Hungry - Lamb Pastery - Campsite Socializing - Nice Nice Family
Bonnie and I opted for the mountain route out of Spain, straight North through the Pyrenees. Five hours through tunnels, along rivers and mountain ledges transported me out of dry Spain and back into verdant France. It didn't take me long discover that the inhabitants of Southern France speak less English than those in the North (due to the fact that the North interacts in business more with Britain). This fact worked against my advantage immediately after crossing the border when I tried to dine shortly after my successful mountain pass. I believed a celebration was in order and settled down for a feast in Limoux, a small town 50km from Spanish territory. Long story short I left with only a salad in my stomach, embarrassed that I couldn't communicate to the waitress that I was hungry for some meat of some sort. I don't know why I retreated so easily, I was surrounded by locals and I guess my pride took a hit. My new goal was to set up camp before i burned the calories from the salad. I settled for a grassy plot on the river bank outside of town, semi-legitiment, but comfortable. I was awakened early in the morning by a shouting French Fly Fisherman. I was on his turf. Content for an early start, I hit the road for the walled village of Carcassonne with hopes of a hardy breakfast. Four small crepes at a local cafe only proved that no one breakfasts like the Americans. I dream of IHOP Pancakes.
Bonnie at rest after a push over the Pyrenees
Carcassonne has Roman history dating back to 100BC. Ramparts are scattered around the town and the giant fortress hovers on the hill above. The settlement changed hands countless times first between the Romans and Moors later the French and Spanish.
Typical Provence at dusk
An push east through out of the foothills and through the wetland Bouches - Du - Rhone region brought us to the area of Southeastern France known as Provence. The region is known for a few things: first Provence of Italy -hence the name; Prehistoric, Greek, and Roman history; the romantic landscape; fields of Lavender; temporary headquarters of painters Cezanne, Van Gogh and Renoir. A small campsite occupying a wooded plot wedged between two fields served as my home base for three days. When i was ready to leave, I paid the retired farmers the balance of my campsite plus the amount of baguettes and croissants that i consumed each morning for breakfast. I have started a retirement wish list this week. Camping Bois De Sibourg is at the top of the list.
Clock tower above the market in Reilianne
Provence was one old town followed by another older town, most of them atop hills overlooking rolling hills, from some the snow capped Alps trick your eye into thinking the peaks distant clouds. One morning I stumbled upon a market passing through a town called Reillanne - Got a nice peppered 'dry sausage.' I went to buy one tomato to compliment the meat. I gestured to the guy that I wanted it but he wouldn't take the money: 'Bon Appetite' he says. 'What a classic thing to happen' I think to myself.
A few more things to spit out from my time in Provence:
I was a return customer at the same restaurant Cereste, the small town closest to the campsite. The Plat de Jour - a lamb pastry, scalloped potatoes and a vegetable quiche sold me on attending dinner a second time where upon this occasion i was treated to dinner by four sophisticated Australian travelers. I had reccomended the resturant to them earlier in the day over a wine picnic not knowing that I would reap the rewards of my suggestion by chance later that evening.
William and Thea, respectively a surgeon's assistant and a self practicing lawyer, both from Holland, were my unofficial happy hour mates at the campsite - wine, cheese, and talk of surrounding hikes, motorcycles, and baseball were all ingredients. Also met an English harmonica player/tv commercial music producer from Hong Kong. He retreated to France after the Bird Flu hit his former city apparently thinning out the population quite a bit. He lives in Provence now and is pretty up on the surrounding historical sites. He explained to me the tower that I saw everyday on the drive up to the campsite was built by the Romans over 1000 years ago as a lookout to protect its military camp which was stationed in the very valley we were standing in.
Using old fashioned navigation around Provence
This entry is being written from Nice, where I have spent the last two nights in the comforts of the Bracco house. Patrick and Veronique and their daughter Marie and son Antoine are friends of the Gentils, my host family in Paris. Both families have convinced me that that French hospitality gives Southern hospitality a pretty good fight. Meals began with an apertief of orange flavored red wine and finished with a homemade lemom liquor. Bonnie and I are leaving for the Italian border now, but thanks to Marie's private tudoring I will not leave France deprived of the basics of French grammer.