Saturday 16 June 1984
Cadouin, Dordogne, France 105km total 886km
Cycling starts at 7.45, under a sun that is already hot. Returning to the mineral springs in St. Yrieix, we fill our bottles and head towards Lanouaille for breakfast. The bar we choose is dark and dank. A few swarthy men are there and they seem to be unfriendly. Coffee is served at our table from a battered pan. The café also serves as a barber’s shop, and from behind a partition come sounds of regular snipping and desultory conversation.
After this we follow the beautiful river valley of the Loue, towards Perigeux. The country is soft, with many flowers and scents, poppies and scabious, people cutting hay. Eyliac is a beautiful village with a delicately spired church which you can look through to see the country beyond, and grand old, yellowy buildings- farmhouses mostly set in courtyards of beautiful shape, within great fields.
We see an excellent chateau at Excideuil before stopping on a bridge over the river Dordogne to watch a red kite circling and being mobbed by swallows and swifts. After this, once the route leaves the river, the country becomes more arid and southern in character. For lunch at La Douze, a village with hardly anyone moving, we buy pain au raisin from a shop where you can see behind to all the pale green bread ovens, and breads stacked up. The pastries are almost black and like eating cream crackers, they are so dry.
Feeling less than satisfied we continue to Buillon, an impressive descent of many kilometres to the Dordogne, where we feel the name to be enough like Boisson to justify a second drink and lunch. Young people at the next table joke about our wanting to drink coffee in such heat. The campsite is only 6 kilometers from here, in stifling heat the ride is up a long hill before arriving at a lovely village with an old abbey and cloisters, a covered market hall with pillars, all in warm coloured stone.
In front of us now as we sit quiet, is a tall cliff with pine and deciduous trees, one or two red-roofed houses at the bottom of it. Behind, a flock of sheep – one has a bell, reminding me of a book I read before I came away, (On The Road to Pastures New, by Maurice Moyal) about flocks of sheep being led up to the hills away from the arid Provencal lowlands, to the high alpine pastures where there was still enough food for them in summer.
At night I think I hear a nightingale sing for the first time.