River. However, I had decided to go to Geneva and needed to go due east, through Cluny, Bourg-en-Bresse and Nantua. I noticed on the Burgundy Department bicycle route map that there are bike routes all over Burgundy, particularly, running north-south, but not between Paray-le-Monial and Cluny. At first I wondered why, as the route I had chosen for myself was scenic --long flying descents with vistas of far-off little houses, neat fields with white cows and huge rolls of hay on the hills. Oh yes, hills, and descents that you have to pay for with ascents--that's why it's not a bike route. I also passed through a mountainous evergreen forest in the afternoon, which was welcome for its shade. The forest was familiar to me, with fireweed, foxgloves and huge ferns. In spite of the tough ride (relative to the Loire Valley), I loved this route, with its towns still in the early summer heat, flowers bright against the creamy yellow sandstone houses.

The following day, from Cluny to Bourg-en-Bresse, was a long day, but notable for several wonders of man and of nature. The first thing crossed my path, literally, but you would have to measure its progress in millimetres--it was the biggest snail I've ever seen in transit. Over the next couple of days, I saw more of these, but the first, because of its novelty, was the most awe-inspiring. It was the size and appearance of a healthy Canadian west coast slug, with its shell perched on top. After marvelling at this intrepid traveller, I haven't had the desire to try "Escargots de Bourgogne" (Burgundy).

The next wondrous thing was the 1.6 kilometre greenway tunnel which allowed me to go through a mountain instead of over it. Near the entrance, a large sign explains that bats occupy this tunnel. At the bottom of the sign is a cartoon of them, with the caption "Desolées, on dort". "Sorry, we're sleeping" is how I would have translated it, but the English translation on the sign is "Afflicted, we sleep." The tunnel is closed from October 15 to March 31, when the bats are afflicted.

The third wonderful thing on my road, unexpected, was the Museum of Bresse, with displays of rural Bressan culture (beautiful clogs and hats for special occasions, sturdy versions for everyday on the farm), and a farm which had been in continuous operation for over 500 years, from the Middle Ages until the late 1980's. The last occcupant lived there until 1992. The farm has been restored to how it would have been in the 19th century. During my visit there the skies opened and dumped rain, making the mud jump in the farm courtyard. The buildings are constructed so that when this happens, the wood beams won't rot--the base of each buildings is brick, with the wooden supports starting about two feet off the ground. The torrents delayed my departure until 5:30 and by then the skies were dark but the rain was holding off. I had been on the road for about five minutes when I startled a large deer at the edge of the road on my right. It bounded through the wheat field, its body appearing and disappearing with each leap. I stopped to watch in amazement, and after a few bounds it did too: I could just see the V of its two deer ears among the wheat ears. It must have thought, "oh m*rde, she's still there," because it took off again, in graceful flight, out of sight.

Next post--only one way into Switzerland . . . up and over.

Basel, Switzerland, 2773 km

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Internet access

The internet cafe and public computers seem to be going the way of the telephone box. You're often expected to provide your own computer with WIFI. I found this computer in a hotel, available from 1700h to 1900h, but the USB port doesn't seem to work so I can't upload my post.

Very soon . . .

St-Ursanne, on the Doubs River, Switzerland, 2685 km

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunday Riders

I first spotted the Sunday riders on my way out of Bruges. They were going the other way on the other side of the canal, about twenty yellow jerseys sailing along the top of some herbiage, pumping legs invisible. Another Sunday, near Orleans, a flock of fifteen yellow and blue jerseys flew low over the wheat a couple of fields away. Perhaps Luna, the whale who got separated from his pod and stayed in Gold River for several years, felt like I did. Hope as I make the sighting: are they my kind? In minutes they're gone. No. It's a cycling club, out for the Sunday ride.

If the Sunday riders are on my road and going my way, they whirr past, leaving me in the wake of their after-shave. But if they come toward me, we all pucker up for "bonjour, bonjour!" as they flash by.

