Interestingly the weather was a lot cooler and I was quite chilly in the tent overnight. I’ve a lot of clothing solutions and if I know it’s coming then I can prepare. I didn’t (!) and kept waking up…doh.
The start was an unremarkable 270m climb. I just know it’s coming now and so do my legs. Lord knows what I did wrong in a previous life to deserve these climbs.
However despite this I was chipper because this was the last day before a ‘rest day’. The Central Massif was ending and whilst it was up and down the brutality diminished. I didn’t start with any breakfast but found a boulangerie en route for croissants and a very tasty quiche lorraine. You can see some customers disregarding wearing masks or keeping the required 1.5 metres let alone there only being two allowed in the shop. I’d say in bigger towns there is more interest in the masks. In the countryside it seems very optional.
I even found myself poodling along in a delightful gorge for the river Alagnon.
After following the river I had to leave it to go north east to reach Thiers. The change in direction meant a little more climbing and certainly less settlements. As I ground up through one small village I noted that there was a large flat area with many trees giving it shade. Beneath the trees were maybe 60 people at three large tables having a Sunday lunch. I think wine may have flowed because as I cycled past I drew a great response of cheering and clapping. I gave them the ‘Royal’ wave back.
I was otherwise some what on edge as Leeds United we’re away at Swansea City. I kept stopping every 10 minutes to check the score. At 80 minutes at 0-0 I lost a sufficiently good mobile signal to get updates. This coincided with my descent for 2 miles. As I’m in this delicious free fall I heard my phone go ‘plinky plinky plink plonk’. This is a WhatsApp message being received. I knew it must be Anna telling me Leeds had scored at the death. Coming to rest I had a sufficient signal to look at the App. Very thrilled!
So why Thiers? Well it looked a big town on the map and had some medieval buildings that maybe indicated it was an interesting day to spend a day off the bike at. The reality was a virtually abandoned hill side town with a thriving commercial life flourishing below. The hill side ‘centre ville’ must have been abandoned after the war and it really appeared quite derelict.
I expect that after WW2 people wanted better housing and the centre of time was antiquated. To add to this I imagine jobs migrated from the centre as well.
My hotel was expensive due to the lack of choice! Even more galling was that if I’d called in rather than book it on line I could have got my room at two thirds of the price.
The manager (and chef) was pleased to see me and ultimately hard to shake off! I was in need of a shower and he kept badgering me about all sorts in torrents of French. My retort of ‘la plume de ma tante‘ to everything he said confirmed, in his mind my complete mastery of French and so he rabbited on. The upshot was my agreement to dine in the hotel. In fact the wisest thing I did in Thiers. I went for a stroll had a quick beer and returned to a delightful treat:
I’m starting to think hotels now do stuff that’s not needed. A small provincial hotel has few staff and so who would answer, let alone, use the phone?
It was obvious that my ‘rest day’ in Thiers would be a waste. So tomorrow I’d pedal down the hill to Vichy.