We’re here: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=43.17885,3.03355. It’s the Etap Hotel, Narbonne (€43 a night when booked via t’Interweb, plus €5 for pooch).
The weather is: it’s officially blowing a gale, gusts of about 70mph. Well, nearly. Wikipedia’s Beafort Scale article defines a Moderate Gale as “Whole trees in motion. Effort needed to walk against the wind”. A full Gale is “Some twigs broken from trees. Cars veer on road. Progress on foot is seriously impeded”. Hang on, I’ll go look out the window. Whole trees moving? Check. Cars veering from road? Nope, we can see over the toll road booths from here and no mayhem is in progress. Moderate Gale it is.
We got up this morning, emptied the fridge (Ju job), emptied the loo (Jay job), packed the last of our stuff into bags and drove, badly, to the Fiat garage. We’ve really used the last of the clutchness up, gear changes nigh on impossible without stopping the engine first. It was only a few hundred meters on quiet dual carriageways, so no worries.
Main dealers may have a reputation for overcharging (and I may well be going nuts at this point tomorrow) but they were the image of professionalism this morning. We arrive, abandon the van and walk in to see our name scrolling up the screen; we’ve not been forgotten. The receptionist is more like a maître d’hotel than a phone answerer. He politely puts up with my dodgy French, logs us in on the pooter, rips off some numbered cards and attaches one to the keys, walks to the van and takes the mileage (kilometerage?) and takes our mobile so he can call us tomorrow. Hopes are high we can soon effect our escape from Les Pays Cathares and head for the hills!
Wandering over to the Etap hotel we must have looked a sight with our random collection of bags. The receptionist didn’t bat an eyelid, but I explained anyway that our camping car was ‘en panne’ (broken down). Walking into shops and hotels with a dog still feels weird. Charlie’s welcome here, and we had fun introducing him to the lift. He’s made himself at home in his basket in the corner of our room.
Apart from a walk around earlier, laughing at poor old Charlie’s attempts to keep his ears down, we’ve holed up in the room listening to the wind. Flipping the TV on, the funeral of Raymond Aubrac is being shown with Sarkozy looking seriously on. I Google him (Raymond, not Nicolas). Turns out he’s a French resistance legend, one of the top guys (a Jewish chap, who lost both parents to Auschwitz). He was betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo, but his pregnant wife pulled off a ruse which enabled him to escape, avoiding torture and certain death. The main resistance leader was with him at the time – Jean Moulin – he wasn’t so lucky. It’s fascinating to read more about the resistance; for instance, I didn’t know that the French puppet government in the south of the country – called the Vichy Government – actually set up their own anti-resistance organisation against their own people. I wonder what would have happened in the UK, had our country been occupied.
Anyway, to lighter topics, Ju’s currently cutting her own hair, Charlie’s kipping and I’ve downloaded about 500 minutes of TED videos for later consumption, using the free hotel WiFi. Tomorrow, we should get Dave back, restock his grub, Diesel and LPG supplies (errr, and beer) and head for the Black Mountains. Excellent.