Today was our first taste of real climbing. Right from the start, D17 took us out of Charolles and 250 meters up a longish hill to a small village of St Bonnet. There is a motorway that connects Charolles to Cluny. The only other way aside from cycling on it is to make a loop via that village on small D-roads. The scenery is fantastic, mountains, forests, villages, pastures, cows, sheep. Due to a hilly terrain you get a sort of a three dimensional view of the area around. A totally different experience from the flat Loire region. The climbs aren’t that bad. Maximum gradient we’ve seen was something around 7% and it was quite short. We’ve done a total of around 600 meters of climbing.
After following D7 to Donzy, we found a shortcut that led us up a long hill to a small village named Chataeu, from where it was 7km downhill direct to the centre of Cluny. I am relieved that Ann enjoyed this day. We have 350km of Alpes-Maritimes ahead of us and there every day will be similar to today. We are preparing to do 40km days instead of 60-70km on flat.
Cluny is a magnificent place. It is very touristy with a well maintained old town surrounding the Cluny Abbey (or what remains of it as it was destroyed, along with many other cathedrals, during the French revolution). The hotel where we are staying – Hostellerie Le Gourmand is a converted barn, built to a very high standard. I didn’t expect this level of luxury in what used to be a barn. Tomorrow we will visit the abbey (closed today) and depart for Macon where we will board a train to Grenoble. We decided to skip over the boring plains around Lyon, which are supposed to be very busy with traffic between Lyon, Grenoble, Macon and Bourg en B (Rhone-Alps is a very rich and economically developed region in France).