Monday, June 12, 2006

Girona-Figueres-La Jonquera-Perpignan.

Trip dist: 100 kms. Trip time: 5 hrs, 59 min. Tot dist: 2453 kms.

Wow! I made it! It wasn't too bad, not bad at all. In fact, up to two kms before La Jonquera which is where I thought the pass would be I kept thinking: when is the ascent going to start? It seemed pretty darn flat to me (though it probably really wasn't, because on flats I can easily do about 20 kms/hr and I was doing less, but there wasn't all that much effort involved, the road looked even, and I simply blamed the wind...), next thing I know I'm coasting through a descent that lasted at least 10 minutes at 40 kms/hr and then pretty much coasted throughout Perpignan after that. So here's how I resolve it: the ascent was much harder coming from the French side. Either that, or the little shops at La Jonquera distracted me from the cursing of the ascent's steepness.

Yeah, La Jonquera is a funny little border town. It reminded me a lot of Tijuana since it is teeming with French tourists looking for bargains (as Dorothee remarked, even brand names are cheaper in Spain than in France), and complete with all sorts of cheap souvenir shops, supermarkets, drugstores, shops, ha ha. {shrug}

But weeha! Guess what? I managed to hold my first ever full conversation completely in French (!), including a little side conversation on having had problems with the bike chain, with the Youth Hostel receptionist (to be fair, it was he who carried the conversation, I merely nodded and said "oui" where appropriate, when he noted that I apparently had some dirt on my cheek). He was a cutie, too!

Anway, after arriving into Perpignan I'm actually a little bit confused as to what to do next: Do I bike to Narbonne, which is only 65 kms away, and then day-trip from there to UNESCO World Heritage medieval town of Carcassonne? Do I then bike a little bit of the Canal du Midi (also UNESCO WHS) from Narbonne to Beziers? But Beziers appears to be less than 35 kms away from Narbonne, that would be only two hours or so on the Canal....the Canal is supposed to be very beautiful, and it goes all the way from Toulouse, through Carcassonne, to the coast. Two hours would hardly do it justice, it seems. Should I bike the Canal from Carcassonne instead? I don't know! I didn't think this part through too well in advance (I didn't have good maps that showed where the Canal went back then, for instance). And it is very hard to think right now. Why the bad route planning, you ask? Well, part of it was my maps (I had no good idea of where the Canal was, I had the vague impression that it followed the coast, actually). It could be, too, that I'm a bit tired from the mental effort required to carry non-basic conversations in French ("Pardon, ou est la gare routière?" doesn't really cut it anymore at this point...). But the truth is, I guess I didn't really think I would get this far. Back in the U.S., I thought "Hey, if you don't make it past Spain, that's o.k. It should make for a great trip anyway, after all, you've never been...". But now, well, here I am, in France. Cool, huh?

{shrug}It should be easy from here onwards: no more mountains until I get to Romania!



Anonymous said...

Elisa -

The very best part of the Canal du Midi is between Carcassonne and Béziers. The best part of -that- is Carcassonne itself, the villages of Capestang and Poilhès, and the westerly approach to Béziers. Turn left at Port la Robine to go to Narbonne and you will go through Sallèles d'Aude :)

Bonne chance, bonne route! -G.

Anonymous said...

Three lefts, that'd be a right (oops)