Avignon to Tarascon

Another rest day of about 30 miles further into Provence. The hotel’s breakfast was shall we say disappointing? Imagine the offerings of your young child when they try to make you breakfast. I could not find a spoon and so ate my cereal with a small teaspoon. In any case I think I had a dose of something that did not agree with me and did not have an appetite anyway. Imagine, then the first coffee stop at Meynes. I were bloody starving. The people at breakfast according to Grant must have been northern european because they were fat. Very fat. France does not do much in the way of Fat. The jolly fat host maybe in a restaurant but that is it. So ipso facto these were Belgian. I did not think they allowed fat Belgians into a ‘premier classe’ hotel, which in any case is not a hotel but a series of porta-cabins in an industrial estate. To top it all we saw an empty syringe in the car park. Lyon, with it’s 5 star facilities, feels a long long long time ago. 

As this was a very short day we ambled on tiny roads through the very rural countryside. The Rhône valley has widened considerably but one could still see the limestone cliffs to the West. This was farmland producing fruits as well as corn and other agricultural things which I don’t recognise but think I have eaten. What remains of sunflowers have moved to the bowed heads stage, losing their bright yellow petals which now are resembling the brown cassocks of monks walking slowly to prayer. There were wafts of herbs and other flowery stuff, and another nuclear power station, as we slipped quietly through the lanes. We saw the yellow van of Madame La Poste making her slow rounds. This has been a common sight all the way down. Only us and La Poste are on the roads.

On the way we met some beautiful white “Camargue” horses who were more than happy enough to pose for us, then onwards for a simple coffee at a bar more reminiscent of Spain than France.

We are in Bull fighting country, and the French dialect is so strong none of us can understand a word the locals are saying.

About 2 kms outside of Maynes we came to a junction with no signs to the village. A farmer sat on his tractor pulled up and enquired about our destination. “toute droit” (straight ahead) said he, and you know what, he was right ! Damn clever these French bucolic types and he did not have a sat nav either! On entering the village it looked like one of those settlements that consist of houses running alongside a road but bugger all else. We nearly gave up but Grant suggested just a hundred yards more, et voilà there was the tiny square with its boulangerie, pharmacie, bar tabac and a coiffure. This is a law in France. Where two or three people are gathered together, there must be these services and they cannot overlap. So, no buying pain au chocolate in the cafe bar and no getting your hair cut in the Bakers.

By 1200 ish we rolled into Tarascon, having stopped to admire the scenery once or twice as we crossed the Rhône and it’s ‘barrages’. The temperature had climbed to 34 at one point so this is no place for shrinking violets. Thankfully pulling into the hotel we garage our bikes and look for lunch. However, the dicky tummy kicks in and I have lost my appetite. Don’t even fancy beer. So I go to the room and try to sleep for a few hours. I am awoken by the blasting of car horns as a horse drawn carriage of a wedding party pulls past the window.

Ann arrives in Avignon at about 1950 ish and we drive to the airport to pick her up. While waiting for her plane to arrive I notice an old Typhoon single engined propeller plane, dating from the second world war, take off. It was in full Royal Navy livery of dark blue. The sight and sound was from a war film but of course in real life…also in Avignon? The airport is smaller than Newquay, and I guess the only reason there’s an airport here is to ferry wine loving Londoners to Provence to enable them to pick up their chateau de plonk. Just as Ann’s plane arrives the typhoon flies over again, this time Grant sees it. Don’t tell anyone, but I felt the odd lump in my throat seeing Ann arrive.

As we had not eaten, except for Ann who had a pasty on the way to Exeter, we needed to get back to Tarascon. The car was swiftly parked and we sat down at an eatery next to the hotel. My appetite had not improved and at the restaurant I started feeling quite fatigued, getting visual disturbances and quite heady. Dehydration, following an earlier bout of diarrhoea and inadequate fluid intake on the road, was kicking in so I went to bed before the end of the meal and required the taking of a few sachets of sugar salts. What I did not realise then that this was dehydration secondary to a) the bleeding obvious and not drinking anywhere near enough on the bike but also b) a case of gastroenteritis.

We stayed tonight in Tarascon (with its sister Beaucaire across the Rhône), both are small medieval towns of great character and history. It is a relief to be in a real hotel again, and today being a rest and repair day for our muscles, hopefully this will give us vigour for the push the to coast tomorrow.

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