The Sunday I rode into Creil, a commuting suburb town of Paris, I was temporarily adopted by two members of the Creil cycling club. One member had got lost on the ride and phoned for help. The other had gone to find him and was bringing him in, and offered to show me the way as well. We talked about cycle touring, and about Creil, my destination and their home town: an important industrial town because of its location on the Oise River and the railway, but with many factories presently shut down. I was so happy to talk to someone about something in common that I think I chattered, babbled even. It was surprising to find myself chattering, but especially that it was in French. I had no idea I was so fluent (not correct, just fluent). Like Luna, I developed a creative ability to communicate with people who could be my kind.

When we arrived in Creil about an hour later, Daniel wished me "bon courage," and I was podless once again.

I was hungry and found "le chinois", the Chinese restaurant, for the Sunday lunch buffet. The owner didn't seem to speak much French, gesturing in an embarrassed way to show me to my table. The young waiters did the rest of the communicating; the owner sat outside, looking at the ugly commercial street and chain smoking the whole time I ate my prolonged lunch. I wondered what he was thinking.

The next day I did a long day ride which included visiting Chateau Chantilly, and returned to Creil as dark clouds brought rain and an early end to daylight. I came in from a different direction than I had the day before and was desperate for a familiar landmark so that I could find the hostel again--and then I saw him, still sitting there, smoking, watching, thinking, looking sad in the dimming light. My initial relief to have him as my landmark quickly gave way to less selfish thoughts. I am at least only temporarily displaced, and that by choice.

Cluny, 2152 km

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Café des Artistes

Les Coquelicots

Ils éclatent dans le blé, comme une armée de petits soldats; mais d'un bien plus beau rouge, ils sont inoffensifs.

Leur épée, c'est un épi.

C'est le vent qui les fait courir, et chaque coquelicot s'attarde, quand il veut, au bord du sillon, avec le bleuet, sa payse.

Jules Renard, Histoires Naturelles. 19th C

[The Poppies

They burst out of the wheat, like an army of little soldiers; but of a much more beautiful red, they are harmless.

Their sword, it's a wheat-ear.

It's the wind that makes them run, and each poppy lingers, when it wants, at the edge of the furrow, with the cornflower.]

Found in a book on a shelf at Le Café des Artistes, Paray-le-Monial. I had just arrived in town and was looking for coffee at about 10:30 when I stepped into this tiny cultural café where you can read from the books lining the walls, and attend readings and piano concerts. It was just before story time. Five children sipped lurid red and green drinks in wine glasses, their adults had coffee, and we all ate little cakes. I hadn't known there was going to be any kind of performance, and I was doubly delighted to hear the beautiful words of the beginning of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince. I was as enchanted as the littlest child, right up to the part where the Little Prince takes out of his pocket his "treasure," the drawing that the narrator has made for him of a sheep, so that he can admire it. This after much dramatic emphasis on the detail that the narrator had been discouraged by grown ups at the age of six (SIX ANS! The little blonde girl in pink wriggled with recognition and anticipation) from his career as a painter, and became a pilot instead.

[I went back in the evening for the "spectacle" of piano and readings of works by Jean Cocteau, but I was the only spectator this Tuesday night so the show didn't go on. Instead, among other things, we talked about the meaning of "sa payse" above. After suggesting some possible meanings and consulting a literary dictionary, the story reader (and would-be evening performer) came to the conclusion that it's an old word not in current usage. I'm not exactly sure what it means.]

Paray-le-Monial, 2086 km

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Auvers-sur-Oise to the Loire Valley

. . . and thence to Auvers-sur-Oise. I settled in for a couple of days, pitching my tent by the river at a 2-star campground. Two stars means it has clean toilets and showers, a place to wash your dishes, and a grassy pitch for your tent. This one was managed by Maria, who watered daily the flower pots of pink geraniums cascading down the stairs of the "bloc sanitaire". By day I could walk into town by the riverside path.

