Next morning we headed of into overcast weather that soon turned to drizzle and then to heavy rain. Kept off the peage and travelled on the D roads which were quite pleasant but very slow with many 30 and 70 kph zones through towns and villages. Stopped in torrential rain at a sandwich and patisserie place where we dried out a bit and debated whether to go on or to find a hotel. As it was unlikely the weather would improve for tomorrow and we’d have to bite the bullet sooner or later, we decided to carry on to Riom near Clermont-Ferrand. It’s on the tourist chateau trail. We passed several beautiful chateaux as we went through some lovely hilly, forested countryside but weren’t tempted to stop because of the weather. Lots of European grey nomads on the road in campervans. Caravans don’t seem to be popular here but there are white campervans everywhere. It appears that they are allowed to stop overnight almost anywhere they can pull off the road provided it isn’t a residential street.Found an ensuite room over a bar for 46 euros and after unpacking the bike went for a walk through the old part of town. Bought some fruit and nuts and a bottle of wine. The bike is parked in the back yard of the pharmacy next door and they have given me the key to the gate so we can get an early start tomorrow if it has stopped raining. So far I have managed to get by again with my very poor school boy French. I start by asking them in French whether they speak English and when they say no I say I am Australian and apologise for my poor French. We get the impression they expect English tourists to have taken the trouble to learn some French but they don’t expect it of Australians, so any attempt on my part goes down well and they are very helpful.
Wandered out at about 7.45 pm to find some dinner but restaurant after restaurant had only the bar open and no food. Eventually found a pizza and pasta place where the waitress explained that 4 days of last week had been a holiday and today, Monday, nobody had any money left so almost everywhere was closed.Next morning, Tuesday 23 May, it was pouring with rain again. Set out a bit before eight and got lost when we reached Clermont-Ferrand at rush hour. The road signs are being renewed and lots of them were missing or blank. Had to turn round and go back through the city again before we got on the right road. Got to le Puy en-Velay about 12.30 wet and fed-up after all the traffic, rain and visibility at times down to 50 metres going over the hills. A bloody awful morning and not going one km further today. Stopped at the Ibis Hotel in the middle of town but it was fully booked. The receptionist kindly phoned around and at the 4th attempt found us a bed in a hotel about 1 km out of the historic centre. Got lost again trying to find it but were eventually successful. Nice hotel but a bit expensive, but we would have paid anything by that stage.
Got out of our wet gear and Gail had a shower to thaw herself out. Rain had stopped, so went for a walk into historic town. Narrow cobbled streets. An apparently very famous cathedral on a hill in centre of the old town, with unusual black Madonna and child, though the reason they are black is uncertain according to the brochure.
Having walked up to the cathedral we than walked even higher up to the church on the nearby rock, the Rocher Saint-Michel d’Aiguile. Like the cathedral it is very dark and miserable inside. Perhaps a feature of 10th century church architecture around here. I pity the poor people who had to carry all the building materials up the rock just because a deacon at the catherdral below had a great idea. The photo above is of the cathedral in the distance taken from half way up the rock.
Rain started again and we got wet yet again walking back to the hotel . Won’t be straying far for dinner tonight.