Friday 25 July 2014

On our last day we decided to go back to Thueyts, seeing as we had such a good time there the day before. We were thinking about continuing the walk that we interrupted the previous day, but finally we figured we were too late to do a long hike before lunch. Instead we decided to go to the little beach at Pont du Diable, which was much less crowded than the day before.

What we could not figure out was how to get there, since it was actually an island surrounded by water on all sides. In the end we decided to wade across from the other side of the river. My boyfriend rolled up the legs of his trousers and began crossing, while I was considering whether to strip to my bikini and carry the clothes in my bag. I quickly made up my mind to do just that when I saw my boyfriend almost waist deep in the water. I stuffed my clothes in my small backpack, which was now too full to close properly, but no sooner had I started than I realised that it would be impossible for me to carry both the backpack and my heavy hiking boots across the water. The depth of the water was not the biggest problem, the real difficulty was navigating the bed of slippery rocks. So I decided to leave my boots on the other shore. We would come back the same way, and surely nobody would steal a pair of old boots?

Even without the boots, keeping my balance while holding the backpack was nearly impossible. At one point my trousers fell out of the bag and got soaked. By the time I was halfway across I was about to give up. I was balancing precariously on a rock, unable to take another step. Luckily a Dutch man wearing rubber shoes came to my aid and carried my backpack to shore. I then half-swam half-crawled to shore. After arranging our wet clothes to dry, we relaxed and entertained Loki who, as usual, was excited by the water. 

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When lunchtime came around we reluctantly began gathering our things to return to shore. We were not looking forward to wading across the river again. But as we looked around we saw a group of people getting ready to leave, wearing their clothes. Another group was sitting in the sand with several bags of supplies and picnic materials. There was no way that they had arrived the way we came. So, my boyfriend went to explore the green area behind the beach to look for a better way to get off. Meanwhile I was putting on my clothes and realised I had left more than my shoes on the other shore. I had also forgotten my top. If I looked carefully I could see it draped over a rock.

My boyfriend came back with information. There were two easier ways off the island. To return to the shore where I left my clothes we could return via a much shallower point at the beginning of the rapids, but the crossing was still slippery and equally long. But there was a much shorter crossing to the shore on the other side of the island, which many families were crossing without too much trouble. The shorter option was appealing but my clothes were on the other side. I suggested that we take the short crossing and that I go across the bridge to pick up my clothes afterwards. But my boyfriend volunteered to do the long crossing and get my clothes, so that we could then cross the easy way. It took him quite a while and did not look all that easy, but some time later we were ready to leave with all our things. The crossing was incredibly easy, with large non-slippery rocks laid out in a row to walk across. We felt foolish for having struggled, gotten wet and left clothes behind in our desperation to cross.

We had lunch at the same restaurant as the day before, but it was market day and much busier. The meal of the day was not as nice as what we had ordered the day before, but the thing that really made the experience less pleasant was a more experienced but curt and almost rude waiter. We missed the previous day’s rehabilitated waiter. After lunch we had a quick walk in Thueyts, to see what the Village de caractère had to offer. The old centre was indeed a quaint and charming place.

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Back at the house that afternoon I was packing when I heard my boyfriend speaking Dutch on the terrace. It turned out a Dutch couple, who owned a holiday house across the valley, had walked into our yard. They had seen our house many times on their walks, but this year was the first time they saw lights in our windows, so they decided to come and investigate. The woman was very talkative, and in the rather long conversation we got two interesting pieces of information.

Firstly, they told us the truth about our “squatter”. He was a Dutch man called Julien and he was not a squatter, but owned the house since 20 years. While he was not a squatter, he was a recluse and scared of people. That is why he seemed so alarmed when my boyfriend was outside his door. He never left the house except on the rare occasions that he took his moped and drove to the village for basic supplies.

Secondly, they mentioned that the hotel in the village was for sale. The owner was a lady in her 70’s whose health did not allow her to continue managing the hotel. A few years ago she hired someone else to manage the place, but he did a terrible job (his idea for a rustic village hotel was a pinball arcade) and the business went downhill. She was back managing it for now, but could no longer cope with the heavy work.

For the rest of the evevning our heads were buzzing with dreams of buying the hotel. How perfect would it not be to move to this beautiful valley and be your own bosses? We decided that we would stop by the hotel on our way home the next day, at least to have a coffee and check it out.

That night we could not sleep. It was probably the impending 12 hour drive back to Brussels and the end of the holidays that was keeping us awake. Meanwhile we both got hungry (we did not really eat any dinner after the big lunch), so we headed downstairs for something to eat. The coals in the fireplace were a perfect layer, glowing bright red in the dark, and we decided to barbecue hamburgers. We still had a packet of 8 frozen pure beef burgers and 6 buns which we had not managed to cook during the holidays. Add some lettuce and tomato, and this was the best midnight meal I had ever had. Loki, who got the two final beef burgers seemed to agree. While eating we continued making plans for the hotel, from imagining the website to planning the menu for the restaurant. Eating delicious food in front of the glowing coals while dreaming away – what is better than that?

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