(English) The cyclists at the forefront of sustainable development
Titouan, one of our lovely Warmshowers
This last 1st March 2016 has been marked by our first pedal strokes: cold, wind, hail, a perfect early March. We left late so we arrived late at our first stage of Marolles-sous-Lignières.
Kevin, near the Burgundy Canal
A few days ago, we contacted our one-night host via a website, www.warmshowers.org (1). Kevin and his flatmate could not be present to welcome us, they were at an important meeting of the rivers' union which they work for. Their jobs, close to the nature, are, for the first one, to teach men to be wary of the impetuosity of the water and, for the other, to give back to the nature what it has lost because of human activities.
Following Kevin’s information, just before the canal that borders their land, we turn right and find ourselves at the foot of a large and old building where their flat is. The keys are in the agreed hiding place and we climb the few steps that separate us from the warmth and comfort.
Our first Warmshowers place
A bed is prepared and we only have left to clean ourselves and eat something. While Lea is taking a shower, I start preparing a meal. I open the kitchen cupboards: good homemade products, jams that come from their mom, products from organic farming and vegetables produced locally, at few kilometers from here. It's funny, we have some similar tastes.
Our meal prepared, I also run to the shower. In the bathroom, herbal products, essential oils, ayurvedic toothpaste (2)...
In the dinning room where we take our meals, no TV but good comic books, graphic novels and board games to spend good time with friends.
We only meet our guests briefly the next day around a steaming tea and some toasts. They have a nice apartment, bright and spacious, a few meters from a pleasant canal. They like to share this apartment with their friends and bike travelers who are passing by in the region. Actually, they are also experienced cyclists.
We are amazed by their lifestyle close to nature and we have confirmation of its importance in their eyes. We won’t have more time to go further into the conversation, each having to return to his side, to work or on the road.
We leave a little late in a windy, gray, cold and wet morning.
The trip goes unhindered and we can even enjoy some sunshine finally.
Lunch time on our second day
Bernard and Colette in Pourrain, small Burgundy village
Our moral was nearly fell because of a flat tire, at one kilometer of our second stop, down a fairly steep hill. The road ended by foot, pushing our means of locomotion which had became a burden through Pourrain and its alleys leading to our salvation.
The comfort of a hotel and the warmth of a family were waiting for us in a nice Burgundian house.
After a good warm shower and an as warm but much more caloric meal, we hang around the table with Bernard and Colette and a steaming tea.
They talk about their travels and generosity they received during their journey through the Eurovelo 6.
The house is filled with laughs and good mood when their daughters and grandchildren visit them but most of the time, the first floor of their house remains empty. Bernard and Colette are renewing this floor for the convenience of cyclists they regularly receive: in a rightful giving-back, they give back that generosity they received during their bike trips, to all who visit and find comfort in their home.
"What is good with bicycle travelers is that we are sure to share something with them, a common passion which brings us at least nice conversations and even lasting friendships."
Bernard and Colette generosity does not stop at helping those who have a common passion with them. When retirement came, they had to keep finding activities. They started activities in associations and they work in a social grocery store where people in need can find things to eat for reasonable amounts. The neediest of them are financially supported and have to manage the monthly budget that is allocated to them. This way, some management habits that may seem trivial are relearned by those people who have lived too long at the margins of society.
The next morning, we get back on our way after a healthy breakfast offered by Bernard and Colette. On the menu of the day: climbing, strong winds, gust front up to 60km/h all along the way. It's a bit depressing to pain when riding uphill and also downhill because of this wind. But sunny spells have warmed our bodies and minds, that has restored our courage and determination.
The Percher family at Saint-Gondon
Let’s go to Saint-Gondon, where the Percher family is expecting us, and according to their own statements, their name is very appropriate (Percher means “nut”). After 75km of that crazy wind, we reach the endless street where the Percher family live. We ride automatically, looking for our host, when a voice a little high-pitched draws our attention: "It's here! It's here!". Finally, here we are. It's Titouan, 9 years old, the second in the family, who welcome us. We are completely stunned by his maturity and comfort with the two unknown and stinking bikers we are. He opens the shed, tells us where to put the bikes and go looking for the rest of the family for introductions. Thus, we meet Manon, 12 years old, young and dynamic but level-headed girl, Augustin, 6 years old, funny and malicious, and Anne, their mom. Fabrice, the dad, come a little later.
The Percher also are bicycle travelers. After a few short trips, the whole family decided last year to go in a tour of Europe too. For 6 months, parents and children lived on the roads, marveling at the magnificent landscapes, the happy encounters and the generosity of the people they met.
Here, each family member has its place and participate fully in the life of the house. Anne and Fabrice have also thought of everything so that everyone, despite age or size differences, can blossom and feel integrated into the family community. For example, in the kitchen, the most frequently used items such as plates, glasses or cutlery, are placed at a height of child. Then all can participate to set the table or to store the clean dishes.
But the originality of the Percher family does not lies only in this participatory organization. As they say on Warmshower, they are trying "to simply live according the ecological principles that respect nature." And that is quite something. Here, everything that does not come from the local farmers or Biocoop is homemade: from the crackers for the aperitif to the apple juice from the grandpa, through the washing liquid made with ashes and the toilet deodorant. Of course, as Anne and Fabrice explain, from time to time, they indulge in buying a pack of ham or bread at the supermarket. Sometimes life constraints are a bit stronger and they have to make concessions, not to put too much pressure and, above all, they always take pleasure in this lifestyle they have chosen.
We went through the entire house to discover all these natural products, the harvesting and manufacturing techniques, juice extractor, the dryer, the playing cards to learn how to read ... The children were the most enthusiast to explain everything in front of the camera!
The day after our arrival, it was very hard for us to leave. Fabrice – who does not work half of the year – and Augustin spent the morning with us to reap the sap from the birches and gave us some tips about their lifestyle.
We spent a damn good time with the Percher family. All we were looking for was there. Around 13h, we drive gently in the rain and we think about this evening, this morning and these first three days.
Both together, we realize that we would probably find all the sustainable families we are looking for on the Warmshowers website! For now, three homes of bicycle tourists, three households with lifestyle in a peaceful, altruistic, sustainable philosophy. This passion for bike travel probably reflects a particular vision of things. Here, I speak for us, Léa and I, but I am sure our hosts will agree: the travel that is sold in the glossy tourist agencies, this is not a journey. Only the destination is sold. The travel is the ride; it is this ride that makes us. The Candide of Voltaire acquires wisdom through his journey and his meetings, isn’t he? This is also probably why our destination is also our starting point, from Troyes to Troyes, it will take 7 months. The journey is an inner one and I hope there will be new Lea and Florent that you will meet at the arrival.
For further details
1. Warmshowers website connects bicycle travelers and people likely to receive them for a night or two. The principle is already long known and exploited by other more generalist websites like www.couchsurfing.org. We highly encourage you to register on one of these websites, you will meet travelers from around the world, you will help a lot of people, for every invitation, you are sure to hear extraordinary stories, you will teach geography, English and cultural awareness to your kids ... Anyway, run to it !
2. Ayurvedic is the ajdective that is linked to Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a traditional Indian medicine that mainly consists in detoxifications, preparations made from plants and minerals, the change of eating habits or lifestyle, yoga ... In this medicine, prevention is always better than cure and even if you may not adhere to some concepts of ayurveda, we must recognize that it has developed for thousands of years and by empiric means, effective curative and preventive background treatment for many diseases.