A day of revelations
Today was described as ‘a defining day’, as we truly enter the south of France: the first bombshell. Call me crazy, but I always took ‘south’ to mean the southern part of any region. And since everyday we’ve been diligently tracking our progress on a GPS of France, I was feeling pretty certain that we’ve been in it’s ‘southern’ part for over a week now.
Confused, I decided to investigate, half hoping that I had exposed an error in our guide’s cycling bible. But further research uncovered that, yes, France is divided into 4 key regions, but no, not the North, South, East and West as you might logically assume (revelation two).
It’s divided by its climatic characteristics. Apparently the west has an ‘oceanic climate’ which brings with it mild and rainy days (we had one of those, retrospectively delightful).
The Centre and East are grouped as one because of their ‘continental climate’. They have the best of both worlds: cold winters and hot summers (not sure how that’s continental).
Then you have the ‘Mediterranean climate’, AKA: the south of France, with hot dry summers and sunshine all year round. And finally any areas above 600-800m are referred to as areas with a ‘mountain climate’, by which they mean heavy rains and snow for an average of 3-6 months of the year.
With the exception of our one wet day we we’ve spent many an afternoon sprawled on our beds feeling like we’re trapped in a bowl of hot custard, and it turns out we hadn’t even reached the south of France yet!
We spent much of the day cycling through a nature reserve and alongside the magnificent limestone gorge carved out by the Ardèche river. We stopped for a coffee in cobbled-but-sells-lots-of-tat Les Vans, just along enough to see the world’s most inept delivery driver in action. First he reversed his truck into the café’s parasols causing some hefty damage, which the own took remarkably well. Next he proceeded to drop not one but two cases of drinks as he was loading them into the storeroom. The owner took that well too - either she’s a saint or they’re related.
Moving on, the guidebook suggested taking note of the warmer air (the irony) as we crossed into the South and it wasn’t wrong. The up side of this however was the abundance of ice cream vendors taking advantage of this heat.
Whereas before they weren’t easy to come by (although persistence always wins and come by them we did), the ice-cream options at our first proper stop off in Ruoms was overwhelming. Ruoms, however wasn’t. It’s an old 10th century medieval town, and despite feeling busy and touristy it didn’t really have too much history on show (but all is forgiven because of its extensive ice cream offering).
Eventually we meandered our way towards Pont D’Arc. This incredible stone arch is a one-of it’s kind in France (revelation three). Nowhere else in this big country (3rd biggest in Europe, and revelation four) will you find a natural stone arch that spans a flowing river. Makes for a beautiful spot for a dip in the river and a dinner with a view.
Right that’s probably quite enough astonishing facts for one day. But wait, hold the phone! Revelation five - today we passed the 1,000km mark on our trip. Means we’ve still got nearly 600 to go, but hey it’s better than nothing.
Ok that’s definitely your lot now.