2015-07-31 Gray – Saint Geosmes

Today’s photo is a bridge across the Saone in Gray. Notice how the German, EU, and a local flag are in the centre of the bridge while the French flag is at one end. Gray is over 200 km from the German border but it is only 50 km from the Vosges, which 100 years ago was partly in Germany. I have noticed at a few venues in France that the EU flag is more prominently displayed than the French flag but it is extraordinary especially after WW2 that the German flag is more prominent than any other flag here on the main bridge in Gray.

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Today – 55 km. Total so far – 2000 km. Landmark day today as completed 2,000 km of cycling on this year’s Tour de Travoy. And Saint Geosmes was quite an approaite location to achieve this milestone. Saint Geosmes is sort off the geographic centre of France for rivers. South of Saint Geosmes all rivers flow to the Med whereas north of Saint Geosmes they flow to the English Channel.

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Floral display at the municipal campsite in Gray. There were a number of these swan shape floral baskets throughout the campsite, no doubt because the site is located alongside the Saone river. The campsite itself was lovely with spacious pitches and excellent facilities. By and large, municipal campsites in France are just as good as private sites and are generally cheaper. The biggest difference is that most private sites have chalets and mobile homes (locations) whereas municipal sites normally don’t and just have pitches (emplacements) for touring vehicles.

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Le Boat shipyard along the Saone in Gray. Le Boat is the biggest boat-hire company in France and is owned  by the big holiday conglomerate TUI. Le Boat have shipyards throughout France and it is possible to hire a boat at one site and drop it off at another. A week’s hire of a 42 foot boat in the summer costs about €1,000 on Le Boat’s Three Regions tour from here in Gray to Branges in Burgunday.

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BMW Mini with DL number plates. Since 2009, number plates in France are in alphabetical order. The new number plates were originally meant to be nationwide but after an outcry, the departement number was added to the bottom right corner of each plate. This number plate is from Gard (Departement 30) in the south of France. Perhaps, the owner is from there or he bought the car from someone in the Gard. Before 2009, the French would have to get a new number-plate if they changed address and moved to a different departement. Now the number-plate stays with the car.

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Town centre in Champlitte. About half the shops and offices in Champlitte were either empty or for sale. The Haute-Saone is one of the poorest parts of France and has suffered extensive emigration over the years. In 1851, the regions population was around 350, 000 but it has fallen to around 230,000 now.

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Milestone on the border between the Haute Saone and the Haute Marne. The writing is faded but the milestone is located 51 km from Gray to the south and 23 km from Langres to the north. The first milestones in France date from the mid 18th century and had distances marked in leagues to Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. A league was 12,000 French feet or 3.898 km and was defined as the distance you could walk in an hour. One of the first acts of the French Revolution was to do away with the Royal measurements, so in 1790 France started using kilometres. This milestone on the border between Haute Saone and the Haute Marne looks ancient but is probably only about 50 years old as it is made of concrete.

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Alabama style gunshot holes in a local sign. You see a lot of graffiti in France but damage to public property is rare. Of course, this region of France is known the world over for its champagne and due to AOC, only sparkling white wine from this region can be called champagne. On 1st January 2016, the number of regions in France is being reduced from 22 to 13. As part of the re-organisation, Champagne Ardenne is to be amalgamated with the neighboring regions of Lorraine and Alsace. So it will be interesting to see if any sparkling wine from the adjoining regions will be allowed to be called champagne as well from next year.

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Memorial to General George Patton in Bourg. Patton was one of the few Americans to fight in both the First and Second world wars. During WW1, he served in the Tank Corps of the American Expeditionary Force and helped set up a tank training centre here in the small village of Bourg. The Americans used both light Renault FT tanks and heavier British tanks and drivers were trained at Bourg for combat along the Somme. The base was set up in November 1917 and was operational until the Armistace a year later. In 1944, after breaking out from Normandy, Patton came through Bourg again on the way to attack German forces at Metz and was warmly greeted by the locals who remembered him from WW1.

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Camping La Croix d’Arles I had planned to go to the campsite in Langres but was so tired after the long climb from Longeau, I decided to pull in here and get some rest. I am so glad I did as the place is a gem of a campsite. It is set in a forest so there was lots of shade from all the trees. I think the campsite may have originally been set up by the Dutch holiday company Vacansoleil but it may have French owners now. There were lots of Vacansoleil sign on the mobile homes and in the campsite but there is no mention of Vacansoleil on their website or at the entrance to the campsite. Vacansoleil famously used to sponser a cycling team and their best known rider was Johnny Hoogerland. Certainly, most of the other residents were Dutch some of whom were staying in yurts. Indeed,all of the yurts in the campsite seemed to be full while the mobile homes were mostly empty.

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Sign in campsite in Saint Geosmes. The writing on the sign says ” You are at the centre of the Langres region. To the south of here, rivers flow towards the Med whereas to the north of here, all the rivers flow to the Atlantic.” Indeed, the campsite is located only 2 km from the source of the Marne, which flows through Paris on its way to the English Channel. Almost a month ago, I stayed at a hotel in Paris, which overlooked the Marne as it flowed into the Seine at Charenton; now I was staying at a campsite beside where that river starts.

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