The human body was not designed for sleeping on hard earth. Our bones stick out in all the wrong places and no matter how much cushioning fat we have, it is never enough to reduce the pain of sleeping on lumps and bumps. I am in agony, walking like an old crone. Paul doesn’t look much better, but the sun is more or less shining and we have got another 50kms to get through today. 50kms of sheer ascent. A trek up to 300 metres, our highest yet, but by no means the highest we will have to go. Why didn’t I insist on having an electric bike? The sort with the little engine on the back, just for hills. Still, when I am able, I do notice that we are skirting the worst of the peaks. In fact, this section of route, which takes us through forests and fields and alongside the occasional impressive abbey (particularly in Clairvaux – a spooky place, which is in fact a prison for long-term sentences), is probably one of the most interesting so far.
Everything is going suspiciously well, until we discover that the hotel is Clairvaux is booked up and all the other places on our list, have either closed down or didn’t exist in the first place. We add another 12kms to our journey, but by 6.00pm we are in Pont-la-Ville with our only prospect, a gite, also full.
Enter Philippe and Catherine BERNARD. I suppose after having stumbled on so many good people during our travels, I should not be surprised when they offer us a bed in their own house, but then again, outside of our travels we do not encounter anything like the same level of generosity. We are given a bed, a meal, special anti-allergy dog shampoo for Vasco and the kind of challenging conversation that sits just within our range of French. I didn’t want to stay in a hotel anyway. Being with people like this is infinitely better and more interesting, so naah to you Hotel l’Abbaye in Clairvaux.