Tour de McFrance
On Wednesday morning we arrived in Dover bright and early to catch our ferry to France. It was grey and drizzly, and we had an hour to kill, so we went to look for a café with internet access to check our emails for the first time since we left home. The only place with free Wifi was McDonalds, so we headed there. Unfortunately this has set the theme for the last week, as we have spent far more time at McDonalds than in the previous 30 years combined. We even get excited now when we see the golden arches appear in the distance, and sometimes we pull up in the car park when the restaurant is still closed just to check our emails.
On the ferry, we found a nice spot with a power point to charge up our laptop. Our days now are pretty much defined by trying to find supermarkets and bakeries, power points, Wifi access and accommodation or campsites. The ferry crossing only took a good hour, and we were in France. It was just as drizzly in Calais as it had been in Dover, and we quickly left the town and headed into the French countryside.
We took the next day off, staying at a campsite in Ardres, not far from Calais. It was not really a campsite, more a holiday park where people rent little cabins and either stay there for several months or come down every weekend to fish in the nearby lakes. We were the only “tourists” there and occupied the only spot for a tent, surrounded by little cabins with gnomes in their neat little gardens.
On our day off, we went to the local market in Ardres and treated ourselves to local French specialties: beautiful creamy cheeses, fresh bread, and granny-style blackberry jam. Over the next couple of days we headed further East, camping and battling a headwind and some unexpectedly hilly days.
Yesterday we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel, as it was raining and we needed to wash some clothes and recharge our batteries, laptop and phone. We arrived in Le Cateau-Cambrésis at 2pm, determined to make the most of our afternoon at the hotel. We arrived at the first hotel, which was closed. The second hotel looked very fancy and was out of our budget. The third and last hotel also had the shutters down. Whilst standing in front of the hotel debating what to do next, the owners spotted us. They told us that all hotels in the town are closed on Sundays (!). When they saw our disappointed faces, they decided to let us stay anyway, so we parked the bikes in the garage and got a lovely big room with a heavenly comfortable bed.
We washed our clothes, hung everything up to dry and then checked the Wifi connection. It didn’t work. We asked the hotel owner. “The Internet doesn’t work on weekends, it will work again tomorrow morning. It only works Monday to Friday.” We tried not to laugh, as literally everything in this town was shut on the weekend. We headed into the city centre to get some food, but all cafes and shops were closed. After hanging around for a while, we saw some movement in a closed kebab shop, and luckily the owner opened his shop for us and saved the day by making us a kebab and a tuna sandwich.
This morning we cycled off into the rain again, and guess where we are now – at a McDonalds close to our campsite. The town we are in now seems to be closed on Mondays, and with McDonalds being the only place open, we decided to dry our clothes here before we head to our campsite. Over the next 4 days we will cycled towards Metz, where we hope to arrive on Friday.