Rimbard Manor, Rimbard, Lavausseau

For those eagle-eyed among us, you may have noticed that on Tuesday afternoon Rimbard Manor or Manoir de Rimbard if you are being french, aka the place we ended up, was on the TV on May The Best House Win – Vive Le France, Poitiers episode!

Laura Henderson on May the Best House on Tuesday evening.

If you missed Laura Henderson From Rimbard Manor on May the Best house win you can watch it by clicking here or here.

It was amazing to see this wonderful place again and relive our memories of our stay there, however that got me thinking… we never wrote our review of the place! We are bad bad cyclists!

As I have just said the place was heavenly, I don’t think we have anything bad to say about it. We were welcomed with such enthusiasm, and after our little welcome party we were shown to our rooms. Notice the plural then… after 9 days of spending every moment with each other we now had 4 days of peace and alone time in separate rooms. Trust me this was amazing! Now I know I said about the Ethic Etap in Angers that if you were looking for a hotel with all the luxuries then that wasn’t for you, well it turns out that is because Rimbard Manor is the one for you!

Saying it was luxurious doesn’t even come close, this house has luxury in abundance. The house is an 800 year old renovated manor house sat in 15 acres of land. It has its own heated pool, which is round the back of the house and very private, so perfect for just relaxing and de-stressing after 9 days of cycling.


May the best house win Poitiers Rimbard manor Henderson

The stunning pool during the day!

Laura Henderson cooked for us every day, and the food was very tasty, I fully commend her cooking skills. I am told that this wasn’t just because we were special guest but that this is an extra service they offer to all staying with them for a small fee, and as the meals always included the odd glass of wine or 3 it would be well worth the money.

Anyway back to the rooms. The guest bedrooms are in the old tower end of the house in the east wing. There are three floors, which you get to via the original spiral staircase which was painstakingly taken apart and number during the renovation process to them be treated repairs and carefully put back together. The ground floor has the bedroom that I stayed in, the stunningly beautiful Queen Marie-Antoinette suite. The room is decorated in a French style, with solid wood sleigh bed, beautiful antique furniture, and of course an en-suite with sumptuous bath and walk in shower.



It’s safe to say in that bed I slept very well, I am sure Nikki also did in her room. Speaking of Nikki’s room, she was on the next floor up, in the Queen Elizabeth Suite. The room was actually to die for, I think she could happily have lived in it! Her room was styled in a tradition English way with a large king size four-poster bed with memory form mattress  Again her room was style with stunning antique furniture and had the most amazing en-suite complete with walk in shower AND claw foot bath! But talk about space, the room was huge, we could have had a party in there!



This bed and breakfast is in a word amazing! If you are every looking at going on holiday to France Nikki and I could not recommend this house more. Of course it’s not just us that agree as it has now won the prize as ‘Best House’ on Tuesdays programme! The other rooms in the bed and breakfast include a double room with en-suite entitled the Princess Grace room and a quirky twin room in the top of the tower with a nautical theme, again en-suite, entitled the Rapunzel room. There is a small kitchen with tea and coffee making facilities, microwave, dining table, settee and television which guests are free to use when ever they like. The kitchen opens out into a small private terrace for guest, which seems to catch the sun all day long! The hotel is lovely and quiet, yet at the same time there is plenty of activities to do, which are only a short drive away. Nikki and myself particularly enjoyed going to the Futuroscope theme park one night and going on the Dancing Robots ride!



If you are looking for a more self catering type holiday, Rimbard Manor also has a lovely little gite, or holiday cottage to us English folk, that you can hire out on a week by week basis, though I am told it gets very busy in the summer so booking early is advised. Now once again our stay here was kindly donated by John and Laura Henderson so I can’t comment on the cost, however I have been nosy and looked at the website and I have to say it all looks very reasonable, I would definitely stay here again. If you are looking for a lovely relaxing holiday in France then Nikki and I complete and utterly recommend Rimbard Manor. A big thank you once again them for putting us up!

If you would like to see more pictures or to book your stay you can check them out on their website http://www.rimbardmanor.com/

Nikki & Dan

Day 9: The Final push!

Oh my gosh I hear you all cry! What’s this? Is it really those two cyclist from months and months ago?!? Surely not, they must have died somewhere on route on that last day as we never heard from them again, right? Well really sorry to disappoint you all but Dan and Myself are both alive and well (Although I am missing a bit but will get to that!) 

We both want to say the biggest apology going for never letting you all know how our last mammoth day of cycling went and boy was it an exciting day with so many stories to tell…. 

Ok so we don’t have a brilliant excuse for waiting 5 months before writing the final blog entry, I guess we both put it off because once we had wrote this final days entry that was it, it was really over, we really had cycled 650 miles all the way to France, and there was no more to tell you. I think despite the pain it caused, the tears that came along the way, the anger, the frustration, the sheer longing for it to be over (and that’s just my feelings on the matter) we both really did enjoy it and we got so much out of being able to do it and prove to people that we could set our minds to something and then complete it. The truth is for the 6 months of training and 9 hellish days of the actual challenge ‘R2R Challenge’ became our little baby that we were proud of, and writing this final chapter on it is like saying goodbye, plus once you say goodbye to one challenge you have to start planning the next, something I don’t think either of us are ready for!!! 

But I think the time has come to write this last entry….

