Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cycletrip Day 6: Forges - Laon

At a last minute suggestion of Tac's, from our cosy little blue room in Forges, we booked not one, ladies and gentlemen, but two possible accommodation spots for the following night. Laon was the next big spot for us to hit up, but we thought perhaps we wouldn't make the 70+kms successfully in the one day. Perhaps sanely is more the adverb we wanted to be able to employ, thinking back on our washed out, blown out, exhaustive first day from the Netherlands to Belgium. It would be nice to get to Laon, but we didn't want to blow a fuse doing it. So we hedged our bets, and booked two places. One in the slightly-out-of-the-way Marle, because it was the only spot between Forges and Laon we could find, the other in the Big L itself. We would ride the first 30 or so kilometres, then make the Marle/Laon call, at Besmont. This picture shows the process:

Annie and Olivier gave us lots of extra bread to make up some sandwiches to take on our way. Just after 9am we took off. The exit from Forge involved a few big downs and ups and then, with open fields around us for the first 10kms or so to Forges Phillippe, the wind really hit us in the faces. I said to the weather gods that we would perform some sort of naked thank-you dance that evening if things stayed as they were and wind was all we had.

Just after Cendron we crossed the border into France, then headed into the Foret Dominiale de St Michel, which was a beautiful, quiet, leafy green escape from roads. Just look at this picture, though, taken in said forest. I had spent the past 7 days thinking this headband I took from Taco's Dad's house to wear was pretty cool. Practical and warming, yes, but I also felt a bit funky. It was with horror, on examination of this photo later in the day, that I realised I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

How wrong I was
But no matter, headbands do not maketh the woman. We rode on through Montorieux and Martigny, Taco's two favourite towns. In the latter we stopped for a bananabiscuitbreak. It was starting to spit a little, but, without wanting to commit until we were at Besmont, we were both pretty sure by here that we had the drive to get all the way to Laon. And at decision time, we went left!

The wind was still with us. At Agnicourt we took the wrong road for a few kilometres, and cursed on the return to the deviation point, pushing up hard against the wind. The right road, once we were on it, was windy (quelle surprise!) and by this time of the day had quite a bit of traffic. There were a few shitty moments with cars and trucks- when the wind and the rain are a bit fierce, their passing can cause a real, unwanted whoosh on the bikes- and by the time we were in Pierreponds, it was pissing down. Lucky we'd had our final energy-booster petit pain sandwiches before that big old stretch. We stopped in a town about 10kms from Laon, and confirmed that, although we were soaked through to our undies and beyond, our waterproofing system for the karretje (bubble wrap + garbage bag + backpack cover) was holding up well.

We entered the outskirts of Laon and got a wonderfully-comprehensive hand-drawn map and set of directions to our booked hotel from a nice lady at a bar. Feeling pretty awesome as we squelched into town, our mood was slightly dampened (pardon the pun) at the sight of the hotel. It was called Hotel Welcome, but that was not really the vibe. It smelled of petrol and there was no-one to be found at the reception, only a woman living upstairs who couldn't speak French, and many many children. It felt dodgy, so we treddled on down the road to the Hotel Des Arts. They had a room for us, and also a proprietor who was really into her sponge-painting, evidently, making the hotel live up to its name.

Washed and warmed, we high-fived a bit, then wandered the streets of the lower section of Laon. You get the impression it's not the sexy half of town; this title is reserved for the old city (known in Celtic times as Lugdunum, or The Mountain of Light), located high up, and easily-reached by a funicular(!) called the POMA. Well-deserved beer and dinner were had in a little first-floor restaurant with a very cheery waitress. The return to our room, full of wet things hung up around the place, was a soft, warm, smelly smack in the face, but with a window open, we slept like babies under a sponge-painted sun.

Day's stats
Forges, Belgium - Laon, France
Left 9.05am, arrived 5.50pm
Distance travelled: 95km
Conditions: Wind wind wind. Bit of rain. Bit more wind. Shit loads of rain.