Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 5 - Trefcon to Laon - 69km

First the end of day 4. Trefcon is a tiny village of less than 100 people, based on our route to arrive in Laon and Reims it was the ideal place to stop distance wise. Being so small there is practically no accomodation accept for Gite Val d'omignon which is like a farm stay, who also run tours by horse and canoe.

Surpisingly when we arrived another pilgrim, James was already there. A few hours later 2 more arrived, and we had a full house. Usually the Gite can provide meals as well but it seemed everyone wanted something light. The host was happy to drive into the closest village with a shop, 10k down the road which we all jumped at the chance.

Pligrims Dinner

One factor we didn't consider in staying there was the horses. Rishi is quite allergic to horses in particular and working with them all day plus two dogs who were allowed inside, left the main areas of the house quite engulfed in the smell and you can only guess the hair of horses, which proved quite extreme to Rishis allergies, we ate outside for dinner but only 10mins for breakfast inside the kitchen and Rishi had quite bad hives a few hours afterwards, anything that sounds like a farm is off our list from now on. A warning for anyone else planning on staying there if you have any allergies to animals.

Otherwise though they were fabulous hosts, The pilgrims ate together in the barn kitchen and traded stories and plans, and the hosts graciously bought out some local blonde abbey beers for everyone, on top of the token bottle of red we all bought at the shops it was a good night, if a little late. The sun doesn't fully set until well after 10pm.

Onto day 5 which was a shorter day again, as we had wanted to stop in Laon which is an ancient walled hill city with a renowned cathedral.

The riding was very mixed today, mostly easy farm roads very flat to start, then we arrived closer to the Canals a short forest section which had quite bad mud, and a short hike a bike with very overgrown sections with lots of thorns. Then the canal tow paths were easy going with a mixture of paved and grass sections. A climb up to an abbey through the forrest on the paved road, which gave us a great descent followed by 10k into a head wind in the open countryside just to finish the legs off for the day! I tried a few shakes of the elbow on the final stretch to no receipt unfortunately!

War Memorial
Everyone has animals in their front yard
More mud!
Grass or a bike car wash, perfect for cleaning the tyres
On the tow path
The track is here somewhere!
Rolling finish to the day, if only Rishi would roll a turn at the front :)

Plenty of small villages again today, and notably more cyclists on the road which we find amusing as they are generally older eddy mercx look a likes with 20 year old fluoro Lycra and down tube shifter bikes. We usually see them going the other way, I am hoping to overtake one at some stage with our loaded touring bikes! Or I would be happy to look back and see someone getting a free ride ala beach road style also!

Exhibit A - fairly modern example, not the drink bottle and flat pedals though!

We managed to get a photo of one guy in Laon but his bike was modern and the Lycra not that old, but it gives the idea!

Main entrance to the cathedral
Stained glass in the cathedral

The city of Laon is a slight let down in the end, the cathedral is amazing, inside and out, but the city in general seems to be in the decline, with many shops boarded up and only the token tourist joints in the old town. A shame when the old town is so beautiful, it just has an average vibe.

We are staying just down the hill from the old town in a great place called hotel des arts, a nice room and somewhere safe for the bikes. Unfortunately though that meant we had to walk all the way up the old town, which consisted of about 500 or more stairs! Luckily we found the funicular for the trip down.

A cyclists nightmare!

Tomorrow we ride another fairly short stage in distance to Reims, with three reasonable climbs which should test our climbing legs as we approach the Jura mountains which will get us into Switzerland, which then leads us to the Alps!

Reims is the home of champagne, and we have our first rest day with two nights. Hopefully not spent with a hangover from too much wine!





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