So were to start, safe to say we had the BEST nights sleep thanks to Keith and Jocelyn and where do I even start on that breakfast, definitely the food of champions and enough to get us on the bikes for that final push. Now I think another big factor in the making us smile department was that today was the first day we have been able to have a little bit of a lie in. Now don’t all go getting excited it wasn’t the longest lie in but we got to stay in bed til 8am!! Yeah so not overly exciting I grant you as this is the time most people get up for work anyway, but when the rest of the trip we had been up for about half 6 this extra hour and a half was so greatly needed. Now don’t worry we weren’t being careless and just over sleeping, the reason we were able to stay in bed that little bit longer was because today was due to be a nice easy half day ride. When in the planning stages we figured that today would only require being on the bikes for 4 hours max, but as anyone will know, plans change. Now as we mentioned on day 8 my knee and ankle were swelling badly and add to that the raging sun burn, seriously picture me less as delicate rose coloured and more Sebastian from The Little Mermaid (at this point I am hating Dan who wore less sun cream than me and yet never burnt!). So anyway back to out plans changing, we figured that as each day we had been getting that little bit slower and now that I was in lots of pain when I cycled we would have to add extra time on, and as we were on a strict deadline to be at Rimbard Manor for 3pm when the press would be there we knew we would have to get our skates on… or should I say our cleats! So rather than setting off 11am as planed we set off at 9am so hence the shorter lie in 😦 

Now as you all know we were blessed with the best weather known to man during our trip, in fact much better than this so called British summer time, however the rain finally caught up with us today and we spent much of the morning cycling through on and off showers, yet even that didn’t diminish our exciting at reaching the finish line! My excitement just kept growing and growing every time I saw something I recognized and I knew I was nearly there! 

First part of the day, easy peasy… straight roads, a few hills but nothing that even came close to the dreaded A34, all good basically! Partheney however a slightly different matter, we may possibly have got lost and gone the wrong way about 12 times in town, not that I am saying we did of course just that we might have done…. 

But soon Patheney was a thing of the past and we were on the finally road home! So much for us thinking we would need the extra time today, we were sailing along! I think it was the adrenaline from the thought that we had nearly completed the trip fueling us

Pulling up at a cross road I suddenly heard my name shouted at me, which when you are in the middle of now where is a mildly surreal experience. Looking around me and there pulling up next to me with all its lights flashing is the Blot’s car, after seeing the family last night it gave me a real buzz for them to actually see me on the bike as well, and nothing is going to give you that extra push to keep going like a car full of screaming supporters, so cycle on we did!!! 

Soon we were arriving on the outskirts of a town called Vasles, which is two villages over from Lavausseau and a sign for me that there really wasn’t far to go. Approaching the village Dan and I are speeding down a hill when a car in front stops at the crossing, now I admit that I am mildly grouching after 8 and a half days on a bike with very little sleep and so all the way down the hill I am cursing this French driver as I know they have seen us coming down the hill at speed and I just know they are going to pull out as soon as we get close, I just knew it. Yeah, so I was wrong… Instead as we get close Sue Parrington jumps out the car and starts waving the most amazing home made banner at us and jumping around yelling her support, (and you though we were the crazy ones!) Dan and I starting hooting our horns and making as much noise as we could as we cycled past… If Vasles didn’t know we were coming they certainly did now!! We both really felt like we were the celebrities on Tour du France! 

However talk about a come down… cycling into Vasles, we were expecting a few crowds with the amount of people who my Mum and Dad had been telling, but no, alas the town was kinda dead. There in the center of the square was sweet Sue again still waving her banner at us, and looking a little lonely. (For those wondering, she over took us in her car and thereby beat us to the village).

Any disappointment we felt however was very quickly forgotten, Sue made us both feel so amazing. She said this was the most excitement she has had this year, ok so it was only April but still! She also brought us a bar of yummy chocolate from her shop, after all sugar is always good and she also bought us both a drink in the bar while we waited for my sister to drive over with our lunches. Wait is definitely what we did though, with all the setting up that was going on at Rimbard Manor, Kat ended up being 45 mins late getting to Vasles with our lunch (Or maybe we were 45 Mins early). Either way it gave us both a good chance to rest and stretch our legs and realise just how well we were doing for time. The truth is we expected to hit Vasles at about 2 o’clock giving us an hour to cycle the remaining 8.5 miles to Rimbard, but it was only 12 o’clock and we were here already, so the hour wait in Vasles wasn’t the worst thing to happen this trip. 

Setting off again, Dan and I now had our second entourage of the trip in the form of my sister and my little brother in a little green Citroen. Half way between Vasles and Benassay we got supported again and I think for me it is one of my favourite memories of the whole trip. The support came in the form of a field full of cows… yes you did just read that right! Cycling along suddenly this entire field of cows started galloping (do cows gallop?) towards the fence and then as we cycled along the ran the entire length of the field side by side with us. It was the strangest sight to have 40 cows all running along side you, but we of course thank them for their support! 



And Benassay was finally upon us, only one more village to go…

Finally we made it to Lavausseau, 9 hard days of cycling and we see the best sign we had seen the whole trip…

Image Rimbard only 2km… the end was in sight!!

One final push and were at the top of the lane leading to Rimbard Manor, however slight problem, we are over an hour early! At this stage Rimbard Manor hadn’t finished setting up for our arrival, the press hadn’t arrived yet nor had the guest. In short there is no way we could arrive yet. However we couldn’t sit at the top of the lane in broad sight of those arriving, there was nothing to do but go and hide and just relax for an hour. So that’s really how the story ends, 9 days of cycling and we spend the last hour hiding behind a bush 500m from the house, not quite the fairy tale ending!! 

At 5 to 3 and we could wait no longer, back on our bikes we got and down the lane we started cycling, we made as much noise as we possibly could, we wooped, we whistled, we rang our bells, we had our flags round us like capes and the grand entrance we received was amazing!!!! There was banners everywhere, bunting hanging everywhere, people waving flags, marquees set up with cakes, and the best bit, Queen Bicycle Race playing on the sound system!! That was it, we had done it, we didn’t have to get on our bikes again……

Think again!! My sister and brother missed the whole thing! They had got on their own bikes and cycled up the lane to tell us everything was ready for us, but as we were hiding, they cycled right past us and had gone down to the village. So Dan and I got back on our bikes and went back to try and find them and take two on the grand entrance. The look on the French people faces was priceless though! They honest thought we had cycled all the way there and were now just turning round and cycling back to England! 

