This page is dedicated to those people who have shown acts of kindness to me as I cycle solo.
Frank and Marie. 17250, La Vallée, France.
It was nearing the end of the day and I was looking for a place to sleep. I cycled up onto the bridge over the Charente river and spied a possible spot on the banks of the river. I cycled down there and there I saw a picnic table and a person lying down on the table seat. I slowly rode up to the person and called out “Bonjour”. He sat up and replied the same. I had practised how to ask if I could camp one night in French and tried this, it failed. I reverted to “par le vous Ingles?”, “oiu, a little bit” he said, to my surprise and it was more than a little bit!
So I asked in English if I could camp there he said it should be fine and we chatted a bit. He loved in the village on the other side of the river.
I left him to his siesta then and went to park my bike etc, had a bath in the river and dried off in the sun. Later he came by to check all was OK and we introduced ourselves formally, Frank. He then asked if I had everything, water, food etc, yes merci, I did. He then invited me to breakfast at his house the following morning, which I accepted. We exchanged numbers and said goodnight.
The next morning I met Marie, their daughter whose 16th birthday it was and they were making apricot jam as I arrived at 08.00. We then had coffee and tea and breakfast outside, fresh croissants, pain aux raisin and bread! Absolutely brilliant. They are opening a specialist tea and coffee shop in Rochefort and have recently quit their respective jobs!
Merci Frank, Marie and family 🙂
Francois and Charlotte, Julien and Lea, and the security guy at Decathalon.
So I was about 200km south of Caen, in France when my tent pole broke, effectively leaving me without a tent. I made my way to Caen thinking that I would be able to have the tent repaired quite easily, but I assumed incorrectly. I have an American tent, an MSR tent, which as I found, is not commonly found in the major retailers like Decathalon or Intersport. I have learnt some things though, like that typically, these big department stores are a few kilometers out of town, so before I cycled all the way into Caen, I stopped on the Voie Verte (Greenway) just out of Caen and called Decathalon who said they could repair it but it would take 3 days. Bear in mind English is not widely spoken in France and it can sometimes be difficult to get the message across, as I found with my next call to Intersport – yes they assured me, if I come to the store they can fix the MSR tent. Great, I´ll ride on over. It was also about 40 degrees celcius that day and it was about 8km from my location, so off I go and duly arrive at Intersport very hot and dripping with sweat…so I go to reception and they recognise me as the person who called, I bring forth the tent and she asks “Do you have ticket?”…”erm, what ticket?” I reply. They then realise this may not be a tent they sell and they break the news that they in fact cannot fix the tent as it´s not a product they sell…”but on the phone you said…” I pleaded…”oiu, oiu…she probably didn´t understand you”…so I said my goodbyes, packed up my tent and left the store…I then decided to try Decathalon, where else was I going to go?
It was not too far this time, about 5km away so I set off once more…and thinking while riding, I stopped to check the MSR website for their international retailers and found one in the SW of France. I called them and they spoke very good English and yes, they could help with MSR kit. So I emailed them pictures of the broken pole and they said they would get back to me later in the afternoon or the following day. Cool…so, with nothing to lose I continued to Decathalon in Mondeville.
And damn, it´s huge! A mega Decathalon…I wheel the bike into the shop and the reception desk is waaaayyy down there. When I get there she also recognises me as the guy on the phone so I pull out the tent again and she calls someone over to have a look. It´s not looking good as he explains once more it´s not a product of theirs and they probably can´t help…so he goes off to check what he has and a few minutes later he´s back with bad news – no can do.
But while waiting I had found some electrical sockets so I wheeled my bike down there and got my charging kit out and my laptop to jump on Warmshowers to find a place to stay and while I was on the laptop the security guy comes over and who speaks very little English asks if that´s my bike and explains that the manager at the store cycled South America…okay, amazing…and he said he´d let him know that I was here, great! He then left me and 5 minutes later he was back, with an ice cold drink, a packet of M&M´s and a chocolate bar! What a legend! That ice cold drink was THE best drink I´ve ever had after weeks of tepid, warm water out of my bottles!! And the chocolate!! Died and went to heaven…and with this little gesture, it wiped away all my worries, and I felt safe and good, that everything will be alright…
And then I met Julien, the manager who had cycled South America and the US. He has the same branded tent MSR and has a spare part that could help me but he had to ride home to go grab it. Amazing. So I continued to look for a place to stay and after sending a few messages on Warmshowers I got a text from Francois, from Warmshowers, saying that he could help me. Relief! I let him know I´m waiting for Julien and I´d be over later, no problem.
Julien came back with the spare part but as the break was on the end of the pole, the splint he had was not able to repair the problem. It was then the guys at PL Diffusion got back to me saying they had the spare parts – where can they send them? I let Julien know and he immediately said, send them here, and you can stay at my place! I was blown away by his generosity and explained that I had a WS host for the night but let´s see tomorrow, perfect he said. So parts in the post I left Decathalon and met Francois and Charlotte – Francois is an English teacher, and Charlotte a professional dancer. They left me for the evening to host a tango dancing evening for refugees in Caen and I had a shower for the first time on weeks, washed my clothes and got some stuff for dinner.
I spent the following morning helping the tiniest bit with some DIY they were doing in the house – I helped put together an IKEA cabinet. Then Charlotte and Francois made a ridiculously good lunch and after an espresso I left to go to the Decathalon store to meet Julien, his wife Lea and his two friends, Julien and Adrian.
Uwe and his wife, Santa Maria de Cayon, Cantabria, Spain
Kevin´s ferry docked at 1630 that afternoon and we eventually got out of town at about 1830 as he needed to visit a bike shop and we needed some groceries before getting on the road. We were heading south and had done about 20km when the clouds turned very dark and it started to drizzle so we started looking for a spot to stealth camp. We entered Santa Maria de Cayon on the main road and decided to turn off as there seemed to be good prospects out in the fields. We were riding down a quiet road in the fields when we came past a couple of houses and a barn which had a little slip road heading to their front doors. Just on the side was a well tended grass patch under some trees which looked good for a nights rest. As it was close to the houses I decided to ask one of the locals if we could spend the night and so knocked on the door of the first house. A lady answered the call and in broken Spanish I tried to ask if we could camp on that piece of grass out front. I don´t think the message got across, she kept referring to the rain and that we can´t camp in the rain…I was trying to say it´s fine (besides what choice did we have?) when she pointed to the pond in the garden and said we can camp there. So we took it and wheeled the bikes over to the pond and got the tents setup. As I was just finishing my tent a man walked up and after saying hello said “no, no, no, follow me”. So I followed him to a small A frame shed which turned out to be his wood working shop. He said we can sleep in there, so we quickly cleaned up the shed and I went to go tell Kevin the good news and so we could deconstruct the tents. As we were doing this he reappeared again, “no, no, no, follow me!”, so again I follow and this time he points me to the big spare room attached to the side of the main house – you sleep in there and you come for dinner, Spanish Tortilla, very famous!
So we met Uwe and his wife and shared a typical Spanish meal with them and didn´t do too bad with my limited Spanish to understand some of the conversation – family, work, Cantabria, food…amongst other things.
After dinner they insisted we join them for breakfast so after a good nights rest indoors listening to the rain we woke up and had breakfast with them. They then gave us a huge jar of honey from their hives “for the energy” Uwe said as he knew what we were facing that day – 3 climbs which meant over 1500m elevation. His wife also gave us breakfast bars for the road, amazingly kind. That honey was special and I think we finished it in 3 days.
A big muchos gracias to Uwe and his wife for their generosity and kindness!