Monday, 10 September 2007

Day 6 - Arras – Pérrone – 50km

Just when I think we are doing well, an inebriated octogenarian overtakes us on a 3-gear cyclosaurus. Nevertheless, the hills have either got smaller or my thigh muscles bigger, because I manage to stay on and pedal for the entire day.

We are riding along the edge of the Somme and though Paul and I have been through Utah beach and all the other well known theatres of war in Northern France, this is probably the most evocative of all. Perhaps it is the isolation of the small groups of graves we come across without any prior announcement, or perhaps it is in the detail on the graves (like the unknown soldier, only identified as belonging to the Manchesters), but both of us are left feeling fairly bleak by the time we have passed the last cemetery before riding into Pérrone. Politicians and Dictators have a lot to answer for.

Pérrone is a pleasant town, lined with bars and cafes and most famous for its Castle and Sommes history, which the commune is exploiting to the full – the museum is in a newly converted castle and every bar (if it is not an Irish bar) has a name that has got something to do with one of the Wars. The good news is that for once Paul and I aren’t too knackered to walk, meaning we can choose a bar more than 10 metres beyond are hotel. Better still, we manage to find one in a rare spot of sunshine, so we drink a couple of buckets of beer and then stagger back for a meal.

This evening we stayed at the Hotel les Rémparts. It is built into the ramparts that surround the town, though you might not know it from the front aspect. It seems the ramparts have helped the town earn its reputation as never being defeated. I am still trying to square this with the German army setting up their HQ during the 1st world war in the castle which is now the centre piece for the war history experience. Perhaps it is who wins in the end that matters, gosh I feel philosophy coming on.. Les Rémparts served us well enough although tired legs do not fully appreciate being billeted on the 3rd floor. Les Rémparts are apparently worth a small premium over your regular 2 star at 70 euro per night for a double, but we managed to slip away before being cajoled into breakfast.

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