To Figeac - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 9, 2022

To Figeac

Another excellent ride, the third straight since Susan joined us.  She’s brought us idyllic weather and good fortune.  She’s also cramped our routine just a bit by enlivening and enriching our usually fairly hermitic lives, and I’m getting further and further behind.  If I don’t catch up soon I’m going to lose the thread and have to either skip some days or forget what happened on them.  We can’t have that!

So, briefly, the highlights.

An excellent breakfast and conversation with our host Marc at his B&B. Marc is a very interesting man, cultured and well-traveled.  His library is well stocked with many Lonely Planet guides to places like Madagascar and New Zealand, from years when he would go south in the winters when he was off work.  He had an interesting job working for an English travel agency (if I understood him correctly) traveling from and evaluating one gite after another during the tourism season.  Also, he’s an exceptionally generous man.  He took in our laundry, washing it and hanging it to dry.  And folding it when it was done.

With our congenial host Marc, in Gramat.
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Leaving Gramat, an attractive town that merited more attention than we gave it.
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Most of the ride stayed at a fairly high elevation.  Gramat sits atop the Causse at about a thousand feet, and we gradually climbed up from there for the first fifteen miles until topping out at 1,400’.  We enjoyed a very quiet route the whole way, sticking to quiet lanes through oak and chestnut forests and past cow-spotted pastures or land left fallow.  Lumpy, karstic country with streams that disappear into the ground, sinkholes, caves and the like.  I can never quite get over what a rich area France is for cycling, with its seemingly endless supply of lanes like this.  If you don’t mind going a few miles out of the way or adding some contour you can go a long ways without ever needing to see much traffic.

Passing Bio, a very odd name for a town.
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Chestnuts are a road hazard, in two ways - we might roll a tire on them, or we might get bonked on the head. While I was taking this shot a light breeze brought a half dozen more cascading through the branches. Another good reason to always wear your helmet.
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There are lots of lumps in the Lot, unless you stay close to the rivers.
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Other than Susan’s company, the social highlight of the day came in Thémines, a fairly ordinary upland village except that it had an open bakery that hauled in Susan, bringing Rachael and I in her wake.  While we were sitting there at a bench in the sun enjoying our pastries three men bicycled up.  Much commotion and excitement ensued as folks quickly realized it was a reunion.  Rachael and Susan had met them before - maybe in Autoire? - at a time when I was behind as usual.  I heard about this encounter after the fact, with the suggestion that Rachael found Jean-Luc in particular interesting and a possibly better partner for her than the old fart she’s currently saddled with - particularly if it would offer her an easy way into French citizenship.

So of course it was a joyous reunion.  After they left, Susan pointed out that Rachael forgot to ask Jean-Luc to marry her.  Too late, as they were already around the bend and out of sight.  Maybe she’ll get a third chance somewhere down the road.

In Thémines, where Susan pulled us off the road for a pastry break.
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While we were stopped eating our pastries the charismatic Jean-Luc and his traveling companions rolled into town.
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Andrea BrownAre you implying these three are significantly younger than you? Not by much.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownNo, just better endowed (they have French passports).
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1 month ago
Patrick O'HaraThey got nothin' on you, Scott! Did you remind Rachel that you have great gams? That should fix her wandering eye. LOL!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraI’m not worried. She’d be lost without me - literally.
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1 month ago
Rachael AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraIt certainly does!
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1 month ago

Other than that the most noteworthy stop of the ride was in Assier, a distinctive place interesting enough to be a worthwhile destination in its own right.  It has an unusual history that just confuses me when I read about it so I won’t even try.  Check out the extensive Wikipedia article, or ask Susan to give a coherent synopsis of its complicated, chaotic thousand year history.

The 15th century Church of Saint-Pierre, in Assier. A fascinating structure, unlike any I remember seeing before.
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I’ve never seen a church like this. The entire structure is girded by an unbroken frieze with a military theme.
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The Church of Saint-Pierre, Assier.
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Postbox, Assier.
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In Assier. The door stays look like huge paper clips.
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One end of the long chateau of Assier. If I’d been more responsible I could have walked further off to the side so you could get a view of the whole structure. But I didn’t. Maybe Susan did though, so there's still something to hope for.
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I’d like to know the story of these windows, and of why the leftmost ones hang lower than those on the right. Also why they’re edged by perforations. There are many mysteries in Assier.
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I love this door. Is it on the chateau though? Beats me.
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Dropping toward Figeac. After generally climbing for most of the ride we enjoyed a wonderful five mile descent before flattening out for the final ten miles to Figeac.
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The other highlight of the ride was the final, steep climb over the ridge that wraps around the northern edge of Figeac - steeply up, steeply down.  Unappealing today especially because Rachael and I both have bike issues - my front brake is chattering on descents, making me wonder if I should have had the pads on it replaced at the same time that the rear ones were; and Rachael’s rear derailleur is getting close to nonfunctional, leaving her with literally only four or five gears she can shift in to - fortunately the easiest ones so she can still manage the climbs, but obviously a concern. Plus, there’s the unfortunate fact that I forgot my meds three days back and am still having intermittent SVT episodes as a result - including one in the final miles of this ride.

So who wants to be doing this last steep climb?  Not us, that’s for sure - so we take a chance by continuing downstream skirting around the nose of the ridge and hoping the traffic from this direction won’t be too bad on our way into town.  And it isn’t.  It’s the obvious best way in from the north, so if you’re arriving into or leaving Figeac to the north, check our route.  It’s perfect.

Entering Figeac, crossing the Célé River.
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Video sound track: Bodas de Oro, by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban

And then there’s one other highlight, if you don’t count dinner: Figeac itself.  Rachael and Susan went out together to explore soon after we arrived while I took a nap, and then we traded places and I wandered around until time to meet them at the restaurant.  I found the town just a bit gloomy at first, but the longer I looked the better I liked it.  Definitely worth a stop, and interesting enough that I’ll post photos from it separately.

In Figeac.
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Ride stats today: 29 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 745 miles, 50,500’

Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 746 miles (1,201 km)

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