Friday, 28 March 2014

Post 27 Plateau de Millevaches‏

Although l walk a lot and my feet are used to it, l do sometimes get blisters. I'd rested for a week, until l got restless, then l walked 20 miles [30km]  to get to somewhere new, in the meantime my feet had become soft. Sometimes a piece of grit or a badly fitting sock can cause it. I could feel one of my feet getting sore, but typically l ignored it, l didn't feel like stopping. I should have stopped, bathed my feet, dried them and put new socks on. Perhaps massaged my feet with olive oil. If l'd been Oddyseus, a nymph from the woods would have appeared and massaged my feet. Not even a siren called me. Now as a result of my neglect l have two painful blisters on my left foot. Prevention would have been better than the cure. I can only accept it. Three times a day l get a needle and push it right through the blister, then l squeeze the fluid out. This helps relieve the pressure and relieves the pain. Although it looks a bit gruesome, pushing the needle through doesn't hurt in the slightest. For a few days l shall bathe my feet and take care of them, they'll heal and callous over and l'll forget all about them until the next time. Pain is a funny thing, sometimes a gift perhaps, it makes you think differently. It's interesting how we often succeed in adapting to it. We can choose how we react to it. We can complain to others about it, but it takes more courage to accept it with stoicism and try and learn from it. I only mention it to try and give an honest and accurate description of my journey, it's nothing really.
21st March. I'm at about 2,500 feet [800m] it's colder and a bit mountainous, wintery. The roads are now narrow lanes, they wind back and forth, but the hills are not bad to get up. The horse plods along regardless of whether he goes up hill, down hill or on the flat, he doesn't vary his speed, he doesn't rush or bother trotting up hills. He knows to conserve his energy, l conserve mine too. Sometimes people travel with me for a few days, some of them tell me l should walk differently, l humour them, after a while they get tired, they go home, l carry on [I'm already at home], l haven't got any better ideas.

I rested this morning and only intended to go a few miles today, but ended up doing another 13 miles [22km] ,  finding a place to stop as it got dark. It's a lovely peaceful stop, next to a stream. I met a lady who lives in the next village and comes from Manchester, she gave me some lovely cheese and asked her neighbour if l could stop in her field.
The next day l continued to the village of Peyrelevade. By the time l got there it was snowing. I got some firewood on the way and the lady in the cafe gave me some more. I stopped on some grass by le marie. There is a couple of small shops in the village, they have good food. Although it's snowing it's nice and cosy in the wagon. Le monsieur who has the pharmacie and also has some horses, brought me hard food for the horse. When l got up in the morning the lady from Manchester had left me 250 tea bags on the porch of the wagon.
I set off in the snow and climbed another 300 feet, beautiful country, went through the village of Marcy, there was a sign saying that the Nazis had burned it in 1944. I got to St Merd-les Oussines and stopped there, the people in le bar were friendly and said l could put my horse on some grass behind the village hall. Good to not have to go far.

