Day 4: Digne

I had a strange dream that I’d gotten up in the middle of the night and ordered a new sat-nav. When I woke at 10:00 I was still tired and a check of the inbox confirmed matters: a hotel had been booked in the centre of Digne and a new Zumo 660 was being shipped for delivery before 09:00 the next day. The sun was already raging outside and since I’d probably missed breakfast I might as well give in to the tapping on my door and get out of bed.

After a quick call home to thank Mum for checking in on my snakes (sorry Topaz bit you!) and secondary appeasement of the chambermaids (sorry I’ll wear more clothes next time) I was operational with everything stashed back on the bike. So far I’ve been staying in hotels and I’m conscious of the amount of baggage I’ve been carrying but not using: the small pannier holding tools and cooking equipment has stayed unopened on the bike, and I’ve only been taking my tripod, tent, and sleeping bag off the back seat each night to stop it being nicked.

Lack of navigational gadgetry and fatigue from several too-long days talked me into taking a short day on the bike and heading straight for my next stop via signposted roads, which were still empty compared to the UK in August. On one slow, twisty stretch I was about to pass a cyclist when I thought I recognised the bike he was riding, even from behind. Incredible – what are the chances of seeing another Ridgeback Panorama in these parts? I gave him a big I’ve Got One Of Those Too thumbs-up and he returned the salute – if only I hadn’t been too preoccupied with my mission I’d have stopped for a chat.

The missed hotel breakfast was made good with a visit to McDonalds, which brought with it the attraction of free WiFi. Sadly the franchise on the outskirts of Gap was having technical difficulties and I left feeling I’d been duped into a chicken sandwich with large ice tea.

The road took me through the centre of Gap and past several motorcycle franchises which were alive and well (unlike those back home) despite their lack of GPS offerings. A second McDo on the other side of town yielded more ice tea (it was 32 degrees, OK?) but still no WiFi, so I removed the Gore Tex liners from my riding suit and carried on south to Sisteron on empty roads through apple orchards.

Digne isn’t that big so it took no effort to find my hotel, which turned out to be a fantastic little place right in the town centre with spacious rooms and antique furniture. I normally don’t like staying in towns, or more correctly dislike leaving the bike in them, but this was just perfect and what’s more should help with the timely delivery of my replacement GPS. It’s easy for one’s opinion of a country to become tainted if one only stays in Formule 1 type of hotels at the edge of civilisation, and my digs right in the middle of Digne went a long way to making that right. Nobody even looked as I rode my bike, in flip-flops and without helmet, to better park it outside a book shop in the pedestrian zone by the hotel. Gotta love France.

Having just finished a salad, pizza, and two mojitos I’m going to leave it there for now, with luck tomorrow will bring a new sat-nav and a scenic ride to Italy.