Trans Europe Trip: Week 4 (Nevers, France to Beaune, France) 4

Reflection of Rapeseed Fields

Nevers (April 25, 2015)

Not a good start to our forced weekend. In a matter of hours, we endured a heavy rainstorm, lightning, and thunder. The rain was so heavy and steady that it woke us up in the middle of the night. It was hard to stay asleep as the rain just kept going on and on until about 6:30 in the morning. We finally stepped out to assess the damage and noticed that my tent started to leak. It wasn’t too bad but the seams on my rain fly finally gave into the rain. Looks like it’s time for me to weatherproof them soon. Our bikes were fine under the tarp. The only thing that bothered me was the extraordinary amount of slugs crawling on my tent and rain fly. I had to clear them off when I was putting the tent away. One of the worse thing is packing away a wet tent. The water and the extra weight makes it very unappealing as your hands are cold and muddy from the dirt.

We spent the morning figuring out what to do as a bigger storm was coming Sunday which promised 100% chance of rain. We tried all forms of accommodations: Warmshowers, Couchsurfing, AirBnB, but nothing worked. Everybody was out of town or couldn’t accommodate. At the end, we found a cheap hotel in the nearest large town of Nevers. We decided to spend 2 days here in order to wait out the storm.

We ended up getting to the hotel in 30 minutes and was ready to walk into town by 1PM. Between our meal and dessert, a huge rain shower overcame us and people fled indoors to wait it out. Harry and I ducked into the closest pub and had a drink while the sky cleared out once again. We finally got back to our hotel without being rained on and sat in the room as the rain came and went throughout the afternoon. In the evening, there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky. So strange.

Paris (April 26, 2015)

The next day, we went down for breakfast downstairs of our hotel and chatted up the guy who had checked us in on Saturday. We found out that there were trains running on Sunday that went between Nevers to Paris. So instead of being holed in our room, we decided to set out on a turn-around trip to Paris.

Most expensive dessert

Most expensive Haagen Das dessert period!

Our train trip took 2 hours to get to Paris on a high-speed train and we reached the huge Gare de Lyon station. It was an overwhelming experience with the sheer amount of people wandering in and out of the station. We navigated through the complicated levels of the station and found that the best way to get to the sights of Paris was to take a taxi. It took us about 30 minutes to find the taxi pick-up location before we were on our way through the beautiful city. Our first stop was at the world-famous Eiffel Tower. We got out of the taxi right in front of the architecture marvel. We decided to walked as far back to capture the entire tower in a series of photos and videos. We eventually made it back under the base of the tower to take a closer look. I couldn’t believe I was standing right under the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower & Johnny

Afterwards, Harry and I decided to hop on a pedicab. We were taken on bike paths and on the streets of Paris until we reached the Champs Elysee street. We were quoted 15 Euros for the ride but the cabby asked for 30 stating that the price was 15 per person. We were not happy but had to pay for it reluctantly. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant which Harry had frequently visited when he was in Paris for previous business. We decided to walk towards the Arc de Triomphe while the rain continued to come down without any signs of stopping. We finally got to Arc de Triomphe and took several pictures before the rain intensified. Harry and I ducked out of the rain for some dessert at the Haagen-Das store. It’s not like your typical ice cream parlor but rather a dessert restaurant where it was a challenge to find anything under 10 Euros.

When we left the shop, we continued to walk towards Place de la Concorde, the rain became even more intense. So intense we decided to take a cab which drove around the Place de la Concorde and dropped us off at the Notre Dame cathedral. The rain was still heavy as we took a few more photos. We decided to throw in the towel and leave Paris immediately after that. We took another cab back to the train station and swap out our tickets for the next train at 4PM. We were lucky and got on the train 10 minutes before it departed. 2 more hours on the train back and we were back into the quiet town of Nevers. I still can’t believe I got to go to Paris and feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do so. I wish I could stay longer but this will have to do until I get to go there again.

