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Day 7 - Just rewards
March 6, 2010                                      In Carcassonne                                              5.5 miles
Carcassonne's east walls
Steve's creperie
Terrine de campagne
DNM at Carcassonne
There is nothing quite like earning one's treats. Friday's slog was rewarded by a great Saturday in Carcassonne.

The Hôtel Formule 1 was east of the city by a couple of miles, and I wanted to position myself on the west side of town for an easier day's walk on Sunday. So I booked at the Hotel Balladins Carcassonne, and spent the day between the two, and mainly in La Cité, which is what Carcassonne's (and other) medieval cities are known as.

You can see two mentions of hotels, and it's no accident. All things being equal, I'm finding hotels are more comfortable and equally or lower-priced than B&Bs (chambres d'hôtes). For all the decency and personal attention you might get at a B&B, you're also more likely to struggle with poor heating and quite inappropriate furniture. Being in a city gives me some choices, and I chose "hotel".

On the way in to the city, I spotted a Géant hypermarché. These places are France's giant supermarkets and small department stores in one. The food selection is colossal, cheeses especially. There are also restaurants, coffee shops, opticians, florists and the like. Tomorrow is Sunday, with restaurants closing early. There's also a forecast of snow. Moreover the accommodation that I booked in Bram, my next destination, won't even be staffed - from which one can interpret "restaurant closed". I'm to call tomorrow to get the code that will let me open the door. In these circumstances, I'm topping up with bread, cheese, fruit and hard rations that aren't too heavy. It's easy to envisage a couple of snowbound days in the one-horse town of Bram, perhaps alone.

I also wanted to buy gloves, but Géant had none. Or at least that's what they said. But, correctly forecasting that I wouldn't find a clothing store anywhere else today, I persisted and ended up with some oven mitts. Now that might sound weird, but the more I think of them the more I like them. They slip on and off easily, they're washable, they have loops that let me hook them to my backpack when I take them off - and they're well-insulated. Moreover, the left and right hands are interchangeable, which is useful given that one side will wear faster because I most often grip my hiking pole with my left hand. They feel good when gripping the hiking pole, too. And, while I can't write with them on, or operate my PDA with them on, nor could I do so with my leather gloves. So, as a minimum, they're worth a try. They certainly beat the alternative of having none.

The weather was terrific today, about 60 degF (15 degC), sunny and calm. It's going to drop to freezing over the next two days. But, for today, the sun shone. La Cité at Carcassonne is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Medieval ramparts and walls, and the most photogenic of interior buildings, surround narrow cobblestone streets. There's a restaurant every few steps, tastefully décored. And, for once, I arrived at lunch time.

I show a picture of the créperie where Steve ate, but lunched myself at Brasserie le Marcou in place Marcou, which is a food court, style ancienne. I enjoyed most my starter of Terrine de campagne, which was a salad with lettuce, endive, olive, egg, tomato, gherkin - all nicely dressed - with a couple of slices of paté to enjoy with unlimited bread. After that, the Escalope de poulet was a bit disappointing, except for the giant grilled mushroom that exuded taste. I ended with a Crépe au sucre, which was so light that it almost floated off the plate. The French seem to like sugar on their crépes, but they'll also serve them with most anything on and in them, including a chocolate spread. Lunch "hit the spot" and, no, it wasn't expensive even in this, a World Heritage Site swarming with tourists.

I spent the evening of Day 7 calculating distance-to-go and time-to-go (before my flight home). The calculation hadn't been reassuring. It seemed I just couldn't take many rest days and average only 10-12 miles a day, and expect to reach my destination before my flight home.

It wasn't a propitious moment for this calculation.
After my day in Carcassonne's old town, I settled down to sleep in the Hotel Balladins. But my sleep was disturbed by a mixture of a stomach ache and an insatiable need for water. An explanation for this combination is beyond me, but I could remedy the parched feeling by drinking water, and I did. At no time in this episode did I have the runs. But, in the morning, I felt weak.

Carcassonne west walls
Hotel Balladins Carcassonne
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