Thursday 11 September.
I got wakened at 5:30am by the dustcart going round emptying the rubbish bins along the street outside, then the trains began running so no chance of any more sleep. I made a cup off coffee and Moira managed to download the newspaper using her iPhone as a dongle for the '3' sim that we can't get to work in the MyFi device. We weren't in a hurry to get away this morning, we were only walking 9km today. The owner of the Indian restaurant downstairs phone an Equestrian Centre in the village of Bertaucourt-Epourdon and got us booked in there. In the Cicerone guide the distance to the next place with accommodation was given as over 30km but later I discovered that there was a mistake in the distance given, it was out by 10km and we could have comfortably made the next village of Cessieres that has a B&B.
We had breakfast and then got the place cleaned up and the packing done. After that we lay on the bed and read the paper for an hour. It was nearly all about the Scottish Referendum and it's all getting tense and exciting. The poles have now reversed and are giving the 'No' side a good lead. Cameron, Miliband, and Clegg are all up in Scotland campaigning for the 'No' side. Cameron is now offering 'devo max', more power for the Scottish Government, what was wanted by most people away back at the start.
It was 9:30am when we got going and we took it very easily, there was no rush for this short stint. When we left Tergnier the route took us over the canal, then took to roads running parallel to this canal, crossing it again in halfway to the village of Beautor. I don't know whether this was Canal de Saint-Quentin but it was a big one and I don't know why the route didn't use the towpath instead of the roads.
The roads were generally quiet and after Deuillet the final 2.5 km to Bertaucourt-Epourdon it was off-road and a pleasant trek on a grassy track between hedges. It was a steady uphill, the first climb we have had and used a few different muscles. When we reached Bertaucourt-Epourdon there wasn't any indication where the Equestrian Centre was and we looked about for somebody to ask. The perfect person came along, a woman on horseback and she indicated that the centre was just a short distance on a side lane.
The office was closed for lunch when we arrived and had 2 hours to wait. Fortunately the accommodation centre was open and Moira checked out the sleeping quarters, there were about half a dozen small dorms so it wasn't going to be expensive. There was a dining hall and kitchen. Two girls were sitting in the dining area, one was plugged into her phone, the other having lunch. I asked about booking a bed and all we got was a blank stare and silence, not even a grunt to acknowledge our presence. We dumped our bags and made lunch in the kitchen, a hard boiled egg (we bought eggs yesterday and boiled them using the Gaz cooker in our room), bread and cheese and coffee.
We read for an hour and the two girls left without a word. Eventually the two hour lunch break for the centre was over and a young guy appeared and booked us into a room with three double bunks upstairs; we selected two bottom ones. It cost €15 each, a bit expensive for a dorm. Now settled with a bed we returned to the dining room and got the password for their WiFi. Moira got on to Booking.com where she reserved a room in a hotel in Laon for tomorrow night. Later we checked where we get to the day after and booked an hotel there, Corbeny, for Saturday. That's us settled for the next couple of days, so we can walk without any concerns about having a bed for the night.
Later in the afternoon we had a walk through the village. We were hoping there would be a shop but nothing. It was a pretty village with some nice houses but not even pub. We got to the end of the village and turned and came all the way back. There was an orchard with the trees close to the road, nobody was about so we pinched two apples for dinner.
The WiFi was very good at the centre and I was able to get a good signal in order to listen to BBC Radio4. It was time for 'PM' and it was also concentrating on the Referendum. We had a good filling dinner tonight. We started off with a packet soup Moira bought yesterday then pasta with tuna, finishing off with the apples I got at the orchard.
The centre was very busy in the evening with people, mostly young girls, there to practice riding. They were leading their horses out from the stables over to schooling area all decked out in their jodhpurs and riding hats. A few guys, workmen of some sort in fluorescent jackets, came into the kitchen to prepare their meal and it appeared they were also staying in another of the dorms. It was quiet in the dining area but the chairs were hard and it was getting uncomfortable so went to our dorm to stretch out on the beds. Upstairs for some reason I lost the WiFi signal and couldn't listen to the radio, I put on some music that was stored the iPad. We were the only ones in our dorm so it wasn't disturbing anyone. We read while the music played in the background for an hour then got to sleep. We slept well but the loo was at the far end of a corridor so a bit of a trek during the night.