Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buenos Dias Espagne!

Collioure to Port Bou. 25km

Rooms, Port Bou
Today we rode over the end of the Pyrenees and down into Port Bou, the first town on the Spanish side. The twisty road along the coast was tough but beautiful. Now we are in serious linguistic trouble, however, trying to switch into Spanish. Renting a room was a challenge. I seem to be going from French to English and then to some sort of mixture with a few Spanish words thrown in. Come on neuro-networks you can do it!Sent from my pea pod.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Living it up in Collioure

Narbonne to Collioure by train
Hotel Frigate

This is an extraordinary town! I wouldn't want to come within a mile of here in the summer because even now it is just crawling with tourists, but for good reason. Mom you would love it and want to stay for months! It is far more Catalan than French here and we are getting very close to the border.

Right now I sitting in front of a little beach tightly packed in-between two fortified stone outcroppings. Today's forecast was for rain and cloud but if I stay here any longer I will need sunscreen. Of course it doesn't hurt the situation that we are staying in a grand hotel with a balcony overlooking the square. This is not the norm for us, Last night's "treat" made me probably the only woman at the hotel not collecting a fee. That being said there were no bed bugs and the sewer gas smell wasn't too bad if we kept the sink full of water and the bathroom door closed. Even frugal Gord is loving our luxurious room here.

Location:Collioure, France

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another taste of the Canal de Midi

Beziers to Narbone 30km

We left too early today. It was a cold but beautiful ride along the Canal de Midi. My hands, even in gloves, took most of the ride to warm up. It was poor timing because by afternoon it was sunny and 18 degrees.

Just out of Beziers we passed a section of nine locks on the Canal raising the water level up a hill side that was almost too steep to cycle. The river barge folk cheered us on as we passed. Other than the one hill the canal is by design is flatter than flat. Some portions of the tow path are paved but for the most part it's a good dirt path.

We left the canal after about ten km when it veered the wrong direction and made much faster progress on the road. One odd sight on the road in the middle of nowhere was a buxom Afro-French woman putting on her stockings on a chair pulled up to the side of the highway. Within the next kilometer there were two more of these mini skirt wearing nature lovers. Boy I bet they were cold!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Midi Canal

Avignon to Agde by train
Agde to Beziers by bike 25km

It feels like we have come back into summer or spring weather again. It was starting to get pretty cool in Provence. The midi canal was beautiful in the late day light.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sous le Pont D' Avignon

Our plans change daily, but we are not even going to try to use our Ryanair flights from Marseille to Madrid. We were stupid and bought tickets for November 6 which is scheduled as a general strike day in France. Poorly chosen also because the Marseille airport is one of the most active unionized groups in France. I am not going to rant about the booking and pricing practices of Ryanair but I now understand why it can offer 19 euro fares across Europe. It makes it's money off of booking fees, luggage fees and a virtually non existent refund policy. Truly the official airline of the Race to the Bottom of 21st century.

There is good reading in the International Herald Tribune and the next time Gord openly grieves the fact that I have developed a mind of my own I will just sent him to the advertisement in today's paper: "Beautiful Czech women non-feminist ages 17 to 60. "
Sent from my pea pod.

Today I am just having a relaxing day in Avignon. If you are cheap like us and you don't want to give up euros for a visit to a broken bridge you instead walk under it where you can sing the equally charming song "sous le pont D'Avignon..."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the trail of Van Gogh

Les Baux to Avignon 40km
Hotel Mignon
Today we began with a beautiful ride through the Alpilles with a long descent into St. Remy. Everyone has likely seen an image of St. Remy without realizing it. The town is immortalized in perhaps Van Gogh's best known painting "Starry Night". Van Gogh committed himself to a convent hospital for a year in St. Remy where he painted at least 150 paintings.

We are now in Avignon where we will likely spend a few nights before continuing on a loop through the Luberon.

It's not all sunflowers and irises though. It turns out our swanky hotel from last night was infested with bed bugs and we have lots of big itchy welts! I wonder if Churchill suffered the same fate there. We will never give up...

Les Alpilles

Arles-les Baux de Provence 20km
Hostellerie de la Reine Jeanne, les Baum de Provence

We are staying in les Baux de Provence a village just clinging to the limestone cliff side. It's is well worthy of being on the list as one of the prettiest towns in France. Our hotel boasts that Winston Churchill stayed here when he came to town. It is also a town well known to many modern painters including Van Gogh and Cezanne. You can see how Cezanne's style could have developed when you see the orange and golden light on the rocks and houses. Maybe cubism wasn't such an amazing innovation after all.

