Our next experience of marking a route was altogether a more exciting affair.
We are coming to the end of the Ardéchoise – a crazy week which has seen over 16,000 cyclists descend on St Félicien for the 25th anniversary of this legendary cycle event, the largest of its kind in Europe. Participants can choose from a network of routes covering the whole department, to be completed in one to four days or just the big one day event on Saturday. Every village and dot on the map pulls out all the stops to welcome the vélomanes with decorations, refreshments and entertainment. Arlebosc is no exception.
On Thursday from 7am a stalwart band of villagers, fortified with coffee, waved and cheered the three day eventers on their way. We were joined for a time by the eleven pupils from the infants school who hollered Allez! Allez! at the tops of their voices before being shepherded back to class.
Many of the cyclists of course come with family members, who spend the week in campsites and gites, and Damien of the St Félicien Tourist Office decided that something should be laid on for these accompagnants. He devised three walking routes, to run on consecutive days, with a lunch stop at one of the local farm producers. Thursday’s hike took them from the sleepy village of Bozas to Arlebosc, with a stop at Melodie and Johan’s farm for lunch and back to St Félicien, a distance of 18km. The idea is to get these people out and about, to discover our beautiful and varied landscapes, meet the locals and taste all the wonderful artisan produce. Of course this sort of thing is right up our street and we enthusiastically volunteered to help.
So the day before our little group set out to mark the route.
We were perhaps not very efficient: we stopped for lunch at the café, poked around the hidden alleys and secret gardens, stopped again for coffee with a friend and generally dawdled and chattered, but we got the job done and had a delightful time.
The next day we were at les Blanchettes in time to set up the tables and get ready for the hungry walkers to arrive.
After a glass of water everyone was ready to sit down and enjoy Melodie’s home produced lunch.
On the menu was goat pâté, followed by goat merguez sausages with tabbouleh, then goat cheese and goat’s milk yoghurt. A full-on goat experience!
There were armfuls of cherries freshly picked from her father-in-law’s trees and to drink, her own fruit juice, Free Mousse beer from St Victor and coffee.
The weather has been very iffy over the week but each day the hikers were able to dodge the downpours. There were 78, 35 and 65 walkers respectively and lots of great feedback. We are already looking forward to next year, and so is Missy the dog, who behaved beautifully throughout.