This time though we really were able to set the bikes down and enjoy the party. A really big thank you to Rimbard Manor for the arrival party and thank you to everyone who came to celebrate our victory with us! 



After a quick interview with the French newspaper and a few photo’s taken and we could finally say we had done it, we had cycled 650 miles all the way to France. We honest can not say thank you enough to everyone who helped make this possible. Thank you to everyone who donated their time, or their money, or their expertise. We couldn’t have done this without all of you and it means so much to us and I know it means a lot to the NSPCC as well, thank you for supporting us on this journey and for taking time to read out blog. Over the next few days we will do a few more blog entries telling you all about our stay at Rimbard Manor, what we have been up to since getting back as well as the exciting day when we gave a talk at a school, but for now we will just say thank you to everyone and no doubt see you all again in the near future when we come up with crazy challenge number 2!! 






Day 8 – The more the merrier!

Dan and I awoke with a spring in our step… ok so that is a total lie being that both of us felt like we were actually dying by this point, however we also knew today was our last full day of cycling as the final day was only going to be a half day. Surely we could push ourselves through another full day of pain!

So I bet you are asking yourselves just how did the above picture get taken if we are both cycling… well we did have another reason to be pleased today… we had the amazingness of an entourage!!! Think Tour Du France support cars! (Ok think Tour Du France if that too is a big green Range Rover covered in NSPCC balloons and posters!) Said support car was driven by Nikki’s very lovely Daddy and had in her mother, sister and brother all wearing very fetching green NSPCC t-shirts, to the french we must have looked like a bunch of escaped mental patient, or just simple ‘The Crazy English’.

The support from Nikki’s family was especially appreciated today as both Dan and I were starting to flag, now that’s putting it nicely! They did for us the best thing possible… they put all our panniers bags in the back of the car thereby making our wonderful bikes as light as a feather. Brilliant idea yes? That is until we hit wind, suddenly our bikes were so light Dan and I struggled to keep control of them as they felt very very different to the bikes we had been riding and had got used to over the last 7 days. To any one watching us it would probably have looked like it was wine in our water bottles instead and we were clearly three sheets to the wind! Of course this is already the recommended way to ride a bike in France, so we probably didn’t look that out of place!

The other slight predicament we came across with having a support car was they took our water. So although we both kept one bottle this we obviously drained quite quickly, not a problem surely we will just fill them back up at the car, that’s if we ever came close to the car again! We would see the car in the distance parked in the lay-by, a little burst of speed and we would be with them, so speed we did! We would get to about 5 meters away ready to stop and fill up, but noooo as soon as we got anywhere near they would set off again into the distance and stop. It was like a perpetual game of leap frog and we were losing badly!  We considered hand signals, waving frantically, weaving down the road, a flare if we had one, or even a siren (There was one on Nikki’s bike but alas it wasn’t loud enough!) anything to try and get the cars attention. Finally after about 8 times of doing it they did finally stop and allow us to fill up, their excuse for keep driving off… they were motivating us!! Uh huh… safe to say we were both already motivated enough thank you very much!

However we both got our own back. When we stopped to have a picnic on the grass, they all came and sat down with us… we looked like a lovely family of crazy green t-shirt wearers. As many of you cyclist will know, although riding the bike is hot work when you stop you feel the chill, therefore we went to put our jumpers on while we ate, as we opened the panniers bags it was like a mass exodus away from us! Safe to say the rest of the family didn’t eat much lunch after that… oh well that just meant more for us. One would think us and our panniers bags were starting to stink slightly!

At this point Nikki would also like to say a big thank you to her big Sister who is a trained occupational therapist. For the last two or three days Nikki had started to struggle with a pain in her knee and ankle, resulting in numerous pain killers and ibrophen gel having to be constantly applied, however with Kat part of the entourage today Nikki’s knee and ankle were nicely bandaged so she could continue on! That however didn’t stop them swelling and swell they did, her leg was now starting to resemble an elephants more than a humans! Thankfully we were near the end of our adventure and she would be able to rest it soon!

Nikki also encountered another problem today! Due to the consumption of food and water the desire to pee made itself know in a bad way. Now Nikki is not one to pee outdoors, in fact she has never done it before in her life, so unlike for Dan peeing in a bush was not an option for Nikki. That is until we had gone a further 2o+ miles down the same road and still found no toilet, by this stage the pee prance was actually painful for her and she was desperado! She was finally convinced to pee being a bush, as long as we never spoke about it (whoops there goes that promise!). So with a now thankfully empty bladder we got back on the bikes, less than 5 mins of cycling and suddenly we see a sign…. 500 meters and there is a rest stop with toilet!!! Safe to say that is the loudest Nikki has ever cursed!

While cycling through one of the numerous small towns France has to offer, we became separated from our entourage vehicle due to a diversion. The diversion sent them round the outskirts of the town but as we were on bikes we saw no reason why we couldn’t go through it, upon cycling about 100m down the road we found out just why there was a diversion…. one big ass fun fair!! Safe to say we had to get through it as fast as possible, as never mind Nikki’s head, Dan’s head was ready to explode with all the different sounds coming from every stall! We think each stall holder was having a competitions with the other stalls on how loud they could be and how many songs they could play, mix that with the sound of the children laughing and screaming and we were glad when we got to the end of it. I think it was possibly the most surreal moment of our day and not anything that we had expected!

