(Four long days ago)
It didn’t rain last night- I can’t believe it. I slept well, though my sleeping pad has a slow leak- I woke up cold and reinflated it in the middle of the night. This happened the last time I camped as well, and it is annoying because the puncture is so miniscule I can’t find it. Normally you put the thing underwater and look for bubbles, but my pad is basically a pool floaty, and I don’t want to get it wet at all! I usually have to pee in the middle of the night anyways, this problem is on the back burner. I am up early, and get my tent down quick, just in case any Saturday morning explorers roll up, though I am not worried. It is early, and cold. When I am the least bit cold in my sleeping bag, I can guarantee it is near freezing outside.
I still can’t believe it is dry… but as I finish packing, the rain hits. Ah yes, only delayed. It is not too heavy, I am nonplussed. I crash out of the forest back onto the park road and decide to follow it out. I pass through some farms and turn on a gravel road, following my instinct, which leads back into civilization. By now, it is raining hard, and it is still cold. I’m fine for about ten minutes, until my gloves soak through, and my pants slowly saturate, and my feet get soggy. Now I am suffering. There are little towns, but no cafés! I take breaks in bus stops, but I have to get out of this, it has to be less than four degrees (42 degrees F or so) out here. I cut into the town of Pinas, maybe 5 kilometers from my campsite, and hole up gratefully in a café. The man there is very friendly, but speaks no English. Ah well. There is wifi here, and I am not in danger of freezing to death, so I’m happy. I look at the weather, and it is 37 degrees out according to the internet, a little less than 3 Centigrade. As I sit there, it starts snowing too, the wind and sleet coming on heavy! Yeah, I gotta get out of this.
As I learned yesterday, hotels are expensive here- if I wanted a cheap rest day I should have stayed in Lourdes! Hostels are not popular here, and it doesn’t help that I am so close to the Pyrenees. There are also castles, monasteries, healing hot springs, casinos, all sorts of attractions to jack up the price of local accommodation. Well, I am still soaked, and the weather is downright dangerous to be in, so I will pay what I have to; this is why I have money! There is a bed and breakfast less than two kilometers down the road, and I abandon the sanctuary of the café and painfully ride there through the pounding sleet. I pull up and the gate is closed, but I open it. I park my bike in a garage and walk to the front door, read a sign about calling a number if no one is in, and am about to try the door when a lady walks by. She has a room available! Thank goodness. She gets me settled in to a nice room with a big bathroom, and it looks clean, so I draw a bath. My hands and feet ache as I get in, and it takes a good ten minutes before my toes feel normal again.
Man. The weather shifts all day, mostly a steady rain, some sleet, some hail, a lot of snow. At one point the sun comes out and I go outside, but it is bitterly cold and windy, the air is coming right off the Pyrenees! Back inside for me. The woman who runs this bed and breakfast, Marie, lives alone in this lovely old building. She is very kind and offers to drive me wherever, but I am naturally averse to cars these days, preferring the slow pace. She speaks some English, which is good, and I will pass the time hanging out in her kitchen, which also happens to be the only spot with wifi. I feel pretty lame surfing the web all day, but I have a lot of writing to do, and downloading pictures, and checking the weather, and the map. I will probably be sleeping outside the next three days, which look good, much warmer and devoid of rain! Marie tells me that Southeast of Toulouse the climate becomes Mediterranean again, so I will aim to be there before the next rain. I will definitely have to camp the next few days to balance my budget though, this weather has driven me into a 65 euro room! I don’t care, it is worth it, absolutely necessary for the well-being of my planetary body. The soak felt great on my legs, and there is no better day to rest up. The roads and forests of France will be there tomorrow.
Haha, I just walked into town during a brief interlude inbetween storms, and the grocery/café is closed, for three hours, just like Spain. The Patisserie across the street, however, was open. Curse my rotten luck! I should never have gone in there. The pastries are so delicious that I can foresee where a nice chunk of my spending money is going from here on out… I have had to speak French today as well, and I can barely keep a straight face! For those of you who are my familiars, imagine me, Gunnar, trying to speak French. I laughed all the way back to the Hotel! “Deux chocolats, si’l vous plaît.” Ahhhh! Not a glimmer of humor was there in the countenance of the nice young woman behind the counter. I am cackling at myself just practicing, I sound ridiculous! When the natives speak it, it is beautiful, and I want to learn it. I jave to repeat everything twice though, because of my pronuniation. “Femme” as in “femme fatal” is pronounced “fom” “fille,” more like “fee.” Try saying “today,” aujourd’hui… You know what the kicker is? Pronounce the name of the town I’m in: Pinas. Yeah, exactly what you might think.
What a place! France definitely lives up to the hype, and if I would definitely like to spend more time here.