After a week of touring through the Dordogne, it was time for a break off the bikes and a visit to the south to join the parents and the pooch. We had organized with Suzanne to leave our bikes with her because bikes (contrary to popular belief) are not allowed on trains in the southeast of France unless they’re in a bag or box.
We were heading to Argéles-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean Sea, minutes from the southern border and in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Getting there involved three trains and six hours, but trains are never an unpleasant way of travelling and we got some insights in French culture along the way. For example, no one eats on trains in France. Or drinks. Or saves the seat next to them because they don’t want anyone else to sit in it. Or talks very loudly. It was altogether a positive experience, despite the length of the journey. On the other end, my parents were there to pick us up and Ray was wriggling all over the place with joy.
My mum and dad had been renting a gîte (apartment) for the last month there and knew all the best walking spots for Ray and markets in the area to check out. We spent the week enjoying a relaxing combination of sightseeing and hanging out by the poolside.
We also taught Ray how to swim in (and exit, via the ladder for humans) a pool and that was a source of hours of entertainment for all of us.
The temperature had risen significantly since coming to the south and we were just in time for the country-wide heat wave that hit us. The 30-35 degree temperatures were intensified with the lack of air conditioning in the gîte or much breeze to speak of. The only respite from the heat could be found either at the bottom of the swimming pool or driving around in the rental car. I have been realizing more and more lately that I am not good at heat. I get irritated easily; I feel exhausted constantly, and I get the feeling that I am not much fun to be around. (While Ray, even with his black coat, always seemed cool as a cucumber).
With the incessant heat, it was good to take the opportunity to get up early, take Ray for his daily hike up the mountain behind the house and then hibernate in the pool (or sometimes-cool of our room) as much as possible. In the evenings, we would go for sunset strolls in the nearby orchard and, sometimes, we even enjoyed a dinner or two!
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There was a lot of relaxing and hanging out together during our week in the south of France, but we did see some lovely little spots as well, and even sojourned across the border to Spain for the day to enjoy Figueres, Salvador Dali’s birthplace and the home of the Dali museum.
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Ray even managed to get himself adopted by a young Eastern European family for about 10 minutes while we were waiting with him outside the museum. Very cute.
We also went to the beautiful seaside town of Coulieres, strolled the streets, had a lunch accompanied by some classy French accordion playing, and gave Ray a cool off with his first swim in the Mediterranean. He loved it.
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The week went by very fast and before we knew it, we were on our way back north to spend a night in Figeac. But not first without a stop in: Carcassonne! This epic Medieval citadel sits high on the hills of Languedoc surrounded by impressive double-walled fortifications, a 12th century chateau and numerous cathedrals and watchtowers.
It was particularly exciting for us to be there because we are big fans of the board game: Carcasonne! If you’ve never played this game, you should. Introduced to us by our dear friends Frazer and Nina (who just had a baby!! Congrats you two!), and then played later, with much drama, deceit and intrigue, during board game nights at Adrian’s, we were very excited to actually walk around in this incredibly well-preserved, incredibly frequently-visited Medieval town. (Carcassonne is actually the second most visited place in France, after the Eiffel Tower.)
It was just about time to say goodbye to my parents and to Ray for a little while, and then hit the road for our final 600km stint on the bikes to Paris. We can’t believe the trip is already coming to an end. We are on Month 10 of our journey, and Christian (and Ray) fly back on June 29th from Paris. I am going to be staying an extra 3 weeks to visit friends in London, perhaps do a solo trip to Scandinavia, and then go to Silverstone with my dad before heading back to Canada on July 19th. But there’s lots of adventure to come before then!
Stay tuned for our next post on biking in 35 degree temperatures while climbing 1400m in one day and taking 12 hours to do it….And don’t forget to subscribe if you want to be notified whenever we post!
Musician, teacher, traveller. Currently on a year-long journey around the world. Bronwyn is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com.