Day 12 Sete-Cadaques

This was our fourth day of skipping a run, since we woke up in Sete and it’s very congested and hilly with no good paths out. Plus, we took a nice long walk in the morning to the fish market, and then up to the Musee Paul Valery, where I went to his gravesite. That means I can write off my trip for poetry research right?? It was a nice morning, and we left town at about noon to head to our next spot, in Spain, Cadaques, which was about 2.5 hours away.

Musee Paul Valery

As soon as Isabelle my French tutor showed me the first picture of Cadaques, I knew I wanted to go there. It is a little seaside village with lots of artists, she said, and it has the home of Salvador Dali. So we headed out of Sete on the beach road, past the areas where I used to go sunning when I spent a summer at the Universite de Paul Valery in Montpellier in 1989. It was a cloudy and windy day, but we got our feet wet in the Mediterranean before heading off to the autoroute.

Cloudy Day

As we drove we spotted license plates, Italy, Fance, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Romania, and, finally, a semi truck from Hungary. John joked that they were shipping in Vizslas. I can see why they would they are such sweeties! Just ask Autumn and Jeff, who are sleeping with our Vizslas in the bed as I type!

Truck from Hungary

We got off the freeway at Figures, and passed the touristy beach towns that Isabelle had warned me about. The resort town of Roses looked just like Nueva Vallarta in Mexico, which is to say, it was to be skipped. To get to Cadaques one must brave a mountainous 2 lane 12 km road that then drops into an idyllic cove of white-washed buildings with red tiled roofs and blue shutters—it looks like Greek islands. Well worth the drive, and we were so happy we passed the resort towns as Isabelle had advised.

Cadaques

We headed straight for the beach where we had tapas right on the water. Some razor clams, gorgeous olives, and potatoes. Then we walked around for some sightseeing until John felt a nap coming on, and we returned to the hotel where he took a siesta and I wrote a little bit, catching up on a few days of the blog. When he woke up, we walked some more. There are tiny pathways with restaurants along either side, and we tucked into one and had some cervezas, and the waitress brought us some free octopus ceviche. Yum! It was pretty hilarious because they were playing the Spain show with Gwenyth Paltrow and Mario Batalli on TV. Isn’t that redundant? I thought. Finally, we found another seaside restaurant and had Tapas and Sangria again overlooking the water. It was so delightful, and we both commented how we would love to spend more time in this seaside village. Like maybe a year or two?

Tapas!

Day 11 La Barben – Sete

I’m taking wagers as to how much weight I have gained on the trip. What’s your guess? Day 11 of lots of eating and no access to my home gym or running coach Dean or swimming coach Julyann! We have run every day except for 3 (once because I forgot to set the alarm, once when the roads were way too steep, and once due to the tour), but we have been eating so differently than we do at home. Not poorly or massively. We always share dishes. But let’s say my shorts are a little tight in the seat. I’m guessing 5 pounds so far?

So I insisted that we start the morning with a 3 mile run. Not a ton of miles, since we don’t want to be totally wasted for the rest of the day. But the Chateau Barben happened to be 1.5 miles out, so we ran to it and back, then we skipped breakfast.

We headed towards Les Baux, which was touted as one of the most beautiful Medieval rampart cities.  It was a lovely drive through the foothills of the Alpinnes mountains. We went through several cute small towns. At Les Baux, we paid the requisite however much it cost to park. At this point we are hemorrhaging Euros, so who keeps track? Every little thing costs about 5 Euros—crossing a bridge, parking the car, going through a tunnel. I’ll add it up when I get home.

Les Baux

We walked up to the town, and it did have gorgeous views, but John said, “I’m a little toured out” and I had to agree. We looked at some of the sights, then hit the road for St Remy de Provence, where Van Gogh fell in love with a whore and went mad. That should cheer anyone up!

In St Remy we walked around a bit and ate our first meal of the day at 1 pm—John had a lovely Steak Tartare and I had a Tagliotelli Carbonara. When John ordered his meal, the server looked at me and said, in French, “Does he know that’s raw meat?” “Oui.” I said. They must have had some people turn it away. The meal was so delicious that we were immediately ready for a nap! But we had an hour drive to Sete to our hotel. John is a real trooper with the driving. He’s doing such a good job. We hopped down to the fishing village of Sete, to our hotel in the middle of town. Our room overlooked the harbor where we watched the boats go back and forth for a moment, then we fell fast asleep. When we woke up we were ready for a tour. We walked along the Quai, where there was a boat-jousting fight that was fun to see. Soon we chose a restaurant and had a light dinner of shellfish and calamari. Then it was back to bed again.

Sete Harbor

Day 10 Le Tour de France

So when we decided we wanted to see the tour, my French tutor Isabelle called a recommended hotel near the Tour stage we wanted to see and asked for availability. The person who answered the phone laughed at her. Literally. That’s when we knew we would have to drive to see it, no matter what. The hotel we found near Salon de Provence was about an hour away, but even so, the 3 Italian men at the table next to us at dinner were clearly going to see the Tour also. So we did not do so badly. Plus, we went out early, caught a coffee and a tarte in Salon, then followed the route to Mormoiron, the site of the 50 K sprint mark on the deciding stage.

Le Tour

As we got closer to the town, we started seeing signs that said “Le Tour de France,” and we started seeing cars with bikes, and folks with bikes. We even saw our 3 Italian men from the night before pedaling along the route. We could see Mt Ventoux in the distance, the imposing presence of the last big climb. As we entered the town, there were people parked all along the route—it was like tailgating. They had tables and chairs and books and cards and televisions. We parked at a nearby soccer field, and started walking in to town. We had only 4 hours to wait for the riders.

