The clocks are set differently over here, it’s not just that we’re an hour ahead but it’s skewed towards the evening. So our days last longer – perfect for sitting out with that well deserved glass of chilled wine after a morning’s cycling and an afternoon’s hard-gardening, all at 25 to 30 degrees – but it means that you can easily forget to get out of bed. We’ve always been up with the dawn kind of people (even when dawn is 5am) but it can be a bit of a problem when dawn isn’t really rearing its head until 8am.
And then there’s the Sunday morning cycling in autumn. I set off last Sunday morning, I’d spotted a route as we’d driven around – what I mean is, I’d noticed signposts pointing to towns that I recognise from other drives and decided that would make a good loop. It’s how I used to make up my rides back in England, you don’t need to worry about maps as much then; you know that you’re going to end up home. Perhaps in France I should worry about maps.
Not taking them out with me, necessarily, but maybe consulting the map before I set off. If I’d consulted the map last week I may have realised that the connecting road in question was a 5km descent of twisty road (and when I say twisty I mean bends complete over 180 degrees, one after the other) with a vertiginous drop to my right (and we cycle on the right) which plunged into the depths of the forest. And there wasn’t a guard rail. And there was a camber on the road. And the occasional ditch. And La Chasse!
The French hunt on Sundays (and probably other days too) and, as I made the descent from hell (heart racing, knuckles white, brake pads burning), I was accompanied by the sound of baying dogs… it was probably a result of the rapidly declining altitude (and the darkness of the thickening forest) but as I got further down I was no longer listening to baying hunting-hounds – now I was hearing wolves. Crazed wolves. Who would surely tear me limb-from-limb if I strayed off the path. Or stopped (to ease my brakes and knuckles). I cycled a different route today.
Some things are the same though – the French are environmentally friendly. They recycle. They conserve water and energy. They re-use. Last week I went to the toilet at one of our bigger supermarkets and it was automatic lights (just like many places in the UK). Except everyone must be taller in France. Half-way through my toileting (still seated) the lights went out. I tried waving my hands to no avail – I was too short from this position to reactivate the sensor. And I hadn’t taken note of the cubicle layout. And it was pitch black.
It was an experience.