Sunday, June 26, 2016

In which Black Betty and I Set Off on a Grand Adventure

Bretenoux is where my cycle tour began. Nicholas drove me down from Candes, bike in the back of his van. First to the Poste to send a few things off to London, then to a restaurant in the lovely village of Gagnac-sur-Cere. It is run by an Irishwoman called Karen. She does a set menu with four courses for 11 Euros and the setting is a dream, under the grapevine loggia in a small square. Worth at least 4 stars for ambiance and conviviality. Not even a wine at lunch but off I went on the bike. Wobbling like crazy. Mumbling "Stick to the right. Stick to the right."  Packed all wrong, with my laptop backpack strapped on top of the back panniers. Top heavy and too light in front. I managed for a couple of days to
Interesting cathedral at Souillac
Souillac though, where I bought a pair of front panniers and made the bike shop a gift of that laptop bag. Then had to learn to wrestle the load all over again with weight in front. Betty the black bike quickly became Bete (Stupid Beast) going uphill. Lucky that following the Dordogne means mostly flat roads.

Carrying tent, sleeping bag, stove and bike kit doesn't leave much room for clothes. But the tent has survived a dramatic evening thunderstorm, keeping me dry. I have never been in a storm like it. Deafening thunder didn't stop rolling around the heavens in all directions for at least half an hour without a break.

So that first day I rode to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, had a look around, and soon set off the way I'd just come, but on the other side of the river. Unpacked the brand new tent at an empty municipal campground - just me, the two caretakers and hosts of mosquitoes that sent me off to bed early. Off to a very thin sleeping mat, anyway.

Oh, those bruises on my hips? Nothing that could keep me awake after a day of rolling along through the French countryside.

Not to mention an 8km ride the next morning before I passed the first cafe and boulanger. Did I mention the gorgeous landscapes, the sunshine, the birds, the scent of honeysuckle?

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