There's a saying floating around Facebook that goes something like "Life is not about the breaths you take, it is about the moments that take your breath away".
I have been rather jaded of late with all French villages looking like each other and barely bothering to get the camera out to capture scenery because it is all so similar... well, today was one of those breath-taking days.
It rained most of the night and I thought I'd be having an "indoor" day in some museum but it cleared up enough to set out for Puy Mary. First stop was Salers which surprised me with its charm and understated grandeur. It's a well restored Medieval town perched on the side of the mountain with spectacular views up the valley. It was strangely empty of tourists and was delightful to wander around all the pokey little alleyways and gawk at the work of the artisans. (Later when I came back through Salers at the end of the day, the carpark was packed with tourist buses).
I continued on to Puy Mary which is one of the peaks left over from an ancient volcano. The road up the valley was pure heaven with breath-taking views around every corner. I only saw two cars the whole morning and they were both coming the other way. It makes for very relaxed riding when the roads are so empty.
Having done nearly 2000 kms in the last 3 weeks and barely a twisty ridden, Henry's tyres were beginning to go square. Not today though! We rounded them off nicely.
When I reached the top it was heaving with buses and campercars and tourists clicking away on their cameras. I joined the throng and clicked away, then took one look at the "hill" and retreated into the café with the rest of the crowd, leaving just a few brave souls to tackle the last 200m - straight up! Apparently it is even more breath-taking from the top, but I was satisfied with what I had already seen.
It started to rain - gently at first and then a little heavier. All the buses went down the way I came up so I picked the least travelled route and made my way slowly and very carefully back to the valley floor. The roads were now very slippery and steep with no safety barriers. There was barbed wire fence but I suspect it wouldn't save the weight of a motorcycle going over the edge.
I took a long and circuitous route home and each alternate valley was dry and wet. I only got lost once and had to double back 10kms along a farm track where I was in danger of being ambushed by fresh cow pats around every corner.