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Day 3: From Laon to Gisors, 110 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

5:30 Tuesday morning and after a nice shower I write the blog of day 2. Floky is still fast asleep. Through the window of the room of the 18th century maison de maître I have a beautiful view of the choir of the cathedral. Another one of many: in this case an early gothic cathedral with all the features of the early gothic. A glare in the rising sun. Yesterday morning after breakfast I went back alone to the cathedral ND de Loan. I wanted to see the rising sun in the beautiful rose window and the three long windows below it. After all, Laon Cathedral is known for its old beautiful 12th and 13th century stained glass windows. In the stained glass windows of the choir you can see the story of the passion and next to it the story of the life of Christ based on the Bible and on the apocryphal gospels . The latter are stories not recognized as genuine by Rome. The crucified Christ on a green cross refers to the tree of life and to hope. Green is also an important color for the Rinus-Pini Fund because it was the favourite colour of Rinus and we also try to live on with hope and what the fund does is also giving hope to others.

After a short visit to the church I walk back through the medieval streets of the old town. Many buildings are being restored and are completely wrapped up. Heritage must be preserved and therefore restored. While I was gone Floky prepared all the bikes and put all the luggage back on. The four drinking bottles are filled and we leave immediately because the day will be long with 100 km of pedaling. First we are going to take a special photo. Het Laatste Nieuws (the most read Flemish newspaper) might write an article about our fund and about the trip and they ask for some photos. Floky has picked out the place and knows what should be on it: especially the bicycles with the text on them and us. A jogger passing by is willing to take those few photos. Sebastien Vasseur, that's the man's name, is very friendly and takes plenty of time to help us because he thinks what we're doing is a great initiative. He takes a picture of our poster to check the website. Magda has worked very hard on the website at home and all basic texts are now available in NL, EN and FR. Peter also helps because Magda is in our house where Peter runs a B & B in Serviès-en-Val near Carcassonne. Magda stays with him because otherwise she would be alone in Leuven.

Opa en Floris with the sign of the Rinus Pinifonds, Mr. Vasseur and wheatfields

After our photo shoot we head down the hill from Laon towards Soissons and Compiègne. We follow the cycling route that Google Ways offers us on some D lanes (Départementales) but mainly on small C lanes de communales through the departments of the Aisne first and then in the department of the Oise at the end of our ride. Some of the roads we take are part of the Voies Vertes network, which has been developing in France for many years now. We don't come across many cyclists anyway. Usually we are alone.

It will be a beautiful trip in a rolling landscape of hills with beautiful nature under a (too) warm sun, but we are well protected by sun cream. Immense wheat fields follow one another where pecking is in full swing. In between corn fields, sunflower plots and also a lot of potatoes. Some C roads are in very bad condition and have almost completely disappeared and are overgrown with grass. Floris thinks that's fantastic. We both have very good tires that don't break easily. We hope that everything will continue to run smoothly. Around noon we stop in the small village of Britty with a renaissance church of which we take a good look of the outside before continuing to cycle towards Compiègne.

The Clairière de l'Armistice, Statute of Marshal Foch, River the Oise

Close to this town, we pass the clarière de l'Armistice, the clearing in the forest where the armistice of the First World War was signed in a train carriage on 11.11.1918. The train carriage and a large statue of Marshal Foch are still there to the honour and glory of the victory of the Allies, but especially the French. Time for some history lesson for Floky who listens interestedly. In this forest we stop to cut a Cavaillon melon and eat it: super refreshing. From the edge of Compiègne, a beautiful cycle path leads out of the forest along the stately Oise river that we can follow for a long time. The Oise rises in Belgium near Chimay where we started our pilgrimage and now we find it here as a great wide stream. It is a tributary of the Seine into which it flows into Conflans Ste Honorine. It is 300 km long and we have been able to follow it for almost 300 km.

We avoid the city centre of Compiegne because it is too hot and cycling along the river is cooling. The last 20 km we have to go back into the hills to reach the village of Avrigny where we stay in a rather shabby and unattractive old hotel, but the room is super clean. You can also eat there and since we have no other choice in the area, we do. A very limited menu: starter raw tomatoes with olive oil (or with shrimps a bit more expensive); main course entrecôte or omelette with fries and lettuce. So for Floky an entrecôte bleu chaud (and it is) and for me a nice omelette. The fries (potatoes) and the meat come from a farmer in the village, the tomatoes and eggs from the garden and the chicken of the hotel owner. Very limited menu but everything quite tasty. Plus water for Floky and a white wine for opi. I ask for a small pichet and get a full bottle for 8 euros. Too much to drink but it was tasty. A nice end to a nice day, especially in nature.

Sunflowers, Floris enjoying his steak, weeping willow

Tomorrow it will go along C lanes to Beauvais and the late Gothic cathedral and then cycle on to Gisors. From there we are on via Turonensis and reach CHARTRES the day after tomorrow on Floky's 17th birthday. We are looking forward to it.

I cannot fail to conclude by saying that it is a fantastic experience to cycle this distance with a grandchild. We talk about anything and everything. Keep to the same rhythm without being asked. We also regularly refer to Rientje and the purpose of our journey: with the resources we collect, we want to bring HOPE to other families who lose a (grand)child.

There are many beautiful green weeping willows along the Oise river. Opi feels like a weeping willow. He continues to grieve for the loss of Rientje, but every year new leaves grow on this tree so that people can find a pleasant, refreshing shelter under it in the hot summer. Hope brings life.

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