This morning I did an extended boulangerie run. This meant taking in a nice scenic loop, rolling through as many gentle Burgundy villages as possible, navigating through the undulating countryside and gently ruminating Charolais cattle, before stopping at a small village bakery and picking up the croissants and baguettes for a well-deserved breakfast.
The villages have richly evocative names, like Dracy-les-Couches. The extra bit probably doesn’t mean sleepy, but each tiny hamlet is seemingly closed to the outside world, the shutters across with no sound or signs of life.
I went to the Morvan national park yesterday and was a little bit underwhelmed. I thought there might be a range of hills and some savage volcanic scenery, perhaps like the Auvergne, or a glacial solemnity like the Jura, but instead I found forested inclines and not much else. It was good for a short loop, but I went down the one climb I should perhaps have gone up; acquiring a nagging as the descent began to take a while, with each corner offering more downhill action, all of which contributed to a sense of regret that I didn’t do the loop in reverse and thus enjoy the steady climb up out of the valley for about half an hour. I am going to go back there tomorrow to have a look at Mont Beuvray and take in a particularly nasty climb out of Autun. It’s the site of an ancient Gallic village called Bibracte.
Speaking of prehistory, we came across some menhirs. Last year we went to Carnac, which is about as scarily intense as prehistory can get; rows and rows of neatly aligned stones, stretching over 4 or 5 kilometres with odd stone enclosures and towering sarsen slabs. I found it more impressive than Stonehenge which has always been something of a damp squib for me; some stones that aren’t as big as you think they’re going to be, surrounded on all sides by arterial trunk roads. There is nothing of the scale and size of Carnac here, but we did find some archetypal standing stones. By archetypal, I mean corresponding precisely to my understanding of what a menhir looks like, an image gleaned entirely from the works of Goscinny and Uderzo. These 4 or 5 stones looked like they had been sculpted by Obelix and placed neatly in the field by Asterix after imbibing some of the magic potion. One had some strange markings on it.
Riding in the French countryside is an unending source of delight. Most cyclists tend to be francophiles, therefore you get to combine two earthly delights in one glorious moment. I have been reading French cycling magazines. Their take on the Tour is very similar to the British angle with more Franglais – ‘God Save Le Wiggo’ – and with added emphasis on the exploits of Voeckler, Pinot and Rolland.