Day 17, 21st July 2003

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Updated by Nina from the a cybercafe in Nimes.

We took a wrong turn out of Toulouse, and saw the Tricolore and chalk writing on the road- we'd missed the winners of the Tour de France although we caught lots of straggellers and long queues of traffic!

Map reading their way back to their gite
Photo 248. Map reading their way back to their gite

The D1 road was uphill, and whether it was our cycling helmets, my bikini top, Simons chest, or just our efforts, the spectators apperared to think we were also in Le Tour! One man in a Peugeot put on his handbrake, stuck his Gauloise in his mouth, and started clapping us! Well. Never have I pushed myself so hard to cycle uphill without stopping- we could not let the fans down! I nearly died.

Support on the road
Photo 253. Support on the road

Finally, we passed the traffic and were cycling in the early evening sun, along a plateau of arable land. The roads were freshly tarmacademed by the council, and cycling on them a dream- our speedo recorded 50kph, breaking the local speed limit. We passed the chalk messages from tour supporters 'Oui Gagnez' and pretended for a moment that they were for us. We slept the night under a fig tree and woke to the splendid sound of the brick crushing factory next door. And to a puncture.

Long shadows in the hay
Photo 249. Long shadows in the hay

No time to waste, and we were off again- but how come our D-tour had taken us through mountains, while all around us for 50 miles was flat? Our water in our water bottles was even hotter than we were, and we stopped in Saissac for a break. The girl in the grocers explained that the boulongerie (bakers) was just back down the hill. Ah NON I said rather too strongly, and I think she was offended. She went on to serve the eight year olds behind me, two packets of Marlboros. People sure do things very differently around the world.

Ancient monuments in Saisacc
Photo 256. Ancient monuments in Saisacc

We flew into Carcassonne- the magnificant medevial sandstone walled city- beating any film set. Who were these people these walls were built to protect? I wondered as I ambled around. What a priviledged life they must have had- as now again the priviledged few who can afford to travel have- I heard Hebrew, Norweigen, and Dutch spoken.

I walked into the inner city and was hit by the tourisey souvenir shops, which tempted, but I doubted wheter this place had advanced enough to have cashpoints. Actually there turned out to be two, which I saw, before feeling faint from the wafts of eau de toillette from the dizzy passers by dolled up for a night out. Was that one of the ancient methods of expeling the enemy perhaps?!

Carcassonne. The photos do it more justice than words can
Photo 261. Carcassonne. The photos do it more justice than words can

I waited outside, as Simon attended to cashpoint, postcard and ice cream duties. Two German cyclists approached to tell me at length about their regular cycling trips, and as the sunset, the Youth Hostel at nine pounds a night sounded more and more appealing. We tolerated the pot pourri of perfumes again and we were greeted by a receptionist for whom I could do nothing right. I gave up, sank some red wine, and phoned a friend who spoke like I had been away for years. I enjoyed the illusion, as two weeks is long enough to justify being slightly homesick too.

Carcassonne
Photo 259. Carcassonne

The next morning we had covered 23 kilometers through our 'grand canyon' before being spat out of the road, back at our starting point again. Furious, we cycled a fantastic 160 k (100 miles) that day, with my driving motivation to see the sun set on the Mediterranean as my dad had done fifty years ago to the day. Instead I watched it set by some golden arches, on an out of town trading estate. I was lost and I was gutted.

Our only night by the Med
Photo 265. Our only night by the Med

I cried some exhausted tears, and went to meet Simon, who I had abandoned several miles back (near some no cycling here signs which I had not spotted in my urgency- whoops). He had also got lost in this maddening town Agde, and I sat waiting for two hours on a plastic bench, feeling like Billy No Mates, with two beers going warm on the table. When we met, all was fine, except I was determined to sleep on the beach like my dad had done.

Perrier in modern packaging. 3 euros. It was nothing more than fizzy water
Photo 267. Perrier in modern packaging. 3 euros. It was nothing more than fizzy water

A hairy journey in the night with no lights, and a small falling incident into a hedge, led for tempers to fray, and we moodily went to sleep on a sand dune. We woke at 9am. The next day we were both in our own worlds and quiet. What will the next four weeks bring? Will we make it? Is rotating our feet for 28 days non stop going to bore?

We stopped for a late lunch in never ending Montpellier (should have guessed it was on a hill) and slept in the ornamental gardens for a bit. Another puncture again that night, and this time, I took it well. We left at 9am the next day (new york time)- Ahem. Simon had caused an small accident in his wake, because his cycling confidence is now so high that he thinks he is a juggernaut. You should see the size of our panniers though!

Exhausted somewhere in an elegent French city.  Note the bottles of fruit juices by Simons side
Photo 263. Exhausted somewhere in an elegent French city. Note the bottles of fruit juices by Simons side