Provence is much more touristy than other places we have been and this is low season! I can't imagine what it's like in August. We are also hearing more English spoken here and it's difficult to speak French because they just switch into English right away. I guess I better hit the books again it I don't want to lose the french I have.

Sent from my pea pod.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is it wrong?

Saints-Maries-de-la-Mer to Arles 36km in a gale
Hotel Acacia

Is it wrong to love your husband more when he's sick? I do, and I am ready to admit it. No really, it's ok if we just stay put for a while sipping hot drinks, cuddling and watching the BBC. Gord has a man cold and I am just delighted- well maybe that's a bit strong, but I am a little pleased. I have a cold too, but for once he is also is putting on the breaks and I am loving it. To celebrate my good fortune I went to the store to buy a bottle ... of cough syrup and tylenol.

Ok I think we might have overdone it today. The forecast was for ninety kilometer winds and I think we saw at least fifty to sixty. It was mostly a cross wind, but it was a challenging ride. The locals don't even acknowledge that it's windy here but then, their houses are all facing away from the so called mistral winds and are tied down to the ground.

We are now Arles, a city made famous by Van Gogh even though not a single one of his paintings can be found here. We will however be visiting the hospital where he was incarcerated after his ear nipping altercation with Gauguin.

Location:Arles, France

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Religious Procession To the Sea

October 17, 2010
Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer 31km
We keep stumbling into towns that are in the middle of big events. Today is a big pilgrimage day for the town. Apparently Roma come from all around the world to visit the remains of two St. Maries and their dark skinned servant Sarah. Sarah is the patron saint of the Roma. Just after arriving we were able to join and watch the procession to the sea with the relics.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A lot of Bull!

Montpellier - Aigues-Mortes 36km all on flat beautiful bike paths with a pain free back!!
It's 5:18 and we are sitting on a bench on the road where they are running the bulls at 5:30. Hopefully things run late because everyone is on the wrong side of the barricades. Ok security is making us move and I am following their orders. See mom I'm always careful! There are warning announcements in about five different languages telling us to stay behind the barricades, so why am I one of the few who is listening. An elderly Italian lady who lives in town tells me they will be hungry and angry, but assures me that they don't usually eat Canadians or Italians. It was all excitement and build up, but unlike Pamplona the bulls here are not hurt or killed. The bull games involve young drunk men trying to pull rings off the bull's horns. Not a sport I am going to pick up any time soon. The running was also a much safer affair with each bull escorted by three men on horseback. Gord was taking a picture when an other elderly lady told him he should move further into the street to get a better shot. Peer pressure from an octogenarian!!

Aigues-Mortes was where Louis lX launched the seventh and eighth crusade in 1246 and 1270.
This massive fortified town rises strangely out of the salt marsh.
Inside the massive medieval walls is a village vibrating under the pressure of the fête.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flamingos and Fun

Montpellier - to the Mediterranean, Maguelone Cathedral, and then back 30km

Fantastic day today!
I was feeling good this morning so we headed out on the cycle path to the sea. We rolled along the canal until we reached several estuaries full of flamingos. I've never seen them in the wild before, it was wonderful. Then a kilometer or two further and we were at the beach! It felt like a summer day and several people were swimming. I insisted on a bit of beach time with twitchy, ants in his pants Gordon. I will post evidence that Gord sat on the beach as soon as I download some more photos. To his relief, Gord found the 11th century Maguelone Cathedral to break up his club med experience a bit.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Next Chapter

Montpellier, France
Hotel Etuve

Yesterday Gord and I made the difficult decision to leave the Camino. Although my back is getting better, the demands of the daily rides are just too much for me. I am actually feeling relieved about the decision, I have been pretty anxious about not getting better.
We rode back to Auch and right into the biggest general strike day yet. The train station was shut, but the bus to Toulouse was still running even though we couldn't pay for tickets. We expressed our solidarity with the workers and then boarded our free ride. The train station in Toulouse opened by the time we made it there and we were in Montpellier before dinner.
So now we are beginning a holiday in south east France! My oh my it is pretty here!
Sent from my pea pod.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pour Maud

Auch-L'Isle-de-Noe 21km

Mon amie Maud a demande quand est-ce que j'ecrite mon blog en Francais? Mais ca c'est tres dificile sans des accents sur mon iPod. Donc, ce blog sera tres court.
Aujourd'hui, après mon reunion avec l'osteopath, Gordon et moi avons recommence le chemin encore.
Pour notre dernier repas a l'hotel de Paris a Auch la famille Baumier nous ont servi leurs meilleur diner. C'etait formidable! L'entree etait un salade au canard et pate de foie gras. Le plat de jour etait un cuisse du canard, des aubergines et des feve aux lards. Pour le dessert nous avons mange une compote de peche fait a la maison. Incroyable!