After what had been a long and interesting day we were both very glad when the Largeon sign came into view, not much longer to go now! Upon arriving at the house there was such an amazing atmosphere, we were greeted like heroes returning from battle, OK so I admit that that is a little dramatic but you try cycling for 8 days and trust me you will feel that that is the response too! Keith and Jocelyn, our host for the night were really really lovely, we both can not thank them enough. They even agreed to doing our washing, though I imagine they probably needed clothes pegs on their noises (that or full on gas masks) as they put our washing in the machine. When we got to their house we were also greeted by a family friend of Nikki’s, the Blot family! It was lovely to see them and the thought that they had driven so far just to come and see us and wish us luck meant so much, although trying to follow a french conversation while so tired certainly had its problems. Dan and I were also well aware of the state we probably looked, with our sun burnt faces, crazy helmet hair, elephant leg, nasty clothes and of course that horrid stench that was now following us everywhere… if we had been Sims we would have had a green fog surrounding us! But the Blot’s didn’t seem to mind, or at least were polite enough to not mention it!

They stayed talking to us for about an hour and when they left we were finally able to grabs showers each and put on clean clothes, this was especially needed as the Hall’s (our hosts) and the Henderson’s (my family) decided to take us out for a meal. Being able to wear a dress again and feel girly was amazing, I can only imagine Nikki felt the same! (I am joking of course it was Nikki wearing the dress not me!).

The meal was lovely, though I think due to just the sheer exhausting we both found eating a full meal a little difficult, however our left overs were bagged up ready for the day after ( it was pizza, so easy to box up). Though the strangest part of the meal was that everyone in the entire restaurant seemed to know exactly who we were and what we were doing! It was like being minor celebrities, the feeling was rather freaky… although that wouldn’t be the last time on this trip we felt like celebrities…..

Thank you to everyone who supported us while we were doing this, we really can not thank you all enough! Our donation page is still open if you would like to contribute. Please go to http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge and remember all the money raised will go to the NSPCC to help prevent cruelty to children! Thank you so much!

Nikki & Dan xx


Ethic Etapes Angers

Good morning everyone, hope everyone is having a good Friday thankfully it’s the weekend tomorrow! I hope you all have some plans… I will be impressed if some of you are out on your bikes, feel free to post pictures in the comments below of you all on your bikes!

I hope you all liked the last blog post (sorry it was so long ago, life seems to have got in the way) and hope it managed to make some of you smile (I know it made my daddy chuckle!) as you can see Dan and I are slowly catching up on blog posts, real life and this over whelming desire to sleep seem to keep getting in the way. Dan and I have christened this desire to get so much sleep a ‘bike hangover’ if you too have ever felt this you have my full sympathies!

I am afraid this isn’t going to be such an amusing post as the last one, but we will be back on funny form soon telling you all about our day cycling to Largeon. Today instead I am going to quickly tell you about the hotel in Angers. I know most of it was said in the last post but there are a few things I felt the need to mention.

Despite its basic-ness I did enjoy staying in this hotel and if you are ever in the area I promise you won’t find a more relaxing location, we were right by the lake and surrounded by trees and open spaces it was lovely. There were no cars, in fact despite the fact that the main by-pass was quite close there was no car noise at all, from the location of the hotel I would think that I was in the country and not a big city. However if it is city life that you are wanting you can walk back into the city centre in less than 15 mins, so really  you have the best of both worlds. Although we didn’t look into it as we were only at the hotel for one night and were rather sleepy I believe that activities can be arranged such as sailing things etc (wow can’t you tell I am an out-door girl… not!).

As for the hotel itself it is slightly basic, so if you are looking for a holiday with luxury this maybe isn’t the hotel for you! The check in desk, bar and breakfast area as well as communal seating area are all in a different building to what our room was in. Checking in was a slight challenge as the gentleman on the desk once again spoke no English which wasn’t too much of a problem, however his computer system having gone down earlier in the day was a little more of a problem. I simply had to find my name on a piece of paper of people due to check in that day and then assure them that it was me!!!

The walk to our building was not far and we were given a code number to unlock the door to the building after 9pm (not that we planned on going out we were feeling a little like zombies at this stage!) Of course our favourite part was the kennels for our bikes to keep them dry overnight! I thought that was a genius idea, can’t say I had ever seen it before but I felt very happy leaving my bike there and knowing it would be safe all night long.

The little bike huts!

The little bike huts!

As for the room itself, yes it was basic yet spacious (mostly likely as our suspicions were correct and we had been given a disabled room). It had two single beds, a wardrobe and a desk, in the bathroom there was a walk in shower with seat, a ridiculously high toilet and basin, along with numerous grab rails… like we said we did have the slight suspicions that it was a disabled room, I don’t know what gave it away…  But saying that after all the cycling we had done and the way our limbs and bottoms were feeling the high toilet, seat in the shower and grab rails were very muchly appreciated!

The beds were very comfortable, which if you are staying at this hotel and intend for an ‘adventure’ holiday that is exactly what you want. We both slept really well, but then again there wasn’t much option other than to sleep in this room as the Ethic Etape hotels do NOT come with televisions in the room, they believe you should share the experience by conversing with the others in your room rather than watching tv. Therefore if you are there are your own I hope you like your own company! Although we cheated and found a way round that by watching a film on the iPad…. bad Nikki and Dan breaking the Ethic Etape rule!

Next morning breakfast was disappointing to say the least… the picture below says it all….

Just so you know that spoon is a TEASPOON

Just so you know that spoon is a TEASPOON

So as you can imagine after that wholesome and filling breakfast we managed to cycled really far before needing to refuel again… NOT. We actually made it a grand total of about 2 miles. Therefore my recommendation for this hotel if you are going to stay is find somewhere else to have breakfast or take your own. Now I can not comment on the cost of the hotel as obviously they were very generous to donate the room and the breakfast free of charge, however I did notice while checking in that for normal guests (yes that’s right I don’t class us as normal!) breakfast was charged at 5 euros, which I personally would not have been happy paying based on how shocking breakfast was. Now in case people are thinking we just didn’t fill our bowls up very much and therefore that isn’t a true representation on breakfast, rest assured everyone, everything you see in that picture is all there was available!

Overall we slept well, and it was such a lovely peaceful environment and the bikes were 100% safe over night, the only disappointment was breakfast and the slightly thin walls, however if those are things you think you could cope with then we full recommend a stay in the Ethic Etapes in Angers.

