In Narbonne: Day ride - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

November 26, 2018

In Narbonne: Day ride

What a wild, windy and wonderful day this was!  It began though with a disappointment.  After 32 years of service, the buckle on my belt broke this morning.  I believe it’s the oldest article of clothing I have, and was given to me for my fortieth birthday by my good friend and mentor at the office Patrick.  I’m not one to maintain an elaborate wardrobe, and for many years I’ve had just two belts - a simple black one and this one.  I’ve probably worn this one four or five thousand times, and the leather itself is getting quite worn by now so I can’t complain.  Still though, I feel the loss.  I often think of Patrick, a friend I’ve lost touch with over the years, when I get dressed in the morning.

You can’t let yourself get too attached. Nothing lasts forever.
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Yesterday we began with breakfast at the indoor market, which was a bit of a letdown.  Today we began instead with MY choice, the cafeteria we had breakfast at last year.  I have a warm memory of it for some reason, mostly focused around our waitress who helped us steer through our options and was tolerant of our minimal skills with French.

I like it just as well this morning, as does Rachael.  We each have an excellent and generous portion of quiche, which I accompany with a Viennoise; plus a few caffeinated beverages.  The breakfast itself is good, but best is the waiter, who serenades the customers with a lusty tune sung in Spanish.  We’ll be back tomorrow.

🎵All I want for Christmas is the Narbonne Cathedral, the Narbonne Cathedral, the Narbonne Cathedral🎵
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Keith KleinHi Scott,
Nice ribbon on the chateau in Narbonne. Last time I was there there was a small musical group playing Charles Trenet songs just in front of it. The building is the old palais of the archbishop. The Cathedral is behind it about a block away.
Cheers,
Keith
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinThanks for identifying this correctly, Keith. It doesnt really look like part of the cathedral itself, but I couldn’t find a name for it on the map. After seeing the fortresslike cathedral in Agde I thought they might be a package.
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2 weeks ago
An unbeatable start to the day: serenaded by a singing waiter
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The main consideration for today’s ride is again the weather.  It is expected to be dry, chilly, and very windy.  Winds are expected to blow from the northwest and average 15-20 mph, with occasional gusts up to 40.  Rachael and I have been discussing whether that fits our definition of bikable conditions or not, but decide to give it a go.

I pick a ride for us that hopefully makes the best of the conditions: a loop in the foothills west of town that we’ll ride counterclockwise, tackling the headwinds first while we’re fresh.  We want to get an early start since the winds are supposed to amplify as the day goes on, but we feel conflicted because it’s cold.  We finally make it out the door about 10.

The first three or four miles are the expected busy urban cycling experience - not bad, but we’re happy when we escape town and veer off from the main road to Carcassonne and Toulouse; and even happier a few  miles later when we branch off again to a really quiet road.  For the next fifteen miles, we share the road with very few cars.

We rode the first half of this ride last year, on our loop from Gruissan to Fontfroide Abbey.  I remember what a great ride that was, but today it hardly seems familiar at all.  Partly this is because my memory is so poor, but it is also because the conditions are so much quieter and it’s later in the year - many fields are brown, and the plane trees are nearly bare rather than still green.

West of Narbonne, near Fontfroide Abbey
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West of Narbonne, near Fontfroide Abbey
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This is so amazing. Just a week ago, the plane trees all had reddish crowns. Nearly all the leaves have been stripped from them since then.
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West of Narbonne, near Fontfroide Abbey
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In Montseret, I believe. The villages have a different look now, as we approach the foothills of the Pyrenees.
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At about the midpoint of the ride we come to a small but spectacular gorge, cut through the limestone by the small Berre.  Stumbling like this across gorges you’ve never heard of is a common occurrence in southern France, but always an unexpected delight.  We go off route and upstream along it for a mile, just for the joy of snaking between the cliffs and admiring the last of the autumn colors.

We need to eat, but it’s too chilly to linger long sitting around outdoors.  We find a relatively sheltered spot by the stream and hurriedly scarf down our cheese, bread and ham lunch.  

Entering the Berre Gorge
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In the Berre Gorge
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In the Berre Gorge
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Another passable lunch spot. We didn’t sit long though on this cold, windy day.
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On the road again, we head down the gorge, and directly downwind.  We’re really flying now, but the wind drains the heat out of us and we’re feeling chillier by the mile.  I’m starting to get concerned about Rachael, who’s a bit prone to hypothermia, so I’m pleased when we come to an open cafe in Peyriac.  We’ve only got about ten miles left in the ride, but it feels like the prudent thing to stop in for some tea and warm up before the last leg.

It’s a friendly, delightful place, one I’d be happy to frequent.  No one speaks English, but they’re interested in why we’re there and stumble through a conversation with us.  

In the Berre Gorge
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In the Berre Gorge
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Put down that cellphone! Alain Delon, Lino Ventura and Jean Gavin (from The Sicilian Clan) enforce the no electronics rule in Peyriac-de-Mer.
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Keith KleinHi again,
A pic from one of France's favorite movies, les Tontons Flinguers ( Pistol Packing Uncles). Jean Gabin was the capo in the movie.
Cheers,
Keith
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinPretty sure this is The Sicilian Clan (Le Clan des Sicilians) - it’s what they told me at the cafe, and the photo matches the poster for the film. We haven’t seen either of them though, and both sound great. We’ll have to see if we can find them when we get home this winter.
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2 weeks ago
Keith KleinTo Scott AndersonMe again,
You are correct. (Emily Littella impression here: "never mind")
Yes they are both good movies, and I should be able to keep them straight, but alas, I am losing whatever memory I once had.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith KleinI know the feeling. For all I know, I’ve seen both of these films but have just forgotten. I don’t think so though - so many of these films never make it to the states, or get distributed with subtitles. Reason enough to learn French,
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2 weeks ago
Never too cold for a smoke and a pot of tea.
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The final miles to Narbonne are some of the best of the day, as we skirt the edge of a lagoon and then ride across an arm of it.  More like through it, actually - the road is barely above water level, and the high winds blow water and foam across a broad section of the road, like a small river.   It looks forbidding, but the depth appears shallow enough that Rachael decides to just plow through.  If she’s going, of course I have to follow.  It’s a bit thrilling, and all feels so elemental - the wind, the water, there are even flamingos and a stork nearby.  It feels like we’re back in Scotland, except for the flamingos of course.

As I said, a wild, windy, wonderful day.  One that just kept improving with every mile.

Well, let’s think about this for a bit.
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Yup, no problem.
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Jen GrumbyI've heard that Rachael could ride on water .. but it's quite a treat to see photographic evidence of her miraculous talents!
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. Wonder Woman!!
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2 weeks ago
It’s hard to believe there’s actually a road beneath this.
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Flamingos, Etang de Bages
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Looking southeast across Etang de Bages
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Bages
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We have a tablemate at dinner tonight - our server’s dog. Do you think Maya is cute? I think Maya is cute. Should we drop a scrap for her?
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I thought we were done with the wine photos for the season, but this bottle from Fontfroide Abbey is too much to resist. We were there last autumn, and I like being reminded.
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Ride stats today: 40 miles, 1,900’

Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 2,841 miles (4,572 km)

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