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Green Jersey Travel Blog: Discover the unexpected
Published on: 29th May 2020
By Charlie Bladon
There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that one of the real pleasures of travel is coming across something that you did not know was there and that raises a smile on your face. Guide books are all very well and ensure that the main - and mostly busy - highlights are not missed, but it is the smaller delights that really gladden the soul. For me, this came in the shape of a ruined chateau on a hill beside a lake as I rode from St Malo to Sete about 18 years ago, before we started Green Jersey Cycling Tours. The day before had been misty and dank as I climbed the Puy Mary in the Massif Central - a not insignificant climb that is included in this year's Tour de France. It made for a tiring day, loaded with panniers and covering about 80 miles a day.
Having slept well, I examined the map once more for the best road south and settled on an unassuming back road leading to a reservoir. On this occassion I was actually trying to avoid one of the well-known local sites, the viaduct built by Gustaf Eiffel, but which I did manage to see off to my left shortly after I left town. The sun was shining and all was well with the world as my muscles and rear warmed up and after half an hour I had relaxed into the rythm of the ride. It was then, plunging down a switchback descent that I saw before me the ruins sitting on a hillock, silhouetted against the clear blue sky, with a lake in front. Apart from the birds and a solitary fisherman, the world was deserted and peace reigned. As the mist rose slowly off the lake in the early morning sun, I stopped and stared at the wonderful scene, a mixture of the old and the now, lost in thought as I contemplated the sheer beauty and peace of the place; that the landscape was indeed changing as I got further south; that I was now well over half way to the Med; and that if this was what cycling in France was like then I would like to continue to do more of it - much more, as it eventually turned out!
Of course, many will cycle past this same place and whilst they will find it pretty it may not have the resonance that it did for me, but that works the other way too and I would ride past places they would feel compelled to stop and stare at; but I do feel that on every trip there will be one such experience for people, a little snapshot that they will take away and remember for many, many years to come. This, I believe, is the essence of travel, and we are lucky in this day and age to be able to create such experiences for people.
Apologies for the photo quality - it is a scan from an old fashioned photo from pre-digital days!
Charlie Bladon: 29th May 2020 14:18:00