Nikki & Dan

Day 7 – Green eggs and ham… well, it almost was!

Hi Everybody,

No, we haven’t gone crazy, no, we haven’t got lost (again), no, we are not still on our way to Angers. What with the exhaustion of the last few days of cycling, then the want of a holiday while abroad, writing blog entries was the last thing on our minds. So, we are catching up with them now we are home to tell you about the last few days of our adventure.

Day 6 saw us cycling from the lovely french town of Vitre into the large city of Angers. If we’re being honest, it was not the most exciting cycling day ever. The roads were long and monotonous and it was pretty much one road all the way down, and yes, there were hills! With Nikki’s knee starting to swell, you can bet how happy she was about those! The real “adventure” started when we arrived in Angers…

Angers was a busy bustling city that we had to try to navigate our way round. After about half an hour of constant stopping, checking the map, turning round, and indecisions, we were finally crossing the right bridge on route to the Rue de Lac du Maine. About half way across the bridge, Nikki suddenly got very excited and pulled out the camera, much to a puzzled faced Dan. All become clear when Dan looked over the bridge to see two Frenchmen playing, wait for it… French horns!

The whole concept did make Nikki smile, even if their playing was quite bad. It turned out Angers is a rather musical city, but more on that later. The route to the hotel took us through a large parkland in the centre of the city. We have to say it was a lovely sunset view, and the park was full of cycle paths. In the heart of the park was the etape hotel, a hotel chain much like Premiere Inn, however this was an Ethic Etape. The whole place revolved round eco-technology and green practices such was walking or cycling rather than using cars, making sure electricity wasn’t wasted, etc. The hotel itself was lovely, although it did give off a slight youth hostel feel. We were both however very impressed with their bike storage facility. Our poor abused bikes each got their own little kennel for the night.

After making sure both bikes were tucked in warm and snug for the night, we went to check out our room. Our room was a little basic to say the least, but was a good size and had everything we needed. From the height of the toilet (yep, it always comes back to that!) and the grab rails everywhere, we had the slight suspicion that we had been given a disabled persons room, but oh well at least it had two beds which is all we really needed. By this point, we had realised we were starving, but town was a 15 minute cycle away which neither of us were prepared to do, after all, our bikes looks so snug and warm. Thinking the bar would still be open, we walked over to the main building where were were greeted with the sight of one closed bar, two vending machines of chocolate, and three french men who were staring at us. We quickly ran back to our room. So that left us with the puzzle of how do you feed two tired cyclists without leaving the confines of the hotel room? The answer, ring Nikki’s French speaking brother. Alas it turned out that Nikki’s French speaking brother was at a family meal, so back to square one. The solution to our problem was internet pizza! Why didn’t we think of that sooner? (For those concerned that we broke our no spending policy, we used the donated “Magic Mastercard“). Our craving for Pizza had been started the previous night. On the way to Vitre we were both running on empty and in serious need of food! We found a town 15 miles outside of Vitre and found that the only place open was a pizza parlour. The UK mainly only have tomato based pizzas, however here they had white pizzas, that being a pizza whose base is topped with creme fraiche. This combined with beef hache, onions, potato, and cheese was AMAZING!!!!
Now, in the UK, provided you speak English, ordering a pizza online is easy. In France, provided you speak french, ordering a pizza online is easy. This is where it got difficult. We were in France, but we speak English (surprisingly enough). Not so easy. But fear not citizens of the blog, there was an internet superhero ready to lend a helping hand! Google Translate! Turns out that if Google translate was a superhero, its special power would be the power of anti-climax. We had found a pizza place in Angers which delivered and set google translate to work on translating the site so we could understand it. It would seem that if traveling, Google Translate isn’t your best companion! Here are the four steps to ordering a pizza according to google…
Despite how google had translated it, we continued trying to order in the hopes that we wouldn’t be betrayed, and we would have pizza in half an hour. The good news is within half an hour, our pizza arrived. The bad news is, this is what it looked like…
Yes, I did taste as horrid as it looks, however we were that hungry that we still managed to demolish it within ten minutes, but not before finding a little frenchman’s hair in it, leading it to be christened as “Mr Fluffy”. Clearly the French don’t have the same strict food hygiene laws that the UK has. To continue eating we really must have been hungry! We’d also like to point out that the pizza came with a salad and a portion of chips. Turns out the salad was lettuce in a box, and the chips were ready salted crisps. The best parts of this meal were the only bits that had not been prepared at the pizza place; these were the two cans of peach flavoured iced tea.
Now, back to what we were saying about Angers being a musical city. While finishing off the remains of the fury pizza (or at least as much as we could stomach after that find), we discovered how thin the walls of the hotel were. Now, we can only assume that the only explanation for this is that her neighbours had kicked her out for being too loud, so she’d checked into a hotel to practice, but in the next room there was a girl learning to play…. We’d like to say something soothing like the harp or the triangle, but alas… the violin! The one instrument that has the power to soothe the senses or grate at the nerves, and you can guess which of the two a novice does! The way things were sounding, by the morning our nerves would look like something from a zombie horror film! But we had a secret weapon! A secret weapon in the form of the iPad! Not only was this magical piece of technology here to enable blog writing, but it was also connected to the internet, and via iCloud could access my entire iTunes music library. It also has several tv episode loaded on, and The Inbetweeners movie . Now, Nikki is not a fan of The Inbetweeners, however the film did make her giggle as she succumb to the effects of her comma tablet. The tablet was the root of several amusing incidents along the trip, much like when Nikki had taken it at this hotel, Dan knew within a few seconds due to her tone of voice, even though she tried to deny that she had taken it. We think the violinist took the hint and shut up, allowing us to get some sleep.
As you can imagine, it’s not the 5 star luxury we’ve been becoming accustomed to, we’re doing all the hard work so you just have the easy job of donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge.
Thank you
Nikki & Dan

Le Petit Billot Hotel

I have to admit that having seen what other French hotels were like, neither of us where holding out high hopes for the hotel in Vitre – however we were both in for a very pleasant surprise!!

