Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Manche to the Med - Day 9: Thiviers to Montignac

Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing. It is the mouthful that is the commitment to a new day and a continuing life. Here we are, on the road in France and every day the same thing for breakfast - although I delight at the egg-shell crusted bread with its soft white centre and the creamy salted butter and local cheeses, I could use a change.

Today was maybe the worst breakfast. What should be, and is, the easiest meal to lay out for guests in a hotel has sadly slipped past our English hosts here in Thiviers. Possibly they wish to minimise costs, ensure that people don't dwell too long in the hotel or maybe they just don't get it? Bread was limited to a couple of slices off a baguette, there was no cheese or ham and the croissants were three mini-sized offerings, two of which had chocolate in them and I don't like those. There was no choice and no chance of any extras. One cup of coffee a glass of juice and that was that. All very clinical, very dry and very disappointing.

We packed up and were on the road for 9.00am - The GPS took us up the steep hill into the town centre - I swung out at a junction and an angry Frenchman blasted his horn and waved his fists - the first and only sign of road-rage encountered on the whole trip - and my fault to be fair. We looked for a boulangerie to perhaps pick up something for the day ahead - but it's Friday, inevitably the shops are shut. Once out of the town we had a nice easy descent for about two miles - then flat roads for the next twelve. After that it got difficult; lots of steep, hard climbs through narrow, tree-lined roads and thick forests with signs that, we were convinced, were a warning of bears.

One thing we've noticed on our travels so far is how many French people, particularly in rural areas, leave two or three dogs roaming their gardens. Always they would bark and growl as we cycled past. Out here, deep in the Dordogne region there were many dogs, hound of the baskervilles type, wolves maybe?. We cycled through pretty villages with avenues of olive trees and saw the best phone-box ever. Oak framed and stone with a pointy tiled roof - like a miniature chateau.
Tree avenue on the way to Montignac

We managed to avoid the off-road sections that the GPS would have preffered us to take - using our hard-copy maps instead to plot a suitable route. We stopped at a village called Theron, Gary spotted a roadside restaurant and we pulled in, taking seats at the tables outside. No one came out. Gary went in, he said it was packed inside but there was no one at the counter. We waited a few minutes and then rode on.

A peaceful spot
We arrived in Montignac in the early afternoon. A postcard-pretty village nestled on the River Vezere. There's an attractive stone bridge and balconied houses along the river frontage. The place has many half-timbered buildings and, because The Tour de France passed through here this year, lots of the shops have been decorated with cycling caricatures and graphics. We decide to stop at a cafe/restaurant before finding our hotel - the sun is shining and we sit out in our cycling gear enjoying a lunch of Quiche and salad with a glass of Cidre. After finding the hotel and showering we walk into town and explore the narrow winding streets and alleys. We stop at a Tapas bar and buy a couple of glasses of local wine and a slate of cheese - both excellent. Later we will dine at a riverside restaurant - duck for me and burger for Gary. Another bottle of local wine and we're about done for the day.
Tour de France decoration

The river and town of Montignac

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