Mon 17th June.
Storming the canal and Beziers, a slice of Hell in France.
I set off early, waving to the passing boaters while packing. I’m sure they didn’t approve of someone sleeping on the side of the canal, but they didn’t seem to mind and most of them where holiday makers and probably thought I was French.
The track had taken a beating from the rain when I was here last and had then dried, so it was all mashed up, bumpy and really unpleasant and frustrating to ride on. You couldn’t relax or cruise by the canal, you had to pay attention, watch out for the changes and anything that might through you off the bike and take breaks every now and then to recuperate as it felt like the frame had been replaced with a washing machine and left on constant. Not bad for a while, but onto the third day, I was beginning to break down. I was fed up and I wanted to get back to roads and pavements.
I decided to go hard and get it done as quickly as possible.
Oddly enough, I chose to listen to Beach House’s ‘Bloom’ to do so. Relevant as it became the soundtrack to my imagination and I began imagining a film to the music, of two friends flying through space on motorbikes, stopping of on planets to rest, getting trips across vast oceans with a sailor and his crew and then getting to their final destination through space.
It did the trick, I completely phased out everything and before long I was going past a festivity that was taking place on the locks just outside Beziers.
I had to check internet to see if I had a host for tomorrow in Montpellier. Finally I’d be moving across the south of France seeing places I’d wanted to see for years.
I made the awful choice of going into the city in search of a faithful McDonald’s. My GPS has an archive of fast food places, hotels and numerous potentially helpful places on a trip, so I was using that to locate one, but it failed. It’s database is old and sometimes it takes you to locations where there should be what you’re looking for, but there’s nothing. This happens about one every four times and is extremely frustrating for many, many reasons. Another negative-among many-about the Garmin.
Now I’d made it into the heart of this horrible city, I had to get to the outskirts for the next McDonald’s. I had an ice cream drink and checked emails.
I can’t say what it was exactly about Beziers that I found so obtrusive to the senses, but it seemed to be a heavy dose of exactly what I didn’t want. Heat, humidity, cars, people, lots of traffic, one way streets, people walking in the road without looking etc.
All this just a few miles from the peaceful canal. I did my business and got out as quickly as possible. One advantage of being there was I spotted a funny translation on a film poster. ‘The Hangover 3’ had been translated (but still kept in English) to ‘Very Bad Trip 3’. I later found out that the French don’t have a word for ‘Hangover’. Quite odd as they have many words for rain and produce thousands (probably millions) of gallons of wine a year. Something often associated with hangovers.
Getting back to the canal was no easy task.
I took a road out of the city that went over the canal but didn’t have any connection to it. I could see the prize beneath me, but had no way of getting there. I headed south, going further and further away from the canal. It was incredibly frustrating.
I cut through a field, got swallowed by a ditch and was sure to have gained a puncture for my efforts, but thankfully, I didn’t. I found a road that joined a town and this brought me back to the canal. I had made friends again.
I took a break when I reached the canal as I needed to relax. I looked around and saw people dining in the restaurants nearby. I thought about being in one of the restaurants and imagined myself coming back to some these areas when I was a bit older, able to spend money freely. It was a nice thought.
Further down the canal, I went past a holiday camp that hired boats out. They had cheap portable (like Butlins) accommodation for people to stay there before heading out on a boat. I got a little further and then found a spot for the night beneath a tree. It was perfect.