Cycling to Ste Sévère

The Big Freeze has come to a slow end and, although we have hideous weather today which blew the back off the guinea-pig cage overnight (fortunately our girl stayed safe) we have had a few very pleasant spring-like days. This gave us a chance to get the 2017 cycling season underway. Both Chris and I are keen cyclists and make time to keeping fit enjoyably around our other duties and commitments.

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We did a quick 10k circuit on Tuesday but on Thursday were ready to get going properly. So we did a coffee-and-bun run to Sainte Sévère. The Bar du Guesclin is probably our favourite local café, complete with café cat (with incomplete tail), and the boulangerie just up the road does some of the best Viennoiserie we’ve come across. The bar is on Rue Ingenieur General Viard. Whilst enjoying our coffee we idly wondered about the road’s name, so when we got back I did some research on the Net. The road is named after Jean Viard, whose maternal family came from Sainte Sévère and owned a good chunk of the western end of the road. Jean Viard became a nuclear scientist and in 1960 was appointed head of the Department of Testing within the Atomic Energy Commission. He organised underground testing of nuclear weapons. I suppose it wasn’t too much of a surprise given his background that he died of cancer at the age of forty-five. In 1972 Rue du Commerce therefore became Rue Ingenieur General Viard in his honour.

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We also wondered where ‘Guesclin’ came from so I looked into that too. Bertrand du Guesclin was Charles V’s connétable de France (Constable). His main job from 1370 onwards was to expel the English from France. Hmm, perhaps we shouldn’t go to that café after all! No, we’re all EU citizens now. Apparently Guesclin would often win his sieges by trickery, but I can’t find out what tricks exactly he got up to. Guesclin died in 1380, mid-siege, after drinking too much cold water after fighting in the hot sun. Overhydration on top of heatstroke results in low blood sodium which can be a killer. The drama continued because Guesclin had requested, before he died obviously, that his body to be returned to his native Brittany. It was going to be a long journey and it was summer so the decision was made to embalm him. But in the absence of the royal embalmers, unnamed persons did what they could armed with wine and spices and a few sharp implements. However, a few days into the journey the cortege disappeared amidst a cloud of flies. Guesclin was then boiled in a large cauldron to get all the decomposing flesh off his bones before the journey continued. This is why I love history, all these fascinating facts.

The cold weather is back so cycling is on hold for the time being. The daffodils are starting to poke through but I think they’ll regret it. However, at least they’re a sign that spring is closer than it was.

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