2016-07-11 (Day 25) Bresles – Beauvais – Pierrefonds

Today’s photo shows the Chateau Pierrefonds, which is one of the best preserved and most visited chateaus in France. Earlier, I had met up with my sister and 2 of her kids who had flown to Beauvais airport that morning for 10 day’s holiday in France. We had planned to hire a car and then drive down to the Alps to see the Tour de France. But I didn’t want to do too much driving on the first day so we only traveled about 80 km or so to Pierrefonds to visit the town’s famous chateau.

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Total cycled today – 15 km. Total cycled so far on the 2016 Tour de Travoy – 1405 km. My day may have ended in Pierrefonds but it had started much earlier at a campsite in Bresles. I was up around 6 and while I could have left the tent behind and collected it later, I decided it would be safer to take everything with me to the airport. It took until near 8 to pack everything onto Travoy but I totally mis-judged the distance to Beauvais airport. I thought it was only 5-6 km and would take 20 mins but it actually was 16 km and took almost an hour. It meant I was about half an hour late arriving at the airport. Fortunately, the Ryanair flight from Dublin that morning was delayed leaving Dublin and I actually arrived at Beauvais airport before the plane did.

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Shopfront in Bresles with a huge French flag. On the way to the airport, I passed by this flag in Bresles town center. The flag says “World Champions 1998, European Champions 1984, 2000”. Sadly, though there is lots of space to add 2016 to the flag, it simply wasn’t meant to be or as they say in France, “Que Sera Sera”.

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Eder scores for Portugal. The Euro 2016 final between France and Portugal was very defensive with neither side creating many chances. Portugal were underdogs and then lost their talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, early in the first half, so understandably were reticent to attack during normal time. But as soon as extra time started, they seemed to push up more and more and their tactics paid off when Eder scored with about 10 minutes of extra time remaining.

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The game finished 1-0 to Portugal. France had won the Euro’s in 1984 and the World Cup in 1998 when they were the hosts so it was a big shock for their team to lose at home to Portugal in the final. Of course, many in Portugal would have sympathized with the French because in 2004 the exact same thing happened to them when their team was beaten 1-0 by Greece in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final.

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Beauvais airport. Beauvais is only a small airport but it has 2 terminals. Terminal 2 is on the left of this photo is much bigger than Terminal 1, which is located in the distance on the above photo. We had traveled through Terminal 1 last year before getting the bus to Paris. But because the bus station is right beside Terminal 1, this was the first time I had seen the rest of the airport.

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Entrance to Terminal 1. When I got to Beauvais airport, I first called into Terminal 2 and was relieved to discover that the flight from Dublin was late leaving that morning. Terminal 1 is about 5 minutes walk from Terminal 2 and is much smaller. I had passed through Terminal 1 last year at the start of the 2015 Tour de Travoy and it was noticeable just how much more security there was about the place this year. In particular, there was a group of armed soldiers walking around the terminal carrying machine guns. A few months earlier, Zaventem airport in Brussels had been attacked by 3 ISIS jihadists and the authorities in France were obviously taking no chances in case the same thing happened at a French airport.

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Meeting up with family at Beauvais airport. It was great to meet up with Karen and the kids having not seen them since Easter. Last year, when we flew to Beauvais from Dublin the temperature was near 40 degrees when we landed and the walk from the plane to the airport terminal was like being in an oven. However, today, the weather was much cooler and no warmer than when they had left Ireland. Last year, we had hopped straight on the bus to Paris but this year, we had more time, so we went to Starbucks for a cup of coffee for myself and a hot chocolate for everyone else

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Car hire offices at Beauvais airport. Last year on the Tour de Travoy, I had used Avis to hire a car in Grenoble in order to see the Tour de France and  we tried to do the same this year. However, with 4 passengers and a lot of luggage, we needed to hire a larger vehicle than normal. Unfortunately, Avis was proving to be much dearer than Budget for larger vehicles so we went with them instead. But when we arrived at the Budget office the queue was out the door. It was obvious that Budget was much cheaper than every other car hire company as there were very few people queuing at any of the other car hire desks.

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Budget logo. It took about an hour before we made got to the end of the queue and got to speak to an agent for Budget car hire. We had ordered a Renault Scenic primarily because it has a big boot but we were instead issued with a Jeep Renegade. The car had been booked using my sister’s credit card and I was hoping to be added as a named driver for no extra cost as had happened last year in Grenoble. But we were told at the Budget desk that it would cost €9 a day for an extra driver and as myself and Karen had earlier decided that I would do most of the driving, we reluctantly agreed to pay the extra fee.

