THE THIRD DAY ON THE ROAD dawned fair, cloudless but with a trace of a ground frost. Away without even setting foot in St Pourçain, stopping for a good croissant and coffee breakfast in Gannat, after going off piste, summoned by an intriguing set of finger posts pointing to Les viaducs Eiffel.
You see, we do try to advocate the surprise factor in travelling the way we do, sedately, looking from right to left as well as straight ahead, consulting the road atlas, (a plague on your satnavs) not being enslaved to the route so carefully worked out in advance. This time we began to wonder if this was a deviation too far, but low, in a deepening gorge we found two superb constructions of Ms Gustav Eiffel. The first trellis bridge too beset by trees and shadow to be able to view properly, but the second, a joy to behold, higher, recently repainted and in sunlight. So high, so spindly yet so confident! 1869 the year, single track and seemingly still in use. Most of our acquaintances here are so intent on covering the kilometers in as short a time as possible that they wouldn't even be on the road passing such wonders as these, let alone spot the invitational posts to go–see.
We returned to our route, to visit Riom. An hour here, pleased to find a town using the local black basaltic stone to good effect, mind you the sun was shining. Stylish houses, sombre black churches, towers and bits and pieces, thunderous law courts and a bonne chapelle of the 14thC. After this we headed south, back on the prescribed way, over the volcanic uplands of the Massif Central, where the snow still lay, flakes in the wind. Arrived Sablet at approx 1600 hours. Cold, wind blasted house soon opened up and Fafner coaxed into life to give us some hot water.
Supper then, with Louise and John, up at Terrace Towers, highlight of which was L's fantastic cauliflower soup, a dish I shall try to emulate in the fullness of time. Oh, and the log burner going, the mistral roaring through the town, a glass or two of the local juice: a great way to blow in even if we had to leave to sleep in the chill of number 1 Rue-F-B, at the end of the evening. Pleased to say the Mistral closed down largely overnight…