The hotel was very different compared to the Ethos in Oxford, however no less inviting. The Petit Billot has a wonderful homely inviting feel to it that instantly lifted our spirits after what had been a long and hellish ride to Vitre. We had originally hoped to get to the hotel for about 8pm ish… high hopes indeed. Due to our slight habit of getting lost (I think we have to thank the French for that for after removing all the road signs when the German Nazi’s invaded and then never putting them back even though the war ended 66 years ago) and of course there was the big dipper road from hell that slowed our progress down. Therefore rather than reaching the hotel at a decent hour it was pitch black, as yes I do actuallly mean pitch black, and about 10.30pm at night. You can imagine how worried we were about turning up at the hotel at such a late hour, but the owner of the hotel was amazing! The owner of the hotel was a sweet little lady called Colette Champs and despite the time she was still waiting up for us and kept looking out for us, she didn’t say anything about the time other than how we must be utterly exhausted (all this in french of course as she spoke only a little english – or Frenglish as we called it) she showed us round to her garage so that we could keep the bikes safe over night and then went and brought us a bag of croissants and bread as well as a bag of fruit and two large bottles of Evian water, all free of charge!! We were both so pleased to have made it and then to have been shown such kindness really made our night… and that was before we even saw the room.

Now here is were I would point out the slight downside to the hotel, the hotel is in a very old building which means there is no lift, but lots and lots of stairs, and of course we would happen to be on the top floor!!! With our legs starting to feel a little bit like jelly and carrying the 20kg worth of pannier bags, climbing 6 flights of stairs was the last thing we wanted to do, however we only had to do it once and the room was worth it!

The room wasn’t modern by anyones standards, but had touches of art deco all around the room, which of course Nikki loved, we had two very comfortable single beds, and a very large bathroom (though only with a shower and no bath). The room also came with a view across Vitre, a desk, a very large wardrobe not that we needed it, and tv, which yes, we did use! There was also free wi-fi, which I am sure begs the question of why has this blog not been posted until we have arrived back home, the truth is we were so thoughly exhausted that night we didn’t have enough left in us to write the blog while in the hotel and so thought wouldn’t have a problem doing it later. We didn’t realise that the next day would be the same and that entries on our to do list would mount up.

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The next morning, we have to admit that due to the beds being so comfy, we did not want to get up, let alone get back on the bikes. We are glad we did though. When we went down for breakfast, it was practically a feast! So much so that we needed an extra table to accommodate all the food and the iPad! Definitely what we needed ready for the day of cycling ahead!

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If you’re ever staying in Vitre, we would definitely recommend “Le Petit Billot Hotel”. You’ll be made to feel really welcome, however we cannot guarantee you won’t loose some hours of your holiday due to the comfy beds!

Nikki & Dan

Day 6 – “You have a choice, Chinese water torture or cycling?”, “Water torture please!”

We ended last nights blog saying we hoped the 62 miles to Vitre wouldn’t be too bad after our night of scavenging, alas it was that bad. It’s safe to say after 5 days of cycling our bodies are starting to feel the strain (thats before mentioning the strain our bikes are feeling). We’re not going to bore you all telling you about the roads but its safe to say we have found the A34’s evil French cousin, or as Nikki christened it, “The big dipper from hell”. If we had only been on this for a short while, we could have coped, but it was 32 miles of the day. Once again, like every other day, it was dark when we arrived at our end location! We are now on the countdown for Sunday when it is all over, and thankfully, on that day, it will be daylight when we finish.
When we said above that our bodies were feeling it, we were not kidding, every muscle in our bodies aches, even muscles we didn’t know we had. Our back barely stand up straight, our shoulders are in need of a good massage, our hands ache from gripping the handlebars, and our legs have taken a severe beating. Speaking of our legs, they seem to have become a mass of purple bruises. Where all these bruises are coming from we’re not sure, but every night we find more. We are also finding that our knees have become very painful, and by the end of a day cycling up a hill can be akin to torture! Actually no, scratch that, torture would be more preferable! We have christened this whole body achiness as “Bikers Body”. I think the worst thing Nikki has to face though, is what her feet are looking like! Her trainers have developed a taste for human flesh!

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However, there have been occasions that have reminded us just why we are doing this. Those occasions usually come in the form of supportive messages from all you readers. The texts we have been getting, and messages on Facebook and Twitter really do keep us going. But it is not just from you readers that we have found kindness, Even general people who pass us by have been so supportive, but then again, we do kinda stand out in our bright green matching t-shirts! As you can imagine, we also look slightly like tourists (some of the looks we’ve been getting all day are confirming that!). I think what gives it away is when we stop to pull the giant map from Nikki’s basket. She does amuse me that she has to twist the map round to the way we are facing as the lefts and rights in her brain don’t seem to work very well! Prime example is when asking which way we’re going, I get the reply of “That way!” and have to look at which way she is pointing. I should point out, I’m generally leading! We we’re particularly impressed with how kind the southerners were, as clearly, being raised as a northern lass and lad, you are brought up to believe that all southerners are snobby. We would like to state for the record that that is so far from the truth, in fact, people have got nicer the further south we go! For example In Benson the manager at the MacDonald’s there gave us two free meals. And we all thought MacDonald’s was a soulless corporation. Even little moments of kindness make us smile, such as the nice French man who offered to take this picture of us both by the Ferry Terminal sign.

