After our free day in Amboise it was good to be back on the bikes and resuming our journey to the Atlantic once again. Even more important was the fact that the weather had finally turned in our favour. We woke to a beautiful clear sky and dared to hope that we might be able to complete the day’s ride without getting drenched.
Finally we might have a chance to emerge from our rain jackets and ride with our yellow Ghostriders jerseys proudly displayed for all the locals to see. We had seen the members of Group 2 arrive at Amboise in their matching tops and I had to admit that they did really look impressive. We might even be able to achieve some semblance of pelotonic precision and really impress all the onlookers with our professionalism.
Unfortunately I discovered at breakfast time that half of the women had been seduced by the local bike shop into buying green jerseys. Could you imagine if half the members of our Olympic team decided that they did not like the green and gold of Australia and decided to adopt the New Zealand colours instead ? Or what if the soldiers in our army went out and bought a different uniform because they thought it looked better on them ? Answer – CHAOS.
At least I was still wearing the traditional yellow jersey, even if it was a little stained by an unfortunate Nutella incident from a few days ago and also had a few samples of various morning teas scattered in various places. I knew it was going to be a comparitively easy day and I was looking forward to a relaxing day of cycling under a sunny sky. Priscilla had offered to act as guide for the day and expertly led us out of the hotel and straight into a dead end street. We all U turned and retraced our paths. Take Two. This time we managed to find the Loire River and started to ride along the bike path towards Tours. For about a 100 metres. Then chaos reigned once again.
We rode straight into the middle of a huge Sunday market. For the women it was like releasing a box full of moths right in front of a very bright light. They all shot off in different directions, looking for a bargain. The peloton was quickly reduced to 3 riders, all of them men. We stood with our bikes by the trail and waited. And waited, and waited. I took a few deep breaths and tried to remember something I read once about temper control.
Over the course of the next 20 minutes some riders emerged and joined those who were waiting, but there was no sign of the rest. Since they were not wearing the correct jerseys, we could not even identify where our riders were in the crowd. I was reminded of the old story about the Irishman who went into the department store looking for a pair of camouflage pants, but couldn’t find any. (Think about it).
We had no alternative other than to split the peloton and ride on in little fragments and tatters. Fortunately the path was clearly signposted and (almost) impossible to miss. The surface was smooth and the scenery beautiful. With the stillness of the early morning it really did make for some amazing cycling.
Our designated morning tea stop was at the small hamlet of Montlouis Sur Loire, about 20 km along from Amboise. When we rolled into the town I was delighted to spot a likely looking Boulangerie (cake shop) and pulled over to have a look inside. Indeed it did contain an enticing collection of tempting treats, just the sort of thing to increase the tension in my already bulging jersey zipper. I went inside and pulled out my wallet ready to make a purchase. Since I was the only one there I did not think it would take long to get served.
Just as I was about to order a lovely meringue, my mobile phone rang and I retreated to the shop entrance to take the call. I was trying to be polite and did not want to use the phone inside the shop. While I was on the phone, another customer entered, ordered a baguette and was served immediately. I returned and stood behind the man while his baguette was wrapped. At that moment another 4 locals all entered the shop behind me. They obviously knew the girl behind the counter and immediately started up a friendly conversation. I guess that would have been OK if she still had served me next, but she then proceeded to take each of their orders while I was left standing there just holding my wallet.
After a few minutes of chatter and laughs (probably at my stained appearance) I still had not been served and a couple of others entered the shop as well. I was beginning to feel that I would be left waiting until all the village had been served first. Was it because I was a foreigner or was it because of the Nutella stains on my jersey ? I really don’t know why I wasn’t served. I just put the wallet back in my pocket, turned around and left the shop empty handed.
Later on I thought about what had happened and wondered if it was just a different culture. Although we might think it was normal to serve people in the order in which they arrived, perhaps in that village it was the custom to serve friends first and then strangers. Maybe the others would have been offended if they weren’t served first. I did walk up the street and bought a cup of coffee and drank it without a cake. Maybe I didn’t need the cake after all.
It was only a short distance from the morning tea stop to our finishing spot at Tours so we arrived there at around 12.30 pm, just in time to get caught up in a huge crowd. I knew that we were famous but I did not expect this sort of welcome. I started to wave to those cheering but discovered that they actually weren’t cheering us after all. Apparently we had arrived in the middle of a huge marathon race. Hundreds of fun runners of all shapes and sizes jostled for position on the bike path while we did our best not to hit too many of them. When we finally turned off the bike path we found ourselves surrounded by a vast crowd of boy and girl scouts, along with elaborately dressed priests. It appears we had arrived right in the middle of some sort of carnival Sunday.
By a combination of cycling skill and sheer good luck we managed not to seriously injure too many joggers, scouts, priests or pedestrians and arrived at the front of our hotel. The girl at reception gave slightly confusing instructions because her understanding of the terms “left” and “right” were opposite to those commonly accepted. We parked our bikes and were told that rooms would not be ready for another 2 hours. Plenty of time to go and get some lunch.
The centre of Tours contains a beautiful railway station surrounded by numerous eateries. We checked out a few potential lunch spots before settling for a familiar old faithful – Macdonalds. At least the hamburgers were OK and the coffee was relatively cheap. We sat in the sun eating our lunches and wondering what was the significance of of the large rhinoceros statue nearby.
Dinner that night was at the Brasserie de l’Univers. I could not figure out the name but the location was superb. My choice of main course was “Pepper Pig” and I was glad that my grandchildren were not there to make me feel guilty. I tried hard to keep most of the dinner away from the table cloth and almost succeeded.
Later in the evening I realised that I could not remember what I had done with the walkie talkie radios after arriving at the hotel. Maggie and I spent an anxious hour looking for them in our luggage before I learned that I had given them to Ross to look after.