Second day of real cycling – Lens to Crecy Sur Serre

Well yesterday was a challenge, for many reasons. The second day of a trip like this was always going to be difficult. Cycling 70 miles in one day is fine, getting up the next day and getting back on the bike to do it again is slightly unhinged.....However, the morning was great, I had struck camp and headed off south in not too bad time and good spirits.

For the first 15 miles I pootled along, having decided not to rush. (It being a Sunday and all that)

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One of the slightly alien things that you come across in northern France are British cemeteries - primarily for soldiers of the first world war. They often look out of place, not surrounded by houses and other sites, just where they are, standing alone. The above was one such cemetery - about 5 houses constituting the village it was next to, it was being tended by an elderly couple (for my guess, in their 80's) who were weeding and tidying - a testimony to the retention of emotion and gratitude felt by the French. We have nothing like these in England - I guess as its been so long since our land has been fought over directly.

Now France is a very strange place at 10am on a Sunday. It felt a little like some post apocalyptic scenario where all the people have vanished and I was the only survivor.....My issue for the day though was not to be surviving the apocalypse but the ravages of Google...

So having pootled for about an hour, I was slightly annoyed when Google maps, with its directions for cyclists decided that all cyclists must be the type with big fat lumpy tyres and huge springs all over their bikes and therefore elected to send me up this;

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However I was reassured that this would be the only bit like this and presented next with a couple of miles of canal side pootling. Lovely.

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But it seems that Google maps lies. And lies badly. Having lulled me into a false sense of security with the flat canal side paths, it suddenly decided that once more it would test my tyres and strength with a curve ball out of nowhere;

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Foolishly I plunged on, figuring that the last bit of rough had only been short and that we would be back on hard roads soon enough....but....

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Things were getting progressively worse. By this time I was too far committed not to go all the way, turning round and finding another route would have cost me over an hour, so I pushed on. Just about where that clump of bushes are in the middle of the picture was the point at which any semblance of a path disappeared. Even goats had not been this way in a long long time, despite Google's protestations that this was a "road". So I had to haul the bike over a stubble field to make my escape onto something like tarmac.

It was round about this time that it started to rain. It was also lunchtime. I was starting to get hungry - the calories in to calories out ratio was not in favour of a happy me. I rode on in the rain for quite a while, looking for signs of civilisation where I could perhaps get a cup of coffee and some sustenance, but no joy. France it seems is so much less densely populated than England once you get away from particular areas.

I needed to eat. Moral was sinking and everything hurt by this time. Even slight inclines were starting to look like mount blanc. So when I spotted a farmers field with a line of overhanging trees along the side of it, I ducked under their shelter and leapt off the bike.

Time for more rice and tuna;

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By the time I had eaten, had a good drink of water and cleared my debris the rain was easing up significantly. As I climbed onto the bike, the sun was just starting to appear again. It's amazing what a packet of flavoured rice, a tin of tuna and a bit of sunshine can do for the spirits!

Setting off again and Google was up to its old tricks, sending me on surfaces my bike simply wasn't built for.

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I did get some great views from my route, but also something that no road cyclist should ever have to experience.....being forced to get off my bike and push it DOWNHILL. Riding one descent would have killed me and the bike I reckon, or at least left us both in a very poorly state!

So eventually, at about 8pm local time I rolled into Crecy Sur Serre - quite a sleepy little town, where following the rain break I'd had the good sense to book ahead into one of the town's two hotels. Pitching up outside it, I thought I had made a bad choice, but once inside I was greeted by Laurent (I think) who was extremely friendly and helpful, opening the delivery gates for my bike and telling me that the restaurant would stay open until whatever time I wanted. His wife did the cooking and he was front of house - running around like a mad man spreading pleasantries to his guests.

I felt after that welcome that it would be rude not to indulge so headed downstairs for some food. I have to apologise about the photography on the next few because there was a slightly weird yellow light in the restaurant, but mainly because, unlike the under 25's, when I see a plate of food in front of me, my first thought is to eat it, not photograph it......so there are a couple which really should have been taken a bit earlier....

First up; when in France....

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But also something else which I quite enjoyed.

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Pretty much a "make your own butter" kit on a plate. It was good - a tasty lard to add as much or little salt to as you cared for.

So having decided on my meal, the first course was snails. I don't think I've ever eaten snail before, or if I have it was so long ago that I can't recall.

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These were delicious, in a parsley butter, although they are tricky little buggers to eat. That one on the right there - I've never seen a snail move so fast......

The main was beef, naturally cooked blue, and it was superb, simple but superb;

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Following that I was presented with five cheese whilst I contemplated desert....

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Not wishing to be rude, I tucked in and followed it up with a crème brulé.

By this time I was ready for bed and retired to my room, hunger thoroughly satisfied, to do some research into other bike GPS solutions for android.....

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