To Cronat - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

May 15, 2022

To Cronat

Today was another great day on the road, filled with wonderful cycling, a few misdaventures, and more acts of human kindness.

 The day started with a ceremonial “tossing of the brace”. I’d been wearing the ankle brace throughout the tour, even as it was falling apart. It was providing some emotional support if not very much ankle support. Yesterday I had gone brace-less for the first time and my ankle did just fine, even when hopping around a bit on one foot. So, the brace was consigned to the rubbish bin – maybe not a deserving end for a job well done, but that’s the way it goes.

I took my time getting going, wanting to take advantage of the good internet in my little house to catch up on the journal. The château owner had stopped on his way to church, reminding me about the gate key and letting me know the chamber maid would be here around eleven. It was after I0:30 before I finally got everything packed up, and with key in hand began the process of opening the gate. Step one, unbarring the doors, went well - it was step two that gave me trouble. I inserted the large church key into the keyhole, but it would not turn, neither to the right or the left. I moved it back and forth in the key hole, knowing that the slot position in the lock sometimes varies. And each time I slid the key back and forth, I tried turning it left and turning right, hoping that I would hit on the right combination. All was for naught and I gave up, realizing I was at an impasse.

The chambermaid was due to arrive in ten minutes, and so I waited, checking the house one last time for any left items and hoping she/he/they would arrive as promised. At eleven, I tried again. This time I tried inserting the tiniest amount of the key possible, just the rectangular lock and none of the stem. And voilà, the lock turned and we were free! I dropped the key in the mailbox as instructed and was off. The chambermaid arrived on her bicycle just as I was reaching the main road, and after exchanging pleasantries she confirmed the unusual nature of the lock and key.

Farewell to a trusted traveling companion
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Vivien George is ready to depart the Château compound
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But first we have to unbar the big doors and unlock the little door. Little did I know when I took this photo that we'd be trapped in the compound for 20 minutes!
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The keyhole looks innocent enough
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The key
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The first few miles were wonderful, retracing my route back through Tréteau and then a long stretch downhill through the woods and rolling French countryside. It was not until I was about five miles into the ride that I realized I did not have my helmet on. It was not the first time this has happened (if interested, see entry here), and I can’t really explain why I don’t realize my helmet is not on my head. Perhaps it’s my headband giving me the sense of being “capped”? At any rate, this was now a problem as my helmet was left in a barn behind a giant locked gate. I considered going back, but reasoned the likelihood of anyone being home was 50-50, at best. So I rode on in the fashion of my youth, no helmet and with the wind breezing through my hair. I must say it was delightful.

The breeze in my hair was not the only enjoyable part of today’s ride. This was my kind of countryside, rolling fields and meadows sprinkled with Charolais cattle, sheep, hay bales, or the occasional dead tree. It was past noon when I arrived at the small town of Chapeau where the Hôtel St. Hubert was serving a Sunday mid-day meal. I stopped, thinking I wanted coffee, at least. A few tables were filled with families, some wishing “Bonne fête” to female members of the party. It then dawned on me that today was Mother’s Day in France, which occurs later in May than the US holiday. But I was wrong, the French celebrate Mother’s Day at the end of May, which accounts for all the strange looks I got throughout the day each time I wished someone Bonne Fête des Mères.

Église Notre Dame - Sainte Marie, in Thionne
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The day was spent on wonderful small roads through the French countryside
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Charolais at a salt lick with goose
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Along the way
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In Chapeau - only the French could name a town Hat
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I was being more cautious that usual on the bike, staying alert for potholes and other road debris as well as keeping both hands on the handlebar. My only worry was that today was Sunday and all bike store would likely be closed until Tuesday morning. Therefore, when I cycled into Beaulon and saw there was a big Brocante (flea market) going on, I decided to browse the tables to see if a bike helmet might be on offer. One thing immediately noticeable is how differently people reacted to me in my non-helmeted state. I was recognized as a non-threatening woman cyclist of advancing years. “Bonjour, Madame” they all called out – I made a mental note to remember to take off my helmet when I’m off the bike and/or interacting with the “regular folk”.

