Being Dimanche, we suspected that even less shops would be open than normal. So, showing remarkable forethought, we asked Madame for directions to the nearest town where we could stock up. Despite a torrent of squawks from Garmin in RTD2 mode, I overrode his objections and we detoured to Ecouche where we bought bread, cheese, ham, tomatoes and peaches. A fine repast indeed and we even invested in boxes so we would have unsquished fodder.
So, after our food foraging, we were back on track by 10, heading South West towards Sees along the minor D roads. Wide open country, waving wheat and the occasional wood to break up the boredom. The waving wheat was waving because of a strong headwind and that set in for the day, possibly the whole trip, as of course, it's called the prevailing wind. Still, heads down and push on.
We reached Sees by 12.15 and of course I spotted a likely looking Pizza place opposite the Cathedral and before long we were tucking into a couple of Paysannes complete with a fried egg. Proper cycling fare. Emma raised an eyebrow, quite rightly, as of course, we had our picnic stashed away in the panniers... Such extravagance. But, heyho, a pizza is a pizza.
Sees looks like a good place, double spired cathedral and some reasonable looking shops, all closed of course. I commented knowledgeably that 'you don't see many Brits in this sort of area' just before a bunch of British Bikers roared into town, so I'm wrong again. One of them spotted us scoffing away and came over for a chat about H4H. He was born in Tidworth and lives in Thruxton; small world. They are off to Pegasus Bridge so I asked him to tell Madame Gondree that we we're alive and going well.
So, lunch, in hindsight, had been too early in the day, after only 20 miles and the next 40 were more testing. The other issue is that after midday on a Sunday, everything shuts, and I mean everything. Oh, no, I tell a lie, the wonderful Museum of the Velo was open.
We found the Velo (road bike) museum by chance and of course just had to visit. We were the only visitors, I suspect in years. We resisted the temptation to pay €10 to go into the main part of the exhibition but took illegal photos of some great old velos.
While we had been plodding along en Velo, we had both refrained from commenting on a large wooded feature, possibly a hill, that seemed to loom over us. Leaving the Velo village we realised that we had indeed met our first real hill. Dropping down to the Granny ring, we pootled upwards with Emma saying 'I thought you told me there weren't any proper hills until Day 6?'
We'll have to get used to this sort of climb, so this was excellent training. After a while the sweat started to drip off the end of my nose and Emma had turned tomato red so it was a relief to swerve to avoid a snake. 'Snake' I muttered, like one says 'car' or 'pothole'; it's just another hazard, but Emma decided to photograph it. The snake was not a natural model and it turned angrily towards her and for a minute it looked like she was going to race down the hill again.
Snake photographed, breath caught, we climbed on and were gratified to note that this 'undulation' was a Col, albeit only 323m, but that's about 1000 ft after all... So what's all the fuss about Box Hill, pah!
The big issue after the Col was water. We had assumed that our afternoon would be broken up with delightful stops where we could sample an ice cream, 'a nice cup of tea' or at least find a blasted tap. But no, it's Dimanche and France is closed.
So, think the classic war desert film 'ice cold in Alex' and that's us. Only 20 miles to go but down to the last mouthful of water and it's hot, damn hot. We were both being plucky of course and rinsing out our mouth with the last mouthful but I just wanted to see a tap. I'm told that cemeteries are the place to find one, but no cemeteries, so no tap.
Finally, at 5pm, with only 10 miles to go, we went into life saving mode and pulled into the shade of a wood. I was about to rest George on a big box thing until Emma remarked on the 'danger of imminent death' sign so we hunkered down on the road side and had a life saving feast. Bread, tomatoes, jambon and pain au raisin, slightly warm but welcome and washed down with the last mouthful of heavily electrolyted water.
Then, lives saved, we slogged up another slope that does not exist, before cruising down to La Ferte Bernard and finally found the Campernile on a rather lovely industrial estate. We were delighted to hear that not only would they serve dinner on a Sunday but the bar has beer and wine.
The choice of main course has been interesting. Raw mince, horse or salmon pasta. We both had salmon pasta; funny that.
Lessons learnt today?
Start earlier, get more milage done before lunch. Carry more water, lots more. Buy food and be prepared not to eat it in the unlikely event of finding an open cafe, brasserie or similar.
Actually slather on sun cream, not just think about it, that might prevent severe red nose issues.
Memo to self: write to the French President and ask that he insists that each village has a clearly marked tap; I'm sure Napoleon would have done.
Finally, I think it's fair to say that the enormity of this foolish adventure is beginning to hit home. I had summed up the first five days as 'unremarkable, easy' and good to get us ready for the challenges that lie ahead. We have spent some of this evening saying things like 'does your foot go numb?' 'what's the best thing for a knee that makes a crunchy noise' and, of course, there's only fourteen more days of cycling ahead... And they are the proper ones.