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Vagamonde: Chasing Euphoria and Getting Hit by Reality
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Exit from France (and Schengen)

It was August 17. We had a little less than a week to exit the Schengen region before the 90-day allowable stay would be up. But we were advised not to head into certain countries in the eastwardly direction without being vaccinated against rabies and tick-borne encephalitis. That led to the decision to cycle in England and Scotland, both outside of Schengen. We could have the chance to meet up with friends and relatives and to get our vaccinations up-to-date at the same time. Before exiting Schengen, we wanted to spend a few days cycling in France. This is how we did it.

First, we cycled from Le Fau to the train station in Grenoble: 40 kilometres in total, and most of it downhill! Benoit's father, Patrick, took the photo below of us with Louise, as we were ready to start pedalling on that bright, clear morning:

We decided to cycle around the Bourgogne region of France for a few days. It seemed the perfect place to explore by bike, with its recently developed network of bicycle paths through vineyards and along canals. From Grenoble, we took a train to the town of Mâcon. That would be our starting point in Bourgogne. In Mâcon, we stayed the night at the house of another Patrick: this one we found through the couchsurfing network of hosts. He welcomed us with a spread of food and as much conversation as we could squeeze in before having to go to sleep. Benoit posed with Patrick in front of his gorgeous old mansion of a house (note the ripe tomatoes adding a splash of colour next to the steps):

The map below shows the route we took along La Voie Verte from Mâcon to Chagny. It would take us through a 1.6 kilometre bat tunnel, alongside the medieval castle at Berzé, past the monk-run community of Taizé (we got permission to stay the night!), and through the village of Buxy with its free wine tasting at the local cellars. Only a few sips of wines to taste, however: alcohol and the hot sun are not a good mix when cycling!

On the approach to Chagny, the bicycle path followed a canal. There we saw many river barges, that were like elongated house boats. In french, it is une péniche:

From Chagny, the bicycle path wound its way through rows of vines, the route climbing up somewhat steep hills into tiny villages and then back again through the vines. In the town of Beaulne, we stopped to visit the historic downtown and to peak at the multi-coloured rooftop of Les Hospices. Our bicycles propped against a wall, we sipped a cold drink to refresh us from the hot sun. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some people staring our way. Another look and I realized that it was Patrick, Nathalie and Louise: Benoit's family that we had just been staying with a few days before. What a delightful unexpected encounter. Of course, a family photo was in order:

Onward from Beaulne, we continued to pedal in the blazing sun through more vineyards, finally coming to the region of Gevrey-Chambertin, famous for its very fine wine. It was there that we met Keith and Sue, members of warmshowers, a network of hosts for cyclists, who gave us a place to stay for the night. They stuffed us with fine food and wine as we sat at their beautiful mosaic table (that they designed and crafted). In the photo, Keith is suited up in cycling gear, ready to accompany us by bicycle to the train station in Dijon:

We were worried about making it to the station in time. We had a series of train connections to get us to the port town of Calais by that evening: a TGV (train à grand vitesse) from Dijon to Paris, then another TGV from Paris to Hazebrouck, and finally, a local train from Hazebrouck to Calais. From Calais (France), we would catch the ferry across the English Channel to Dover (England). The train ride to Calais was uneventful, except for the section from Dijon to Paris. We had paid 10 euros extra for each bicycle to reserve a spot for them on the train. As you can see in the photo below, the bike hooks were taken by other bicycles (we suspect they hadn't paid for them!) and luggage was crammed in every available spot. We had no choice but to cram our bikes on top of the lot. Clearly, Benoit was not impressed.

So that you know this part of the story has a happy ending, the train from Paris wasn't overbooked and we had plenty of room to hang our bicycles for the ride. This is how it should be always:


  1. ha ! enfin des nouvelles !! cool, merci !! et la en ce moment, vous etes ou ?


  2. Wow, that segment looked really great! Except for the Benoit face at the end!

    Have a great time in the Islands (or whatever they call themselves in a humourous way).

  3. I love your blog, what fine detail.

    Tanya M.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Thanks Seb, Viviane and Tanya M! At the borders of Scotland. Whiskey here we come...