The next day l did a couple of miles and stopped in a peaceful stop, almost disturbingly peaceful, by the remains of a 2000 year old Gallo Roman funeral temple. They used to cremate people here; l'm not bothered by other peoples ghosts, only my own. It's high up, 850 metres [2788 feet]. I woke at 4.30am, heavy snow falling on the roof of the wagon, by 6.30am it turned to rain. The horse was cold, l gave him the last of the hard food and 'pain dur,' yoked him up and set off without breakfast. He was keen to get on and warm up. Sometimes when horses are cold it's hard to yoke them up because they are impatient to get going, to make matters worse your hands are often cold and stiff. The leather of the harness gets stiff too.
2,770 feet, 850 metres
I've travelled for thousands of miles with horses and have done for years, l've gradually worked out what's efficient, what works well, how to have an easier time, l've often learned the hard way. Every year l get better at it and learn more. It's what l do.
I found some good dry oak on the way, when the weather is wet and cold, dry firewood makes all the difference. I bought two croissants and two bars of chocolate from the boulangerie 'vanette,' in a village, ate the croissants, 'on the hoof,' for my breakfast, beautiful countryside, ate some chocolate for lunch.
When the horse is thirsty he looks at puddles or sniffs at streams to let you know. If you ignore these signs for too long and the horse is tormented by thirst, you may suddenly find yourself and the horse and wagon in a lake! The horse will have a good drink and let you worry how to get out of the lake. I have heard of this happening. Horses are very patient generous creatures but do have their breaking point. Sometimes your ego gets in the way and you can push yourself and your horse too hard. Your horse has to rely on you to look after his needs, if you lose his trust, you may be in trouble.
I often pull over and let him eat on the way for a few minutes. A chance to look at my map or for me to drink some water. 22 km [13 miles]. l pulled over onto some quite good grass for this altitude. After tethering the horse and sawing up the oak, l lit the stove and sat on the bed, tired but pleased and drank a large glass of wine.
26th March. I've crossed the plateau de millevaches and l'm into different country. I feel elated to have crossed it, beautiful countryside, met some nice people, it was quite a challenge and l enjoyed it.
I went into a small town. Two gendarmes in a car told me to pull over into the square. One gendarme seemed very offended that l'd come through the town in my wagon. [The other one appeared to be mute]. The one who spoke desperately tried to find reasons why he was offended. He told me l was going too slowly and causing a  'bouchon,' a bottleneck, [there was one car behind me]. He told me I'd got to go more quickly through the town. He wanted me to feel intimidated and apologetic, but l felt more than equal to facing up to him, l looked at him and said , 'C'est le doit en France?' He looked at me slightly puzzled and said, 'le doit?' 'Oui,' l said, 'plus vittesse, c'est le doit?' He looked discouraged and muttered grumpily again that l must go quickly through the town, l beamed at him and said, 'Ah oui, d'accord je compris.' Then l led the horse as slowly as l could through the town, with the gendarmes following, l soon had a good 'bouchon' as no one wanted to overtake the gendarmes. After a while they got bored and left, as l went through the outskirts of the town several people said, 'magnifique' 'genial' . You can't please everyone, but l learned a bit more French.

Post 26 Creuse‏

16th March. Hot and sunny. In October when l was in Essex, a lady called Doreen came and chatted to me. She told me she lived in France and where she lived. I told her l'd call in when l was passing. I think she was surprised but pleased to see me. I had a nice lunch with her and her husband. They live in an old mill. After lunch she took me to see Francois. He has travelled a great deal in France and Italy with his horse drawn circus, [Cirque Bidon, see them on u tube], it was very interesting talking to him and he gave me useful information about travelling in Italy. It was interesting looking at his wagons and photos. I like to meet people who have a real passion for what they do. I stayed the night in his yard and he showed me his horses. One of them was a Comptoise, a big useful sort of workhorse. In the evening l sat in the kitchen of his farmhouse, he gave me dinner, and it was lovely sitting by a big log fire, chatting. There was a small monkey curled up beside the fire, it looked very content and for dinner ate a banana. Later, when l went out to the wagon, the full moon was up, it looked beautiful. What a lovely day.
Circus Roulotte
17th March. In the morning, Francois gave me some postcards of his circus and l gave him some of my clothes pegs. I'm glad to have met him. We both understood the hardships and the joy  that we'd encountered on the road, travelling with horses. You will never experience this in a car or a camper van.
I headed south, hoping to find a shop open. I got to a village, a lady came up to me and asked if l'd like some jam. I said, 'I'd love some' and was there a boulangerie? She told me there was, but that it was shut. She went off to get the jam and returned with some bread too. Really kind of her. Later on l was going along and stopped to look at some medieval wall paintings in a church. It's a hot day and nice to be in the cool of the church. The horse is content having a rest in the shade outside. Later a man called, Guillaume, came and talked to me. He told me that he'd backpacked in Scotland and been shown great kindness there, he asked me if l needed somewhere to stay. He took me to a friend of his with a field, it's up a large hill, [altitude 500 metres,1600 feet], luckily in the direction l'm headed. His friend, called, Guy, lives in a rather lovely Yurt, it's very well organised and 'tres vivable.' Guy told me he's 'Mongol' but really from Lorraine. He's 65 and is a retired metalworker. He cooked me dinner and Guillaume made a salad out of Pis en lit leaves, [dandelion] and thyme.
Leather lead rope made by Claude
His neighbour, Claude is a horseman, and though now unable to ride, has one good Arab pony. Claude presented me with a beautiful plaited leather lead rope that he'd made, he also showed me other items, including a saddle that he'd made.
Later on another neighbour, called Celine, called by and brought some alfalpha for the horse to eat. She took me back to her large house and showed me her horses. We sat in her kitchen and drank cool white wine. When it was time to go, Celine gave me more food for the horse and presented me with a pot of wild boar pate and a pot of jam. So although l don't often get to the shops, l'm not starving yet.

