Three Days in Burgundy - Stress-free Cycling the French Countryside - CycleBlaze

August 27, 2019 to August 29, 2019

Three Days in Burgundy

My first real bike ride in 60 days

I left Paris early Tuesday morning to spend 3 days in Burgundy with my friends Christina and Christian. I was taking in my bike as Christine and I planned to spend Wednesday biking through the countryside around her home in Magny, a small hamlet a few kilometers from Châtel-Censoir. My route across Paris to Gare de Bercy was different than the one I normally take, and I had a few anxious moments when I ended up at the Bercy Metro stop rather than the station. All was quickly sorted out and I arrived at the train station just a bit sweaty but in plenty of time for my 7:37 departure – only to discover that the train was 10 min late.  I wouldn’t normally worry, except I had an 8 minute connection in Laroche-Migennes.  And there was not another train to Châtel-Censoir until 2:33 pm.  Checking the SNCF Oui App I found only one other option, which involved a tight 5 min connection in Auxerre. When I informed Christine of the situation, she said that my train might wait in Laroche-Migennes.  I was more than a bit skeptical.

I disembarked in Laroche-Migennes, thinking that I had a couple of hours to wait for the train to Auxerre.  Not in a big hurry, I suddenly noticed a number of people walking briskly to a train waiting at Platform J – which I knew was the departure track for the train to Châtel-Censoir. I quickened my pace, asking a SNCF person if that was my train – “oui, oui”, it is waiting for you.  With bike in tow, I ran as quickly as I could down and up the stairs to platform J, passing a SNCF man with walkie talkie informing the conductor that there was a woman with a vélo on her way.  I leaped into the bike car where a kind young gentlemen helped hoist my bike onto the hook.  I plopped down on the nearby seat and texted Christine that I was on my way.  Vive la France!

 Christine was waiting with her eBike when I arrived at Châtel-Censoir and I followed her through the village and up to Magny. Having had little sleep the previous night, I was hot and tired and could barely manage small conversation while watching as Christine peeled the potatoes and heated the oil for pomme frittes. After a lunch of delicious pork roast, French fries, and a raspberry tart that I brought from Paris, I took a 2 hr nap and lolled about the rest of the day, enjoying catching up with old friends. I finally gave in to my fatigue and went up to bed before before 9 pm.   

My good friends Christine and Christian. This picture is from my visit last year - I was too tired when I arrived to think of such courtesies as picture taking!
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Betsy WestWOW they held the train. Love it !!!!!!
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2 weeks ago

Christine and I left Magny about 10:30, riding back down to Châtel-Censoir then along the Canal de Nivernais as far as Coulanges-sur-Yonne. After stops at the boulangerie and charcuterie to pick up croissants, bread and ham, we left the flat canal track for small roads through the countryside. It had been 60 days since I last took a real bike ride, one more than just cruising through the neighborhoods of small-town Iowa. My lack of bike fitness was notable, but largely minimized by the exhilaration of being back on the bike. The croissant break near a bio-preserve also helped to ease my pain.

Heading out for a real bike ride!
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Along the Canal du Nivernais
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Heading out from Coulanges-sur-Yonne
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We found a small shady spot in a bio-preserve for my much needed croissant break
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We arrived in Druyes-les-Belles-Fontaines about 12:30 and after securing our bikes found a nice spot for our picnic lunch along the Druyes River. We took our time, enjoying the ducks and children playing in the adjacent park. After coffee, we replenished our water and headed back to the bikes to continue onward. 

Lovely lunch spot overlooking ducks at play
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Also spotted children at play
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Back to the good life - bikes and baguettes
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Betsy WestSo glad to see you biking. As always, love the commentary and the photos. Take it a bit easy.
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2 weeks ago

On returning to the bikes we encountered a major problem, one that almost seemed almost impossible to overcome. I had secured my bike to a metal railing with an Ottolock, a lightweight combination lock with a band made of steel and kevlar. I set the tumbler to the correct combination, and could tighten the band, but could not release it.

After numerous futile attempts, including a fail in all the recommended solutions on the Ottolock web site, I realized that we would have to find a way to cut the band. I thought that would be extremely difficult and/or time consuming, based on my recollections as to the secure features of the Ottolock design. So, when I googled “how to cut an Ottolock” I was amazed to find that it could be cut it in as little as two seconds if I could, as Mr Natural used to say, “get the right tool for the job”.  Unfortunately, there was no Lowe’s nearby, not even local police that we could call on for help. Leaving my bike securely attached to the rail, I suggested that we wander through town looking for something/someone that could help.

