Slow-Road, Small-Town France.

Good evening everyone from the delightful town of Autun in the Bourgogne-Franche Compté area of central/eastern France….wow that was a mouthful!

I’ve been through this place before, liked it and vowed to pop back again. I still like it.

Originally the town was founded by the Romans, about 2000 years ago and it still carries traces of their presence today. Back in the UK we have Roman remains too, but they are all either foundations or other things in the ground like mosaics. We don’t have things like this, the Saint André Gate.

It’s one of two remaining gates to the Roman walled city, excuse the distorted photo; yes I know that one shouldn’t photograph converging parallels….but it’s the only way I could get the shot! Just think about it for a second though, no not the technical bits of the photo, that structure is really, really old! Almost enough to fry your head if you try to get a handle on how old and it’s still standing!

Anyway, enough about the Romans, after all, what did they ever do for us….?
(Apart from, roads, law and order, sanitation….) Ooops, sorry, I slipped into a bit of Monty Python!

We started out from the Jura this morning in pretty heavy rain, could have been worse though it was snowing in Switzerland. Fortunately the wet stuff stopped falling out of the sky, leaving Harls and I to enjoy a gentle potter across a delightful corner of France and covering a mere 125 miles. With no pressure to munch miles, I made sure that we stuck to the minor roads and frequently we went for ages without seeing another vehicle.

I think this is the right way up…
Reflections in a Jura lake.

Autumn is certainly beginning to set in and the early colours were looking good; they would have looked better with a bit of sunshine though.

Around the village of Mercurey, in Bourgogne, the air held a particular scent of raisins. The wine harvest was largely over, but the last grapes were exuding a lovely smell. The village dates from pre-historic times and is the most widely recognized and important wine village of the Côte Chalonnaise, producing more wines than all other village appellations combined and some of the finest in Bourgogne.

Vineyards, Mercurey Bourgogne.

The small towns we passed through were delightfully still, this is Sunday after all and the French still know what Sunday is all about; note that well you money-grabbing politicians in London’s Parliament!

The fountain in the village of L’Etoile; It means ‘Star,’ that’s a nice name for a village.

Sitting on Harls, luxuriating to the rumbling note of her engine, all was well in the world of Dookes…I just needed a bottle of the good Bourgogne wine and a portion of the wonderful roast chicken they serve around here!

Riding motorcycles is Not at all about how going as fast as you can, higher than ever before, or taking that corner oozing arrogance that you are “King of the Road.” No, it’s about breathing in the moment, smelling the air and celebrating the pleasure of passing by this way if only once…!

Anyway, the traffic will be busier tomorrow, but I’ll still be searching out the back roads and enjoying small town France; I might even grab a bottle of something to take home for Mrs Dookes.

“I will choose a path that’s clear,
I will choose freewill.”

Catch you soon.


Sunday Miles

I like Sundays in France.

Being here on a Sunday always reminds me of a time in the UK before the politicians caved in to the greed of commerce and allowed the shops and just about everything else to open on the seventh day. Sunday’s were special at home back then and thankfully they still are in La France. Almost everywhere is shut, except for mostly small family restaurants, the odd grocery store that opens until noon and of course the small artisan boulangeries.

The wonderful ritual daily tradition of purchasing fresh bread transcends everything, even the Sabbath!

This morning as Baby and I began the long slog across France to the Rhine valley we also partook in a spot of “Pain achats” (bread shopping) to make a sandwich for lunch. It’s a simple pleasure, yet quite wonderful, to queue in a small bakery and be embraced by the heady smells of fresh bread. Our boulangerie was in Mehun sur Yevre, a small somewhat down at heel place, about halfway between Vierzon and Bourges. At €1.10 for a pain traditionnel, I think it was good value for a crispy golden baton of fresh bread.

Pleased with my morning purchase I hit the road, hard. Bourges to Clamecy on the N151, 100 miles of largely straight old Roman road across rolling countryside and at times dense forest. The sort of road where you have to be careful, too many hidden dips where approaching traffic can lurk to catch out the inattentive overtake and where the long straights can bring on mind wandering boredom, if you are not careful!

N151, built by Romans.

N151, built by Romans.

That said, it’s also a delight on a Sunday with very little traffic.

We crossed the River Loire on a lovely stone built multi-arched bridge at La Charite, pausing just to grab a photo.

Loire bridge, La Charite sur Loire.

Loire bridge, La Charite sur Loire.

By Clemacy, we were in Bourgogne; land of fine if a tad expensive wines, endless wheat fields and superb herds of Limousin beef. We took the more serpentine D951 for Vézelay and Avallon, time to enjoy some twisty bits!

Vézelay is a lovely hill-top town that is reputed to be amongst the most beautiful in France, but as a result get stuffed full of tourists and today was no exception! The town and it famous 11th century Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The basilica, Vézelay.

The basilica, Vézelay.

After Avallon we hit the Autoroutes; first the A6, the infamous Autoroute du Soleil where the Parisiens try to kill themselves during the annual holidays as they race flat-out towards the Mediterranean! Next we took the A36 and dropped into the Saône valley.

I’ve got to say that although Baby is ideal for mile munching, riding these Autoroutes is as tedious as it gets! I was delighted to turn off at Baume les Dames and onto the D50 for a bit of chilled exploration in the Haute-Saône region of Franche Compté.

What we found, I’ll tell you about in another post!

Tonight our overnight stop is near the Swiss border; 340 miles today and I’m glad to see the back of a lot of them!

“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”

Catch you soon.