18th March. I headed south another 15 km to the village of Jarnages. On the way,  Denis, a young Marechal Ferrant, [blacksmith], stopped to talk to me,perfect timing as the horse needs reshoeing. They have done 500 miles [800 km] and the hind ones are like wafers. Denis was very friendly, told me he had a petit champ, [small field] that l could stay in and he would shoe the horse for me. When l got there we drank a bottle of beer, it's a hot day, then he took the shoes off the horse and trimmed the feet, then we had another beer, he fitted the shoes and nailed them on and we had another beer. He was still thirsty so l made a pot of tea. It was nice talking to him and watching how he shod the horse, slightly different techniques and tools. I learned a bit more useful French too. In the evening Denis came back and gave me a large jar of honey from his neighbour, then we sat around the fire with his friends  and family eating and drinking more beer. It was very genial. I'm really glad l didn't have to shoe the horse.
Having a drink at Jarnages
The villages l've been through are really nice and have water fountains, handy to water the horse. I'm now getting into wilder country, hilly, narrow windy roads, streams and rivers, quite wooded, the people l've met are kind. There aren't many people, the bigger villages have a cafe, that is often a boulangerie too and may sell a few groceries. I like this sort of countryside and deliberately choose the remotest route. Yesterday the baker gave me a sackful of baguettes that he hadn't sold, they go dry and hard within an hour or two and are unsellable. The horse loves it. The salt in it probably does him good.
Dried up baguettes

