CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today CLICK HERE

Adam Lee Potter: Cycling from Moreton to Marseille

PUBLISHED: 11:06 11 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:06 11 October 2016


We have long had a love-hate relationship with France: we love their food, they hate ours. As Voltaire said: “England has 42 religions and only two sauces.”

And it was perhaps brave - after an evidently bruising breakfast of Marmite - to take our visiting French friends to the Square and Compass.

“What,” asked Agnes and Thomas, earnestly, “is a pasty?”

My French is borderline schoolboy. I say “c’est bon” a lot and loudly, peppered with the occasional, meaningless “donc” for added authenticity.

Trying to describe Dorset’s finest pasties put my limited vocabulary sorely to the test.

Clumsily, I opted for: “C’est une populaire tarte anglaise, avec viande ou legumes.”

They seemed to get it. “Ah,” said Agnes, eyes widening: “Un prolétaire torte”.

There can be no neater summation of the gulf between our two cuisines. Is there any foodstuff or ingredient that doesn’t sound grander in French?

To be fair, our chums took to pasties with relish though, annoyingly, Voltaire was proved right: we did indeed have just two sauces, red or brown. And it was all, as ever, utterly delicious.

The Square and Compass is, of course, a rite of passage. I cannot imagine jogging along with anyone who doesn’t get it: the life-affirming joy of a wet scramble down to Dancing Ledge followed by a scalding, hot pasty and a muddy pint of Eve’s Idea.

Our friends’ UK visit was the coda to my little French odyssey: a petit, 10-day Tour de France, from Moreton to Marseille by bicycle.

I’ve cycled this route now five or six times: my inaugural trip was nearly 30 years ago. And though my kit has improved - no more rugby socks, Dr. Martens and fat tyres - little else has.

Today’s France is happily, largely indistinguishable from that of 1989. The climb into the aptly-named village of La Chaise-Dieu is still a pig. The 20-kilometre swoop down from Col de la Chavade into Aubenas is still a 70kph delight.

I even insist on the exact same diet: baguette, Camembert, tomatoes, peaches, Snickers and Yop for breakfast, lunch and supper.

And a UK Mamil (middle-aged man in Lycra) remains an irresistible target to a French Vomit (very old man in tights).

I had an especially taxing encounter with one sprightly fellow who flashed past me as I clomped into Orange.

He was in his 50s, the colour of burned leather, sporting a gleaming old Peugeot.

It’s like an illness with me, some glandular, childish throwback, but I cannot resist a race.

For 10 hilly miles, we were neck and neck, breathing hard.

As the city walls hove into view, I thought I’d met my Brexit. But no. At a mini roundabout on the home straight, my Gallic rival suddenly braked and clambered off.

I peered over my shoulder to see him bent double, being sick into a roadside planter. Just enough time for me to sprint round the corner, throw my own bike down, and cough up some Yop.

Still, a win’s a win! 


Adam Lee-Potter: My summer in London - A summer in London soon makes you yearn for Dorset’s coast and countryside


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

From your first step, you will see superb views from hilltops and farmland footpaths on this walk

Read more
Sunday, November 11, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

To mark the centenary of the end of World War One we visit some of the memorials erected across Dorset to remember the fallen in the ‘war to end all wars’

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

This lovely walk takes us from watercress beds to a church famous for its life-size carvings of apostles

Read more
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Autumn is a great time to brush up on your gardening knowledge with the help of some experts, as well as see some well known gardens in a different light

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The guide to Dorset’s best firework displays and bonfire events happening in 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Prepare to experience the paranormal this Hallowe’en as Visit Dorset reveals some of the county’s most haunted pubs, stately homes, historic buildings and tanks

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

From festive light switch-ons and Santa’s Grottos, to German Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Dorset this season

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

Dorset villages are some of the most beautiful in England – think winding lanes, thatched cottages and a cosy pub or welcoming tea room. We suggest ten of the prettiest villages to visit in the county

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans on this lovely walk that takes in rare habitat, ancient woodland and glorious views

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Marine photographer Steve Belasco shares some very special wildlife moments

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TravelSupermarket has uncovered the top 25 most popular UK beaches on Instagram after analysing hashtags used for over 1,100 beaches and Bournemouth comes out on top

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ride + Stride, Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s annual fundraising event, is a great way to explore and support some of the county’s more unusual places of worship

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search