Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Discovering the Roannais

Roanne, August 8 - 15, 2011

Picking a title for this post was easy: I just had to translate the sign below:

If you are curious: the Roannais is the area around the town of Roanne which is situated pretty much in central France, with Saint Etienne (see previous post) and Lyon as the nearest bigger cities.

Roanne happens to be the home town of Ghislaine's cousin Jacques and his wife Marie-France. They have a big house there which makes that I like to call Marie-France the Chatelaine. The title is well deserved, in particular because of her outstanding hospitality. I know, because we just spent a week of vacation at their house (and with their grandson Kylian, who told me I was chouette).

Of course, I brought my bicycle along and went out on a 4 - 5 hour ride, every other day, as a last tune-up for next week (my frame number is 4605).

Of course, I wish I could have managed to go back to St. Etienne and do the venerable Col de la République climb at least once; but this will have to wait for another time. Instead, I picked the mountainous area north of Thizy (on the top-right corner of the map above - click on it to zoom in) as the destination of my first excursion. And what a destination it was - Que Du Bonheur!

I started out on the "Milk Road", but soon gained altitude through Coutouvre with its mural paintings:

... and reached areas with greener grass and even happier cows:

It was very cloudy at times, but I stayed dray and enjoyed the change from Cannes' sticky atmosphere to the clean, fresh air in the forests. I accumulated several cols and quite some total elevation gain:

At the Col du Pavillon:

... I was amused to find a sign towards Belleville:

And I touched the border between the Départements of the Loire and the Rhone:

I stopped for two more pictures on the long downhill on the way back:

Pretty little town of La Cergne


Two days later, I followed the recommendation of Jacques and went southwards along the Gorges of the Loire to Balbigny and back, discovering a different view of the Roannais. No altitude to speak of (the Loire is well below 300 m at this point); but the road often goes up and down on the hills along the river, and the climbs are generally steeper than in the forested areas at higher altitude. All in all, another wonderful excursion and good training!

Château de la Roche

Pretty railroad bridge

A flower tree in Balbigny


Finally, one last day of riding in the Roannais, this time to the top-left corner of the map at the beginning of this post:

For the occasion, the Chatelaine had made me yet another pair of sandwiches for the road, and in recognition we urged her to pose for a souvenir picture with me before I left:

This was the route with the highest elevation and the longest, most demanding climbing; I enjoyed it even more thoroughly than the previous two.

Isn't that the prettiest name for a Col?

The declared destination was the station of  La Loge des Gardes. I certainly wish I could have stayed there in the woods at 1100 m for several days:

Time to smell the flowers!

And now, I also know where the département de l'Allier is!


We are back in Cannes now, but only for a couple of days before leaving for Guyancourt / Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Onwards to my second big goal of this year! (I won't be able to report about it immediately after the event, however; we have additional travel plans before coming back to the South).

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