Trish, John and Mt. Ventoux

We walked around, bought a baguette, and found a spot in the shade next to a nice French couple who had obviously done this routine before—they had blankets to hang over the barricade, and they had a whole picnic lunch in a cooler. I asked them where they lived and they said very nearby, but that this was the best place for them to watch the action. Soon the masses started arriving, jockeying for spots, and we staked ours out right near the sprint line. A Norwegian family took up right across the course, and started early on with the “Thor Heshovd” theme that would become the day’s cheer. A few people asked me if I was Norwegian too. One man, when I told him I was American, didn’t really get it. I guess that’s a far way to come—farther than Norway surely.

Le Tour

Soon the Caravan started—it’s like a parade with all the team sponsors throwing junk into the crowd. John caught a bottle of Vittel, which we drank. I caught a packet of laundry soap, which I gave to the little French lady behind me because, I told her, it would be too hard to take it all the way aux Etats-Unis. It was fun screaming at the cars as they went by. Plus, we had an extra distraction—a fire on Mt. Ventoux precipitated the need for airborne water drops and massive fire trucks to pass over the route. So at one point the trucks came rolling up the course on their way to fight the fire, and we saw the water planes above, up to 10 at a time, back and forth to fight the fire.

I always thought we would hear the Tour helicopters before we saw the riders, but it wasn’t so. Our area was heavily shaded, so I imagine the helicopters bi-passed town. We heard the police bikes first, then the crowd, then passed the breakaway group! It happened to fast I’m not even certain if we saw Thor Heshovd or not, but the Norwegians were still cheering. That’s a hearty bunch. There was an extended French family next to us, and grandpa told the kids, “C’est finis!” or, “It’s finished!” and they huffed with disappointment, then laughed when they realized the joke.

Then we waited for what felt like an hour, but it was really only about 3 minutes. Then the “maillot jaune” group arrived—with Lance passing an arm’s length in front of me! It was so fast I had to play it back on video to actually appreciate it.  You cna see the video here. That was a lot of work for a little bit of excitement. But well worth it. We hurried back to the car and hopped in, braved the traffic, and made it back to a little brasserie in Mazan to have a beer and watch the finish. On the way there, we listened on the radio as the commentators talked about the “little Schleck” and the “big Schleck” making their various plays. I translated for John as much as I could—they were talking kind of fast.

Watching the finish

So all in all it was a thrilling day. We stopped briefly in Avignon and took a walk through the walled city. Then we had a lovely pizza & salad (our Nello’s fix) in Salon de Provence, before going back to the hotel and falling straight to sleep.

Pizza!

Day 9 Cassis – Aix-En-Provence – La Barben

If yesterday was Trish’s bad today, today was Trish’s good day. We woke up without an alarm (thank heavens) and drove to Cassis, a town on the Mediterranean that looks a lot like La Jolla. When we first started driving we were both a little ruffled and nervous, but we parked in Cassis and all was fine. I even taught John a little trick for parallel parking on a hill with a stick shift—slowly releasing the emergency brake as you engage the reverse gear. Not sure if Dad taught me that, or if he would be horrified that I would do that to a vehicle. Anyhow, the technique served me well parking my Toyota on the hilly streets of Cincinnati, and it allowed John to take the last spot available in Cassis.

Cassis

So Cassis was delightful. We walked around enjoying the boats, the little restaurants, the beach, and the market. We bought some sausage and cheese from a Corsican merchant whose family lives in Phoenix and who has visited there several times. He was so nice. And his cheese was so good. We bought some tapenade, some bread, and some nectarines, and planned to have a lovely picnic in our next stop: Aix-en-Provence.

Trish and the Corsican Merchant

Soon we drove to Aix, parked, and started wandering around. I had always heard about how beautiful it was there but I never did make it there when I lived in France, so we were very happy to be there. We were hungry, so we had our picnic on a bench in front of the fountain. We were both on the bench when a woman came to ask if she could sit with us. So we scooted a bit to make room. At some point during the meal, she noticed that I did not have a napkin, so she gave me one. I thanked her and we started chatting. She was from Marrakesh, Morocco, so I told her we have a good friend who is from Morocco, Lachen—a very fast runner and a pediatric psych nurse. She told me she was a professor in Marrakesh and she was in town to teach a one month course in finance. We had such a lovely chat.

Making Friends

We talked about economics, and politics, (thanks for your patience John while I spoke French!) and she then took my hand. She gave me her ring! A beautiful silver ring with an orange stone. And we promised to write to each other. It was such a nice contrast to the events of the previous evening.

Then John and I made our way to the Musee Garnet, where there was an art exhibit highlighting the influences of Cezanne on Picasso. It was one of the most interesting exhibits we have seen. There were several Cezanne paintings, then Picasso paintings on the same theme. Cezanne’s father was a hat maker, so he had so many very literally portraits of a man in a hat with a pipe. Then you would see Picasso’s take on the theme—a man with a hat and a pipe but drawn with severe lines and angles. I loved seeing Picasso’s early studies in perspective—it was very clear how long it took for him to develop his angular style. I especially enjoyed Picasso’s paintings of his Dalmatian in front of the china cabinet in his chateau in Provence.

Le Musee

So we were on kind of a high note after seeing that exhibit. We wandered through the beautiful streets of Aix, then decided it was time to get to the hotel. We had chosen a tiny Inn on a quiet back road—a good contrast to Marseille. We needed to get as close to possible to the Tour, because tomorrow we would spend all day waiting to see the split-second passing of the cyclists.

We arrived in La Barben to a beautiful little Inn with a shaded patio. We checked into our room and took a nap. When we woke up we went down for dinner and had a lovely dinner of Red Mullet, Rabbit, Cheeses, and raspberry cake. A much better day by far.

I love red mullet.