It seemed almost everyone was joining me in the effort to find a bike helmet: some pointed to two touring cyclists who had just pulled into town, thinking they might sell me their helmets; others directed me to different tables they thought had sporting equipment. I was having great fun, practicing my French and wishing everyone Happy Mother’s Day. A woman approached me with an orange baseball cap, and when I demonstrated/explained I wanted a hard, protective cap she replied that her cap was good for the sun, And so it was, and in high viz orange that would add a safety element. I asked how much, but she shook her head and waved her hand dismissively. I rolled out of Beaulon with a song in my heart and a new hat on my head.

A bull alone in the corner of a field
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I almost started a series of dead tree pictures, but thought I'd spare you
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Scott AndersonThanks for this one at least. A good start.
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2 months ago
Keith AdamsThat's an impressive piece of future firewood.

A friend and I had a collection of dead tree photos, from a tour we did in south central Virginia 15 years ago. I still like them.
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2 months ago
Crossing Le canal latéral à la Loire
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Approaching Boulon
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Keith KleinOr a town named after a bolt.
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2 months ago
Manuel and Lauren were headed to Vichy, and insisted on keeping their helmets
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Keith AdamsKnowing what I do to the inside of a helmet, I'd neither offer it to anyone nor accept one from them...
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2 months ago
Helpful and happy folks at the Beaulon Brocante
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My new orange cap was donated by the woman in the center, who refused to take any payment for it
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It is a pretty special orange cap
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The last 14 miles to Cronat went quickly – I was on the flats and stopped only occasionally to snap a picture or two. I crossed the Loire, leaving the Auvergne and entering Bourgogne. The time for the Cycle Blaze Burgundy Rendezvous was almost at hand.

Arriving at my lodging in Cronat at just past 4 pm, I was warmly welcomed by a tall Dutchman, Martin. He and his wife Yolanda had given up their lives in the Hague and purchased the property about 18 months ago, spending almost a year turning an old farm and barn into a B&B and table d’hôte. Martin is a professional chef and I must say the meal he prepared for me at Le Heron Pourpre B&B table d’hôte Gastronomique was outstanding in every way. Cronat is on Eurovelo 6 as well as the route of Le tour de Bourgogne a vélo – I strongly recommend you book a room and a meal if you’re ever in the area.

Before turning out the lights, I found a bike store in Autun that would be open tomorrow – a place to take care of all my current cycling needs, from head to foot/helmet to cleat. A satisfying end to an interesting day.

Hay bales in a field
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Crossing the Loire
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The Loire River
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Entering Cronat
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Martin preparing my Crêpe Suzette, made with strawberries rather than orange - because it is strawberry season!
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My strawberry Crêpe Suzette was garnished with strawberry ice cream made by Yolanda and mint from their garden
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Rachael AndersonWow, I want one!
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2 months ago
Yolanda and Martin, enthusiastic proprietors of Le Heron Pourpre B&B table d’hôte Gastronomique in Cronat. Pay them a visit if you're in the area
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Today's ride: 39 miles (63 km)
Total: 882 miles (1,419 km)

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Kathleen JonesI am still laughing at the entire market trying to help you find a helmet. Chapeau!
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2 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Kathleen JonesIt was a blast interacting with everyone- I’ve never had so much fun at a flea market
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2 months ago
Rich FrasierThat was a great day! I had to read the brocante story to Robin. This is the France I know and love. The sweetest people ever!
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2 months ago
Ria HermansOn your advice we wanted to book a room end of May in Le Heron Pourpre B&B table d’hôte Gastronomique. However, there was no room left. We will continue to read your blog and see you in September in Geel! Greetings, Ria & Eddy
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2 months ago