Monday, 10 September 2007
Day 16 - le Meix-Tiercelin – Dienville – 54 km
Some women reading this will recognise the particular facet of male behaviour I call the Hoover Syndrome. The desire/compulsion to start up conversations when you have either started the hoover up, are talking on the phone or have just gone to the bathroom. And now I can add another item to this list – cycling up hills. Something about this particular situation inspires Paul to point out the flowers on the wayside (needlessly – I have seen them before, lots of them) or worse still choose this very instant to ask for my in-depth view on something or other. Hasn’t he noticed that I am gasping like a stranded fish and am completely incapable and utterly unwilling to reply? When we are at the top of one of these hills I tell him so and add that burbling on the ascents is a dangerous past time, because next time I will ensure I reserve just enough energy to knock him off his bike.
Grumps and sulks aside, the landscape here comes as a great relief after the cereal deserts. There are some uncomfortable ups, but in general we are cycling through verdant valleys and villages with half-timbered houses and clapboard sheds that we cannot pass without taking at least one photo. The route takes us on a mixture of paths and small roads and with our increasing fitness it’s quite simply good fun, until our VF map takes us onto a Grande Randonnée no one else is foolhardy enough to use. We spend the best part of two hours beating our way through the undergrowth and finally ending up more or less where we started, so we give up and camp in the village of Dienville, which we already know pretty well because we have been through it twice.
We have been taking our basic route from the TOPOFRANCIGENA and have tried very hard to be faithful to its “recommended” route. Of course there is no complete definition of the route and certainly no complete or consistent signing then we variously follow the Grand Randonnée paths, locally signed pathways, farm tracks or roads. In this case the recommended route took us along a Grand Randonée which is normally clearly marked and fairly well trodden. Alas, not in this case, we had to beat our way through overgrown bushes while slithering in the mud and all to avoid 3 kilometres of quiet byway. Needless to say our final map will stick to the byway.
Dienville is a pleasant little town and popular with tourists, probably because of the nearby Lac Amance. We camped for 14 Euros at La Colombier a 3 star camp site by the riverside, with all the basic amenities, but neither food shop nor restaurant. La Colombier also has chambre d'hôte, but all were taken when we asked. So far we have managed to avoid booking our accommodation ahead as this ties us to a schedule when we are subject to all the influences of weather, route, and fitness both physical and mental, but a lesson is emerging that when the choices are restricted and the French holiday season is in full swing it may be becoming a necessary constraint.