The walk to lunch goes a little faster than expected. When we try to slow Kaïd down, we find that “Doucement” doesn’t help. But we’re enjoying our walk and Kaïd seems satisfied, so we don’t push it. Once or twice he starts to veer up a farm track, but he’s easily guided back on course. We see stunning valley vistas, a cluster of cows taking shade under a sprawling tree, a brook that I swear babbles at us — all the enchanting clichés of deep-country scenery. As we pass one of the rare houses on the route, an elderly couple emerges to watch and, smiling broadly, wishes us, “Bonne promenade!” 

When we reach Le Krill — located in La Baleine, a hamlet of reddish stone buildings with a town hall open four hours a week and a population that breaks 100 only if you count Le Krill’s guests — we find a rustic restaurant housed in a converted stone schoolhouse. Once seated on the terrace, we hear the happy sounds of a party filling an inside room. People are enjoying themselves. So are we. A couple of times, between courses, I leave our table and peer around the corner of the house to check on Kaïd. He, too, seems to be having a fine, leisurely meal. As our lunch ends, I’m tempted to take him a taste of our dessert — raspberry and lemon sorbet — but instead we sit, finishing our wine at our leisure. That may have been our mistake.

We untie Kaïd and head back along the winding road. After a full meal and too much wine, we desperately want Kaïd to live up to his breed’s reputation for slow walking. He wants nothing of the sort.

“Doucement,” I coax. “Doucement!” I urge. “DOUCEMENT!” I plead, beg, implore, beseech. Kaïd ignores me. He stops and starts on command, but his only speed in between is that of a Parisian hurrying to the métro. Apparently, Kaïd has never read about donkeys on the Internet. After the 50th try, we give up and let him set the pace. (I later learn that in Arabic, Kaïd means “leader” or “master.” It figures.)

Shortly before we reach Viviane’s, a man clearing brush by his house hollers joshingly: “You want another? I have one out back!” Uh, thank you, but no.

At the farm, Viviane unpacks Kaïd and gives him a pail of water. For the first time that day, he brays loudly. From the field across the way, another donkey answers. “He’d rather play with his pals than work,” Viviane offers by way of explanation. Nothing personal — he just wanted to get the job over with.

More proof that you can’t trust everything you read.