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Friday, October 8, 2010

There is nothing more French...

Le Matin: There is nothing more French than an open air market. I didn't need any directions; I just followed the nicely dressed ladies with their baskets hooked on their arms. It looked as if the socializing was at least as important as the shopping. Ladies were chatting and blocking aisles as they stopped to talk. I just wandered slowly by each table admiring the colorful arrangements of produce before picking up some sheep cheese, yoghurt and a melon.
L' après-midi: There is nothing more French than an anti- government protest. I just followed the crowds of youth wearing solidarity stickers and noise makers. A large group of teens gathered to sit down in a huge intersection in protest against Sarkozy's retirement changes. They looked more excited and happy to be a part of something, than outraged with the politics. They talked, smoked and suntanned while they blocked all traffic coming in and out of the town. It's impressive to see a group of teens mobilize over an issue like retirement.

-posted with stolen signal while trying not to look too obvious.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Slower than Walking

Hotel de Paris, Auch.
Gord and I are settling into stillness for a bit. I am going to rest and recover until Monday, as ordered by my new favorite medical practitioner and then we will see. We will stay put in Auch for the time being. We love our hotel. It has all the right ingredients: affordable, friendly( run by the same family for the past 70 years!), a dash of French Fawlty Towers, and fabulous food. Each night our 53 year old host checks to see whether or not momma is within earshot before he entertains us with a story. Last night he told us the true story of Saint Bernadette from Lourdes. Sorry, not to be repeated in public company, momma might read it.
This has become a different sort of trip than the one we had originally planned. In fact everything that I feared the most in my pre trip anxiety has come true to a certain extent. The great unexpected gift however, is that even though we are off the plan, off the schedule and, at least for the moment, off the trail, we are still having a wonderful time.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Gimont -Auch 30 km
Hotel de Paris, Auch
The weather was truly nasty today. It rained and the 30km/hour head wind whipped us pretty hard. My back also decided to spasm and complain, so all and all a pretty crapy day. We are going to rest here for two nights and I'm going to try my luck with an Osteopath tomorrow Maybe the problem is that I haven't had any sun and Pernod today.
Auch, pronounced Aush not Ouch as it should be today, looks really impressive. I am hoping to get out and explore tomorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Medieval Town ... With Airshow

L'isle Jourdain-Gimont 24km
Today was a great ride up down and around on beautiful tiny roads. It feels like we are back on the camino, although we haven't seen another pilgrim yet. We had the municipal gite all to ourselves last night, which would have been wonderful except there was no hot water!!!!! The note claimed it was just a recent thing, but the complaints in the log book went back two weeks.
Our accommodation tonight is at the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a pool sauna and hot water. Our hotel seems to be full of stewardesses, poor Gord. In addition to being a lovely medieval town Gimont is also home to an aviation film festival being held this weekend.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Loving France

Gord chatting with a gentleman on a Roman bridge.
Toulouse-L'Isle Jourdain 45km
Right now I am sitting in the sun in a square drinking Pernod and thinking about how much I love France. I love it enough to even turn a blind eye on the cultural practice of not cleaning up dog poop. The French get so many things right. Like windows, for example as my sister Sheila pointed out, they open in rather than out. Imagine just how much time could be spent on other things if you could just clean your windows from the inside. No ladders, no hospital stay.... But I digress.

Our ride out of Toulouse was challenging not because of the riding but because we go lost in a suburban town for an hour trying to find the right road to take. Everyone we asked was very helpful and each set of directions contradicted the previous one. Finally we found an autoroute with the name of the town we wanted so we took it. I think it is illegal to cycle on these and that might explain why people honked at us almost continuously for a couple of kilometers. Either that or they were blown away by my stunning good looks.

My back prefers the cycling so far and I even think it is helping. I still can't walk more than a few blocks, but if I can ride that's great.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Rolling out of Toulouse

Today we roll out of Toulouse on the via Arles route of the Camino.
My back is still a problem but it is better on a bike. Our plan is to go slowly with lots of breaks.

We passed our French level(A2.2 if that means anything) and we are now legally qualified to order a coffee in France. We were dumbstruck with surprise to discover that a am more verbally proficient and Gord looks better on paper(his words not mine).

Well I better pack. That should take the better part of ten minutes.