Arc de Triomphe

Decize (April 27, 2015)

Our comfortable stay at the hotel ended this day. We hustled out of the place after our petite dejeuner (breakfast) and packed our bike again. Our hopes of a dry ride was dashed away as the rain was relentlessly coming down from the time we got on our bike until we got to camp. We were lost immediately when we got out of Nevers. We ended up in a meadow which did not lead to anywhere. On our way out back to the main road, we found the bike path and was back on track. We stayed on this bike path which followed the canal alongside the Loire river. Even though we were soaked from head to toe, the bike path gave us salvation from fighting the roads with cars or getting lost as long as we paid attention to the cities listed.

There was one point of the ride where our path was blocked by a fallen tree. It was so bad that it even blocked the boats from going through. We faired much better as we assessed the damage, unload our bike, I climbed over to the other side while Harry handed me each of our panniers and then our bikes. We put everything back together as people on their boats looked on curiously and probably with jealousy.

Harry & Tree

Fallen tree on our path.

By 2PM we reached camp having done about 27 miles for the day. We were cold but felt strong about the ride. Our campsite for the night was situated at an interesting town called Decize. The town is divided into 3 parts by the Loire. We were in the peninsula section where the campsite and aquatic center along with a park was the only residence there with some homes. Believe it or not, the aquatic center was a busy place this day as we can see kids playing in the pool while we were freezing our butts of while we walked into town.

This part of town was completely closed as it was 3PM. We did happen to come across a Vietnamese restaurant called “La Paris Viet Nam”. They specialized in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai food. Of course my nationality came up and I told them I was born in Vietnam. The cook (and the owner) told me he was part Chinese (Chu Chow) but only spoke in Mandarin. My Chinese failed to communicate with the Asians here once again. The waitress (family member of the cook) spoke to us in French with a Vietnamese accent. Quite an interesting sound if you haven’t heard it before.

Both Harry and I settled back to our tent after lunch and threw our wet clothes in the laundry. We finished the night off by watching Netflix in our tents and having a late dinner consisting of hot dogs and baguette.

Digoin (April 28, 2015)

The morning was once again frigid. It was especially cold because it was the day after a rain storm. We shivered while we packed up our stuff. Like the campsite at Fourchambault, my entire tent was invaded by slugs. I’m not talking about big slugs but little ones. They were coming out of the woodwork clinging onto every parts of the tent. I spent a good 15 minutes clearing these guys off before I rolled my tent up (one actually came along for the ride as he snuck onto the bag that held my tent stakes).

We rolled out at 9AM and began our way back onto the path. That I say it was cold? Oh yes, it was chilly! We ended up getting a bit turned around and ended up not following the EuroVelo 6 today. Instead we followed directions from my Google maps direction that I pulled up on my iPhone. We were along the canal for a few miles before we hopped off onto the D116 which was a 2-lane road that took us right into the town of Ganny-sur-Loire. We were both heads down the entire time. I even got on my big chainring and spun the bike up to 18 mph. Felt good to open up the legs.

Once we got into Ganny-sur-Loire, we took a quick break until we got back on a bike route. Not the EuroVelo but it did take us through a steep climb into the town of Cronat where we had another cup of coffee. From Cronat, we were led out to the town of Bourbon-Lancy through spectacular rolling hills. We climbed and dived for a good 10 kilometers through dairy farms with the famous white cows of Burgogne. The clouds were flying above us in puffy formation, as we huffed and puffed up one hill after another.

Riding to Bourban-Lancy

We had our lunch cut out for us as we reached Bourbon-Lancy. Believe it or not, the only restaurant that was open on our path was another Vietnamese restaurant specializing in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai food. I didn’t catch the name but this restaurant offered a buffet. My first buffet in France. The food was sub par and the waiter really didn’t talk to us so I didn’t have my awkward Asian to Asian conversation. I figured he was also Vietnamese too as the music he had on was Vietnamese. Who knows, as we communicated primarily in French.