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A lot of luggage to pack into the small boot in a Jeep Renegade. We had booked a Renault Scenic as it has a huge boot and space for 5 bags of luggage. But when we got to the desk, all the Renault Scenics were out on hire and we were offered a Jeep Renegade instead. Normally, a Jeep Renegade is more expensive than a Renault Scenic to hire as it costs more to buy but our problem was that the Jeep has a much smaller boot.

Comparison of boot in Renault Scenic (left) and Jeep Renegade (right). With a bike and luggage for 4 people to pack in the car, there wasn’t enough space in the boot. Even with the wheels off, the bike wouldn’t fit cross ways in the boot and would only go in long ways with one of the back seats down. This meant it was a bit cramped for space for anyone sitting in the back. We thought about asking for a bigger vehicle but with the queue at the car-hire desk now even longer, we decided to make do with what we had been given.

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Interior of Jeep Renegade. The Jeep Renegade does not have a handbrake, instead the brake is automatically engaged when the engine is turned off. Not ever having driven a car without a handbrake, it was very awkward to get the hang of releasing the parking brake by using the foot-brake. As well, the Jeep had a diesel engine and because 1st and 3rd gear were very close on the gear stick, I ended up stalling the jeep twice before I even got out of the car-park. It was not the best of starts but once on the open road, I managed OK, although remembering to drive on the right while changing gear with my opposite hand and at the same time looking at directions on my smartphone and keeping an eye on all the traffic around you at times was difficult.

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Total distance traveled today by Jeep – 80 km. The priority today was to call into bike shop to get the gears on my bike looked at and possibly fixed. The gears are made by a Japanese company called Shimano and there are about 100 bike shops in France which are also official Shimano Service Centres. The nearest one to Beauvais was here at Cycles Evasion in Compiegne. Most bike shops in France are closed on a Monday but Cycles Evasion opens on Monday afternoons between 2 and 6. So we stopped off at their shop in the huge shopping centre on the outskirts of Compiegne and called in.

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Cycles Evasion in Compiegne. The manager in Cycles Evasion could not speak English but I was able to explain in broken French that the gears on the bike would not change. He said it would be Thursday before he could get a replacement Shimano shifter delivered to fit to the bike. This was a shock as we hoped to be in the Alps by then. It was also a shock to realize that even Shimano Service Centres do not have not have replacements gear parts in stock and instead have to order them from a warehouse.  I could have asked the manager to order a shifter and we would collect it the following week on our way back to Beauvais. But this meant, I wouldn’t be able to use the bike on my holiday so we decided to tell the manager not to order anything and we would try at some other bike shop.

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Camping Le Coeur de la Foret. We got a bit lost leaving the shopping centre in Compiegne so it was another half hour before we arrived at our campsite for the night here at Pierrefonds. The campsite is only half a kilometer from Pierrefonds town centre and was an ideal location for Karen and the kids to spend their first night camping in France.

Chateau Pierrefonds. Anyone who has watched the BBC TV series, Merlin, will be familiar with Chateau Pierrefonds as it was used in that show to represent Camelot. A castle was first built in Pierrefonds in the 12th Century and extended in the 14th Century by the Duke of Orleans. In 1617, it was seized by nobility opposed to the new 16 year old King of France, Louis XIII. The rebellion was put down by troops sent by Cardinal Richelieu and the Chateau destroyed. It was Richelieu’s first major act as Secretary of State and for the next 25 years, he was arguably the most powerful man in France partly as a result of quashing this rebellion.  As for the Chateau, for the next 250 years, it lay in ruins until it was restored by  Viollet-le-Duc in the late 19th Century. In all, the restoration took 28 years (1857-1885) and cost 5 million francs or about a 100 million euros in today’s money.

Some shots at Chateau Pierrefonds. The chateau closes at 6 so we were too late to visit it so just took some photos outside it. We then stopped at a cafe for a bite to eat but only ordered light snacks as we were hoping to get dinner later. Most restaurants in France don’t serve dinner until 7 but here at Pierrefonds, the cafes are geared up for tourists visiting the Chateau and as soon as the Chateau closes, so too do the cafes. We could have got a meal at one of the many hotels in Pierrefonds but instead we called into a small grocery shop and bought enough provisions to have dinner at the campsite that evening.

L’Embarcadere boat hire in Pierrefonds.  On the way back to the campsite, we stopped off here at the Lac du Berne and hired a pedalo. Half an hour’s hire only cost €8 and it was a lovely way to finish off our first day’s holiday.

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