Auvers-sur-Oise is a small, unpretentious and gracious host town to impressionist art pilgrims, and especially those seeking signs of Vincent Van Gogh's final burst of artistic output. He stayed here for seventy days in a tiny room over a bar, and in that time produced 72 paintings. Then he shot himself in despair and died in that room, which was never rented out again. In spite of the loss of income for the Auberge Ravoux, Vincent's prolific output and his suicide were a gift of eternal tourism for this town. There are signboards with paintings posted around the village in the places they were done, so you can compare the finished painting with its subject. A lot of these are Vincent's, because he seems to have painted everything in sight, but many other artists congregated here, including Paul Cezanne, Charles-Francois Dubigny, Camille Pisarro, and Camille Corot. I even found the site of the wheatfield and crows, which is not far from the cemetary where Vincent and his brother Theo have plain graves side by side. I was more taken with the wheatfields and crows I had seen further north, but my vision was not the one of loneliness and despair that inspired Vincent. As I and other tourists haunted the flower-lined lanes looking for the paintings, gentle residents doing their street gardening were ready with a warm smile and "bonjour". The civic "je jardine ma ville" program has paid off--the lanes are alive with the colour of towering hollyhocks, roses, foxgloves, and lavender.

My two favourite places in town were the houses and gardens of Charles-François Dubigny and Dr. Paul Gachet, both people who gathered artists together, providing mentoring and refuge. Daubigny must have had a great sense of humour. He painted almost all the inside walls of his house with country scenes, flower wreaths, and animals. His atelier, reaching two stories, is completely covered with huge murals, done by him and other artists. Dr. Gachet, another interesting character, was a long-time member of an "eclectics" society. He would barter his medical services for artists' work. He had some knowledge of Vincent's medical problems and advised him to paint as much as possible--the results of that advice is many paintings that are famous today. You need live in no more than a garrett to produce great work, but if you've got more, you can also serve history and art.

I got back on my bike nourished by my stay in this town that hosts greatness, and headed west, in order to better skirt Paris. (I had considered taking a train into Paris, and even carried the transit map around for a few days until I was well clear of it, but couldn't face going urban.) West took me through more forest, the ancient hunting forests of the dukes and princes and kings for whom this area was a playground, and the rolling hills of the French Vexin, a huge parkland dotted with ancient settlements.

I had lost the Green Meridian back at the abandoned campground in Ailly-sur-Noye, but now my path joined one of the routes to Santiago, the "route de Saint Jacques de Compostelle" through Chartres. I made a reservation early in the day for a hotel, since there were no campgrounds or hostels nearby. The afternoon I spent at Théméricourt, only about seven kilometres from my destination, absorbed in a museum about the area. (The chateau of Théméricourt was last owned by J-C Duvalier, dictator of Haiti.) I cycled off to the hotel in a meditative mood, through rolling wheat fields lit with afternoon sun, and arrived at an intersection where I stopped to take a photo of a house whose sides were peeling off, revealing ancient layers. I was snapped out of my reverie by a large brown SUV jumping across the road, and Fernando, my host, pointing and shouting with joy, "C'est par là, 5 metres!" Apparently he'd been lying in wait at the intersection for me to arrive at his hotel. And Fernanda, his wife, was standing in the road in front of the hotel in case I missed it (which I very well might have. At my jasmine-scented campground in Auvers-sur-Oise, I learned a new expression when a man suggested a good campground near Orleans, "on ne peut pas le louper"--you can't miss it. Just try me, I thought, a little bitter.) The 2-star La Cressonière was expensive by my standards at 45 euros, and the decorations floral and florid, but it was fun to be greeted with such eagerness. If you guessed that I was the only one staying there, you would be right. We watched a French quiz show on TV while I ate dinner, the sole diner in the dim dining room, and discussed the possible answers. Some of the questions were unbelievably easy, so that even I could get the answers. Who sells real estate? Multiple choice answers included "immobilier'' which I have seen on many a roadside sign. Bravo! Twelve thousand euros for me. (Also spotted roadside, this version of "sold":"trop tard! déjà acheté!" Too late! Na na na na na!)

