Wed 19th June.
The road into Montpellier was adorned with palm trees in the middle of wide concrete roads and long pavements. It looked like Miami without the sun.
On the way in, I clipped a wall with the bike, destroying the already vulnerable front-right rack. I spent a while making it ridable as the rack had gone into the front wheel spokes. I could ride on it, but not fast, I left the main road and headed through some desolate suburban area.
A big white car pulled up beside me and a young, tanned rich looking guy asked me for directions. I was able help him, but was shocked by his out-of-place car in this slum-like area.
I had hoped that Montpellier would be some dreamlike haven, a nice place where I could relax for a day and get back in shape. Although, this area aroused negative suspicions.
Thankfully, I got into the city where I would stay with Boris and the city was gorgeous, especially the area where he lived.
I showered, ate with Boris and we stayed up talking about politics, Orwell, cycling in Italy and the Gilles Peterson festival in Séte that was coming up in two weeks. I thought about staying put and going, but it would change too many things for the trip. It was a shame, I was ready for a longer break.
Boris was around forty and had a great outlook on life and a wonderful flat. He had no spouse and seemed to enjoy the bachelor lifestyle and being flexible with where he lived and worked. His flat was ideal for one person, wooden floors, modern kitchen, small, spacious and clean.
He had cycled in Ireland before for two weeks and was looking at going to Italy for four weeks in the summer.
The next day we left in the morning. He left me the key to bring back to his work around five. Another very trusty person.
I headed into town on the bike, I was hoping to be able to relax and see the city I had known about for years. I lived in Cheltenham for a year, which was home to a nice area called Montpellier. I seldom went when I lived there, but it built up some fantasy-like impression of the original Montpellier and I had always been curious.
However, I had plenty of chores for the day kept me from seeing it as I’d wished.
I went all over town starting central, going east, back to the centre and back to the east, visiting different HSBC branches, arguing with an arrogant Frenchman at the bank who didn’t want anything to do with me because I was English, despite the fact I mostly spoke French with him. He shut the bank while I was there for two hours for lunch (standard in France) forcing me out after having spent an hour there and been to a different branch on their instruction.
I eventually got cash using my credit card at a hole in the wall. There was a charge, but it was cash, something I hadn’t had for almost four weeks now.
The second task was fixing the rack. Boris recommended a decent bike shop north of the centre. The only front-rack they had was €69, more than I’d hoped, but I had no alternative.
I bought the rack, but they wouldn’t install now as they were having lunch. The French, no wonder their economy’s in trouble. They lent me the tools and then let me fix the rack out on the street. Very kind.
After over an hour I was ready to leave. I pushed off and the front wheel had buckled under the old rack breaking. I re-entered the shop with an uncertain look on my face, surprised they hadn’t spotted it, they said they might be able to do it before they shut. I begged them to, as I had return the keys to Boris and I couldn’t stay another night, meaning I had to get out of the city and find a spot for the night.
I had a coffee and a bun while the work was done and thankfully the timings were perfect.
I returned Boris’s keys, said thanks, picked up my kit and although my time there hadn’t been as planned, I got to see a lot of the city.
I headed east out of the city and within twenty minutes I was back in more rural parts of Southern France. I joined a river where I met a homeless guy on a bike with a dog. He was in good spirits and just wanted to talk more than anything, but with my limited French we exchanged a lot of odd expressions before both giving up. He asked for some water before leaving and almost consumed everything in the bottle.
I kept moving, but couldn’t find anything for camping. It was getting late and there was nothing for miles. I couldn’t believe the contrast to the rest of France.
Eventually I found a farm with some space out font. It was getting dark as I snuck in the front and found a spot behind trees and bushes. It was one of the riskier spots of the trip. My plan was to get up around six and be packed up and gone by seven.
I popped a bottle of red and drifted off.