Day 3 started very early – nothing to do with cycling. More to do with a drunk middle aged house guest that was also staying at the Airbnb. As explained yesterday, this Madame had turned up to stay as she was attending a party in the area. Now, the house where we are now both staying is of very modern design with an open plan layout on the ground floor. Like most French houses, the ground floor is also tiled throughout and this combined with the owner’s minimalist tastes then results in a large space that can carry sound very well. I found this out at 1:37am when Madame returned from the party a little worse for wear after an evening supping côtes du Rhone and no doubt a couple of brandies after dinner etc etc etc. Anyway, through the front door she came with a clatter of heels that echoed throughout the house. I woke up and immediately thought we were being burgled. Then I heard Madame talking loudly in slurred French before clattering up the laminate floored staircase and into her room. Ten minutes later, with heels now removed, off again. First to the bathroom where she knocked over a load of toiletries and then rather swiftly downstairs to the only toilet in the house where she proceeded to eject all of the evening’s food and drink. Once again, this solo performance resonated throughout the building and after 10 minutes of this, I began to think surely there can be any more and yet, there she goes again singing yet another verse!

She finally drew her performance to a close after several encores and settled into a death-like stupor. I never heard from her again.

The following morning, following the usual French brekkie, I made my way southeast towards the town of Marle. The winds today were favourable mostly which enabled a steady rolling average over gently undulating countryside. Being a bank holiday in France, it was always going to be tricky finding somewhere open for food but I struck gold in the town of Marciennes and even stopped there for coffee too. In the chiller they had some wraps that were made on the premises. One variety was labelled ‘Bresilien’ or Brazilian as we know it. What on earth could be in that? No hares I hope (boom boom). Turned out it was what we British know as coronation chicken. Very tasty even if it had warmed up in the French sunshine!

The route chosen this time differed slightly to miss out some so-called cycle paths and a quicker way taken. I did then later on pick up the original route at Le Cateau Cambresis. Out of here is a long, long climb that I remembered from before and a climb that I struggled to complete with a bit of a gammy knee. This time though, a much different story as I got to the top in one go and was bearly out of breath. At the top of the hill sits the WW1 Highland cemetery. I stopped here in September where the winds were so strong, the surrounding trees were bent over like the postman at Christmas. Today though, a complete contrast as the same strees were bolt-upright (much like my postman on Valentine’s day!).

Now by this time on the 1st attempt, I’d been punched in the nuts by a 50-something Pharmacist who was fitting out my knee with an elastic support bandage.

By now the flatlands were well behind me to be replaced with long straight roads with hill after hill after hill. Marle was a very welcome sight after another 70+ miles in the saddle.

Tomorrow it’s the same again before the biggest day of this mad dash across French France.

À bientôt

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