Encounters

One of the things which has made the biggest impression on me this trip has been meeting all kinds of extremely friendly and helpful people – well let’s say 95% of them.
Apart from the friends I stayed with who I obviously already knew, the first were my warmshower host Oliver and his charming wife Polyana. They made me so welcome and even accompanied me for a short distance to ensure that I found my way.
The next was Pascal in the bicycle shop in Obernai who didn’t want to take any money, then the waiter at Raon L’Etape who carried my bike, complete with luggage, into the hotel. He just parked it inside the restaurant! That very same evening I met the lovely couple from Belgium, Luc and Ingrid, who were so interested in my venture and left a comment on my blog. It would also not surprise me if they donated.
In a small town, when I found a shop to buy food for my picnic lunch, a Swiss man, who was cycling from Zürich to Holland, was just coming out and we stopped chatting for a while.
Then there was the American guy who I met in the middle of nowhere – he was cycling from England to Italy. We were riding in opposite directions and both stopped, surprised to see another long-distance cyclist and stood chatting for about 15 minutes by the side of the road.
I won’t forget he gentleman at the hotel in Villers-Cotteret who spoke such perfect English and German, or the young lady at the hotel in St. Omer who was also exremely helpful and spoke good English. She told me she was going to Eastbourne for a year to study English for her masters!
My second warmshowers host, Frances, whose hospitality was amazing, and her artist friends, especially Linda who did a little Oriental dance for me and gave me a donation. Pollly who came to England (home in her case) on the ferry with me, was also trying to be helpfull, but unfortunately not quite succeeding, however she has aslo promised to donate online.
I met three male English cyclists, who were on their way home after cycling from Guildford (I think), also for charity, in a cafe in Dieppe and one of them paid for my coffee and they also asked for my just-giving address to donate.
Then the very best and most impressive encounter up to now: I met Lucy and Kevin, a young couple from Newbury, as we got on the ferry (there were 8 cyclists altogether).
We sat together for most of the journey and got chatting. They also asked for my details to donate, then when it started to rain they offered to take me to the youth hostel where I was planning to stay, which is 8 Kms. from Newhaven. (they had left their small car at the ferry port, while they went to France on their bikes). This was really fantastic, as it was up a dark lane and I would have had to sort something out with my rear light, which was hidden by my luggage. However it meant Lucy waiting in Newhaven with their two bikes, while Kevin brought me here! – isn’t that just wonderful?
There were many, many people in France who were helpful, whenever I asked for directions specially the family between Beauvais and St. Omer, who were ALL trying to help and the father actually came out of the garden to see my map closer and make sure I really understood! People in France were generally very friendly and although I did my best to speak French and was quite pleased with the result, they nearly all spoke English to me.
90% of the Friench cyclists greeted me even if it was only raising a hand or a nod and a smile. I willl update this blog at the end of the trip!

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