I wake up at six, wide eyed and ready to start the day, but the rest of the household is still fast asleep, so I read until the alarms go off at seven fifteen. I hop down the stairs, it’s a beautiful morning, warm enough even to have breakfast outside. Considering we’re near the Belgian coast, that’s pretty exceptional this time of year. We didn’t unpack much yesterday, so around nine we can take off to continue our journey south. We fill up our water bottles, pilfer a few bags of chips from the basement and then wave goodbye to my in-laws.
The shortest route is over Paris, the cheapest (avoiding tolls) follows the coast line, but we decide to do something in between and leave the busy A1 road to Paris near Amiens. There are warnings by the road: canicule / the speed limit lowered by 20 kmph on high ways. I don’t know the word, but a quick internet search shows that it means heat wave and that it’s often accompanied by air pollution caused by the heat itself, hence the lowering of the speed limit. The word comes from the Latin word for dog and so is the equivalent of the English term dog days. Both are related to the fact that the star Sirius would rise just before the hottest days of the year in Egypt. Sirius was then (we’re talking ancient Egypt times) know as the dog star. In any case, it’s hot outside. The temp varies a bit but often reaches 40° C / 104° F, exceptionally warm, especially in June. Fortunately, our car has air-conditioning and we’re not too bothered. Our first Spotify list is a Faithless radio, full of songs we listened to in our twenties.
We continue south, following smaller high ways, bypassing all the charming cities in the area: Amiens, Rouen, Le Mans, Angers, .. All famous for something, as publicized by the many tourist bill boards by the road. We don’t encounter any traffic jams, but there is a steady stream of tourists heading south. Stopping for a break at a service station we can clearly see the demographics here: on one side of the age gap pensioned people, on the other side families with children below the ages of six: all people who can take a holiday before the school’s out at the end of June and high season really starts. Moving on from Faithless, the next list is ‘Women of soundtracks’ and when that one runs out we select French chanson classics to get in the French mood. We pass Angers, Nantes and then Saint-Nazaire where we finally spot the Loire river where it flows into the Atlantic ocean, the end point of our bicycle trip the next two weeks. Arriving at our hotel around five, we make a reservation for seven pm in the hotel restaurant and lounge in the air-conditioned room until then. A perfectly relaxed day.