Saturday, 9 July 2005
Distance 18 km
Duration 3 hours 30 minutes
Ascent 363 m, descent 358 m
Map 48 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
I had nothing left in my innards so it was safe to pack up and go. In the village, the weekly market had transformed the somewhat plain square into a sea of colour.
We had coffee indoors at a bar, as it was a cold morning, and was pleased to see my favourite wide, angular, dark green, gold-rimmed cups again.
Our plan was to find the forest walk along the river Cère to Gagnac, as last time we had lost it half-way and ended up on the road. With this in mind we kept close to the river, but soon found out that there was no way through and had to retreat. At least we felt that we had done the right thing previously.
As a reminder of our doggy day yesterday, we were rushed at by a pair of murderous rottweilers, which fortunately proved to be on the other side of an electric fence.
Starting out for the second time, we soon found ourselves forced onto the road ascending towards Glanes. When it took a swerve to the right we swapped to a farm track that took us through walnut trees and vines and somehow back to the forest track of two years ago.
There were all sorts of different coloured track marks on the trees, none of them familiar, and by following some orange ones we popped out of the forest just above Glanes.
It looked appealing from above so we went down to have a look (it was), then took a tiny downhill road through the forest to Gagnac-sur-Cère.
Although this little place seemed a bit more prosperous than it had before, it was still devoid of a bar, but we did not care, as we knew about the hotel at Port-de-Gagnac just across the river. It had been a pleasant surprise last time, and was no less pleasant now.
We sat outdoors for our coffee but had to move in when it started to sprinkle with rain.
When it stopped we ate our picnic lunch on a bench beside the weir, and then set off over a high, wooded ridge past Guilles to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne.
Clouds were piling up in the east, darker and darker as we hurried along. The final kilometre on the highway was accompanied by rumbles of thunder, and at the bridge the first coin-sized drops fell.
We sprinted a couple of blocks and ducked under the awning of a bar just as the torrent descended. With our backs against the wall, we sat with some locals, enjoying the spectacle.
Cars ploughed past sending up bow-waves, then the rain turned to hail, piling up in the gutters and also on our awning, which suddenly flopped forward and dumped a rush of ice and water on our unsuspecting feet. Then it tailed off to a drizzle. We gave the barwoman a grateful wave through the window as we continued on our way.
The municipal camping ground at the foot of the bridge was run by a born functionary. He said a new law had come in since the London bombings and all campers now had to show ID with their date of birth.
It was the first and last time we heard of this law, but we showed him a passport, which he read out importantly – “Pontlang, Kate…” I thought it was funnier than Keith did.
The rain had increased again and we had to put our tent up in about thirty seconds, with the flysheet draped over as we worked. Fortunately we had had a lot of practice lately. We jumped inside and slept.
When we woke the rain had stopped, so we went to see the sights of Beaulieu, the main one being the grand abbey church, as grand as at Souillac, but not in such a spacious setting.
This one was hemmed in by crooked alleys and the remains of a wall. All of the old town, between the highway and the river, was interesting.
We had dinner in a brasserie on the main road. Keith had a pizza and I had pasta and salad, but my appetite had not fully returned and I could not finish it. That was surely the only time in France that I have been guilty of insulting the chef in this way.
As we were leaving, the waitress pursued us with our thin plastic rain capes, asking whether we wanted them put in the bin.