Valras Plage to Carcassonne 92km
Some of the trails next to the canals are pretty wet and muddy, and are tough, slow going, so today I decided to go across country. I planned a route that would take me through some small villages, eighteen of them, and all in a straight line between my start and finish point, and except for the last 5km, on small rural roads. Living in a small village, 900 is people, in New Zealand, I'm a small village type person. But you don't realise how isolated our village, Hanmer Springs, is compared with so many other countries. Here in southern France, as I exited one village, I would be able to see at least the church spire of the next, and often much more. They are very close together. But, they are all unique.
Almost all have a large church, many have a mansion or chateau, most have a school, a couple of bars, a medical centre, and a bread shop. They all have narrow twisting streets, that meant I got a little disorientated a few times, and all seem to have old ladies or men, taking up the whole width of the street with their Zimmer frame or walking sticks. But some are on the side of a hill or canal. Some at crossroads or where canals meet. Some on top of a small hill. They all have some sort of central Piazza where the townsfolk meet for wine, coffee, a chat, and boules. Once you find this central "square", it's hard to draw yourself away, and hard to find which is the correct route out. There is often, no obvious route.
What I can't figure out is the opening hours for shops and businesses. At no time, does it seem as if everything is open. Some seem to open at 9am, others at 10am. Most pull down the shutters at noon, and some reopen around 4pm. And in the small villages it seems that opening hours are even more random. In the tourist and holiday towns, I can understand the randomness, as it is "off season", but these small villages are not frequented by tourists. I guess you just have to live there to understand what is open when.
So, I had a fun day, and I got to chat to locals, who are always interested in my journey, and my trailer, and I also met a family from Spain, cycling to Sete, and three French lads, heading home from six months cycling in Spain and Portugal. And, the scenery was kind on the eyes as well. But the aim for the day was the walled "Cite" of Carcassonne. I had a small "blonde" or "senior" moment today, not that I qualify for either. I was sitting beside a canal, looking at the happenings at a complicated road junction. I noticed that all the streets were "Rue" this or that. My next thought was.."I wonder why they call all the streets French names?" I decided it was time for a rest day. I've cycled over 700km since Juliet left, and I've got some big hills, the Pyrannes, looming. A bit of laundry, lots of food, and sleep seems like a good idea to me. And where better to do that, than in a "Castle". I came here in 1986 with Lisa and Paul, aged four and five. I don't recognise anything from that visit, so I'm sure they won't remember much either, but it must have been exciting for them, visiting a "real castle". I'm excited to be here at 61. And I'm resting..... and eating..... and my clothes are clean.......