France intro                                                                                         < Previous page          Next page >
Day 11 - Going the extra mile
March 13, 2010            Villefranche-de-Lauragais to Toulouse-sud                 19 miles
Line of trees
Abrupt stop
Sofa boat
It was a great morning's hike, but I rather spoiled things in the afternoon.

Swinging on to the canal a couple of miles out of the Hôtel de Lauragais, I covered about ten miles in harmony with the world. The weather was cold, but the sun was breaking through the gloom, and soon I could actually see my shadow. Saturday morning means cyclists here in semi-rural surroundings, and there were quite a few.

Having split the distance to Toulouse into two, I planned for only about twelve miles. This allowed for a sit-down lunch at a picnic table at one of the locks.

But, when Hobson mocked my lunch preparations today, I knew I had to rein him in.

"You sure like your mackerel in white wine sauce, Daryl," he said.

"Well," I replied, "it makes a great baguette sandwich."

"So what's in it?" he asked.

I nearly tossed him the can to read for himself. Instead, I said: "There's filets of mackerel in a sauce made of white wine, vinegar, pickled onion, carrots and peppers. You can't buy it in the States because of the wine. They'd have to sell it in the liquor section."

"You really, really like the mackerel, then?" said Hobson, mischievously. So I figured I'd need to reply provocatively.

"Not really," I said. "But it takes away the taste of the white wine sauce."

"Oh," said Hobson, knowing he was being led somewhere. "So you don't like the white wine sauce now?"

"Well, yes and no," I said. "I like the white wine sauce, but not the taste. I like the white wine sauce because it takes away the taste of the mackerel."

I knew that Hobson was in too far now to back out. "So," he went on, "you buy the mackerel in white wine sauce because you don't like the taste of the mackerel and you don't like the taste of the white wine sauce?"

The poor fellow thought he'd got me, but I was just getting started.

"No, Hobson," I said. "That's all true, but that's not why I buy it."

"Oh," he said, putting his head into the noose. "So why do you buy it?"

"I would have thought that was pretty obvious," I said. "But I'll tell you anyway."

He gave me a look that meant "now what?"

"I buy it," I explained, "because of the roll maneuver."

"Huh? The roll maneuver?"

"Darn it, Hobson," I said. I would have thought that was pretty self-explanatory, but I can see that I need to waste more of my time with this. Let's do an experiment."

I handed Hobson an 8 in length of baguette, nicely split on one side, and a can of mackerel in white wine sauce.

"You'll see that the can is just a little shorter than the length of baguette," I said. "So when you open the can, you'll be able to tip the contents into the baguette."

As Hobson pulled the tab to open his can, my trap was about to close. Once the can was open, I gestured for him to tip the contents into the baguette. I knew what was about to happen.

A second or two later, there was an explosion of disgust from ol' Hobson, whereupon he threw his sandwich and the empty can into the bushes.

"Darn it," said Hobson, only he used another word. "Now I've got fishy oil on my coat and down my sleeves!"

"Yes," I said. "But that's OK. Some of it will come off when you shower, and the rest will slowly fade away over the next two or three weeks. Or at least you won't smell it yourself by then."

"Mind you," I went on. "Other people will smell it. And dogs will know you're coming from a mile away."

Hobson gave me a look, and I knew that today was going down in the annals as one of the finest of all time.

It was after an hour of sullen silence, that Hobson's curiosity finally got the better of him.

"Darn it, Daryl," he started - only, once again, he used another word for 'darn it', "you still haven't told me why you buy it."

"All right," I said. "Let me show you". I took out another can of mackerel in white wine sauce, and slit open a baguette. Hobson retreated up a grassy slope so as to maintain a safe distance. I opened the can.

Then, deftly and quickly, I tipped the entire contents of the can into the baguette, whereupon - after the briefest delay - I rolled the baguette by 180 deg so that the white wine sauce permeated both sides of the baguette rather than saturate one side and exude from there on to my sleeves and coat.

"That's how it's done, Hobson," I said."Not a single drip! I told you that it's because of the roll maneuver."

"You buy it because of the roll maneuver?" exclaimed Hobson.

"Yes," I finished, employing a maddening nonsequitur or, if you prefer the term, introducing irrelevant abstraction. "You know I'm an aerospace engineer and a pilot . . ."

Hobson's look and fishy smell were precious beyond words. I knew I'd have no trouble with ol' Hobson for a while.

There is more to the canal than the canal. So, in today's pictures, I thought I'd share some of that. There was the clearly free-thinker at Borde Neuve, who parks abruptly and then enjoys a rather special boat. There are often distinctive landscapes, most easily visible when there's a walkway atop the canal banks, and not down beside the water.

Among the canal shots, one shows the importance of figuring out which side of the canal makes for easier going.

I had to leave the canal after Montgiscard in order to access my motel at Donneville. By this time, the sun wasn't just out, but it was warm - like the spring day it ought to be here in the south. I had, coincidentally, been bothering my mind with more distance- and time-to-go calculations. Perhaps I'll spell those out tomorrow. But today at 1 pm approaching Donneville after a nice walk of about twelve miles, in quite delightful weather, I said to myself, "You need to, err, go the extra mile". By that I meant that I needed to do more than twelve miles a day if I was ever to get to my destination by my flight date. In fact, I thought, I could do with a slogan like "three more miles", and that - if done each day - would pretty likely have me in Bordeaux and beyond in time for some R&R instead of jumping straight on to the plane.

So, when L'Enclos motel and restaurant came along, I popped in and canceled. At that moment, I felt quite virtuous. I'd done the decent thing and not been just a no-show. Moreover, I'd handled the matter in French, and almost with aplomb: "J'ai un reservation pour ce soir - mais, desolé, je dois l'annuler. Monsieur May, M-A-Y."

Even Hobson was impressed with my French.  "It sounds terrible," he said, with his usual generosity. "But you get the job done."

"I never studied it at school," I said.

"You didn't?" asked Hobson.

"No," I said. "That's why I can speak any French at all."

That was the last bit of swagger I enjoyed today. I didn't find accommodation until seven miles later. My feet ached, and the last miles were punishing psychologically. Plus the place itself had no heat, which started to matter as I wrote this after 10 pm.

But I am feeling virtuous, because I've reached Toulouse-sud, or actually Ramonville St Agne, so tomorrow I should complete the Canal du Midi, in time for lunch.
Hobson looks intoi the future
Which bank?
Lock and bridge
< Previous                                                      © 2010 Daryl May                                                           Next >