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Day 18 - An easy day
March 20, 2010                         Port Sainte Marie to Tonneins                                  13 miles
Station controls Port Ste Marie
Boarded up hotel Tonneins
Dark pants
The Hôtel Le Perigord is nicely managed. It could be a boutique hotel as far as service and food. I've felt comfortable here, and it's been a treat to leave my pack in my room to go hiking. With this arrangement, the best part of the day has been to shower after returning "home" and go down to dinner. It's a luxury to dine in the hotel at which I'm staying.

Today I took the train back to Port Sainte Marie to hike from there to the next stop on the line to Bordeaux, which is Tonneins. I would return to Le Perigord by train from there. The trains have been quite wonderful, even the local TER trains. They've been swish and modern, quiet and fast, with a well-managed station set-up of ticketing machines backed up by counter service. (By the way, you can carry your bike for free on most of these trains.)

Port Sainte Marie's station, though, is a relic from the past. The line controls pictured at top make it almost a railroad museum. I've enquired, and been told they're not operable anymore. Tonneins station is little more than Port Sainte Marie's. Time and the autoroute have passed both towns by. A once-thriving hotel near Tonneins station is a hulk - see picture.

The weather was good, and I did my thirteen miles in good time, mainly on roads. The mid-section of the hike, though, followed a farm track through fruit trees and was part of GR 654 Est. It brought me back to the road. Incidentally, it's been mainly "general farming" since Toulouse, just south of which marked the end of the vines. They'll surely reappear in the Bordeaux region.

Today I learned for certain why people know I'm a foreigner, and probably an American. (Without hearing me speak, that is, or seeing my stars-and-stripes wool hat which I don't always wear. And even when I'm just walking in town without my backpack. The reason became clear to me when hiking in Britain, but I'd forgotten about it. It seems to be true of France, too.

It has to do with the color of my pants (trousers, if you prefer).

In Europe, most everyone wears dark pants. Black, charcoal, dark brown, dark blue - or, at their lightest, denim-blue. But never the light tan common enough in America. I am wearing light tan pants. It marks me as an American almost as definitely as if I was wearing bermuda shorts at a French funeral.  I took a picture of people's pants at the station to show you what I mean. Several other pictures prove the same point.

Today, I also realized that I'd lost weight. My pants, regardless of their color, are slipping down even with my belt tightened as much as it will. A hula-hoop wriggle doesn't right the problem, either. It's time for string.

Nearing Tonneins, I needed to take a leak. Hobson said:"There's a river right here for that."

Afterwards, he said he'd spotted a boat and would take a boat ride.
River at Tonneins
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