I’ve seen the Pyrenees for the first time this evening. After so much relatively flat or tame topography over the past five weeks, it’s good to finally have a little drama added to the landscape. They are only in silhouette, shrouded in haze and only just perceptible from the sky but they are definitely there. (Or my glasses need cleaning.) I’m in a place called Alzonne by the way, about 90km along the canal from Toulouse. Carcassonne is a further 20km to the south east.
I’m still suffering g from the mosquito bites inflicted upon me in Marick’s basement on Thursday night. I really wish I had got out of the bed and killed each one of the little f*****s. Not only would I have gained great pleasure from doing so, I would not now be scratching my way through the day. Last night on the campsite near Grisolles was particularly uncomfortable. On the positive side of things, the bites are receding, slowly… I need to buy some Autan. I’m already taking antihistamine tablets but the former was recommended way back in 2010 when I was the victim of a mosquito attack in Italy. I wrote a whole section in ‘Crossing Europe…’ about mosquitoes and their bites; I should go back and re-read it. I seem to remember there being three factors that increased your susceptibility; being pregnant, having blood group O and beer. I need to drink more wine…
I judge my WarmShowers hosts on how I provide for WarmShowers guests when I host back at home. Alas in recent years this has been less frequent. When I lived in that beautiful tourist hotspot that is, err… Reading, I hosted quite regularly in the summer. Since moving back to rural Yorkshire I’ve hosted just three times. In Reading I was half-way between London and Oxford or en route to the West Country. In Yorkshire, despite it being far nicer, I’m not really on anyone’s cycle route (although not very far from the Pennine Cycleway – take note!). Anyway, aside from a warm shower, I provide food, drink, Wi-Fi, clothes washing, advice, deep-tissue massage… Well, most of those.
There were times this morning when I thought this particular day – the whole trip perhaps – were being derailed… It all started by me heading over the bridge back in the direction of La Réole. Oops! Wrong direction. No big problem; I’d only cycled perhaps 50 metres across the bridge and by doing so made a nice video clip (yep, you guessed it – watch the video…).
There’s no mistaking that I have now arrived in the south of France. Not only has it been hot (in fairness, it’s not been in the least but cold since Brittany) but there have been a long list of things that tick the Southern Europe boxes; lavender, a lizard, terracotta roofs, parched fields of crops, hilltop villages, towns that shut down in the heat of the day… No cicadas yet but they will come in the next week I imagine.
A short one today… and no video. It’s often tempting on a non-cycling day to plunge into full tourist mode and spend an exhausting day visiting the sites. Today I haven’t done that. I’ve spent much of the day wandering aimlessly around – flâner in French – and sorted out a few bits and pieces along the way. I’ve had the most expensive haircut of my life (I daren’t admit how much but next time I will check the prices before I sit down…) with my developing beard shaved off (which perhaps doubled the cost), bought some replacement sandals, done my washing, sorted out my car tax and the customs issues with the GoPro (ongoing saga…) and even checked on my plants back home (via a phone call with my mother). But no video. One thing I haven’t yet done is edit the podcast and that is my job for the next couple of hours. It should be available by the end of the day. Still a while for you to catch up on the previous four ‘Grand Tour’ episodes (numbers 052 to 055). Tomorrow: the Canal de la Garonne…
Today was a good day. A very good day. Well, apart from the first 10km, but that aside, I loved today’s cycling. It had everything that you might want from a good cycle touring day; beautiful scenery, variety, a favourable wind, vineyards, good signage, a few nice encounters along the way, quality surfaces, an exciting destination, a laundrette and beer at the end of the day and a day off in your favourite French city to look forward to. My day could only improve if Yorkshire Television* decide to revive 3-2-1 with Ted Rogers* and Dusty Bin. On the subject of which, happy Yorkshire Day!
They certainly packed them in at the municipal campsite in La Rochelle. As predicted, it was a noisy evening, including fireworks at one point. Things did quieten down after midnightish but then at some point in the early hours the couple in the text next to mine decided to have a, err… loud romantic interlude. I’ll leave that there.