Day Nine: Nevers to Vitry Sur Loire: A Lucky Find - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

April 5, 2017

Day Nine: Nevers to Vitry Sur Loire: A Lucky Find

Our friend Michel from Nantes pointed out that while the meringues we had found, with pink praline in them were ok, what he had been telling us about was really brioche with pink praline. Michel also pointed out that some bakers have been using industrial versions of this brioch. These industrial imposters are very regular in shape, so we should look, he said, for "ugly" hand made ones.

We found that this morning in Nevers, but that is not the lucky find in today's subtitle. That lucky find came at the end of the day.

They had the brioche in rings and individual ones too
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Leaving Nevers, a true gate "house"
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The way to Decize
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The ride from Nevers to Decize is pretty much a straight run down the Canale Laterale. It is pleasant but a little boring.

A canal side farm. Stone farm buildings are totally dominant. You wull never see a wooden barn here.
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We came off the canal and made our way over to the main river, with Decize on the other side. It was the now familiar arrangement of the city by the river with the bridge into the centre. One difference was that we had approached not from coming along the river, but from the canal. So right off the canal we passed into a zone of butt ugly modern buildings. It was quite a shock, after so long amidst the beautiful old architecture.

Butt ugle buildings in Decize outskirts
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The second difference is that Decize is a fraction the size of its sister cities down the Loire. Also, lots of things were closed. We noticed this phenomenon in other towns later in the day. We did not think too much of it, but on re-reading a past blog we found ourselves commenting on this as well. In fact this region seems permanently depressed.

Decize from across the river
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Decize central square
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From Decize we had the benefit of the Tour de Bourgogne guide book. The guide book, however, wanted us to head way up the Canal de Nivernais before wandering through the hills back to Cronat and Bourbon-Lancy. We took a look a the maps plus talked to a man in the city square and decided to shoot straight to Cronat on the D979. This turned out to be a relatively untravelled country road, with the bonus of scattered herds of Charollais to talk to. D979 did feature a few hills, something new for us after a week on rivers and canals. Cronat was indicated in dark black type in the guidebook, plus it had a hotel symbol, so we were confident of finding a place there.

Out on the D16, thunbing nose at the veloroute
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Carollais calves are everywhere
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Dodie sent me ahead, up a big hill, to begin checking in at the Hotel Le Voyageur. But I arrived to find it shuttered, like everything else in the town. It is always possible that the thing will open later, but it would be nice and would inspire the confidence to hang around if someone would take the trouble to put a notice about it on the door. Just not "French", I guess.

I asked two nearby old ladies about the hotel, and they agreed it was closed. "Maybe it is only open in the morning?" said one lady. "Don't be an idiot", said the other. I told them I would press on to Bourbbon-Lancy, and they pointed out that on the way I would reach Vitry. No matter, they added, there is nothing there.

Meanwhile Dodie had arrived and I found her talking to the the hairdresser, the only business that was half open. The hairdresser engaged in a conversation with her daughter about when or whether the hotel might open, We left them to it and headed for Bourbon-Lancy, again shunning the veloroute and going straight on D979.

Some distance down D979 it began to look like we would hit Bourbon-Lancy quite late, and we were getting nervous about having a place to stay. So I fired up booking.com and found few places and quite expensive. I phoned one was told they were full. So we phoned tourist information. I explained to the lady that answered that we were out on the road from Cronat and needed a place for the night. she seemed to launch into an interrogation about when we would arrive and did not seem to get down to saying if there was a place or not. Plus I could not understand her accent so I handed the pone to Dodie. Dodie fared little better. The lady said they do not make reservations and we should show up and take our chances. She also denied knowing where the camping was.

I had seen one place that looked like a maybe on booking, but I held off trying to book it as we were entering the hamlet of Vitry, where the old ladies had gleefully assured me we would find nothing. It looked like they were rightm but we saw a sign that mght have been for a chambre d'hote, pointing up a hill. Dodie sent me up to check it out and I was disappointed to see nothing. There was however a sort of cafe up there.