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Post 25 du Berry

Friday 7th March. I stopped in some woods last night, not much grass but the best l could do. When l got there a hunt had just finished and the huntsman was looking for a hound that had gone missing. He was wearing a wonderfully baroque outfit and had a lovely hunting horn. After blowing his horn for a bit the hound returned. In the morning it was a hard frost and l was glad to get on my way and out of the wood into the sunshine. As soon l got to a small verge l let the horse stop and eat some lovely spring grass for 15 minutes, l gnawed at a bit of crusty bread. This is lovely old fashioned countryside, small fields, woods, rivers and lakes and plenty of wildlife. I passed a farmyard with a large pig asleep by the back door of the farmhouse, there was also a donkey and goat and a selection of poultry , an old man waved to me.
I don't want to give the impression that everyone is friendly and hospitable here, some aren't and some are very difficult to communicate with. Today l stopped a man in a small village and asked him if there was a bakery, l've asked this many times before and have been understood without the slightest difficulty, but when he gives me a look of total incomprehension, it doesn't boost my confidence, so l try again, this time he mumbles, almost choking on the words as he swallows them, that he doesn't understand. Both bewildered, l patiently try a third time, this time something happens and he says, 'ahhh, une boulangerie,' the same as l've said it three times. This is why we have the expression,  'third time lucky.'
This kind of encounter exhausts me and could be very discouraging, especially if l've walked 30 km and am tired and hungry. Luckily this doesn't happen all the time , otherwise l might give up. The good thing about this sort of experience is that it reminds me to work harder at learning the language.
A lovely hot afternoon. l found a good place to stop with plenty of firewood, water  and grass and stopped there. Shame it's not also a wifi hotspot, but you can't have everything. At sunset l watched a skein of about 150 geese fly over, what a lovely sight.
In the evening l made some seasoning to put in the bag of my bagpipes, they were Ieaking slightly. I melted some rabbit skin glue in a bain marie on my stove,mixed it with some glycerine and some neats foot oil and a little powdered borax and poured that in and swished it about a bit,then let it drain out. There's lots of ways you could do it, just like skinning a cat. Played my pipes later, what a difference and what a joy to play them. People often think of bagpipes as a Scottish instrument, in fact there are many types in several different European countries, including England.
There's plenty to do, things to mend and repair, often with limited resources and tools, [ you can't carry much in a wagon, space is limited and you can't have too much weight or the horse will struggle on the hills]. You have to be able to improvise.
The next day l found a boulangerie, without difficulty!  The people l met were easier to understand and understood me. In the boulangerie the lady was very friendly, she asked if l was, ' Anglais?'  Then she said, 'Je suis Berrichon.' A bit further down the road, the Maire of the village  asked me if l'd slept well and that she'd enjoyed hearing me playing my bagpipes. [the pipes  I'm playing are from this region, they are called, La Cornemuse. Then she said, 'A bientot, peut-etre [see you again, maybe]?' Friendly encounters like this really boost my morale.
This is a lovely part of France and l have been looking forward to resting here for a bit, if l could find a farm or somewhere to stay. I have asked people if l can stay the night successfully, but l haven't asked if l can stay for a week. The horse and I need a rest and I've been walking along worrying about it and practicing in my head what l would say to the farmer. Today l arrived in a village; straight-away l noticed a lady in the street looking my way. It was as though she was waiting for my arrival and knew exactly what l needed, she immediately ushered me into a nice orchard, next to where she was standing, showed me a tap for water and invited me in for coffee and said it was fine if l stopped a week, all in French. She is called Collette and what a kind lady. To help me she speaks slowly and repeats it three times, just what l need. I'm so pleased. There is a nice cafe in the village and the lady there is very friendly too, we chatted for a while and she told me that this evening there is a session of traditional music.
9th March, Collettes Orchard 
The people who own the chateau came and chatted to me, it's a beautiful chateau. I was glad to meet them.
I had a lovely evening in the cafe and played some of the tunes, mazurkas, waltzes, polkas, schottisches and bourees. There were about three dozen dancers,  l watched one lady and thought how nicely she danced, later on she asked me to dance with her, l was really glad. The music was played on bagpipes, hurdygurdy, melodeons, violins, clarinette and an old man in his 80s, playing  a saw. [To play a saw you have to stroke it in the right way]. I left about 12.30 am, tired. The next day l chatted to the cafe proprietor and he said the last musicians left at 6am.
The cafe here has le wifi, and makes a good hot chocolate. One evening the lady in the cafe gave one of her customers a haircut. I told him it looked really good and he bought me drink. I was drinking, Kir, which is  cold white wine and blackcurrant liquor. It's rather refreshing on a hot day. As, [slightly by default], l am representing the UK l thought l should reciprocate and buy the man and his two friends a drink, and l was glad to. The total cost for the four drinks was about 5 Euros, a bit less than £5. Today  Bernadette, who plays the violin and Pierre, a melodeon player turned up and we played music for two hours, l felt really happy. Lovely to have some other people to play music with and hear some new tunes and some old ones l'd forgotten. It's been hot and sunny in the daytime but still chilly in the early hours and ice on the bucket of water in the mornings. Clear skies and the stars look great here.
Saturday, March 15th.
I've done 400 miles [640km] since arriving in France,  l'd estimated that it would take me 32 days to get here and would be about 356 miles, in fact it took me 31 days to get half way across France. The smaller roads l'm using account for the extra miles as they are more winding. It will be interesting to see how l get on with the next part of the journey. I've got huge hills to cross in the Massif Centrale, the weather will be hotter too. On the other hand the days are much longer, so l can set off earlier in the day and perhaps rest the horse more. We'll see.
Stallion donkey at St.Severe. Very Loud braying.
I headed south today and after 26 km [16miles] stopped at St. Severe in the middle of the village by a pond, there is some nice clover for the horse to eat. There is a chocolate coloured, stallion donkey in a paddock next to me and his extra loud braying is charming. Apart from the donkey, no one else in the village came to see me, often small French towns and villages appear to be deserted, occasionally an old lady will be looking out of a window, sees me coming and hurriedly shuts the shutters. I'm sometimes reminded of Rudyard Kiplings poem,
'If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind or looking in the street,
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie,
Watch the wall my darling while the gentlemen go by.'.....
The clock on the church strikes a few minutes before the hour and then on the hour, so you get two chances to hear what the time is. Jacque Tatti, made the film, La Poste here.
La Poste
I often get asked if l get lonely on my own and the answer is, although l love good company, l also enjoy solitude, perhaps we need both?  Curiously it's possible to be with people l like and love and yet feel incredibly alone, whereas when l'm alone l don't feel lonely.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Post 24 The Loire‏

