Excusez-moi

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to post that now I’m able I haven’t got the time to include pictures.  I’ll try and do better next time.

3rd July, Aubeterre sur Dronne

As expected it rained hard overnight and pretty much all day as well, so it should come as no surprise that I decided that staying put in Aubeterre was more appealing than cycling in the rain.

Despite the frustration at not being able to make more progress I decided to put a brave face on the situate so I spent the morning chatting to people at the campsite and getting a new blog posted.

I was forced to interrupt my work when my stomach started to growl so after a short and soggy walk into town I found a restaurant with a sign for steak and home made chips for €10. Very nice it was too, washed down with a glass of Beaujolais, followed by a fruit dessert and a coffee.

I had noticed a very enticing looking settee in a lounge area and since it was still pouring outside I set up camp and got into converstion with an Australian man who, amongst other things, told me that the restaurant has 1 Michellin star. I’m pleased to announce it now also has two Dunford thumbs up.

4th July, Sainte Foy la Grande

Having had several conversations with Dutch cyclists, the consensus is tht an early start is the order of the day to avoid overheating later on, so by 8.30 I was on the road.

After my last day’s cycling I had some apprehension as to how hilly today was going to be, but as it turned out it was all quite manageable.  Although not bright and sunny, the morning air was not too chilly and I had a lovely ride through vineyards, fields and forests.  Whether I went through a magical forest or no, I don’t know, but at one point it was very dark, quiet, and in a way quite creepy.  I wasn’t frightened, but I didn’t stop.  All I know for sure is that when I came out my compass wasn’t working properly, so now, magnetic north is pointing west towards Bordeaux.

I ended up in a very small campsite where I had the enormous good fortune to meet an English couple, Paul and Sarah, who made my day completely by offering me a cup of tea, followed later on by beer and Jack Daniels.  I had a lovely evening with them and naturally couldn’t thank them enough for their kindness and generosity.

The conversation started when I asked Paul for a borrow of their hammer to put in my tent pegs.  I wish I’d packed an inflatable one now.  When relating the evening to Basecamp, she offered the mildly cutting opinion that I obviously have the sort of face that invites pity.

5th July, Castillonès

For all those fed up with me moaning about the foul weather, I shall now start moaning about how hot it is.  30°C today.  Luckily I’d implemented Plan A and set off at 7.45, and so by 11 o’clock I’d covered any number of hills at a relatively cool time of day.

The countryside is like England on steroids which is why the place is inundated with Brits and known as Dordogneshire.  It’s very beautiful but everywhere you turn in the towns the cry of “No,Jocasta, please don’t do that darling!”, is just so tiresome.

I ended up in a little town called Castillonès today which by complete fluke, given the adventure I’m on, is where the man who first thought of, and then completed, the Tour de France by bicycle.

His name was Théodore Joyeux and was a hairdresser in the town (the shop is still there) and in 1895 (I think) he cycled 5500 km around the outer limits of France in 19 days!  So that’s something approaching 300km a day, including the Alps, on a bike that had no chain but used a rack and pinion system that meant that he couldn’t even freewheel.  It makes my effort look tame by comparison as he completed les quatres côtes in just over two weeks and all I can do is an entre côtes in two months. (I know it’s lame but I’ve had a long day).

6th July, Castillonès

Well I’ve let Dear Diary down a little bit as I’m writing today’s entry two days late. For good reason, though, extreme tiredness combined with exhaustion brought about by hill after hill after hill in 30°C heat.

My tactic of setting off early is working to some extent but the hills here the Perigord are so long and so steep as to limit progress to a snail’s day out. I’d love to wax lyrical about how wonderful the countryside is, but when you can’t see straight for the sweat pouring in your eyes it’s beauty is much diminished.

My game plan today was to get to a little medieval town called Tournon in time for lunch and then wait for the Tourist Office to open. All went well with a salad starter followed by lamb chops and a ‘Café Gourmand’ for dessert (coffee ice cream, profiterole and a small coffee on a posh dish).

