Sat 4th May.
Struggling near Angers and rumbled by a farmer.
I left my nice spot in the long grass, rejoined the Vienne river and then shortly after rejoined the Loire river. Cruised through the town of Saumur and a few other famous historical spots, home to more châteaus (one of which is said to have been the inspiration for the castle in Sleeping Beauty).
I had planned to pass through the city of Angers, but once I got near it, the confusing network of main roads made it difficult for me to be there, let alone get near the centre. I remained in the outskirts and after 45 minutes of going around in circles, I had wasted too much time. I stopped at a McDonald’s, (another entourage of terrible French/European signage that occurs on the highways, using minutes as opposed to distance and weakly gestures at the direction of places, offering no detail or further signage, i.e. McDonalds 5mins –>) had a coffee, sorted out a host for Nantes and got moving.
I rejoined the river at Bouchemaine, where I saw a ‘Bar-Tabac’. It was here I had noticed a number of these and decided to go in have a look, get a coke to cover my curiosity and to cool me down in the heat.
When inside, only beer was served. The men were watching dog racing and I soon realised that the Bar-Tabac was a house for beer, tabacco, gambling and all things generally dusted under the carpet, or perhaps considered un-French.
Since, my interest in them has grown, every town has at least one. Occasionally there’s also PMU’s (rare) which cater more for the gambling side of things. Other variations of the Bar-Tabac theme include the Tabac–Presse (newspapers/magazines).
I followed the river around, up and down small and on complex, time-consuming paths. I realised if I was to make Nantes the next day, I would have to get onto proper roads and eat up the distance, rather then pottering around, trying to follow the river.
I was sad to leave, but there was work to do, as I was already two weeks in and not as far as I thought I would be. The deadline of Primavera Sound festival, Barcelona was looming ahead, May 21st.
I left the expansive river in favour of the busy roads.
I quickly made up the time I had lost while wondering around Angers and was well on the way. Evening caught up, I had to start thinking of where to camp for the night. In the process of choosing my spot, I saw my first other tourer. He was heading east as I was heading west, he had long messy hair, sunglasses, a big smile and a bike full of things. He looked up and waved supportively. Relived to see another one of my kind on the roads, I smiled, waved and exhaled in relief. It was good to see someone out here, in what felt like the middle of nowhere, doing the same thing.
I wondered where he had been, how long he was doing it and where he was from. The encounter was brief and we carried on our ways. I left the road shortly after to find a spot.
With a bit of investigation I found a spot a good distance from roads or houses and set up. I heard dogs barking in the distance, but didn’t worry. It was about 6 o’clock. Later I would learn that although this is a good time to camp, it’s not the best as it’s still early and if you’re on someone’s land, people are likely to come and investigate, find you and kick you off. If it’s 8/9 o’clock, people are less likely to go out into the night to dislodge a stranger.
A Frenchman with a perfect white beard approached me with his little black dog running around, jumping up and down in excitement, probably that it had suspected something was up and it was right.
I went over to him, as he walked to me. He spoke French and nothing else.
After a bit of confusion we established that I wished to stay there for one night and I would leave in the morning. To seal the deal, he asked where I was from, unsure of his instruction, he repeated, pointed to himself, said “French”, then pointed at me, “Anglais” I said, he nodded, then walked off continuing to do a lap of his field with his dog and return home.
I was very grateful to him for giving me a night of his land and felt bad that I didn’t check in and ask. Having said that, there were a few houses in the distance. Better to stay quiet and leave early, rather then knock on strange doors and ask for things in broken French.
That night there was thunder, but no rain. I moved about in the night, re-adjusted my mattress and noticed small static (I guess) sparks as I ran my hand over it. I assume it was to do with the thunder creative a charge in the ground, as I hasn’t it happened since.