Given a choice between a 40mph headwind and a long slog uphill, I’m going to choose the hill. Every time.
So after yesterday’s wind, today is a pleasant diversion. Of course, the hills aren’t easy, and they’re often intimidating. When you see a sign that says you must have snow tyres from the beginning of November until the end of March…
But the French know how to make hill roads. They would rather climb at a steady 6%, even if it means a convoluted route around all the points of the compass, than a head-on assault at a 20% slope.
And a lot of the day’s climbing is on well-wooded and shady routes. You might think I’m plodding. But what else can you do on a fully loaded bike with a cello?
Serge has sent me a message, to say that an audience has been summoned for this evening, so if the mountains are too much, and I need rescuing, I must definitely call him. He’ll come with the van, and no-one need know. Maybe word has got around.
But no, no rescue is needed, thank you. I arrive on the dot of the estimated time, having been diverted by some road surfacing work that’s turned the road into a lake of impassible tar.
Serge’s house – the address says it’s a “grotto” – is hard to find, but a neighbour in her garden directs me. It’s a place of artistry and endeavour, of ancient beamed ceilings and thick stone walls, with a newly-constructed hemp cob summer house in the garden, and an ancient communal bread oven on the road outside.
And there’s a little concrete pool, with water bubbling up at a cooling 26 degrees, where the wasps come to drink. Apple pies are cooking, and there’s proper tea to drink…
Chairs are set out under a gazebo in the garden, and there’s a table set with drinks and the apple pies. More chairs have to be brought, and then more again, as more, and more, people arrive. The kids run about the garden, the sun goes slowly behind the hill, and even when a sudden gust blows the music stand over the music goes on, uninterrupted.