Good to be back? The jury is out. In the Dordogne, I rode rolling hills, wooded on both sides. Stiff climbs that spring upwards, a tarmac jack in the box with river gorge views. The pace so quiet. Cicadas drown out any other noise, save for the occasional beaten up Citroen shuttling cargo between villages.
In the Loire, it was quite different, but no less enjoyable. Wooded estates, once the exclusive preserve of the privileged are now open to the public for riding. Wide boulevards of bright white gravel extend into the distance, while twisty singletrack offers interest and thrills away from the main drags. Finish with a bière, or replace calories burned with sweet pastry treats.
Yesterday was a change of scene. My usual. The hills that border Northern Cardiff. The pancake flat road that bisects the valley bottom. The Victorian folly that clings to wooded uplands. Regular roads offer consistent benchmarks. My Gaullic riding experience has been good for the soul. The hills seemed less hilly, the Channel views bathed in a new light. I even forgave the driver intent on forging unforgiving lines on an easily accommodating road.
But I always miss France the moment I leave. The sheer space. The gorgeous sunny mornings and windless evenings. For all of its Gaullic contrariness, this land of awkward opening hours, art-deco train stations, sleepy hamlets, empty roads and diverse terrain, is the true home of the beau vélo.