Due to a lightening-affected Internet outage, this blog covers the last two days, including our ride to Caen, the train journey from Caen to Amiens and our ride to Albert.
We rode the 23k from the campsite to Caen without too much difficulty. A well marked and surfaced cycle route takes you off-road and all the way into Caen. How we contrived to get lost once is beyond me.
We entered Caen, which is larger and more sprawling than we imagined, supported by the Garmin and the very excellent network of cycle paths across the town. In no time we were at the station to try and get tickets for our trip to Amiens the following day.
I got the job of buying the tickets, while Louise looked after Claud. Having queued for ages (2 out of 10 positions open), I established that we could get a train to Amiens, via Rouen, which took bicycles. With a 10:15 start, this would get us in to Amiens at about 2:00pm and we could probably get an afternoon of cycling in, which would help the schedule.
The key issue remains, however, whether Claud will be allowed on board, both at Rouen and on to Amiens. I did say that we needed to take ‘our bicycle’ and I suppose I could have clarified this at the point of purchase. Frankly I would prefer to take our chances than fall at the first ‘Non’. Our progress on to Amsterdam pretty much hinges on it.
Having secured our ‘billets’, we then sought out our AirB&B accommodation for the night. We knew it was close to the station and impressively, the Garmin sniffed it out immediately and literally took us to the door.
Sylvie was in and showed us to a really nice room on the ground floor with its own bathroom. She gave us the run of the house and then went out to finish the whole crab she was eating for lunch in the garden. We had agreed to eat with the family tonight for a small extra charge, something we are both looking forward to.
We set out to explore Caen. With just the afternoon, we were only ever going to be able to skim the surface. We had a quick look at the castle and then took a ride on one of those tourist trains through the town. Although a tad embarrassing, was really quite informative and quite a good way to find out some of the history of the town.
We mooched back to our accommodation, stopping at a cycle shop to get a new mirror for Claud. We also stopped at two bars on the way; both of which were advertising WiFi and neither able to deliver (actually neither patron having a f*cking clue what WiFi was really). Probably not worth calling Trading Standards on this occasion.
We spent some time replanning tomorrow’s ride based on an optimistic position that we will be in Amiens by 2:00pm. The plan will be to cycle as far as Albert that afternoon and them onto Lens, where we may catch a train to Ghent and from there cycle all the way to Amsterdam.
As the expected heavy rain and thunder hit us, we ate with Sylvie, her friend Jo and daughter Cesci(?). A very pleasant evening with some Cidre Normand thrown in and an enjoyable chat. They appeared to think that there would be no problem getting Claud on the train, which made us feel better. Also they recommended Lille as a place to visit, which we may decide to do as we could do that instead of Lens.
Although only our third night using AirB&B, we are both very much warming to it. We have had genuinely nice hosts who we have spent time with and chatted to quite a lot; more so than other hotels or even the camp site. We intend to use this rather more over the coming days.
On returning to our room, we discovered that we had lost the Internet. The lightning had taken down the connection in the house. I could not download the ride nor post the to the blog. We awoke the following day with WiFi still refusing to start up again.
After breakfast we made our way to the station and I became quite uptight. Not being able to travel was unthinkable and, despite reassurances the night before, I had no idea how this was going to work.
After having to get a fully loaded Claud up and down some hefty stairs to the platform, the train to Rouen was waiting and empty. We installed Claud in the bike area (taking about 4 bike spaces!) and took up seats alongside. Simples.
We implemented a handy tip we had picked up before we left and used a bungy to secure Claud and make sure he didn’t fall over during the journey. It was very much needed and an excellent tip for securing fully loaded bikes on trains.
We even escaped the beady eye of the officious looking rail official (uniformed and wearing peak cap) as he patrolled the platform. As we were moving off, he appeared to notice Claud and took a second look, but it was too late, we were off.
At Rouen station all our concerns melted away. The (also uniformed) guy at the station could not have been more helpful. Recognising the problems we were facing getting Claud up and down some massive flights of stairs, he went and got the key to the service lift and delivered us to the right platform. Chapeau. Again we got Claud quickly ensconced in the bike area and sat down for the two hour journey to Amiens. Piece of cake, what was all the fuss about?😁😁
Leaving the platform at Amiens station required traversing a huge flight of steps. The bearded (and strangely uncapped) railway guy told us there was no service lift, but we could use the escalator. Excuse me? The escalator? The thing in the UK they have stopped you taking your luggage on? So we did. We bloody well put Claud, fully loaded, up the escalator! Despite nearly falling down a couple of times we have not laughed so much in ages. Definitely a cool way to travel.
Out of Amiens we took the Somme river cycle route and after about 10k picked up a well marked route to Albert, our destination. It was a beautiful, largely flat ride in perfect sunny weather, with only the odd military cemetery around to suggest the history of the area. Only downside is that I forgot to switch the Garmin back on at about half way, which is a bit of a pain in the arse.
We quickly found a Logis in the town and finally managed to get Claud safe in the garden, after trying three routes through the hotel.
We are now on track and indeed a day ahead of schedule. If we can get a train to Ghent from Lens or Lille, we will be well on track for Amsterdam!
Tomorrow is a decent ride to Lens though the Somme battlefields and hopefully the Thiepval and Canadian memorials. Early start will be required and the weather looks good.