Cakes: 1 croissant each; 1 measly chausson aux pommes...too hot for pastries (never!!!); Coffee 1 x each
With reluctance we left the air conditioned comfort of our little haven in Commercy. Planning is now about putting in the distance before 2pm, which is when everything melts into a puddle, and/or burns to a crisp. We weren't able to get away as early as we hoped as the earliest we could negotiate breakfast was 8.30am. We nevertheless did full justice to the light, crispy, buttery deliciousness that was our criossant, along with oodles of fruit, yoghurt and coffee.
And it was hot! There wasn't a breath of wind, and the first thing we did was puff and sweat our way up a 5 or 6km climb. Holy moley. I thought John would do a Mr exploding Potato head on me he was so red by the time we reached the top. I tried a bit of poulet qui fait du surf.. This is where, when a truck or car comes by you peddle as hard as you can to make the most of the bubble of still air that follows the vehicle, which gives you aa real boost of speed. Very much like surfing a wave (board or kayak) the trick is to get the timing and speed right to revel in those few moments of assisted forward momentum.
The view, however, was, as always fabulous with arable fields stretching away as far as the eye could see, with 'clouds' of forest framing them, and spires of churches at intervals to mark the tiny villages. Glorious.
While grinding my way up the hill I realised that the sludge of tiredness that had been clogging my brain and creativity for the last...O, I don't know...year or more...had started to wash away. As well as all the sites, smells, and sounds that have been feeding my brain, remembering and expanding on my (pitiful, but getting a little better) French is making me really have to think. Loving it. So, as we started the climb an idea for a day-long session that I will be facilitating with the lovely Karen Melhuish Spencer (email to follow, Karen :D), started to form. By the top of the hill I had an outline for at least the first half of the day. Loads of other ideas and thoughts hurtling around too. However, from anecdotal evidence based on a sample of 3, the duration of the vacation matters. A minimum of 3 weeks is required - 1 to relax, sleep, another to get over the grumps and let go of stresses, and then the 3rd to really enjoy and renew.
On the descent the clouds started to come in and we revelled in 15km of coolish cycling. Toward the end of this brief sojourn from being baked,, we swept into the birthplace of Jeanne D'Arc - Domrémy. We took a bit of a look around, and were particularly impressed by the reconstruction of her house, using techniques, tools and materials based on the originals.
While on our stroll around the grounds the sun came out again, and, after a quick lunch of baguette, cheese and apples, we off we set on the final 10km. There were a couple of avenues of shady trees, but otherwise it was cycling under the relentless sun, looking at tempting sites as we sped by to help ensure we didn't turn into raisins.
Neufchateau, after climbing the final hill (fun and games) was very welcome. Another hotel (a tent seems a bit suicidal) - but this time with no air conditioning. Ah well. We're just about off out in search of iced drinks. Promises to be cooler tomorrow - fingers crossed.