Great gardens to wander and watch kestrels hunting for breakfast as we awaited ours in The Royal Saltworks. Such ‘ambience’ just outside my room was ‘magnifique’.
We set off later than usual and with some trepidation. The easy part of the journey has ended. The hundred km yesterday took a lot out of us. Bow, the first day of vertiginous climbing was upon us.
An early sign of rising elevation was the sound of cowbells (and some sheepbells ). The bells rang with us the rest of the day. So much cheese and yet I’d never realised how many cows there were until I could hear them. Everywhere. Some say the cowbell is a disturbing mark of ownership and control; others think it quaint.
We prevaricated and procrastinated and delayed in Salines-les-Bains at the base of the worst climb. First: coffee. Then find sandwiches. Perhaps postcards. Sure, some Twix and Lion bars from a Tabac. So many sunscreens to choose from in the pharmacy. An hour went by. Excuses ran out.
Lest I forget, a black cat came to a pedestrian crossing in Salines, looked left and right, then crossed safely in front of us. My bad luck was not having a camera in hand.
Another noise worth mentioning was the roar among the switchbacks of millions of euros worth of supercars having Saturday fun. We were passed by a club outing of modern Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Ford Mustangs and Lotus and later, some maniacs on Ducatis. I’m a petrolhead and seeing the cars in an urban procession in Salines was interesting but sharing the road when they went into Top Gear mode was worrying. We stopped and waited which on the 10% gradients was unfair. In fact, let’s not discuss the 400 m climb over three km; some things are best forgotten.
Up at 800 m, slightly cooler but such a change in environment. Scary hills in the distance, huge green pastures full of cows and expansive forests. Lots of older cyclists on their e-bikes. Several stick insects on carbon in Lycra moving at logic defying speed. Fighter jets of course. And generally wonderful cycle surfaces (but not all were quite so enjoyable).
And on to Pontarlier the capital of absinthe production, the ear-loppingly good ‘green fairy’ aperitif. Pontarlier is also the second highest town in France (pun intended).
And then came World Cup rugby. Ireland beating the Springboks in Paris was a great end to our day. The baked Mont d’Or cheese for dinner was another (though trivial by comparison).