|Today was the last of our up close and personal experences of the TDF before the last day in Paris, the start of stage 12 from Fougeres. For those who have been following closely, you will realise that we have now seen a start, a finish, a couple of mid stages and we have ridden over part of 2 of the stage routes. After Paris, I'll be happy and the TDF will be out of my system for at least 12 months.
So, Fougeres. We left a little later than planned and as we got closr to the town centre, the parking became scarcer and the crowds became denser. We could tell by the freebies that people were carrying that the caravan had already been through and so no more goodies for us this time, which is probably just as well as the suitcases are already fuller than when we left. Luckily, several of the group are not as passionate about the cycling as me and so 4 of us were dropped off while they went to park the car.
We made our way into the centre of the action and watched a few of the riders sign on. We then walked to a point about 500m from the start and got a front row position on the street. All the cars, motorbikes then came through followed by the riders going quite slowly, as they were in the neutral zone for the first 9.4km. When I say slowly, this is all relative and I'm not sure I could have kept up with them for more than 50m. I had a great Cadel experience as he rode past quite close to us, but it's funny, he didn't seem to recognise me despite us having a close encounter on St Kilda Road a couple of years ago!!!!!
Fougeres is a provincial city that has been around for 1000 years. The impressive castle dates from this time but as you wander through the city there are many half-timbered houses that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries when the town's main reason for existance was as the market place for cattle from the surrounding area. There are 2 impressive churches and the oldest belfry in Brittany, built in 1397, in the city.
After a casual lunch, we headed for home via Bazouges-la-Perouse, a quiet country town in northern Brittany, where we stopped for coffee in the local bar. Ordering coffee in France is a different experience. Most people drink a cafe - what we would call an espresso. Some cafe au lait is drunk, but I get the impession that this is mostly by tourists. There's none of the soy, lattes, decaf, long blacks, etc, etc that are on offer in Australia. It makes it very easy.
I am enjoying being amongst the french people again, as much as you can be as a tourist with limited language, as I find them incredibly polite and helpful. There's always a cheery greeting of 'bonjour' or 'bon soir' and an 'au revoir' on leaving. Many people speak english and seem only too willing to revert to this when it is obvious that their english is far better than our french.
This evening we dined at a local creperie in Combourg. I think I may have mentioned a few days back that crepes, both savoury and sweet are a regional speciality. Tonight I ordered a Bretonne, in the belief that you should sample the local cuisine and attracted by the fact that it contained scallops. The menu also said that it contained chitterling sausages but I thought that would be OK, despite there being something niggling in my brain as to what these were. I ate them all, despite the strong flavour and then Googled chitterling when I got back to the chateau. You do the same if you don't know. At least I can say I've had the experience. Desert was a sweet pancake with honey and lemon and a scoop of vanilla icecream.
Cider is also a regional speciality and we sampled some at lunch yesterday and also this evening. The cafes have it in draught form and you order it by the half litre or litre and it is served in a jug and drunk from special shaped cups. Very tasty and refreshing it is, too.
That's it for the day.
Photos, if I get them downloaded, will be of yesterday in Dinan.