I crossed the Loire at Beaugency, it's a nice old town, l stopped by the bridge and had a rest for an hour. It was a lovely sunny day. I could have stopped the night there, some of the towns have areas for camper vans and they sometimes have grass suitable for the horse to graze. I decided to carry on and wished l hadn't as l was tired by the time l got to La Ferte St Cyr.16 miles. [26km]. I'm about 320 miles [510 km] south of Calais now.
I stopped by the river in the middle of the village, in a picnic area. The countryside is different now, marshy heathland with scrubby oak trees. I'll be glad when l get out of it. In a car it would take about 45 minutes to get from  Beaugency to Romorantin, you'd hardly notice it, you wouldn't see much or remember it. It will take me three days.

I did about 8 miles [13km] then stopped on a fairly big verge at a road junction. It's surrounded by scrub oaks, it's a bit sombre but at least there is plenty of firewood. Further back l passed a sign, warning trespassers that the Devil [Diable]  would get them. I'll take my  chance.
I'm glad to give the horse and myself an easier day. I'm hoping to rest for a few days soon. I did 94 miles last week, which is good for this time of year, but l'm getting tired.
Despite the threat of the Devil, l slept beautifully, like an innocent baby and woke at 7.00 am to the sound of a woodpecker having breakfast. I stayed in bed for an hour all wrapped up snug in my quilts, reluctant to leave the warmth and face the damp cool air of this marshy wood.
The weather is so much better, Tarateeno is losing his winter coat rapidly now, his hairs get everywhere.19 miles [30km] to Villefranche sur Cher, stopped and did some shopping in Romorantin, there was a McDonalds there and l stopped outside and used the free wifi to check my emails. I had hoped more cafes would have wifi but they don't. They probably do in cities. I'll get a French carte de SIM for my tablet when l get a chance. I'm stopped in a nice big picnic area by the canal. The horse was tired and glad to get somewhere with good spring grass. He will not need any more hay or corn now, which will save me having to find it. It's warm this evening and it's the first time l haven't needed to light the stove for months. I saw some wild boar that had been run over today. I stopped and took a photo of a young one.

5th March. Warm sunny day. I walked along in my shirtsleeves, saw some cowslips. Did 19 miles again, [30km). Tarateeno is losing his winter coat as fast as he can, l'm brushing it out with a curry comb, but it's very thick. It's tiring for him, he'll be glad when it's gone. I'm stopped a few miles north of Issoudun on a very quiet road. Just the sound of a pheasant getting ready to roost and later a fox barking. Too tired to practice French or my bagpipes, fell asleep. Woke at 6.30am. Quite a hard frost, lit the stove, moved horse to fresh grass, boiled a couple of eggs and ate them with some rock hard French bread that l chewed labouriously.I should have given the bread to the horse, but l'd forgotten to buy any fresh.

