Let the sunshine in - Mid-winter across Europe - CycleBlaze

January 7, 2007

Let the sunshine in

Villers-Cotterets, La Ferté-Milon, Montigny, Coulombs, Montereuil-aux-Lions, Saacy-sur-Marne, Rebais, Choisy-en-Brie, Gastins, Mangis

I hadn't planned to stop in Villers-Cotterets. But not for the first time, a town that arrived before sunset was too tempting.

In northern Europe, it doesn't get light until 8.30. Even then you need your lights on, your back light anyway, if the clouds are thick and low. Too little sunlight filters through to make you wholly clear to drivers hurrying to work. At the other end of the day, it was getting dark from 4.30 onwards if the weather was poor. If it rained as well, with that low, drenching rain so familiar in northern France - "un bon dru", they call it - it can get dark enough for lights much sooner.

Further north, in Norway for instance, it must be even worse. There they don't see the sun at all in mid-winter. On the other hand, they get it all 24 hours in the summer, meaning that Scandinavia is the only place in Europe where you have to oil the midnight burn.

This morning, though, dawned the first properly enjoyable day. There was intermittent sunshine, quiet pleasant countryside, light traffic. I rode through woods and beside streams. It was never warm but it was always dry.

I left Villers-Cotterets on the main road south, which on a Sunday morning had only light traffic. I turned off to La Ferté-Milon to cut cross-country and that was when the best scenery came. Maybe not all that striking in itself but such a pleasure to be bowling along with something to look at instead of battling across open countryside with only successive villages to mark off the distance.

Only after a pizza lunch in Saacy-sur-Marne did the countryside become bleaker and therefore windier, but it had little in comparison with previous windy days. I got to Mangis by a back road in darkness, looked for the Total garage that the hotelkeeper had given me as a landmark, and fell asleep on the bed for two hours without even taking my clothes off.

Tomorrow will be even better. I'm going to see the château of Fontainebleau. If it's for sale, shall I put your name down as interested?

Today's ride: 116 km (72 miles)
Total: 762 km (473 miles)

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