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So yes, as you can tell, we have definitely encountered some lovely people along the way, especially those who have put us up for the night and have welcomed us with hot food, a hot bath/shower, and a soft bed, even though it seems to feel like its midnight when we get there. We also want to say a quick thank you to Mandy in Basingstoke for putting us up and for getting up at 6am with us, just to make us some sandwiches. They were very tasty and kept us going for a long way!
Afraid its only a quick blog tonight as it has been a VERY long day, but vitre is lovely and we hope to have a quick look round tomorrow. We’ll fill you in later. So tomorrow we head off to Angers and Dan and I are hoping they may have a washing machine as currently all of our clothes from today are in the bathroom, and we have sealed it off as the air in there is not safe for breathing, and for once, its not due to the poo polka!
If you have sympathy for us having to put these clothes back on tomorrow, these slimely smelly clothes, please consider donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge
Thank you
Nikki & Dan

Day 5 – Good things come to those who wait


So, the English leg of our Journey is now over and we are on the way to France. We’d like to say that the day has been stress free, but come on, its us. There have been a few issues, the biggest of which was Cyclemeter dying after about 20 miles. The phone did not charge properly on the previous night, and so when we set off, it only had about 20% battery life.
We could bore you all with tales of hilly roads which we really dislike, but we have been informed that its getting a bit boring. So, what else happened along the way? Well, when passing through the town of Alton we saw a steam train at the train station, and so of course, went to have a look.

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The rest of the trip to Portsmouth was pretty uneventful until our arrival.
While we had a bit of spare time (not much mind you), we went in search of maps for the French leg of the trip. While walking through the city centre, we saw a queue of people with bikes and the Police were looking at them all. Naturally we went to investigate.
The Police were offering free bike security checks and registration. Much like a car has a unique registration plate and is linked to its owner, our bikes are now registered to us on a Police database. In essence, our bikes are protected by the Police!

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“Excuse me sir, is this your vehicle?”

It would seem that Portsmouth signs are really confusing and were put on earth to confuse simple minds like ours. After having to use maps on Nikki’s phone, we eventually found that we were headed in the wrong direction. We also had Nikki’s dad directing from France over the phone. This wasn’t good when we had to check in in just over 15 minutes time, but…

WE DID IT!!! We made it to the ferry on time! While in the queue, we got taking to other cyclists who we would be sharing the ferry with. There was a really friendly family with two daughters who were enjoying the easter break by cycling around northern france. Nikki particularly liked their bike, they had converted an adult bike and a child bike into a tandem… why didn’t we think of doing that!?

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The other cyclist we met was Phil from Bristol who was cycling to Cherbourg. We have to say it was lovely meeting these people, as normally if we had been in a car we would have never have talked to anyone whereas instead we spent 2 hours in the bar talking with Phil (don’t worry, we haven’t broken our no spending rule, Phil kindly bought the drinks).

Now for the fun part!
It wasn’t exactly the smoothest crossing ever and Dan doesn’t have the best sea legs, so I think he was really struggling. The interior designer of the boat clearly didn’t have seasickness in mind when they designed this boat! The carpets in the corridors all had waves on them. This coupled with the rocking of the boat made for a very queasy tummy!!!! However we had more pressing problems , we did not have a cabin, but we had reclining chairs, which we both thought would be sufficient as a reclining chair is meant to do what it says and recline. How wrong we were! The chair reclined about a maximum of 10-15 degrees, and so it was near impossible to get a decent nights sleep on one. Add to that that they were next to the bar and the thought of getting any sleep went out of the window, or the porthole! So then the hunt began for a place to sleep! Thankfully kind Phil let us leave our bags in his cabin, so that took some of the pressure off. We contemplated corridors, bench chairs in the restaurant, and even under stairs on what looked like an engineering deck. After traversing the ship for at least an hour using the map in Nikki’s head, we finally found somewhere in the most unlikely place. It was squishy, it was quiet (for the time being), it was colourful, can you guess where we slept?

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No, your eyes are not deceiving you, that really is a children’s play area with a giant inflatable octopus! We started out sharing one pillow between us, however after a couple of hours, they turned the air conditioning on. Why would you do this in an abandoned children’s play area?!
So, once again, Nikki was on the hunt, but this time for a blanket. She came back with one blanket, and one inflatable pillow! I have to say, the pillow was the most useless invention ever! We had to now change our sleeping position. We were now sleeping top to tail and sharing the blanket. I have to say the blanket is the most ironic thing ever. Its covered with words describing a good nights sleep, but that is certainly a long way off what we were getting. What must we have looked like to passers by? Two grown ups (used in the loosest possible sense) in a children’s play area, covered in an electric blue blanket, cuddling each others legs!

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Disaster stuck again around 6am when children came to play in the area again. What made them thing this was an acceptable thing to do in our “bedroom”? As so the hunt began, again!

*WARNING* – If you are easily shocked, stop reading now!

After much searching of the corridors we finally found a cabin that the participants had left. Sneaking in, we locked the door and claimed it as our own. I think that is the best half hours sleep we had all night. Of course we could have been caught at any moment for stealing a room. It would have been rude not to use all the amenities at our disposal, and so used their bathroom, and left them a little “present”. We’re not saying who left it!
Eventually we got thrown out of that room too (only because it was time to disembark), but not before Nikki became a pikey and stole all of the toiletries, sachets, biscuits, etc. Then on passing other cabins, she stole more! We now have a stock pile of 20 mini biscuits! As you can tell, it was an eventful journey if nothing else!
Lets hope after our night of scavenging, the 62 miles to Vitre won’t seem too bad! If you would like to help, please consider donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge.
Thank you

Nikki & Dan

Day 4 – Cabin fever sets in…

As today’s journey has been rather uneventful other than the last 10 miles when we got a bit lost and took 3 hours to do it, we’ve decided not to bore you all with uneventful road, the weather, etc, but instead to share with you some of our experiences on the road.
So we know some of you have questioned our sanity, especially when we first started planning this trip, but if you saw us over the past few days, trust us, you wouldn’t doubt our sanity any more, you’d know we’d gone crazy! Along with our craziness we have also become quite candid and seem to have no problem sharing personal details, especially regarding our toilet habits. (O….K…..) Yes, you did just read that right, we have for some inexplicable reason started sharing information regarding our bowel movements with one another. Betting you’re glad you’re not with us now! Now while riding the bike everyday we seem to have come across four main issues. So much so that we have now classified them with their own unique name and specific “dances”. You too can try these at home, and you don’t even need music! These are the following:

This movement involves a slight shuffle along the floor trying not to jiggle too much otherwise you jiggle your bladder. Your feet will barely leave the floor, and you will take small steps. Failure to do so could result in disaster and the overriding urge to find the nearest bush!