Leaving Bourbon-Lancy took some effort as signs towards Digoin pointed in multiple directions. We opted to take the one that was shorter by 2.5 kilometers. Of course, that meant we had to climb another hill. We eventually found Velo Verte (green) route which took us south towards the town of Diou. From Diou we tried to find camp but the site was closed for the season. At the Diou Maire’s (mayors) office, a clerk helped us call the campsite in town and the next town over but nobody picked up. We were forced to ride another 20 km (12 miles) east to the town of Digoin where they were positive that the campsite was opened.

We made really good time churning out that final 12 miles. We actually got into camp by 4:30PM. Enough time to check in and shower before we went to dinner. Again, this town’s restaurant was sparse but we did find a restaurant. And no, it wasn’t Asian food! They served all sorts of cuisine including Italian, French, and hamburgers. We ordered a couple of beers to celebrate our almost 50 mile day (just short by .3 miles). We walked back into the campsite satisfied and exhausted for the night.

Palinges (April 29, 2015)

Remember when I said it was frigid in Decize? Well, apparently that was warm compared to the morning we had in Digoin. A lady told us that it was only 2 degrees Celsius which is roughly 34 degrees Fahrenheit! That is cold! It was tough for us to get warmed up for the ride but when the fog finally burned off around 10am or so, we were on track for a good pace next to the canal into the villages of Paray-le-Monial.

We breezed right by this town and started our ride north up through Volesvres. This included some good climbing for the day. This really got our blood going and allowed us to finally shed some layers. It was really similar to our ride from Cronat to Bourbon-Lancy where it was primarily countryside riding with rolling hills. The views continued to be stunning and the white cows are now plentiful.

Chateau Digoin

Chateau Digoin

Right before we hit Palinges, a building caught our attention. It was the Digoin Chateau. It was closed to the public until May 1st but there was a young man sitting in the office who told us a little bit about the place. It was built during the 18th century and was initially used as a fort. It then was sold and bought by various different owners until about 2 years ago a director bought it for 10 million Euros. He has used it as a center piece to his shows and hopes to attract tourists to the area to visit the chateau. We tried our best to ask the guy to let us in for a peak but he wouldn’t budge. So we bid him farewell and continued into Palinges.

After lunch, we didn’t feel like riding further as the camping situation is scarce until you make it into Santenay which was over 50 miles away. Instead of dealing with the ride today, we decided to call it a day and relax in Palinges. We will be taking on that ride the next day. It will take us one step closer to the town of Beaune which is supposed to have some spectacular Pinot Noir wine of Burgundy. Harry is certainly looking forward to that. We may even get to do this by the weekend where we heard that there’s a national holiday. I’m a bit worried about the provisions as we may not see a store opened during these 3 days. Harry thinks that we’ll be fine. I suppose we will see.

Santenay (April 30, 2015)

I suppose I can continue to complain about the cold mornings but I’m sure you are all tired of hearing about it. This morning was no different. We got ready to leave even before 8AM but the campground hosts were not up yet. They were going to help pick up croissants and a baguette for us from town. He quickly drove into town and came back with part of our breakfast as both Harry and I was preparing coffee. We enjoyed the croissants and coffee as the campground owner chatted us up about our route. He told us to stay next to the Canal du Centre all the way North to avoid another day of rolling hills. We gladly obliged and took note of his suggestion before we left.

