Week 8 is our last week in France. It sees us starting off at the head waters of the La Loire and zig zagging our way to Lyon. Great scenery and lots of interesting places combined with a glimpse of the evolution of the Sinclairs. We have decided that we definitely did not evolve as Col Conquerers but more as cave dwellers along river flats and gorges.

The village life in France has been most interesting. At a glance they seem to have protected their sense of community much more strongly than in NZ and even the UK with fierce pride. There is a strong sense of staying local and for instance it is only just now that McDonalds are starting to get any traction. All Villages are required to have at least one market day a week. Locals seem to have more say and look after their Village. There are strings attached but there seems to be some good long term planning and somehow no shortage of community spaces in central Village areas.

With a rest day in Le Puy en Velay this week again raised the issue of gear on biking tours. Should it be
(a) shared 50/50?
(b) distributed on a liveweight % basis?
(c) carried by the bloke?
What do all you guys and girls think?
As you trend from a to c there is a trend for the female to feel a little less legstrong and a little more armstrong and in France we can’t have that or can we???

To give you a hint on the decision made there has been bugger all shopping.

Here are some pics and brief comments of week 8.

Frankly Were impressed with the first sighting of the La Loire

The first sign of the La Loire

The first bridge across the La Loire

For all you Chateaux train spotters this is the real deal - the very first one. Located near the head waters of the La Loire. It is interesting that Chateau's play such an important part of French tourism but in some way they are symbolic of everything that the revolution was against.

Another view of the first Chateaux with the village below.

This is Le Puy en Velay with a hot chick on the steps of a big church. This city is one of the main pilgrim walk start points. Going up these steps was a bit of a test for our legs in recovery mode with a day off biking.

Inside pretty impressive and apparently this is the Black Madonna.

Very old church on top of this mound. I think the logic was that the higher up you got, the closer you were to god.

Some of the background reading on the last photo.

Keen on statues on high ground. In this area there are a lot of remnant volcanic plugs leaving an interesting landscape and a challenge for the locals tp put something on the top of eah one.

A view from inside the statue climbing up to the head. It was bigger than it looks and was made from melted down cannons from the Crimean war. Held together by big nuts & bolts.

In our travels around France it was cherry season and there were many a climbing detour to supplement food supplies for the day. The local French farmers did not take too kindly to this and even in the most remote roadside cherry tree there seemed to be a local claim on it. When confronted, acting dumb was the main response (not too hard), with Louise having long gone from the scene.

Sinclairs pre Scotland were Saint Clairs. How did the Saint become Sin? Why did our lot head north while everyone else headed to the warmth, sunshine and beaches of North West Spain? Were we run out of town for thieving cherries, poaching trout or worse? So many questions to be answered by Helen, Moira, George and the rest of our Scottish clan.

Chateaux spotting as we leave Le Puy en Velay and cruise down stream along the La Loire.

More Chateaux spotting

Just another view across the La Loire.

Louise farewells the La Loire with a tinge of regret as it has been downstream travelling and now we are faced with a climb up to Tence.

Frankly Were farewelling the La Loire.

Here is a typical French Patisserie with lots of baking including scrummy tarts inside. They were our main lunch providers but like most rural stores in France were usually shut for a couple of hours around lunch time. This resulted in Louise's little French song that is sung to the tune of Australias 'Young Norm of Newcastle' song and it goes like this. 'Don't you ever let a Pa ee go by, cause inside there is a tart - my oh my'.

You would think with all our biking we would have lost weight. Not so. Perhaps it was the French Tarts? Perhaps it was the many 3 and even 4 course evening meals?

Meet the French Nigel. We stopped for a bite to eaton the side of the road on our journey to Tence. This guy came out and brought us a big bottle of water and proceeded to talk to us at length convinced we understood French as well as him.

Check this out Dad - even at close to 1,000m their vege gardens are close to Whakatane standards.

Don't you get it mate - the relationships over.

Surprise, surprise - Frankly Were at peace with this Col and so is Louise..

A lot of these cattle around as a milking cow. Big and friendly and a bit like a milking Simmental. Nice part of France with rolling hills and steeper stuff. Pasture mixed with a lot of forestry.

Potted walking. A big day, a looming thunderstorm and Louise may have peaked too soon with underestimating the length and steepness of the driveway.

The digs at the end of the steep drive were worth it

Just another quiet evening walk in the park.

This is our room next to this cool turret. Hey Louise let down your hair.

The Chateaux also had a farm with adairy herd of 50 cows. Jaques shows us round. Heis a big AB fan and keen cyclist originally from the Pyrenees. His brother in law is a keen dairy farmer and the proud french farm dog trialist and champion. Nice folk.

So what are you 2 idiots staring at?

Louise looking positively perky next to one of the several Cols we met on the last day after having started out around 500m. Has Col come back in favour or can Louise read maps and knows that this is just about the last Col Bastard she will meet on this trip?

Louise contemplating a view after one of the last big climbs in France. Is it the flat, wide expanse of the massive Rhone Valley that catches her eye or the towering French Alps in the distant horizon?

Frankly Were just thinking a quiet beer tonight might go down all right.

Kiwi checking out another French rooster with some random French chick.

Look at those 2 idiots.

Louise enjoying some road side poppies not far from Lyon. Hey Louise - we are not there yet.

Frankly Were not sure what all the fuss is about but he records the occassion with the odometer on 152km when he departed NZ. A pleasant 3,000 km when you are parked on the handle bar and your feet can't get near the pedals. This was during the last few kms in France on the run in to Givors.

Well here we are having made it safely to Lyon after having seen some amazing parts of France and the city life of Paris a seemingly distant memory.

It appears our time in France is definitely over and perhaps it was not such a good idea identifying ourselves so clearly as kiwis. As cars with bright red flashing cherries on top approach from the east, south and west it looks like our only possible escape is to the north to Dundee. Will we make it and find out more about the past of the St Clairs? There are a few questions to ask Helen, Moira & co. For instance what did some of our forebears do to get kicked out of Scotland?

Here’s a gap in the traffic Louise – shoot your bike down that ramp, over that curb, along that rail and down those stairs, squeeze through that closing door on the train and I think we can make it.

Au revoir Francais