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Day 6 - A hard day not at the office
March 5, 2010                                 Azille to Carcassonne                                        18 miles
Puicheric shutters-closed
Marseillette building
I returned to la Redorte first thing in the morning so say "thanks again" at the insurance agency. Then I hit the road again to cover the 18 miles (29 km) to the hotel I'd booked between Trèbes and Carcassonne, and actually in the latter's city limits.

The miles didn't come easily, but they came. The weather was excellent except for a headwind, though it died in the afternoon and took its wind chill factor with it. Fortunately my maps (1:25,000 scale) are so good that there is no lack of features to recognize. So I know for a virtual certainty when there'll be a chateau around the next bend, or some power lines, or a river with a row of trees. Those features break the tedium of eight hours on the road. "Ten minutes to a school," notes Hobson, and thinks about schools for a while. So it wasn't eight hours of uninterrupted slog, but eight hours of interrupted slog.

Early in the day I passed through Puichéric, where I took the picture you see at top. I thought it epitomized what I described yesterday - stone buildings with shutters that are often closed, and no one on the streets.

Now at one small town, which I'm deliberately not naming, I stopped for my daily baguette. The lady behind the counter beamed when I admired her baguette selection: "Beaucoup à choisir," I said. After making my selection, I asked her to cut it in half, which she did because we were now friends. And that being the case, and there being no other customers in the patisserie, I also asked if she'd put the two demi-baguettes in the back pocket of my pack, so I wouldn't have to take it off. (Actually, it's not the taking off that's difficult, it's the hernia-threatening, orthopedically-challenging, chiropractor-enriching act of putting it on again that I was glad to avoid.)

My new friend was more than happy to help. She came round from behind the counter with the two demi-baguettes. Being shorter than me, and finding that the backpack itself jutted out from my back, she reckoned she'd stand a better chance of reaching the backpack's rear pocket if I crouched. So I bent my legs to lower myself, while also leaning forward to maintain balance. The lady approached me from the rear with her left hand on my left shoulder, and her right hand holding one of the demi-baguettes ready to shove it into the backpack pocket. It must have been an extraordinary sight, reminiscent no doubt of the mating activity of two dogs - and perverted ones at that - and then, at that exact moment, another customer entered the store and froze in a stare of astonishment.

"Oh-hah," he said, "Ce patisserie a plus d'offrir que j'ai pensé. [This patisserie has more to offer than I thought.]"

There was raucous laughter, in which the patisserie lady joined. But I reckon she was quite pleased to see me on my way.

My canalside routing was limited to a nice section of canal east of Marseillette, where I ran into two bikers, clearly on a long-distance ride judging by their panniers. Their passing me was marked by cheerful bonjours and saluts. The second shot is of an old building in Marseillette.

If you've read my treatise on roadside litter on my British hikes, you won't be surprised to hear about the prevalence of gloves - alongside, of course, drinks cans and plastic bottles, cigarette packets, styrofoam packaging, wheelcovers, car lamp lenses, shoes, and paper. But it's the gloves that held most interest for me today. You see, I left La Dolce Vita in Azille without my gloves, because I couldn't find them. I was sure I had them when I arrived, though a more interesting explanation is that I left them in that great swapmeet of gloves, the roadside. With that latter explanation, I was now entitled to take someone else's, and sure enough I acquired a glove somewhere on the roadside, and threw it in my backpack for later examination.

Seeing this activity, Hobson leered at me with a sardonic smile: "We're into scavenging old gloves, now, eh Daryl?"

Caught in the act, I could only mutter, "Well, I'm cold, and there are no clothes stores anywhere in these boonies."

Hobson was relentless: "So now you have a right-hand glove, what are you going to do now?"

I thought it was best to answer a question with a question: "What should I do, then, Hobson?"

"You should look around for a left-hand glove," said Hobson. "There'll probably be one around somewhere?"

"And what if I just find another right-hand one, and another right-hand one after that?" I asked.

"Well," said Hobson, "in theory you can turn a right-hand glove into a left-hand one by turning it inside out. That's in theory, of course."

"Do you really think I'd do something as tacky as wear gloves I  find on the roadside?" I asked.

Hobson just looked at me, and I winced.

My arrival at Hôtel Formule 1 on the outskirts of Carcassonne was much anticipated but fell flat. It's a new chain with spanking-modern and clean rooms - but I also found shared bathrooms and toilets. The room has linen including towels, but no soap. There's a breakfast room - but no restaurants in the hotel or within walking distance. Still I can manage with this because there's plenty of heat, and there are always cheese and sardines in my backpack. I resolved to have a better day in Carcassonne tomorrow.

Then my computer AC adapter broke down. It's a known problem, so I have a spare - but one down after five days, with a spare that needs to last 30 more days . . . not good odds. Mind you, I restored the functioning of the dead one by hanging it out of the window for an hour, where the cold weather reset the malfunctioning temperature cut-off switch - also a known workaround that probably won't last long.

So if these reports stop suddenly, you can add power failure to the other possibilities.
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