Post 23 The Granary of France

I've been in France for three weeks, l'm about 280 miles south of Calais now.The weather is  better, much easier.  At Nogent le Roi I bought some nice  food to eat. I was glad to find a shop open. I'm used to shops being open all the time in England, in France they are often shut. I stopped by the church and took Tarateenos front offside shoe off, it was loose. You can always hear when a shoe is loose as it makes a different sound. Best to renail it as soon as possible before the nails that are still holding it on wear bigger holes in the hoof. I soon re-nailed it. l gave the horse a bucket of water from the river and some corn. Some old men chatted to me, I only understood some of what they said, but that's happened to me in Cumberland and Northumberland too. I stopped on the side of the road a bit further on. Another 13 miles. There are a dozen herons fishing in the river. The river is full of trout. I've seen plenty of hares .
People really like my horse and many people ask me if he's a cob d'Irlande or a 'Tinker', which is what they often call black and white cobs in Europe.
Tonight I'm stopped on the edge of a park in a village just north of Chartres. The horse is tethered in the park. So far no one has complained. I can explain that l'm only here until morning and that the horse is tired and must eat. I'd just written this when a car pulled up and a lovely lady called Veronique, got out and gave me hay, carrots and apples for the horse and some cakes for me. The cakes were delicious.
People  like my wagon and the way it's painted, they often stop their cars and say to me, ' genial' or 'magnifique'. In France horse-drawn living wagons are called, roulottes, and are generally quite plain to look at.
I went through Chartres, quite a big town, the old part, quartier St Pierre is very interesting, very narrow streets, nearly got the wagon stuck going round a tight corner, but it was ok. I didn't stop, it was a nice sunny day and l wanted to carry on and get through it and out into the country. You can see the cathedral from miles away; walking, you can see it some hours before you get to it, it must have made a huge impression on people in the olden days.
Grain silo, temple to food worship
South of Chartres and l'm in what is known as the 'granary' of France, huge unfenced fields of wheat, interspersed with little villages, it's completely  arable and there is no livestock around here apart from a few hens in farmyards. Many of the villages have huge grain silos. They look a little like temples to me and people do worship food here.
I walk along hour after hour, immersed in my thoughts, the horse in his, sometimes l don't even think, our attention  aroused momentarily, by the movement of a hare running across a field, sometimes some deer, there's almost no traffic, perhaps half a dozen cars and a truck in an hour.The horse ambles along, awake enough to maintain the same distance from the verge by himself. lf he's doing what l've asked him, l leave him alone, l don't have to drive him, l take up the reins if l've got to turn left or right;  before l steer him l say, 'around' he looks then for a turning and does it himself, l only interfere if he needs guidance. Sometimes if it's flat or a gentle downhill l jump up on the wagon and we trot for a bit, it makes a change for both of us, if the goings good we might trot a few miles, if l ask him to trot that's what he does, he only changes gait if l ask him to, it's a slow kind of trot, perhaps 7 or 8 miles an hour. The people l've met are friendly. A kind lady called Marion invited me to dinner and made a lovely meal, she has told me that the bakery in her village is the best in France. I had a look in the morning and the cakes are certainly good, [the village is called Gault-Denis if you like cakes]. Later on in the morning l went through a little village, l set all the  dogs off barking, [they had never smelt the blood of an Englishman before] this caused a lady to look out of her window, a short while later l was drinking coffee in her kitchen and eating another freshly baked cake. Barking dogs can be your best friend.

Sometimes l'm looking for a place to stop and there is a sign saying, 'interdit aux gens du voyage. Another way of saying, 'no travellers.'
At Varize l chatted to a lady and she was the secretary of the Mairie, so l asked her if l could stop the night on the grass by the church, she said that would be fine and she'd tell the Maire. I was really glad.

