I woke up coughing and spluttering. At home I take Echinacea tincture at the first sign of a cough or cold, and it usually goes away within a few days. Without it, unfortunately colds very quickly lead to chest infections for me, so I inwardly kicked myself for not packing my special bottle. We wanted to make the most of our last full day in Esperaza though so we decided to take a circular walk along the Savonet mountain bike trail from the cottage up to Pailhères and along to Soubirous. Not the ambitious walk we’d planned from Quillan, but then that’s just another reason to come back to this part of the world.

After a false start when we set off without waterproofs and the floodgates opened, we eventually made our way up the hill, enjoying the magnificent views of Rennes-le-Château and the limestone gorge in front of it. At Pailhères we were greeted by three friendly collie dogs wanting cuddles – one in particular didn’t seem to want me to stop stroking his head and face. When we stopped for lunch under the shade of a big tree a few minutes later they reappeared, and tried to steal our snacks! Fortunately they only escaped with the olives.

Shortly after Pailhères the road turned into a mountain bike track, surrounded on both sides by wild flower meadows. We watched a rain squall head our way and only just had time to slip our jackets on, but our shorts and shoes soon dried out in the sun.

There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing!

Back in town we were just in time to visit the patisserie, where Rich picked out a chocolate tart. Sadly they didn’t have anything gluten free, so I bought a posh yoghurt from the supermarket instead. Whilst Rich headed home I ventured into the local art gallery. Expecting landscapes, it was a bit disconcerting as an atheist to find that every piece related to a religious epiphany, so I quietly made my excuses and left.

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Rich proved yet again that he has a talent for rustic french cooking and served up a tasty chicken and tomato stew for dinner, after which we enjoyed a final evening stroll to the Monday night artisan market. It sold mainly non-artisan tat to be honest, but Rich was intrigued by the campervan wine bar, and the singer and her DJ partner belting out French classics. We certainly don’t get treats like that down the car boot sale.

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