The problem with the tourist offices is that they have little or no knowledge of anything outside their immediate area, so asking the lady to book me a campsite in the next Département for tomorrow was always tempting fate, anyway, she did make one, so, that’s all ok then…

7th July, Molière

Up at the crack of 6am was hard today as yesterday’s effort had left its toll. Anyway, after a tease start along a valley I was back into some proper hill climbing. The early start pays dividends because although it’s still hard work at least it’s cool.

The day carried on with one long and tortuous up, followed by a fast and all too brief ‘wheeeeee’ downhill, to be followed again by a slog at 0kph for another half hour. One, two, possibly three hills like this on a ride is ok, but when you start approaching 10, the fun is long gone. I covered only about 55km yesterday and the same today but the effort needed must be close to 80 or 90.

I dragged myself into my destination town safe in the knowledge that the tourist lady had booked me a place. This being Sunday, most small towns and villages are deserted, so when I couldn’t see a sign to the campsite my only option was to call them. By now, astute readers will know there’s a problem, but what sort? No reservation? Closed for summer holidays? No. The booking was made fine, with a space available for me in a village with the same name as where I’m standing, but many miles and hills away. Nom de Drew!

So, the bad news is the wrong campsite is waiting for me, the good news is there is a campsite in town at a local lakeside kitted out with beach, water sports, and every screaming French child within a 50km radius.

Beggars couldn’t be choosers but it was a close run thing. It would be fair to say that with the tiredness and way too much sun, my morale has dipped more than somewhat. As really good luck would have it, I got a text from home urging me to stay strong, and despite the other news that Murrey had won Wimbledon, gave me a big lift.

Time to make a route adjustment me thinks as Plan A has me pegged for several more days like today. The truth is, I haven’t got it in me. I’ve done about 900km and am feeling tired.

8th July, Monclar de Quercy

I couldn’t wait to leave last night’s campsite what with a singing Pole and the family from hell. As bad luck would have it I was unable to pay as I left so early but such are the disappointments in life.

I decided to have a shorter ride today as I felt I am getting overtired with the sun and hills but the early morning cycle through the country lanes is pure heaven. Fortunately the day started off with a long roll along a river valley so I was able to reflect on the meaning of life without over exerting myself. The morning ride is fabulous what with greenery, flowers and farm animals, but the best of all for me, are the wonderful smells, particularly the lime tree blossom. I know I mentioned it before, but what can I say, it’s just fabulous.

Of course all good things come to an end and as the heat started getting up to around 34°C, sure enough, the hills started coming, which rather puts paid to floating along serenely, looking at the scenery. So I wasn’t disappointed to arrive at today’s campsite by 2pm.

The bad news is that like yesterday, it’s another Base de Loisirs, or recreation park. Basically a lake with beach, swimming pool and family mayhem. I spent the whole afternoon staying as cool as I could in the shade and when the sun finally started to go behind the trees at around 9, I was ready to sit down and drink in the cool of the evening.

Those that know me will know that I think up to four legs is more than enough for any animal, so just as I was ready to properly chill out for the day, I was less than impressed when the airborne division of the biggest bugs started their evening sortie from the trees. Imagine stag beetles on steroids and then add legs, curly bits and floating around like Chinese lanterns. Jean-Paul Gaultier designed bugs. Like all animals, they instinctively know who can’t abide them and float randomly but without fail in the direction that causes maximum trauma.

Hasty retreat to the tent, all zips closed and never mind the heat.

9th July, Lavaur

I just loved today’s ride. If I could drag myself out of bed before 6am I’d do it. As it was, unusually for me, I woke up hungry, so first order of the day was to find a boulangerie. Lo and behold, one appeared as if by magic, and in I went for two croissants. “With or without butter?”, asked the lady, “that is today’s existential question.” Frankly, it rather took me by surprise, but after some consideration, I opted for ‘with butter’, and in the context of the seriousness of the question, wolfed them down with as much intellect as I could muster.

I’m heading south now to join the Canal du Midi on the basis that unless they have canal boats ‘A Grande Vitesse’, it should be relatively flat.

After my last two nights at recreation parks and bugs the size of Lancaster Bombers, I’ve decided to have a treat so I booked into a B&B in town. Although it’s rather blown the budget the house is over 300 years old and my room is decorated in a modern style. I needed a break from camping and this is fabulous.