Yesterday was the first proper outing of 2008 for our cycling group, and despite the impending danger of snow the six of us set off courageously into the countryside. The wintry weather held off and a good time was had by all.
It constantly amazes me how much there is to discover in the lanes and quiet roads near where we live, and yesterday was no exception. If you live in France (or are just visiting) I strongly recommend that you walk, cycle or drive as often as possible (Mrs B goes off with her walkiing group once a week) and make a point of exploring the remote backroads of the countryside.
Hidden up those small roads that don’t really go anywhere in particular is the real France. Isolated farms, small hamlets with big churches, beautiful views – all the sights that aren’t grand enough to make it into the guidebooks, but are the reason why France is so popular and so beautiful.
There is a slightly annoying habit in France of putting a ‘house’ sign at the end of a quiet road that points up the lane, so it looks as if the road is the entrance to a house rather than a proper road. This can put you off exploring, for fear of finding yourself in a farmyard being attacked by a gang of unruly and probably rabid dogs. These roads are where you need to be!
Anyway, since my cycling companions have all lived in the region for about 10 generations they know all the backroads so I see much more than I ever would on my own, although I am almost never able to re-find the places we have passed through or explain to others how to find them.
The rest of the group alternate between speaking French with a strong Occitan accent and Occitan with a strong French accent, which makes things a bit difficult sometimes. I am OK with ‘normal’ French but mix it with a cycling helmet, the wind in my ears, and a very broad accent and frankly things become less than easy.
I did make a witty pun when they made some reference to me being ‘Armstrong’ and without thinking I said something about ‘plutot, jambes faibles’ (rather, weak legs). None of them speak any English so the chances of them recognising the joke on the word Arm strong was, to say the least, slight. I’ve never seen so many mystified faces.
But we all enjoy ourselves and I’m sure they go home with plenty of tales of my stupidity to cheer up their families over lunch.