I left late, as you do when you’ve got further to go than normal. In its own way this was good, it meant I reconciled myself to the rhythm of the tour and the insignificance of external temporal reality. Or more succinctly, you get there when you get there.
I hatched a plan to stop after 20 miles to get provisions for a roadside lunch. I found an Aldi and the security guard got testy but then agreed to watch my bike for five minutes. I didn’t buy anything. He got really suspicious then and checked my bag. I told him I was vegetarian and he let me go. I tried LeClerc instead. It was one of those massive ones with a shopping concourse. I wheeled the bike through and got accosted by two really burly French securité men. They were very helpful. Firstly, they tried to put my bike into a trolley locker. It wouldn’t fit. Then one of them disappeared and came back with a plastic chain and suggested I lock it outside next to some bored-looking, culturally and ethnically disenfranchised youths. I politely declined but thanked him for his help, wished him and the youths un bon journée and went across the road to a bio place and bought plastic fake meat and grated carrot and bread. Truly, the lunch of champions.
I stuck to the route and duly discovered beautiful things I didn’t expect to see, in this case a string of fortified hill top towns. They’re called “bastide”. They’re really old and have lovely names like Monpazier, Monflanquin and Villereal. I stopped at Villereal for coffee and it was a market day. Apparently the market had happened on every Saturday since 1288. Some of the inhabitants have been to every single one. The central Halles is an incredible building of oak and wattle and the town was vibrant. The charming scene was improved by the addition of an English group drinking pints of Guinness and shouting at the waiter for a “cup wiv a handul mate”. I don’t know why they wanted a cup wiv a handul or why they were there, apart from to support the case for brexit to sceptical frenchies. They were doing an exceptionally good job.
The countryside was undulating and heavily agricultural. It made for good riding, gentle climbs with lovely and fast descents. It was also full of birds of prey. I saw several more Black Kites and two Hen Harriers, a visually arresting sight, white with black wingtips. At first glance it looks like a gull, but is shaped like a raptor. I also saw a field full of egrets.
My legs felt ok, I had good sensations. Generally, I’ve felt better on the bike than off it, fingers crossed it will continue.
The second half of the ride consisted of rain. I stopped in a bus shelter to eat my haute cuisine lunch. It all got very audax and I felt a bit dirty. I crossed the Dordogne, a huge and sultry brown mass of movement, and rolled through a tributary valley alongside troglodiste houses, some of them enormous bunkers hewn from the rock. Dordogne has lots of stuff to see before you even get to the cave art. One day I’d like to return for a more measured visit rather than pass through.
For about an hour I resisted getting the rain jacket out, it was really warm, about 20 degrees, and it was only when it threw it down on the run in to Périgueux (perrygoo not perryshoo) that I stopped. I made one last visit to a supermarket, walked straight in accompanied by a trailing River of filth, besmirched the floor with black wet wheelgunk and responded to the stares with “il pleut un peu” and just brazened it out. Success: 89 miles and 5000 feet ticked off, supermarket strategy mapped out, wet shoes ready for tomorrow.