The next night, another wedding Saturday, they would be "complet" at La Cressonière, Fernanda told me with satisfaction. She didn't have advice about where I might stay down the road, telling me regretfully that the others (pilgrims on the St. Jacques route) all had guidebooks that told them where to stay. But I didn't mind. I have nothing against guidebooks, but the cycling guidebooks I brought with me have been more a source of frustration than help. My method is to plan my route on the Michelin Departmental maps (1 cm = 1.5 km), which so far I've been able to buy in bookstores in fair-sized towns like Amiens and Orléans, choosing the narrowest white roads possible, and avoiding any roads of colour, except green, which means a scenic route. These little white roads have so far guaranteed me great cycling. Then I get myself to the Tourism Office in town and ask for a list of accommodations for the next department. The departments could be likened to a state or a province, except that they are much smaller, which means a visit to a Tourism Office every day or two.

Another advantage of not using a guidebook for cycling is that the day can be one surprise after another. When I left La Cressonière in Seraincourt and aimed my bike south for Orléans, I didn't know what I was going to find or see, and I had several good "finds". The first was the bakery, open at 7:00 a.m. I bought a quiche, a small loaf of brown bread, and a chocolate croissant. A picnic table soon appeared for me to enjoy my picnic. My road was through rolling hills of cultivated land, the corn getting taller and sturdier by the mile. I came upon the town of Montfort l'Amaury by 11 am, and this was my next surprise--it had been but a name on a map, my mid-day destination, and it turned out to be an attractive and historic town of old stone buildings and narrow streets built on a hill. It was bustling at its centre, with people coming and going from the shops and greeting each other this Saturday morning.

From there, my next happy discovery was a "piste cyclable", an 18 km cycle path all the way to Rambouillet, my final destination for the day. (After about ten kilometres of travelling in the forest, however, I decided I preferred the white Michelin road and its vistas.) I arrived in Rambouillet around 4:00, and people were out in force, hanging out in the cafes and strolling the streets. But there was more . . . a black guy in a purple robe was orating from a second story window to people looking up from the sidewalk on the other side of the street-"Ecoutez mes enfants!" Music was being played at an outdoor stage. Kids were scrambling up a climbing wall. Pleased-looking old men were parading old cars . . . it was a festival called "Que des histoires! dans les rues de Rambouillet", something like Vancouver's "Word on the Street". And I was lucky to have stumbled on it.

(My final surprise of the day was a 3-star campsite which cost 18 euros, about $30 Cdn--not one of the nice surprises. The wonderful chambre d'hote in Assainvillers, by comparison, was 23 euros, not much more than a hostel.)

And from Rambouillet, one more day of cycling to Orleans. This day I covered more ground than any to date (119 km) but it was easy with the wind blowing me along, fair weather that wasn't too hot, and not many enticements to stop me in my tracks. Along this route, the cultivated land became more industrial: the fields stretched further, the corn grew about seven feet tall, the towns were dustier and spread further apart, and the land flattened. Huge silos sprouted along the road. And then I was at the Loire River in Orléans. A thrilling moment, looking at the river I would be following east, the water churning around the bridge pilons below.

Not as many other delightful surprises this day, except for the fact that I did, in fact, find the campground in Olivet, just south of Orleans: je ne l'ai pas loupé. I put my tent riverside (on the Loiret, not the Loire) with ducks leading their charge on the sunlit river by my tent; sort of like camping in Stanley Park at the lagoon. And for only 5.75 euros ($9 Cdn).

And a new phase of the trip begins: the Loire Valley. A future post.

Nevers, 1912 km

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Amiens to l'Ile de France

After I made my last post in Amiens, I went to the cathedral and spent a couple of hours wandering around the vast Gothic space glued to an audioguide, under soaring arches and surrounded by towering stained glass, statuary and frescoes. Half the time I was standing in the wrong spot while the audioguide described what should have been in front of me, so I have not retained as much as I might. Unforgettable, however, was the relic of St. John the Baptist's head. I was skeptical, but lined up to check it out. I had a hard time getting a look in because the believers were unable to leave the spot--touching the outer glass over and over, kneeling, prostrating, murmering prayers. When I was finally in front of it, I took a good look. It was brown and leathered and wizened, as you might expect of someone's head that has been around for 2000 years. I could see reflected in the glass the woman behind me whose lips were moving ceaselessly. I felt I had no place there and slipped away, leaving the others to their devotions.