Christine spotted a nearby house, one whose open gate revealed a large garden and multiple attached buildings. We went cautiously through the gate, with repeated calls of "bonjour" until the Madame of the house came forth. Luckily for me, Christine was able to explain our situation to Mme Muguette and we three were soon rummaging through the tools in search of something that could cut metal.  Mme Muguette eventually decided on a hacksaw, some sort of crimping tool, and a small iron mallet and, returning to the bike, went to work with the strength and determination of a good French country woman. In just a few minutes, the band was severed, the bike was free, and all were jubilant. 

The open gate of Maison Muguette was an invitation for Christine to seek help in finding a way out of our predicament
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Mme Muguette attacking the problem with a hacksaw and a look of grim determination
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The final cuts were made using a crimping tool and mallet
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In a toast to victory, Mme Muguette raises the severed lock and tools of destruction. The joy of success!
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The severed end. On their website, I noted that Ottolock has re-designed their lock and the new language extolling the secure features of the lock are more tempered than when I purchased my lock.
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Now that both bikes were free and clear, we headed up to the 12th century castle overlooking Druyes-les-Belles-Fontaines. The small castle is more of a fortification, located at the end of the village street. Everything was pretty much closed up, including the castle and a nearby gift shop. Leaving the village we head north toward Courson-les-Carrières. It was a steady but not steep climb until we turned east onto a wonderful C-road that took us up and down through forest and fields toward the town of Anus. Along the way, we took a final rest for apricots and some incredibly sweet Reine-Claude plums. With less than five miles to go, I was feeling tired, but elated by the fact that I was not in pain and misery. After a few more rollers, we headed down past harvested fields and coasted into Magny just before 5 pm. It was a good pre-ride for my trip, one that left me optimistic that all would be fine.

The Château de Druyes, a 12th century castle built by the Counts of Nevers, sits at the end of a village street
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The castle gift shop was closed during our visit
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Views of Druyes-les-Belles-Fontaines and the surrounding countryside
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On the way back to Magny
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Christine waits ahead while I stop for photos, and a brief rest!
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Thursday is market day in Châtel-Censoir and steak tartare was on the lunch menu. Christine and I headed to the market, where I had the option of choosing a cut of beef for cooking. Under the philosophy of “when in Rome..”, I opted to for the uncooked menu, glad to note the hygiène sign at the butcher’s stand. After lunch, Christine and I drove into Clamency where I purchased a new lightweight bike lock – something to dissuade the casual theft if the bike is left temporarily unattended. Soon, it was off to catch my train back to Paris, ending another special visit with some great friends.

With steak tartare on the lunch menu, I was glad to see the Hygiène sign at the butcher stand
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Steak tartare, dressed with raw egg, salt and pepper, and condiments of onions of mustard. Ready to be mixed and eaten. Actually, it was quite good, even if it wouldn't pass USDA food safety recommendations
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At the station, ready to depart after another wonderful time with Christine and Christian
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The trip back to Paris was not without a little anxiety. I again had a connection in Laroche-Migennes, this time boarding a train from Lyon to Paris. I did not spot the bike door as the train pulled through the station, and instead followed someone with a bike onto what appeared to be the last passenger car. I quickly realized this was not suitable situation for the bike and asked the SNCF people for help. It turned out that the bike car was the next car down, at the very end of the train and beyond the platform. Consequently, the door was too high for me to climb on with my bike. In addition, there was little room in the car for my bike as all the bike hooks were occupied.  Luckily, the SNCF people were resourceful - a wonderful woman helped haul my bike up into the car, and even gave me a hand as I hoisted myself up. Then, as the train pulled away, she found an acceptable place for me to lean my bike against the others. The bike and I made it safely back to Paris, arriving about 8:30 pm as it was just getting dark. Turning on my bike lights, I was dismayed to realize that my headlight was dead.  I had miscalculated its battery life and neglected to charge it while in Magny. A stupid mistake on my part, but a lesson learned for another day. My rear light was working and the streets of Paris are well lit, so I headed toward home and arrived without incident. Despite the hiccups, it was a very rewarding trip to Burgundy.

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Scott AndersonGreat to see you on your bike again! I was so saddened to learn of your shingles situation, knowing something of what that must be like after talking with another sufferer of it at our bridge club years ago. I had no idea before that what a scourge it is, and it prompted me to get the vaccination.

And what a helpless feeling to be staring at your locked-up bike without being able to free it! We had the same experience 20 years ago on the coast in Spain, when I lost the key to our u-bolt lock. Fortunately (and admittedly stupidly), the bikes were just locked to a short post so we were able to lift them free and carry them to a garage the next morning to get our lock cut.
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2 weeks ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonThanks Scott - yes it is great to be back on the bike!
Also glad to hear you've had the shingles vaccine. It is indeed a scourge and one that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
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2 weeks ago