• James & Kate

Short and sweet

Hats off to the French. Their drivers have a respect for cyclists that I’ve yet to see paralleled, even giving an encouraging toot and thumbs up on the way by. Their smooth roads are omnipresent, and a treat to glide across compared to the often wheel-busting-pothole-death-traps (and occasional “get out the fucking way!”) you get in London.

However, as lovely as all that’s been, it was especially pleasant today to leave all traffic behind, and weave through quiet country lanes completely deserted except for the occasional cows grazing on the pasture. Even lovelier was that our route today was a shorter one.

Leaving behind L’Isle-Jourdain and its viaduct (much nicer when it’s not raining), our morning stop was at Confolens, a cute little town with remnants of its medieval past still very much present (thatched roof buildings, fifteenth century city walls, old chateaux, that kind of thing). It was built where the Vienne and Goire rivers meet (hence Confolens which is apparently old French for Confluence). Although it depends who you ask, what you read and which story you choose to believe. Because another explanation is that Confolens actually means ‘conflict’. That’s because the river that splits the city served as a linguistic barrier between the Oc speakers on the East side and the D’Oil speakers on the West. The city’s medieval bridge (and one of its key landmarks) was instrumental in keeping the peace between these two sides because it’s here that all the trading took place. FYI both Oc and Oil meant “yes”. The latter tongue won, and morphed over time into the Oui in use today.

From Confolens we followed the river up and down and up and down, through cute and quiet and very deserted little farm villages before eventually reaching our final stop - Rochechouart. If culture isn’t your thing but you like a bit of astronomy then this might tickle your pickle. This part of the world was hit by a mega asteroid around 200million years ago, which changed the landscape and metamorphosed the geology. So the distinctive rock used in the village’s château and church etc is in fact ‘space rock’ and gives Rochechouart its own caractère.

Talking of character, Rochechouart also has the delightful B&B Chez Nous. With its garden swing and epic views, it’s a pretty sweet end to a pretty sweet day.

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