1st March 2014.
I set off at 9am. Went through several villages but none ot them had a shop, l'm running low on food. I got water from a friendly lady. The black thorn blossom came out today. At l.30 pm l got to Ouzeur le Marche, but by this time the shops were shut, l was tired so l went in the cafe and had a grande creme, the horse ate some barley out of a bucket, when he'd finished he stuck his head in a rubbish bin to look for something else to eat. I carried on a few more miles to a pique nique area it was 3pm so l  pulled in there. 20 miles [30km] Happily it has a pond to get water for the horse and plenty of dead elm to use on my wood burner. Shortly after, two Gendarmes  came by, they were friendly and said l'd be fine to stop there and that they'd let the Maire know for me. I made some pasta to eat and mixed it with some pesto sauce. Afterwards l played my pipes outside and watched the sun go down. Quite a long day but l'm happy that tomorrow l can cross the Loire.
Sandrine and her children, gave me water.

Inside cafe at Ouzouer-le-Marche
2nd March, 7am, a beautiful frosty start, moved Tarateeno to some fresh grass and watched the sun come up, the only cloud is a strange looking one  rising from the cooling tower of a nuclear power station 10 miles away down by the Loire. Lit the stove and went back to bed while my porridge cooked. Lovely lying in bed lisening to the birds singing. I was woken this morning by a pheasant calling his girlfriends and a duck quacking noisily.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Post 22. Crossing the river Seine.

During this week l've been shown a lot of kindness and generosity. l've been invited to stay in peoples fields and yards, l've been given corn and hay for the horse, one farmer called, Jean-Pierre gave me dinner and in the morning presented me with a bottle of the local cider and a bottle of wine, delicious. The next day another Jean-Pierre and his wife, Bernadette, invited me to stay, l parked the wagon in the street outside  their house and put the horse in the neighbours field. I had lunch and dinner with them. Lovely. They were so kind.
In Gournay-en-Bray, l chatted to a lady called Stephanie, she asked her friend if l could stay in her field, so l went there. Collette and her husband, Roger, were very kind. They invited me for a lovely meal, we played music afterwards and while Roger played his accordion l had a waltz with Collette.
Les Heras de la Repee
Their neighbour, Didier and his wife were also very kind. Didier gave me firewood and mended the broken window in the door of my wagon. Last night, Philippe, an event rider invited me to stay at his yard, gave me plenty of hard food for the horse, let me use the internet and the washing machine; just what l needed.
These acts of kindness and hospitality have made my travelling so much easier.
North of La Seine, above La Roche Guyon
During this time l've been travelling through pleasant countryside and have gone through some lovely villages and small towns. A shoe came loose on the horse, l pulled if off and re-nailed it. The nails had sheared of, but it's fine now.
 Loose Shoe
Taking loose shoe off to re-nail it
I had a lovely journey down the valley beside the Epte river and now l'm on the north side of La Seine at the pretty town of La Roche Guyon. I'm stopped beside the river to rest for a bit. I stopped to fix another hind shoe on as the nails had failed, it happens sometimes. The horse is on some nice grass and l've just treated myself to a grande creme in a cafe. I carried on later, a couple more miles and have stopped on the side of the road in a pretty village called Clashaloze, it is nestled under some chalk cliffs, many of the buildings are dug out of the cliffs. On the other side of the road are little fields and orchards and the horse is in one of these. The man who owns the orchard is called Bernard, he  is a real gentleman. He gave me water, good seasoned firewood, bread, a tin of sardines, a banana and some yoghourt. He has promised to make me some lovely coffee in the morning, l have surrendered and am just enjoying the coffee. The river Seine is only 100 metres away and l can hear the barges going up and down. It rained heavily in the night but stopped at 8am. Bernard came out with a big bowl full of coffee, sugar and bread and butter, he told me to keep the bowl, the coffee was really good. He was really pleased to have met me and l was glad to meet him. I set off at 8.30am and was soon across La Seine. It's a long pull up the hill on the otherside. It's warm and sunny today and the horse is losing his winter coat. I walked along feeling warm without my coat on. Walked 12 miles, [20km], then stopped near a lovely little village called Gilles. On the way l bought some olives and avocadoes to eat, from a van parked in a village square.
Buildings carved out of rock
Pretty French Village
I'm 200 miles [321km] south of Calais now. About a quarter of the way to Les Saintes Maries de La Mer. I'm very pleased with the progress.