Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Manche to the Med - Rest Day: Sarlat

Planning an adventure like this is always going to throw up issues that can only be answered with hindsight. If we were doing it again, or when we do something similar, I think shorter mileage and a couple more rest days would be a good idea. As it was our schedule was pretty tight and one rest day was all that could be managed.

Wandering around Sarlat
If there's going to be a rest day on a cycling trip across the whole of France, Sarlat seems the perfect place. We decided not to bother with breakfast at the hotel this morning - we'll get something in town instead (we have already established that there will be places open today - even if it is Sunday!). When I wake up there's no sign of Gary - he got up early and has already gone down to the old town and sorted himself a breakfast.

Great French Bake Off??
I finally wander down and we sit in the main square just watching the world go by. It's like looking into a fishtank, as the many figures and colours flash by. We have a brilliant little waiter who is easily the best we've seen on the trip so far, he dances amongst the tables, singing, joking, taking orders in all languages, delivering them on a tray piled mountainously high - I feel sure he'll drop something, but he doesn't. He comes to our table "Deux Bierre s' il vous plait, Stella" we say - "Ah you want the small ones or the English Stella" he answers with a wry smile. Gary goes for the English sized Stella - half a litre, I opt for a small but with a glass of pastis to go with it. And we just sit, and look, and listen. There are plenty of American accents here, lots of English, Japanese, in fact it's a multi-cultured visitor attraction. It's easy to see why as we gaze at the ancient buildings and the many shops selling top quality foie gras, wine, truffles and nougat. There are some wonderful pattisseries too, with an array of perfectly presented cakes like miniature works of art.

There is no rush today - we enjoy another beer and then a plate of frites with an accompanying plate of cheese - particularly good. We have a wander to another bar and then around the busy streets exploring and doing the touristy photograph stuff. I have to get back to the hotel to get out on my bike. Even though this is a rest day for our trip - I also have my new years 'ride every day' resolution to keep up - I've made it this far, and I'm not ready to give up yet. In the end we both walk back, Gary wants to adjust his brakes again while I'm out on the bike. As we walk back we meet another cyclist, clearly a tourer with a loaded Dawes bike. She's from New Zealand, she bought the bike on ebay, shipped it to France and is spending time darting around the country by train, on her own. She stops off for a few days cycling and then takes another train to another area. She's lost. We help her find the road she needs for her excursion today and off she goes.

I cycle from the hotel back into Sarlat, take some pics with my bike in them, then ride around the park and back to the hotel - about five or six miles - but it counts. After that we relax for an hour in the hotel room watching French TV, then we're back into town for supper.

First we do a little shopping - we fancy something to take home, some foie gras maybe? - We pop into a large, beautifully presented shop and are greeted by the pretty assistant - she speaks fairly good English and offers us a taste of the various foie gras option, duck or goose, truffled or not, as well as some of the local Montbazillac sweet wine that goes with it so well. The girl has an English boyfriend we find out, from Manchester, poor thing we say. We come out having spent a few Euros and with more stuff for the panniers.
The girl in the shop

We mess around for a while wandering round looking at menus - in the end we settle for a street cafe on the main drag through the old town. We start with a couple of beers while we're waiting for the 7.00pm opening time. There's a street performer in the main square, a mime/mimic artist who just walks around a couple of steps behind his target, mimicing their movements and actions - he's quite good and he gets everyone laughing.

For supper we go for Duck, that seems to be the big thing around here and it's very nice. The local delicacy is duck gizzards - I fancy having a go but Gary doesn't - I decide to leave it. We drink a nice bottle of local wine and consider if, as seasoned athletes, the marginal gains proffered by a second are worth it - we decide they are and opt for a slightly more expensive bottle. As is tradition we finish with a couple of coffees - it's been a perfect relaxing day, and afforded some rest for aching legs and posterior parts! - Tomorrow we'll be back on the road.
Pretty streets

Cobbles and ancient buildings

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