Fri June 14th.
My first day off in two weeks.
My hosts this time were a lovely young family living in rural France and raising their young daughter. Benoît was French, Maria was German and they had a four year-old daughter named Soléa.
When I arrived and settled in, Benoît asked if I wanted to stay another night. Realising this would give me a day off, I said yes. I started thinking and realised I hadn’t had a day off the bike in two solid weeks. That meant I’d been riding everyday, on the toughest terrain I’d experienced yet also camping a lot meaning me sleep wasn’t consistent or good. In contrast, before Barcelona, the record for days in a row was four, possibly five. I could feel that I was starting to get run down and a day off and a bed would do me some good.
The house they lived in was very old, unique and beautiful, mostly from wood and a perfect embodiment of their lifestyle. They had a small garden where the bikes and the dog lived and everything felt very relaxed. It seemed to cultivate something universal homeliness that I wanted to have wherever I live.
One of the more unconventional elements of the house, was the dry toilet. What this is, is a wooden toilet that isn’t attached to the mains and doesn’t use water. Instead you fill it with sawdust each time you go and empty it into a bag each time it gets full. Pretty strange and not exactly ideal. But I wasn’t going to complain. Out loud.
Benoît made and sold his own honey, this was his main source of income. Maria had studied Dance in Berlin and was now doing things with it here.
Benoît told me more about his honey and how different bees in different areas, will collect pollen from different plants (obviously). I had never thought about the different honey from different pollen. Sp simple.
He had experimented with putting bees near a lavenders plant to give the honey a lavender flavour. It didn’t sell that well, but it exposed me to some new ideas.
He sold his honey at the market in Limoux, where he was going and where he offered to take me.
I went with him to the town, looked around the market and the town. It was a fairly typical southern French town. The sun was strong and the historic buildings were a sandy colour. It was a nice place to be and I was glad to be on feet.
While walking around a found a small bird (maybe a swallow) on the floor struggling to get up. It was flapping around and couldn’t get up. I tried to help it, but didn’t know what to do. Conveniently, a man was stood outside of what I assume was his shop, (a pet shop nonetheless) took a look at the bird, picked it up, threw it into the air and it flew off.
He said something to me in French, I nodded like I understood, then he kept talking, hesitated, somehow clocked I was English (probably by the vague look in my eyes) and then said ‘Thank you’ before smiling and going back to his post.
I went back to the market and bought a meringue, pain du chocolat and coffee. The lady selling the coffee was English and moved here with her family two years ago. She had two teenage sons who had learned to speak the language comfortably and were doing well in school. Here, she could put her children through private school for a fraction of the price of what it costs in England, so that combined with the better food, weather and lifestyle was enough for them. They were from Manchester and didn’t seem to miss home too much. I didn’t blame them.
We headed back, I took the dog for a walk in the woods, then came back for dinner. The highlight of which was the cheese selection the had after the meal. They had about six cheeses, all locally produced. He talked me through the cheeses and we had with sour dough with them he picked up from the market.
I fixed a few things of mine that had developed holes and some of the local kids came round and started playing in the garden and tormenting the dog.
I got ready for bed shortly after and I was already looking forward to being back on the bike tomorrow.
Tomorrow I would be rejoining the canal du midi, where I had left it to head south for Spain. This would be the first (and only) place in the trip I would’ve been twice on two separate occasions.