Week Five: Family Friends, Flatmates & French Kindness

30/04/18-06/05/18

Distance: 322 km / 200 miles
Elevation: 2,941
m / 9,649 ft

We have been overwhelmed with kindness, generosity and real beds this week, as we were welcomed into the homes of an old flatmate of mine, a family friend of Dan’s, and a wonderful French family who flagged us down on the side of the road, to offer us a bed and hot dinner.

At the beginning of the week, we stayed with Marie and her parents. Marie and I lived together in Sydney, Australia in 2013. Our reunions always seem to occur in Paris, so it was nice to visit her hometown, Saint Marcellin – famous for its namesake cheese and Dauphinoise potatoes.

 No Eiffel Tower in sight for this reunion. 

No Eiffel Tower in sight for this reunion. 

On the way to Marie’s, there was a cheeky little 20% hill. When I say little, I literally mean fifty metres, yet we still ran into trouble. Half way up, Dan’s gears started to slip, causing him to snake across my path. With no time to unclip, I toppled over and was dragged back down the hill with the weight of my load. That makes it 3 – 1 to me for bike falls.  

Despite adding another fall to my score, we made it to Marie’s in one piece and were greeted by her and her parents with a beer and some homemade saucisson. They couldn't have been more welcoming to a couple of smelly cyclists. They'd even stocked-up on their famous local cheese and other French treats for us to try – and her Mam made Dauphinoise potatoes. They were super helpful with our French fuel issue, too...

 Toasting to all the delicious French food.

Toasting to all the delicious French food.

We use a Primus Omni-Fuel I stove, which can take all different types of fuel – even petrol. We try to stick with white gas (Coleman Fuel), but it’s proved impossible to find in France. Essence A and C are recommended substitutes, although these have also proved impossible to find. We ended up getting another gas canister, which are expensive and not long-lasting. Fingers crossed Germany sells white gas.

We left Marie’s with a campsite to aim towards at the end of the day. A few kilometres before it, we saw a man and his two daughters waving at us from the side of the road. With big smiles, Yannick, Coline and Amandine offered us a bed for the night and some homecooked food. How could we say no?

 A beautiful coffee break we had, before we met Yannick, Marie-Hélène and family. 

A beautiful coffee break we had, before we met Yannick, Marie-Hélène and family. 

It was a wonderful evening, one you could only hope to experience. Yannick told us all about a cycle tour from France to South Africa him and his wife, Marie-Hélène, took before they had children. Along the way, they worked with several community projects, which is what Yannick now does for a living – they also wrote a book (French only).

Yannick also told us about an upcoming cycle trip the whole family plan to take next year, from France to Sangli in Africa. Their son, Simon, seemed very excited for the trip. We can’t wait to following their adventure. And if that wasn’t enough, Marie-Hélène packed us off with two big wedges of her homemade cheese, from her sheep farm. We left feeling completely humbled by the pure selflessness and kindness we were shown.  

After leaving Yannick and Marie-Hélène's, we said goodbye to France and made a beeline for Switzerland, where we stayed with Vera and Aleks in Geneva. Vera is a close friend of Dan’s parents, and as you can imagine, had some fantastic stories and photos – even some of baby Dan!

 It felt like home from home with Vera and Aleks.

It felt like home from home with Vera and Aleks.

 Blonde baby Dan.

Blonde baby Dan.

Vera, Aleks, Becky and Nicky made us feel so welcome; it felt like home away from home. They went above and beyond in taking care of us, keeping us well fed and watered (wined) – they even prepared a welcome care package! We spent a lovely weekend together BBQing, reminiscing and enjoying their pool. We also caught up with all Internet things, including route.

 Dan eyeing the Smartie cake at Vera and Aleks' wedding.

Dan eyeing the Smartie cake at Vera and Aleks' wedding.

 What a care package!

What a care package!

We’ve had to sit down and really consider the European leg of our journey this week, as we’re popping back to the UK for a family wedding at the end of June and have our return flights booked from Stockholm. We’re also meeting Dan’s brother, Jacob, next week in Germany, where we plan to go off-roading in the Black Forest. Looking at timings and realistic distances, we decided to sacrifice northern Italy and train through northern Germany, so we still have time to see Denmark and Norway, at an enjoyable pace.

So, in the spirit of taking it easy, we’re now taking a couple of days off to go hiking around Geneva.