Monday dawned wet grey and miserable. The rain fell steadily and we heard stories of flooding in Montpellier and other places south of us. Railway lines had been closed, people forced to sleep in sports centres, parents were instructed to leave their kids in school as that was safer than taking them home by road…
Before your hankies are completely soaked with tears of sympathy for us, let me remind you that we were safely tucked up in Mende and had no need to go anywhere. True, the rain with us was much less severe and Laurie headed off in the morning to visit one or two old friends. I slobbed about with Gilles in the house. Odile – the only worker amongst the four of us, though older than Laurie – was teaching in the morning, but came back for lunch and had no classes in the afternoon. A couple of neighbours were invited for lunch, which was a leisurely and pleasant affair: the usual excellent food washed down with some nice wine.
The weather perked up a bit in the afternoon, so the three men left Odile doing some lesson preparation and we walked up Mont Mimat, the hill overlooking the town. We hardly got wet at all. Although Gilles says he feels no pain now that he has had his second hip replaced it seemed he was finding it hard on the descent, but he did very well.
The evening slipped by with more food and drink as well as some good conversation. I attempted to download some software for Odile, but with little success, and promised to send her some web addresses when I got home (I know that’s not rivetting, but you can take it as a “note to self”!)
Tuesday morning dawned much the same as Monday. Odile was back at school and when we rose Gilles was away at the baker’s buying croissants. We breakfasted well: Gilles insisted we have a “substantial” breakfast as we were walking, so I had Weetabix for the first time in years, washed down with coffee and followed by croissant, bread, home-made fig jam, ginger conserve etc. As they say over here, “C’est la vie!”
Just before we left three folk arrived to give Laurie a saucisse for being nice to a relative of theirs when he was in Inverness. They had apparently sent him one through the post, but as the Chancellors were out when the postman called and the latter had not left a “while you were out” note, it had eventually been returned to France. This was some time ago, so we were pleased to discover the new gift was a replacement, rather than the original. We added this to the “casse croute” / “en-cas” that Gilles had kindly prepared and set off in the rain – turning down the offer of a lift – to the station.
The timetable Laurie consulted on-line in Scotland had suggested there would be a train to La Bastide at 11:47. However, I had checked online on Monday night, thus discovering that it was in fact a bus at 11:21. Once again, we were the only passengers, the driver having been unhelpful to two African-looking lads: it’s not just in Scotland these things happen it seems.
It rained fairly steadily on the hour’s journey to La Bastide and I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to walking, especially as the bus passed the very place we were staying tonight. However, the weather cleared up and the sun broke through on and off, so the short 16K walk was very pleasant. Gilles’ packed lunch was very welcome, though the saucisse was left for another occasion.
We are staying in the Hotel des Sources, a place recommended by Odile, and so far it seems very good. When we arrived we were delighted and relieved to discover our bags had safely made it from Notre Dame des Neiges where we left them what seems like a long time ago. The hotel apparently houses about 2500 of the 10000 Chemin de Stevenson walkers each year, but the other 2498 aren’t here tonight, so it’s just the two of us. The hotel also sells craft beers, so “all’s good in the ‘hood” as one of our daughters used to say. We have a good twin bedroom – tonight it’s my turn to have the double bed – with en suite shower and loo. A quick fiddle with my Swiss Army Knife sorted a loose shower head and everything is just hunky-dory.
Outside, a donkey – possibly a distant relative of Modestine – is braying on and off. Apparently a German couple chose, along with a donkey – in a thoroughly untypical, thoroughly unTeutonic, unthorough way to start their walk here. As a punishment for this, the German chap slipped on his first day of the walk, was brought back to the hotel, taken to hospital, diagnosed with a broken arm, treated and then went back to Germany. Hence the donkey.