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.
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