This one has slightly more disastrous consequences than the Pee Prance if not performed correctly, and also results in a look of confusion/desperation on the sufferer’s face as they try to work out if its gas or something a little more solid. To do the Poo Polka all you have to do is “shake your tail feathers” as you walk. The more pressing the feeling, the more shaking is required.

This one Dan and I have become quite expert at, it is similar to the Poo Polka but shorter, although that depends on just how far up ones wedgie has gone. The main characteristic of this move that separates it from the Poo Polka is that hand stretched far behind the back and the back being arched. The suffer leans backwards, grabs hold of their underwear, then wiggles in a downward direction until said underwear has been dislodged from ones posterior.

As you can imagine, after four days on a bike we are feeling this one. To do the Sore bottom shuffle requires some skill and expertise. We’d like to add finesse to the list but we all know thats not true! The sore bottom shuffle goes like this… (to the tune of the hokie kokie)
“You put your bottom to the back, you put your bottom to the front, back, front, up, down, move it all about, you do the bottom shuffle and keep your bike straight, thats what its all about”

We hope by the time we get home that you have all mastered these dances too! We’re in the process of planning a celebration party on our return and we expect to see you all perform them!
However it would seem that our sharing of toilet habit stories isn’t limited to time on the bike, but also in hotels, public places, and currently MacDonalds where we are writing this entry. In fact, the other day Nikki sleptwalked to the bathroom, got back into her bed, and decided to tell me in gret detail all about her experience while she was gone for the 2 short minutes. The conversation was longer than her time away… Oh yeah, she was asleep the whole time!
For those of you who may be interested (and if you are, you are a strange strange person!), Nikki wrote yesterdays blog post about the hotel when sat on the toilet. How you ask? Well, this was actually a stroke of genius (theres a fine line between genius and insanity!). As the blog is being written on an iPad, and we have a bluetooth keyboard. Nikki took just the keyboard into the bathroom with her and left the iPad charging on the bed while I packed the bags. As Nikki could not see the screen and what she was typing, there was the occasional call through the bathroom door of “Dan, can you check what I’ve just typed” to which my reply would be something along the lines of “backspace three times, right now add a t”. It definitely made it a little different from your average blog post…
So hands up, how many of you are reading this while on the toilet now? Surfing and pooping is a totally legitimate sport!

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The reason we are doing this and sharing all these somewhat personal stories with you is to help the NSPCC. Please consider donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge
Thank you
Nikki and Dan

Our night of luxury in the Ethos Hotel

ok so I have decided to do you all a quick blog post about the amazingness that has been our night in the Ethos hotel!

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A night of luxury is clearly what we both needed, and the Ethos hotel didn’t disappoint us! Our room has the comfiest beds I think either of us have ever slept in, in fact so comfy that Dan snored his head off all night! I am going to blame his snoring on the fact we have been breathing in so much crud on the roads and are both sounding rather horse now! Our room also had the luxury of a mini kitchen, sink, kettle, toaster, microwave and fridge. The bathroom has the deepest bath i think I have ever been in, after spending a good half hour in there I decided I want to become a mermaid full time! The bathroom has underfloor heating which has been heavenly on our aching feet and the main room has the softest squishest cream carpet. (By the way I hope I am not making you all jealous) The tv in our room also had full sky so we ended up watched the latest Pirates of the Carribbean film while we ate our tea, yes we did eat our tea in the room, despite planning to go out the truth is we where both just far to knackered and decided a bedroom picnic would be a much better idea!
Although I am not sure how much this room is to stay in normally as obviously the Hotel has donated it to us for the night I would fully recommend that if any of you are considering making a trip to stay in Oxford that you consider booking this hotel, I promise you will not be disappointed.
In fact we were so happy with the room that when the alarm went off at 7am this morning, we reset it for an hour later! Yes this does mean we are a little late setting off this morning but I don’t care! Once up we went for breakfast, which we have just come back from and it was amazing. Now I should point out that the restaurant isn’t connected to the hotel it is about a 3-5 min walk, but trust me it was worth it, The restaurant is a lovely cafe on the river front and the food was amazing! As we need to have a hearty breakfast we each ordered three things off the menu (ok so the waiter did give us a few funny looks) we had the full english which wasn’t like any full English I have had before, maybe its because we are in the south now but it was very very posh. We also had the pancakes with fruit, maple syrup and cinnamon. My gosh they were tasty! And just because we had eaten enough we also had the musli porridge which was full of more fruit than I have ever come across! Of course we followed all that with fruit juice, water and hot chocolate. Safe to say we are ready for the day ahead!

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I think the only two negatives we have to say about the room is that there was nowhere safe to leave our bikes so we just had to strip them of everything valuable and chain them up outside, but we weren’t too worried as like Dan said on Facebook Oxford seem to be a city of bikes and they are chained everywhere and I actually mean everywhere!! The only other thing that bugged us slightly was the very noisy fridge. It hummed all night and made it sound like we where on a plane, but then again it can’t have put us off sleeping too much as I slept like a log (in fact I think that might be the best night sleep I have had in a single bed) and Dan slept in superman pose all night!
You can tell that we are have really enjoyed our room as its now 11am and we are only just setting off! Best get our cycling grove on!!!
Wish us luck!

Nikki & Dan