[I’m using the (Un)Inspired Ramblings Facebook page to post some more regular updates and photos in between main blog posts here. You can find it here.]
A few days spent hugging the mediterranean could barely be more different than those spent plugging my way through the Massif Central. Passing through Sète, I am suddenly in a world of marinas, tourists and fast roads.
I’m a little way from Caen now. Thats in miles, by the way.
There are a few things that I haven’t seen for a while.
(Yup, thats a 24/7 vending machine for fruit and veg, in place of a shop. Odd.)
Initially I follow a walking and cycle path following the thin branch of land separating the Mediterranean and the Étang de Thau, a large lagoon stretching 18 km by 6 km from Sète towards the south west. The lagoon is on average just 5 metres deep and has an important role supplying mussels and oysters to the region. After that it’s a mixture of off-road trails, bike paths and coastal roads. One one day I spend the afternoon a little lost, trying to navigate along tiny tracks in a network of coastal drainage ditches.
The tracks pass between vineyards and private properties, and its noticeable than many of these, even those smaller places, are behind fenced and gated boundaries here. Some more intimidating than others.
There is a lot of roadside decoration.
A couple of days are spent riding through uninspiring tourist resorts. There is occasionally some surprising interest…
…but the large majority are deserted, as the short season here has ended. Its very strange passing through whole deserted purpose built towns. Shops and garish bars shut, pools closed, beaches empty. These resorts must make their money in the few months that they are open, and then lie dormant for the other 3/4 of the year. It seems like such a waste. Thinking back, these places are a mine of interesting photographs, but I can’t find the inspiration to stop and explore. Sometimes I’m just too lazy for my own good.
The weather is warm and the ground is hard and dusty here. In just a couple of days I decimate my set of 10 tent pegs. This is all thats left (including the two spindly ones that were originally just to support my coffee filter holder. At least they are now dual purpose but I can no longer make coffee if its blowing a gale!).
Camping on sand close to the beach, my ankles are bitten to pieces by a mixture of sand flies and midges. I do manage an early morning swim to make up for it though.
In one campsite I meet a friendly neighbour who seems so hungry that I donate a can of sardines that I’ve been carrying for a few days but haven’t felt the urge to eat. He probably needs them more than I.
Later though, I find some evidence in my tent that perhaps he wasn’t quite satisfied after his meal… Cheeky bugger.
I spend a night in a campsite in a horrible commuter town on the outskirts of Perpignan. I take a walk to find a bar or cafe or somewhere with some life, but there is nothing. Breakfast in Perpignan the next morning makes up for it somewhat – the city is somewhere to explore at leisure, with lots of history, as well as this rather strange, manicured canal running through the centre.
Closing in on the border with Spain, I creep around a more historic coastline.
I spend my last night in France in Banyuls sur Mer, sampling some local beer…
…and having a minor kit explosion the next morning.
Then I head up into the Pyrenees, although unlike last year, I’m essentially sneaking over the very Eastern edge at the Col du Banyuls, where heights don’t really reach more than 500 metres.
It is still steep here though! (There was some pushing).
I say goodbye to France…
…and hello to Catalonia, in northern Spain.