Thursday 28 June
Orange. Rest day 0km Total 1618km
On arising at 6.30, I see the far mountains, with a ridge of even more distant peaks behind. They are pink with mist and morning: the mist lying at their feet. Later the mist rises and covers the mountains. I walk out of the site along a path with seats and planted bushes. The place is truly exceptional – cheap to stay at, and with panoramic views and woody knolls to camp in. We are on the very peak of a hill with a cross beside us, beneath a shady almond tree. The noises of the town spread below like a carpet, and hum of planes above like streamers.
Last night there were cheers and thousands of car horns rising up in unknown celebration. Early, at 7.30 we walk down the steep-stepped footpath that bicycles could not manage, to emerge in the busy town. Market Day. There must be thousands of stalls, clothes, cheeses, garlic, vegetables, for the first time this trip we see a great variety of olives.
Before 8 we have bought croissants from two different shops (to sample and test) and are seated outside, crowded by foul small dogs, a big greedy Alsatian, and French young fashionables who drink their coffee from the glass. We wander relaxed through the shops in search of a piece of strong canvas to mend our bulging tyres. A shop sells it and also makes tents and deckchairs. They give us a piece of very strong green canvas from under the table.
We worked out our finances and even though we’ve spent £40 on tyres and a derailleur, still aren’t overspent. Dreaming of high blue lakes and black and white glaciers we study the new terrain on our maps of the Alps. The roads look exciting and it is difficult to imagine whether it will be hot or cold, sunny or rainy.
Now after lunch we sit and write in the shade of an almond tree. Swallowtail butterflies flit together with other unusual varieties. Smells of sweet pine trees, flowers, shouts of children at the piscine, bird songs mingle to form solid warm peace.
Later at the market we buy food for tea – Chevre cheeses, and Vache Marcellin, small mouldy ones, olive salad, individual olives stuffed with almond or anchovy or caper. Now we add to it, a spinach salad and an ‘exotic salad’ of sweetcorn, artichoke hearts and tiny dolmades. While we are descending to the town the rain falls, the rain I have been watching as it blots out the far hills, the tall ones with snow.
The town goes dark and mysterious especially in the old alleys where big thick trees grow. Pavements are dark, a smell of pine humus is in the air. It is still raining as we carry the large loaf in its protective binsack back up the steep stairs, looking at our mountains as we go. The idea of our first Alps is very exciting. Supper is long and leisurely and vey full of flavour and oil. Rain increases once the mint tea is safely made, enhancing the pleasure.