And pedalled down the road in the sunshine, still on the Green Meridian line. I had wanted to stay another night in Amiens (and enjoy my first hotel room and the music festival) but it was June 21, a Saturday of weddings and the day of nationwide music festivals. There was no room to be had--not at Hotel de Normandie nor at any other. When I arrived at the municipal campground about 25 km down the road in Ailly-sur-Noye, I found it with grass waist high and broken toilets and sinks--abandoned and spooky. So I pedalled the 2 kilometres back into the town and presented myself at "l'Office de Tourisme" where luckily I was the only visitor at the time. The woman there made about fifteen phone calls and did some internet searching to find a "chambre d'hote", a bed and breakfast, about 40 kilometres away. It was already 5:30, so I had a gift of an evening ride with the sun slanting sideways across my path, illuminating the wheat from the side. And the chambre d'hote turned out to the be the best place I've stayed yet--a large country house in a town of 150 people, 50 houses, one church and one town hall. I have a hard time remembering the town's name (Assainvillers) but not the comfort of my upstairs bedroom overlooking a field with a grazing horse, the creaky wooden floors and tapestries on the walls; and the hospitality of my host, Mme Zogas. (It was she who told me that the fields of little blue flowers that put me in a live impressionist painting, the plants with the tall slender dark green stalks, are "lin", flax.)

From there I landed myself in l'Ile de France for several days. In Chantilly I had the pleasant surprise, while taking in my "first" view of the chateau, that it wasn't--I had been on this lawn in 1980, picnicking with three of my cousins on Camembert, baguettes and wine. I don't recall if we visited inside the chateau; we may have as I do recall AB complaining in our group journal that the two youngest cousins' visits inside chateaux were perfunctory, lasting only ten minutes. This time I put all to rights and spent a few hours there and at "Les Grands Ecuries", The Grand Stables, where is now housed a horse museum. The place is huge, and they've filled it up with anything you can imagine related to horses--horses in history, war and hunting; horses in other countries, anatomy, bridles and bits, merry-go-round horses and hobby horses, toys, postcards, paintings . . . a place for horse lovers.

The chateau itself is filled with art and books--the wealth to amass such a private collection is staggering. One room has 36 windows of medieval glass work relating the story of Psyche and Cupid. The Duc D'Aumale, the last resident (until around 1890), was a passionate book collector and had acquired many rare volumes. They are lined up around the room and to the ceiling, with access by a balcony, their coloured leather covers and gilt titles providing a dignified yet glittering decoration for the room.

I spent a few happy hours in Senlis as well. The Romans occupied the town for three hundred years and left a sturdy four-metre thick wall around the town for posterity. The cathedral was first built in the Gothic style between 1150 and 1190. When I arrived a funeral was in progress, so I roamed around the outside. Made of local limestone, it has green tufts sprouting out of the walls and under the balconies. You can't very well powerwash an historic monument. To add to this organic appearance, birds and butterflies populate the walls. Later, when the bells were tolling the funeral procession out of the church, I was sitting in the square looking up at the birds swoop at speed around the belfry. One zoomed right up under the belfry's shutters (which looked like flying up the belfry's nose). l didn't see it reappear, and the next bell tone sounded muted, so l can only guess at its fate.

Once I got the chance to go inside, l found the church beautiful in its simplicity of line and light, which comes in from on high through tall stained glass windows, warming the yellow gray limestone. l sat for a while feeling serene. Not so many tourists to bump into, no audioguide bossing me around.

Then I pedalled west back to Chantilly through the Chantilly Forest, espying over the chateau wall now and then the pensive back of some piece of statuary, and then the chateau from the opposite direction, with the Grand Stables stretched out behind.

And thence to Auvers-sur-Oise, site of Vincent's final frenzy of painting . . . next post.

Orleans, 1631 km