France intro                                                                                            < Previous page          Next page >
Day 20 - Another training day
March 22, 2010                                 Marmande to Le Réole                                        13 miles
Modern art at Marmande
Garonne approaching La Reole
Blue skies, and intense sun and warmth, distinguished today from the three previous. My hike northwest from Agen has taken on its own character - leave the pack at a hotel, and walk partly on roads. Today's warmth had me remove my sweater, and wish that it wasn't a wool hat that I had for sun protection, but a baseball cap. I am sure that the temperature reached 70 degF (27 degC).

Last night, I figured that accommodation at La Réole wasn't a sure bet. The only really well-positioned place wasn't answering the phone, and couldn't be booked on the Internet. I decided I'd base myself at Marmande, where I'd arrive on the train in the morning from Agen. I'd check into the Hôtel Lion d'Or (pictured yesterday) and hike to La Réole without the pack, and take the train back after the hike. Where have you heard that formula before?

The nonstop express train from Agen covered the distance of my three last days in 45 minutes. It's actually quite sobering to see so much countryside zip past. Strangely, it doesn't diminish the distance hiked as much as showcase it. Leaving Agen early, and having a fluent check-in at Marmande had me leaving Marmande on foot at 9 am. With my close-to-3-mph when freed from my pack, I took a Camembert and baguette lunch break and still was in La Réole in time for a brief photo session, a discussion at the station, a route review for tomorrow, and an arrival back at the Marmande hotel by 4.30 pm.

The discussion at the station was about a national rail strike for tomorrow, when I'm due to take the train back to La Réole to continue hiking. It seems these strikes are a somewhat choreographed matter. The first and last train of the day will always run. So, inconvenienced no doubt, people can get to work and back. Well, the first train will suit me well enough, and tomorrow I expect to be back in La Réole by 7 am and hoofing away. Breakfast won't be a formal hotel matter, but a grab-and-go from somewhere or other. The weather is expected to be good again.

Back at Marmande after my hike . . . I thought it might be of interest if I described my tasks before going to sleep at 10.30 pm or so.

After hiking, I'll typically strip off and shower.

Then wash my clothes to get that drying process started as early as possible. For effective clothes-drying in the absence of decent radiators, you also have to get up in the night and rearrange your laundry to get the job done.

I'll switch on my phone and check for messages (it's off during the hike), and get my email if I have wifi.

Then, having learned the hard way not to defer this too long, I figure out next night's accommodation, and either book it or carry the phone numbers and addresses in a quickly-accessible way. I can only do that and the next task with some weather info, which I'll get from the TV or from the Internet if I can.

Since my maps will have been out for the accommodation decisions, I'll do a route review for next day, marking my PDA-maps with flags to keep me heading right without having to make route decisions next day (unless I choose to).

Dinner usually fits somewhere in the above, remembering that they eat late here, typically no earlier than 7.30 pm.

Then I will download my photos from the camera memory card onto the computer (which is backup), and massage them on the computer. That means the usual cropping, color corrections, and selecting to use in this daily report. The photographs, as well as some rather cursory note-taking during the day, remind me what to write about.

If I can get online, I'll then upload the day's report. To do that, I have to edit the previous posts just a tad so the links work with the new page. I confess to some revisions of previous reports, too, if I have time.

Then I have to get four things charging: camera, phone, PDA and computer. Because the computer's AC adapter is a known problem, I make sure I switch that off as soon as the computer is charged. I may also set my morning alarm on the PDA.

Bedtime occurs four or more hours after I arrive at the hotel, not including time spent at dinner. During this time I'm really quite occupied doing what I've related. I'll now watch TV, and may leave it on all night, with the French drumming away. I believe that may train the auditory pathway to differentiate between the various phonemes, and improve comprehension. It's just a théorie.

No one speaks English to me anymore. It might be better if I spoke poorer French because then they would. Sometimes I'm left quite floundering with the incoming. But, if the situation doesn't seem too important, you'd be amazed how long you can smile and nod without betraying the fact that you haven't really understood.

Two conversations today were like that. One old fellow asked me something about the police speed cameras. I don't know what he got from me, but he talked a few minutes and didn't complain. Another old fellow told me how the doctors had screwed up his eye surgery, doing both eyes at the same time with the same bad result. From that, you'd think I'd understood what he said, but he had to have said something else in the remaining ten minutes of that conversation, right? But he, too, ambled off as if I'd said the right things.

You don't have to talk or understand much to seem like a bon conversationalist.
Garonne bridge at lLReole
< Previous                                                     © 2010 Daryl May                                                           Next >