Once again, we didn't exactly get an early start - it was 9:45 by the time we were ready to head out. Breakfast was definitely a step above that of the previous day: the bread and croissants were fresh from the boulangerie, the jams were homemade and we sat on the rear terrace of the house with a splendid view of the garden. And I really do enjoy it when the family dog visits and lays at my feet (this time it was a friendly black Lab).
We knew that today's weather would once again be hot and the distance was fairly long (over 70km) so we opted to leave out a few scenic loops of the river in favor of taking a shortcut along the main road for the first stretch to Villeneuve-sur-Lot.
As I was standing at the bridge taking a picture of the pretty old town I turned and spoke to Werner (in German) and suddenly a voice next to me piped up "can I help you find something?" in perfect American English. I was perplexed that someone could hear my American twang in my German, but oh, well… Anyway, the speaker was an American ex-pat (also riding his bike) who had lived in Villeneuve for the past 7 years, and he thoughtfully guided us to his favorite boulangerie where we picked up sandwiches and lots of water for the day's journey.
The next stop was 1/2 hour later on the outskirts of a small town at a church with interesting paintings of the stations of the cross. The church itself was a rather unremarkable 19th-century structure but the inside was stunningly painted in bright orange, lime green and deep blue and the paintings (completed and installed in 2010) were this interesting mix of textures and rich colors. Sometimes it pays to read a guidebook!
Onwards through interesting but sparsely shaded field-roads. At about 12:30 we found a shady spot on the river where we shared a sandwich and ate tomatoes from the garden of Domaine de France. The water didn't look so clear so we decided against taking a dip, but at least it was a pleasant break.
About an hour later we made it to Castelmoron sur Lot where we spotted a bathing beach and spent a pleasant hour and a half cooling our bodies. We only had another 25 kilometers to go but it took a while, as it was not shady (although it was lovely farmland) and we had to stop and drink and pant every 3-5 kilometers.
Shortly before 6 we reached Clairac where we spent an hour drinking beer, eating energy bars and enjoying the breeze and view. We called the hotel to let them know we'd be late and the last half hour into Aiguillon went fairly quickly after the first big ascent.
We made our last Lot crossing at 7:30 and arrived at the hotel shortly thereafter. Wow, was it ever "interesting". Eeek. I guess there had to be one loser in the bunch of hotels I picked and this was certainly it. To start with, our room was up in the nether regions under the roof - the hallways smelled of stale smoke, the room was dark, the bathroom still had the original fixtures from the twenties (a square toilet seat cover???) and the double bed had a valley in the middle. The one thing going for it is that it was cheap.
By the time we recovered from our shock, rested and got cleaned up it was 9:00 and the waitress in the hotel restaurant was having a hissy fit that we were so late. Surprisingly, the dinner was quite good, and for 12€ per person (for three courses!!!) an incredible bargain.
Werner chose a tomato/mozzarella salad which had a tasty spicy dressing and my "Market Salad" came with hard-boiled egg, cucumber, delicious tomatoes all on a bed of mesclun and topped with an olive oil/balsamic dressing. We both ate the same main course: marinated trout covered with a spice mixture accompanied by a very tasty rice with cépes and a roasted tomato. Yum! Dessert for me was a yummy pear tart drizzled with caramel sauce and Werner chose the cheese plate. All of which was accompanied by a lovely rosé from Duras.
On the whole, however it was all a bit weird. The waiter (or whatever function he served in the hotel) took a swim (complete with splashing dives) in the pool as we were finishing our meal. We ourselves hadn't felt it was appropriate to use the pool when we arrived because of the dining area set up next to it - and now a staff member using it as people were still dining and drinking! Although the food was good, it wasn't particularly well presented and the service was spotty. This was truly a case of "you get what you pay for".
The capper on the whole deal was the fact that our room was absolutely, positively airless. I even put the fan right on the window sill and still there was no air to be pushed around the room. And then there was the lump-o-mat bed! Oh my God, neither of us slept a wink!