One other interesting story this morning was when I was in their “community” room which was mainly a place with a table and all sorts of toys and stuff to entertain camping guests, the campground hosts owned 1 cat and two 2 month old kittens there. The kittens were adorable and curious. They got locked in the back office while the mother was out and about. While I was wrapping up breakfast, I heard the mother meowing like crazy and then started to hear squeaks. I mean squeaking that a mouse would make, so I look under the table to see that the momma cat had a mouse in her mouth and would drop it and bat it around. You could tell the little rodent was injured as the minutes went on, he would stop struggling. So when the kittens were released from their captivity, the little black one pounced on the mouse and was playing with it like a chew toy as momma sat watching proudly. Harry was too disturbed to look but I watched with rapture. Circle of life stuff happening right in front of us.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame in Paris

We bid farewell to the owners and rode off towards the canal out of Palinges. From there, our journey pretty much stayed right next to the canal all day long on the D974 while we finally had tailwind to help us put on the miles as we rolled in and out of towns in record time. The road along the canal ended at a town called Saint-Leger-sur-Dheune. From here, the Voie Verte bicycle route took us on bicycle paths all the way until we were just right outside of Santenay.

Harry and I had a brief meeting and saw that the town that we really wanted to be at, Beaune, was only 12 miles away at that point. We both wanted to push forward past Santenay. Unfortunately, while I was putting away my iPad because I had it out to read about accommodations, Harry went one way and I didn’t see where he had gone. So I hopped back on bike path towards Chagny. Long-story-short, we finally found each other but we were both heading East when we were suppose to go North. We ended up fighting headwind back to the spot where we lost each other and settled on camping in the town of Santenay. We made it into the campsite and setup just in time as rain showers started within minutes after we were settled. I had to devise up a tarp solution for my leaky tent. Hopefully, it’ll do the trick and help protect Maria as best as possible.

Beaune (May 1, 2015)

It is amazing how relentless the rain has been since we arrived in Santenay. It did not let up one moment overnight as it went from hard to steady and then back to hard at various times of the night. Both Harry and I did not get a good night’s rest. The fact that it was raining, it made us not wanting to get out of our tent. When we finally did, we hustled over to the community room in the camping grounds and had our breakfast there. The plan for the day was to ride to Beaune which was only 12 miles away. We wanted to get there so we can sample some Burgundy wines.

By the time we left camp, it was closer to 10AM and the weather was still miserable. We just had to make wine out of sour grapes! We ended up biking through really stunning landscapes from world-famous vineyards. Harry was super excited about the crops and the possibility of some wine tasting for the day. We navigated the bike route, which was specifically designed to maximize the vineyard tour as we rode up and down the hillside between famous wine-making towns. It was both challenging but rewarding as we snaked in and out-of-town. We made it to the town of Chassagne-Montrachet where we found our first wine tasting store. For 8 Euros a piece we sampled 8 different wines of the regions. Harry was happy and rejuvenated. We then went on to the next town Puligny-Montrachet and continued our wine tasting experience. This one was a weird one. The whole place had a big crowd and they seemed a bit reluctant to serve us. Harry and I split the wine tasting at 25 Euros and sampled Chardonnays and Pinot Noir wines from the region.

Wine tasting

Wine tasting

We were both a little tipsy after that so we agreed not to sample until we get to Pommard. When we reached Meursault, we decided to grab lunch and we each order Beef Burgognon which a local favorite dish of the region. They use the Burgundy wine to make this savory dish served with pasta and baguette. Delicious!

After lunch we continued on the bike route towards Beaune. When we reached Pommard, the town seemed dead. We decided to forgo the wine tasting here so that we could make it into Beaune to check out their wine cave tours. We wasted no time in finding the largest wine cave called Patriache Piere et Fil. For 16 Euros each, we got to walk through a huge underground wine cellar labyrinth. At the end of the caves, there was 13 wine bottles for us to sample. Unfortunately, nothing piqued our interest so we scooted out of the tourist spot in favor of finding our campsite.

Wine cellar cave

Wine cellar cave

As the rain continued to come down and soak us again, we rode through the North side of town and followed the camping signs into a wet camping spot. Our tent were both submerged from the rain water from the morning. It was a wet evening where anything you placed on the tent floor left puddles. A rather uncomfortable night to say the least.

About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

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