We bid adieu to Chisa and Siobhan and headed into town to pick up some more snacks and lunch supplies for the day. We were quite surprised to find Vialas was all shuttered up and closed on Mondays! The boulangerie and small grocery were both closed as was everything else, meaning we would now be dependent on finding lunch on the road. By the time we rolled out of Vialas for good, it was really beginning to rain. Well at least we had a few miles of climbing ahead of us to warm up! We were heading back up the same 10km section of road that we had descended twice in the last two days! John stopped to take a few photos and I reached the col well ahead of him. The wind was howling in my face, and it was raining quite steadily. Had I looked at a forecast for a different country? I managed to find some shelter where I put on my legwarmers and well... everything else I had with me. John arrived shortly and we started down.
Given our experience the day before, I had plotted a route that would keep us below 4000 feet - the level of the really low hanging clouds and invisibility from the previous day. We were aiming in the direction of the Gorges du Tarn, but with the ultimate destination for the night being the largish town of Florac, where we should be able to find a hotel. We also had a bailout option that would allow us to bypass riding along the gorge (saving it for later) and head more directly to Florac, should the weather turn bad, or fatigue set in. That was beginning to look like a good plan.
We tried not to freeze as we descended down into Le Pont de-Monvert, where we encountered a sheep jam, as a large flock was being herded through the center of town. Grateful for our mudguards, we followed the parade into town and started looking for food.
Seems that all the bakers in the region take Monday off, as the boulangerie here was also closed. We spied a little blue sky among the clouds and harbored some hope that it might clear, but at this point I was quite chilled and in need of some hot liquid and better yet, hot food. I wasn't thinking too much about riding! John noticed a pizza stand with outside seating, but I spotted a bar/restaurant with indoor seating. I pouted and won, so we headed in and had a fabulous hot meal du jour. I can't remember what we had, but it was the best meal ever! Hunger makes good sauce. Once fed, the sun reappeared, and my own spirits brightened as well. I even had my shadow to keep me company again! It was still chilly enough that I climbed wearing warmers and vest. And it was still a bit windy. I again managed to get ahead of the photographer, and confirmed that we were indeed riding into a headwind, when I turned around briefly to see if I was required for modelling duties, and felt like I could ride a bike! Remember there is no such thing as a tailwind. There are only headwinds, crosswinds, and "I'm feeling good!"
Despite the clearing weather, I think we both were feeling the effects of the long days, as well as the winds and rain from earlier. So when we reached the hill above Ispagnac, we decided to make it an easy day and head directly for Florac, saving the gorge for Tuesday.
We rolled into Florac and found a very nice hotel just a block off the main square. After showers and laundry, we wandered around town for a while before dinner.
Before having dinner at the hotel, we had a quick look over maps and decided to stay for two nights so we could do a loop ride, taking in a few gorges the next day. At dinner, we noticed a special item on the menu that required 24 hours notice. Since we'd be there for two nights, we decided to splurge and order it for the following evening. But it would be hard to top my first dinner there. It was fabulous. And unlike lunch, this impression wasn't enhanced by hunger and miserable weather.
After our great multi-course meal, we felt the need to walk around a bit more. We weren't up too late though, since we had plans for a longish ride around the gorges the next day. The forecast looked good. Hopefully my faith in the forecasters would be rewarded. Stay tuned...