Thursday, July 17, 2008

July 12, 2008 – Medieval City & Rain

I awoke this morning realizing that my wonderful Wal-mart tent leaked when it rained the night before. My sleeping bag and my pillow were wet. I didn’t have time to take care of it, and figured that I would at camp later that evening.

I was in an upbeat mood, despite my wet beginning. The sun was beginning to burn through the clouds, and despite the weather report for rain, I was optimistic that the sun would prevail. This morning, the birds were particularly happy, chirping away like some Disney movie. The doves, which I have heard every morning, continued on with their distinctive call. I saw the largest snail that I have ever seen in my life! No wonder why escargot is popular here! (Check it out next to Ian’s finger.)

Before I left, I stopped in the Marmac reception area to use their free Wi-Fi. I asked about the name Marmotel. One of the women explained that the people of St. Geniez were called marmots. I thought she meant a school mascot – but she meant all of the citizens of her village. According to legend, at the end of the 15th century, a fisherman lived in Saint-Geniez. His two sons had captured a marmot. One stormy afternoon, the small animal ran away. The two kids dashed off in pursuit of the animal. Meanwhile a violent storm broke out, and several houses, including theirs, had been swept off in the current. Their father died in the storm. Their lives had been saved thanks to the marmot. Thereafter, they were nicknamed "The Marmots" and the nickname is now applied to all inhabitants of St. Geniez.

I started on my ride after 10 a.m. Our route would take us by Serevac – another medieval city with another castle. When I arrived, Becky told me that there was a man who spoke English who knew all about the history of Serevac. I rode my bike to his shop, and met Todd – a Canadian who had married a French woman.

Todd was filled with knowledge about Serevac. The castle, which sits on the hill above the city, was built more than 1000 years ago. The rocks had crumbled around it, and one previous owner had sold the rocks of the castle to town’s people to construct their houses. Todd explained that there is a natural spring at the spot, and people have lived in Serevac for more than 20,000 years. He told me that the street I was standing on used to be a mote around the castle. It’s only been filled with houses for the past 100 years or so. (The photo is old - from Todd's shop - but it shows the street and one can imagine that instead of houses was a mote.)

I was eager to see the castle, the fountain and other notable buildings. I climbed up the steep hill on my bicycle. As I reached the fountain, the rain started to pour down. I decided that I would miss the castle, and instead seek cover at the bar I saw as I entered town.

I ordered a sandwich that was like an open face pizza without the tomato sauce – and had a glass of wine while I waited for the storm to pass. I watched a group of young men in the bar – even saw them kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting. I wondered what would happen if a guy did that as a greeting at home in Montana. (The photo is of the group of young men posing for me.)

After an hour, the storm had lessened, but the rain still fell down. This was likely as good as it would get, and I had a long ride ahead – I had about 50 miles to go. I hopped on my bike and pedaled rapidly. My legs were really feeling better today. My ride took me through a beautiful Gorge du Tarn. It was too wet to stop, but I did manage to snap a quick photo.

By the time I arrived at camp, I was cold, wet and ready to stay at the hotel. I didn’t want another night in a leaky tent. First, though, I had to take care of my wet sleeping bag, pillow and clothes (that hadn’t dried properly because of the rain). Everyone else had the same idea, and by the time I was finished with my clothes, it was after 9. Drew, one of the group leaders, told me I could set my tent up under the canopy so I would stay dry. The canopy is used for our afternoon tea and morning breakfast. I decided that would be less hassle than riding my bike to the hotel so late at night.

It rained all night in Florac – and I stayed dry under the canopy.

Total miles: 62

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