We made it down to breakfast shortly after 8am. Once again, lovely homemade jams (apricot, kiwi-lemon and green tomato), excellent bread (crusty outside, soft inside), first-class coffee and a small pitcher of orange juice for each of us.
After a stop at the boulangerie for water, sandwiches and fruit, we were on our way. We followed the advice of Monsieur Binda and took a slightly longer but somewhat flatter route to Sauveterre le Guyenne. There were indeed a few hills, but it didn’t seem as bad as what Vera and I experienced last year. (Earlier in the day, a better idea of where we were going, perhaps.) For me, it also helped that we raised my seat a bit – that really helped give me a bit more power on the hills.
At any rate, the farm landscape was lovely – rolling hills covered with groves of chestnut trees, tobacco fields, and as always corn and sunflowers. In between there were plenty of vineyards dripping with grapes, some deep purple and others bright green. Werner was astonished by the size of the individual vineyards, because they are much smaller in Germany.
We reached the bike trail at about 11am and enjoyed the next couple of hours rolling through the incredibly beautiful countryside. A few great stretches where we could roll downhill and then some long subtle inclines that were a bit difficult in the afternoon heat. By 1:00 our stomachs were both growling (especially mine, naturally…) and we rode a bit slowly and looked for an out-of-the way picnic spot. Suddenly I cried out “here, stop!” and Werner braked and there we were, pushing our bikes through a break in the trees, where there was a grassy area separated from the bike path by thick oak trees and bushes and directly in front of us were acres of (surely very expensive) grape vineyards.
We laid out the towels, arranged the picnic goods, took a short nap and then partook of our picnic. The peaches that I had bought in La Réole were DIVINE! Juicy, sweet, perfect. When we eventually broke camp, we agreed that at the next possibility we should stop and drink cola or something and use the facilities (!), and lo and behold not 500 meter further there was a train station converted to restaurant where we spent a pleasant hour sitting in the garden drinking lots of beverages and chatting with a friendly couple from New Zealand who were on an extended bike holiday. (About my age, but way more fit!)
By the time we got on the road again it was about 3:30 and must have been 35 (95) degrees. It was hard to get the legs moving, even on the flat. We checked the maps again and decided to cut off the trail to make the way to our hotel. My, was that ever a long 7km. Over hill, over dale… shit-o-la. By the time we got to Camarsac proper we were at the end of our respective ropes. It didn't help to realize that the only way to reach our hotel was about 1km up a somewhat steep hill along the main road which had no bike lane. We were so beat we pushed our bikes uphill along the shoulder as the cars and trucks whizzed by. As we reached the top we waited an eternity to catch our breath and recoup a bit of energy and calm our overheating tempers. Expecting the worst, it was a huge relief to discover that the entrance to the Hotel was only 100 meters away – over the crest at the bottom of the hill!
Our room was thankfully at ground level, so there was no schlepping of the bike bags up and down narrow stairways as there had been the last few days. It was kind of weird... the room had no windows one could open, only French doors leading directly outside. Kind of a drag, but at least it was air conditioned.
Slightly to our dismay we realized that there was no restaurant on the premises - in order to dine out we would have to ride back down that huge hill and then up again after dinner. Eeeek! What to do??? Well, the innkeepers were so nice, they took me to the next village to a grocery store so I could buy some picnic ingredients. (Including a very nice bottle of the local wine...)
During the time I was shopping, Werner relaxed in the pool and as soon as I got back I joined him. It was a lovely pool; large, with a sweeping view of the adjacent fields and surrounded by (curiously enough) a pumpkin patch. This was a new one for me!
We had a lovely long swim and took our time with our picnic and watched the sun go down over the pool. A serene end to a somewhat stressful day.