Rain and more bloody rain. An occasional shower is tolerable, but this is July and our July clothes don’t include waterproof thermal underwear. If we had been able to see it, I suspect the countryside would have been spectacular, hills and woods and long tow paths, but actually I don’t care because I am wet and cold and we have arrived in a town the rest of France is doing its best to forget. I know I should feel sorry for people abandoned by the railway and any other kind of industry, but when every hotel we stop at has just closed and the only three open give us very good reasons for not wanting to stay there, I have only enough sympathy left for myself.
The first hotel we try obviously only rents rooms by the hour, the second is closed, or at least that is what the woman behind the bar tells us, and the third has no off-street space for bikes, which in a place where they would stolen from under our bums if we hung around too long at the traffic lights, is not an option. But for once the grey clouds looming over us do have a silver lining. In the end, after trailing round the town twice, Maria, of Le Rallye, takes pity on us and finds a friend who will let us leave our bikes in his garage. Life is looking up.
Navigating into Tergnier was for once easy with canals and railways to guide the way, even though some had been long ago torn up. The town itself is reminiscent of Crewe after Dr Beeching had wielded his axe. There are many places calling themselves hotels. Some still open, but only le Rallye offering beds that you would wish to use. Le Rallye has no official stars, but it has all that the traveller needs for under 30 euros for a double room and an OK restaurant and bar below.