More Training…

So, today another 20k walk in preparation for the big slog which looms large. Today’s walk was part well trodden a part new territory. One major point to add here, this walk revolves around us eating at our favourite restaurant in France. Why does our favourite restaurant in France happen to be a five minute drive from our French house? Read on.   

 The plan. Walk 5k to our nearest town of Aynac, walk a further 5k to Lehme, a town we’ve never visited before then 5k back to Aynac and lunch. From there we stagger the last 5k home. All this and hope it doesn’t rain. 

The scenery around our French house is so pretty it calls to be walked in at every opportunity. Soft rolling hills, sheep, cows and very few cars. Sometimes we can walk 5k without seeing a single vehicle. We can picnic at the side of a lane and have a whole meal, wine and obligatory afternoon nap without interruption but not this day. 5k to Aynac is a breeze but the road to Lehme is all uphill and winding lanes. The only sign of life from the few houses we passed was the swiftly closed shutters of aged locals trying to avoid eye contact with the crazy Brits.

We made it to Lehme, an uninspiring little town which answered the question as to why we’d never visited before. My only regret is that we hadn’t arrived by car. In that way we might have made a speedier exit. The 5k back to Aynac was downhill and quicker. Deb took the lead and maintained her pace until we reached our lunch venue. One thing you must know about Deb is that whenever we leave the house the first question of the day will always be ‘when are we going to eat’. This is the same whether we’ve just polished off the British standard fry-up for breakfast or had a restrained ‘health juice’. So, don’t think for one minute that Deb’s pace had anything to do with fitness regime. No, she was just hungry!

Le Relais 1908 is not a Michelin star abode, it is not a posh nosh eatery, it is not even a respectable little restaurant we happened across. Le Relais 1908 is a humble artisan cafe. That is to say that from Monday to Friday the workmen in the surrounding area flock to this humble hostelry between 12 noon and 2 pm (the only time it opens). There is no menu, there is no wine list. There is only one price of 15 euros and for that you receive five, yes five, courses with limitless wine and the French custom of limitless bread. Believe me, when I said stagger the last 5k, I meant it. Not because of tired and aching feet from the previous 15k but from the consequences of not wanting to leave a single morsel from those five courses.

Today started with a cauldron of minestrone soup to be shared between us, oh and a carafe of red wine, not the greatest but quite quaffable and, as I said, limitless. Second course today was duck pate and brawn with pickles and our first basket of country bread. That saw off most of the first carafe and we needed a refill to do justice to the sliced pork with vegetables. Next, the cheese board. Always an eclectic mix from across France plus whatever the table next to us hadn’t eaten (I kid you not). Another basket of bread and a top up of the wine. On the downhill run now, only desert and coffee remaining. At this point we usually try to stop eating bread and drinking wine and this day was no exception. It must be clear now why we made the decision to walk 15k of our 20k before the lunch stop. In fact, had we had the choice, we’d have asked him to open his restaurant about 100 metres from our house. Far easier to do the last bit. Hay ho, we paid our 30 euros and waddled into the street our bodies desperately trying to reset the internal gyros to compensate for the additional weight and excess of wine. The last 5k is all uphill but when most of your body has lost all sensation, what the hell. The sun shone, the hills rolled (a little too much) and the sheep baad (this may not be a word but hey, I’ve had a bottle and a half of wine). Life is good. Pictures to follow.

Training in France

Decided to motor down to France for a bit of a break and to do some practice for the Camino. Target for today was Gramat, a typical French town about 9k from our house, easy peasy. We set off at 10:30am with a view to having lunch in Gramat at around 12:00 noon. The journey went well, mainly due to us living on a hill! On the final leg coming into the town Deb noticed a fork in the road and suggested we come back via this route. Hmm. We arrived in pretty good time only to find Monday is closing day for Gramat (who organised this day?). We circumnavigated the town looking for somewhere to eat. Eventually we found a cafe/bar and managed to find a table for two in between every other person who had been roaming the town in search of fair. After a good meal we set off to get some food for the evening meal. Luckily the supermarket hadn’t heard of the Monday curfew. We purchased our goods including two bottles of Malbec. We only intended to buy one for 4.95 euros but it was buy one get one free. Can’t wait to taste them when we get home!? Off we set heavily laden with wine, potatoes and a few other weighty objects. Route B home was going well until we reached a fork at which point I said “I think we need to go right” I accompanied this with several logical reasons to support my decision. Deb said she thought we should go left. We went left. After a kilometre the anticipated Tarmac road had not materialised. Instead we were walking on a grass track and a short distance further the track bit disappeared and our way ahead blocked by a gate. Deb took the opportunity to have an al fresco wee while I battled with holding back the inevitable phrase “I told you so”! We could see our road in the distance across two fields so over the gate we went for a bit of trespass. Now, what looked like a nice field full of spring flowers had been transformed with recent rains into an ankle deep foot bath of about two acres. We spished our way across, I’m sure we’ll laugh about it once everything dries out. We finally made it to the other side but were thwarted from our goal by a three metre wide stream sans ponte! Hmmm. We looked up and down and noticed in the distance what we hoped would be a bridge. We were half right, it was half a bridge connected to a tree stump by a piece of dead branch.

I’m sure the survivors will laugh about this. Backpacks removed I ventured onto the pole and made a precarious stumble and grab for the safety of a rusty handrail. Deb followed with slightly more grace and we donned our backpacks and resumed our journey home feeling quietly smug but a little damp of foot. Of course we had to pay the price for our outward journey so it was uphill all the way from here.

Only 3km to go but all up hill.

Made it! Now for a couple of well earned beers.