If you’ll forgive me, I’ll gloss over Day 5. It started in glorious sunshine, that turned grey, got colder and then really cold.
We parked up near the Citadel and Ramparts at Carcassonne: amazing medieval walled city with a number of restaurant/bars but only one that let us bring Stan in with us out of the chill. The bartender was possibly the least cheery barman I’ve encountered, outside Paris.
I’m not anti-Parisienne, not at all. But my experience of waiting staff in France’s capital have never been tremendously positive. When we visited the French Alps last summer, our lovely Gite owner, Vivienne, explained that her last guests had been difficult – they were ‘Parisienne”. The French have a thing about inhabitants of Paris too, it’s not just me…
That said, the three of us were warm and safe inside the bar, peering out into the low-slung cloud instead of being shrouded in dampening mist. Then, vin-chaud and pomme-frittes all done, we wandered back down and along the river to the camper.
Last night I had promised V and M that I would send off ‘The Dragon’ to the first set of literary agents as a start to my creative writing career. Which saw us in MacDonald’s: the price of Wi-Fi being the world’s nastiest Caesar salad, three diet cokes and an immensely dull burger.
Day 6 – M has me in Sitges…
This morning, I was determined that we wouldn’t stagger onto another Auto-Toll route and watch interesting things pass us by in the distance. We had a choice of routes, the first, definitely mountainous, would levitate us, over the summit of the Catalonian Pyrenees and then… well, then we would decide.
A stream has taken thousands of years to slice a riverbed through the dense granite of the Pyrenees. If you take the D118 from Carcassonne, and travel further upstream, via Axat, you enter a mystical valley. The road has been chiseled, foot-by-foot through the cliff sides. The carved overhanging arches were just tall enough to allow the van to pass underneath. This prehistoric track wends and winds, reducing our speed to a little over walking pace as it rises over semi frozen streams, Where ice clings to the meager grass verges.
Mile after mile, as frozen in time as in winter, we twist around on ourselves, climbing to the open plains of Formiuares and Les Angles.
Bereft of snow, these artifices of skiing and retail activity took on the hue of great grey-straw plateaus. I sat, enveloped in the warmth of the camper looking out at the semi-frigid landscape. Two determined, skiers wobbled down the one compacted slope on the Andora slopes. but then the visage passed us by and we were heading back down towards Spain, through pine forests and icy streams.
Gironella, on the C16 was where we stopped for supper. We used our safe-spot-finder app “Park4Night”, which sourced a potential stop for the night, down by the river, probably secure, possibly quiet, but a bit exposed. Having spent 28 minutes exploring the small town, Gironella was about ‘done’.
We’ve spent six solid days driving. Each day we’ll reach a safe haven, stop, have a break, conscious that tomorrow we must push on. We’ve seen a lot, but it’s not been restful. Gironelle put us 3 hours from Girona, 2 hours from Barcelona. Reaching either tomorrow would, effectively mean another day of watching the world go by, passively in through the camper windows. I love our van, but the last 6 days have equated to over 48 hours of sitting. Enough.
“Or…” I ventured “We could just drive down to Barcelona tonight and wake up somewhere warmer tomorrow morning…?”
M is tired, he doesn’t want to spend another 2 hours driving tonight. Also, he doesn’t want to spend a seventh day in the cab either. He passes me his empty supper bowl, we discuss the best route and within 5 minutes we’re on our way.
Fast forward 3 hours, we’ve finished our Diablo pizza at the local Italian Restaurant, in Sitges, near Barcelona and are back in the heated van. Stan has been running up and down the seafront enough for him to wait for the van door to open so he can climb inside. M is listening to the radio and I’m proof-reading my blog for errors. Feel free to message me if I miss a couple. The weather forecast for lunchtime on the 9thJan is 150C – our warmest yet.
Tomorrow, we agree – we won’t drive anywhere.