I went in and asked the lady if there was somewhere around here with a place for the the night. "Yes, I think so" she replied. Following up on that I found the place was right here. The lady also apologized for her French, saying that she spoke mainly Dutch. "Dutch, I exclaimed, then do you also speak English?". It turned out she spoke perfect English! The lady, Heddy, then explained that they had a room they often rented, but that she and her husband, Felix, were using it for themselves. No matter, she allowed, they would vacate and give us the room. She seemed to say they would then sleep in the attic. It was a deal and a lucky find!

I went down and collected Dodie, who by the way had put in the longest day so far and who still would have (probably) made it to Bourbon-Lancy. While telling our standard who are the Grampies story we quickly learned a lot about Heddy (Hedwig) and Felix.

They had moved from Netherlands in 2014 and bought this building. Engaging in a year long renovation project, they had turned it into a cafe, with the one rental room, and an adjoining vacation rental for up to 10 people.

The cafe had a nice menu and Heddy said she would cook us anything on it. Meanwhile we admired their renovation.

One great feature was full wall graphic wallpaper. Heddy and Felix had taken postcards of famous painting from the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, formed them into a collage, and got a wallpaper company to render it full wall size.

Felix had also been a tile importer and expert in the past, and had done up the bathrooms with lava stone pebble tile. He did a great job.

Heddy brought us wonderful soup, salad, stew, bread, and chocolate mousse, all wonderfully prepared and just the thing after a day of cycling. It became clear that they were making a go of this place, as a scattering of people came in for a drink or a meal, but also to chat with Heddy and Felix. We sat at a table and by the fire and just totally enjoyed having stumbled into this wonderful situation.

Heddy cane to talk about breakfast and I decided to go for broke. On thing the French do not eat is fried eggs. On the other hand my standard is fried egg and bagel, with cheese,what I call an Egg McBagel. I am starting to miss that, and while I know I will not find a Montreal bagel in France I asked Heddy for fried eggs. After the explanation of what that is, she readily agreed to make it. Further the eggs will come from their own chickens. How great is that!

Cafe Merlette
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Some of the full wall paper
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Postcards from the museum, used to make the wall collage
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Our room, thanks to Heddy and Felix
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Some fo Felix's tile work
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Salad created by Heddy
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Dodie enjoys sitting by the fire
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A decent number of people came in to enjoy the convivial atmosphere,
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Appendix: The Creanciale

A question has come up in the Guestbook about the "Creancale" that seems to figure so large in this blog. Just what is it? Can it be a ticket to reduced rates at hotels? Why are we so eager to get it stamped in every town?

I will give a brief answer in my own words, and then a link to the definitive website on the subject.

In medieval times a pilgrimage was a major undertaking, and one offering possible danger and privation. So the custom was to go to one's parish priest and obtain a letter of introduction to the church structure and generally anyone who might be met along the way. The letter or Credential, or in french Creancialem asked to whom it may concern to offer the pilgrim protction and hospitality. A "hospital" was a place of hospitality, reserved for pilgrims.

Nowadays a Creanciale is available to anyone with 4 euros to present at a parish or cathedral office. It is like a passport. Getting it stamped by churches and places of hospitality along the way documents and validates the journey. Also today, presenting the properly stampled creantiale at the church offie in Santiago entitled one to a certificate of completion for the Camino, a compostelle.

We have already found that our creantiales have earned us certain hospitality and reduced rates at a couple of spots. In other spots it does not fizz. But on the Camino in Spain, it will certainly be the needed entree to albergues, inns meant for pilgrims.

To learn more about this, and the whole Camino thingm check out the website of the association of friends of the Camino. This link takes you to the part of the site specifically about the Creanciale.

Today's ride: 68 km (42 miles)
Total: 480 km (298 miles)

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