Cycling in France - Royat to Bourbon-l’Archambault: 129 kilometres

A parting view of le Puy de Dome.

Following the initial climb out of Royat I veered north on the D90 towards Orcines. Judging by the number of people out cycling and walking, it was obviously  a popular route amongst the locals.  A beautiful Sunday morning, even the Boulangerie-Patisserie man was already out along the road delivering armfuls of baguettes to his expectant customers.

Still climbing, I caught up to a cyclist who was on his way to the Col de Ceyssat. Probably somewhere in his mid-thirties, he had cycled up from further down the valley, in Clermont-Ferrand. He spoke a little English - certainly a wider vocabulary than my French -  enough for us to maintain a conversation for the twenty or so minutes we rode together. Our conversation obviously centred around cycling, particularly mountains in the Alps and the Pyrenees, and of course the Puy de Dome. A keen cyclist, who'd lived in the region for almost a decade, he felt aggrieved that he'd never had the opportunity to climb to the top of the Puy. If I was hearing his bi-lingual banter correctly, the best he could muster was a weekend trip to the summit with his wife on the funicular tramway.     
Our overnight accommodation at the Grand Hotel Montespan,
thanks to Roz's fruitful and frugal internet booking.
 While sporting a population of less than twenty thousand, Riom  proved large enough to lose my way in. Reaching a road sign on the edge of town, I soon realised that I was heading due east, rather than north, the direction I'd been travelling since leaving the Pyrenees for Paris just days ago. With few cars along the road and even less pedestrians, I was fortunate enough to be greeted by an elderly gentleman on a bicycle of his own. It had silver mudguards and a pack rack which carried what looked like a rather large parcel wrapped in a plastic bag. Silvery-grey haired, the man looked to be in his late sixties, though his brisk turning of the pedals perhaps suggested otherwise.

After mulling over my map, with me pointing to where I needed to go, my new best friend  immediately mounted his bicycle before uttering the words “Follow me!” Needless to say, without any hesitation, I did. He led me down an assortment of narrow lanes, first left, then right and underneath tiny railway bridges that anyone other than a local would have never known existed. Soon we passed a slow-moving, slime-infested canal, which not too soon came out at a major road.  Riding abreast for at least another kilometre, I felt I should at least attempt some form of conversation, though the elderly rider's fierce attack on the pedals suggested it wasn’t necessary.

The medieval fortress of Bourbon-l’Archambault, the
birthplace of the Bourbon dynasty.
Pulling up beneath a road sign at a busy roundabout, on another edge of town, the gentleman pointed in the direction that even I now knew I needed to head; along the D2144 towards St-Hilaire-la-Croix.  Mission accomplished, we simply exchanged a few broken words before shaking hands. While most were hardly discernible, I recognised his parting words, ‘Bon Route’ (Good Road), before he headed back along the five kilometres of patchwork road he had dexterously led me along. It was just another example of the hospitality and generosity towards foreigners, particularly fellow senior ones travelling on velos.

While busy, the D2144 provided a good means to an end, first delivering me to the quieter D5 which became the D68 towards Blomard. Sporting little more than a church and a roadside restaurant-café it proved the perfect place to meet Roz for a very late lunch. Our proprietor, an avid cyclist himself, kindly showed me a quicker-and beautifully scenic-route to our overnight accommodation at the spa town of  Bourbon-l’Archambault, the birthplace of the Bourbon dynasty. A rather effortless 30 kilometres, it proved a satisfying end to what had been an eventful day's ride.

Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“I still must abide by the rules of the road, of biking, of gravity. But I am mentally far away from civilization.”

                    US author and poet Diane Ackerman

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