Friday, 27 July 2007

Vacances en plus

Because of the cloudy weather forecast, Tuesday's special treat got postponed until Wednesday. Still, Tuesday itself wasn't wasted since we headed over to nearby Foix for a mooch. Unfortunately Jac had succumbed to a tummy bug, and eventually retreated back to the car. Alice and I, however, enjoyed a walk around the charming chateau, and visited a farmers' market and picked up some foie gras. Lovely town.
While in Foix we heard about an underground river complex nearby, and decided that since we were in the area... Absolutely wonderful experience, though no photography allowed so I only have a few postcards to remember the experience by. Back to Saint-Girons in time for an evening meal. Again just Alice and I, we found what looked like a roadside café, which served a not-too-bad pizza, though they mucked the order up slightly.

Wednesday began a beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather - especially to go and take a peek at the mountains in a light aircraft. What an experience! To try to describe it would not possibly do it justice, though fortunately I took lots of amazing photographs along the way. What a way to spend an hour! All I can say is that the pilot is a lucky man. Because we flew quite early on, there was still time to check out Saint-Lizier before lunch. A beautiful old hillside town, seemingly with every view being framed against the backdrop of the Pyrenees. Magnificent.

From this point, things definitely took a turn for the worse. We headed back for some lunch in Saint-Girons, and within an hour of this I was feeling very poorly indeed. We'd gone back to the hotel but literally all I could do was lie on the bed with a tummy ache. Of course, this was double trouble because it also disrupted plans I'd made. To cut a long story short, I ended up seeing lunch over again in the bottom of the toilet. At least having been sick I felt well enough to go out, although this was Wednesday and I've not felt quite right since.
Out, eventually, alone, on a beautiful circular tour culminating on the Col de Portet d'Aspet, which is well-known to anyone who knows the Tour de France, and in fact was riffen by the cyclists on Monday, after they'd sprinted through Saint-Girons. Spectacular, lush, green countryside - I have to say not at all what I'd generally consider to be a mountain pass. I stopped to pay my respects at the memorial to Fabio Casartelli, who crashed and died on the descent in 1995, aged just 25.

I remember this well because I happened to be staying with Isabelle at the time, and the five or six hours live coverage on French tv was novel to us (we made do with a half-hour roundup in England), so I happened to see the immediate aftermath. Even at 25, Casartelli already had an Olympic gold behind him - a sad loss.
Turned north / north east to complete the circuit, stopping off in Aspin for a cool, refreshing Orangina (and a toilet break!) and arriving back at the hotel via the local Champion.

Our last day, we quit the hotel early to spend a couple of hours in Tolouse before we flew home. Alice initiated an argument which meant that none of us spoke to each other for the trip up there, and while we papered over the cracks in Toulouse it still meant for a stressful day. Add to that the enormous queue to check in when we finally got to the airport,I had to have words with some guy who just decided to push his way past us on his way onto the plane. Now, I know we'd all get on the plane anyway, but it was just rude and I didn't feel like putting up with it.

To make matters worse, Alice played up on the plane, whining like a toddler, and so any hope I'd had of getting a little sleep went straight out of the window. Plus, of course, we went from 30 degree sunshine in Toulouse back to 13 degree rain and cloud back in Bristol.

To cap it all, we were greeted by a real "jobsworth" woman in immigration. Really, I feel I ought to complain. Alice was walking ahead of us and so I gave her her passport and told her to wait by the baggage reclaim. This obnoxious woman, presumably from Immigration, said to me "she has to stay with you". Put off by the tone, as much as anything, I asked why. "Just because", came the reply. Ignorant bitch. It is a classic case of putting someone in a uniform.... Especially with all this terror rubbish at the moment, they feel they can do as they please.

Still, once we were through the airport, there was a chap waiting with the car, which was good. The only thing left was the interminable drive back home, complicated firstly by the route strangely being reprogrammed such that we ended up headiing toward Weston-super-Mare (the opposite direction) - Jacqueline denies all knowledge. Then, losing first the GPS device and then the GPS signal, so we didn't know where we were headed. Then, once we'd found the receiver on the floor of the car, the battery on the PDA giving out altogether. Fortunately by this time I could pretty much remember the way back. The only other event of the journey was travelling at 60mph down this road and at very short notice seeing a sign for a ramp - although I jammed the brakes on the car seemed to hit it at a hell of a speed. Fortunately it felt worse than it actually was, and the car drove home without any ill effects.

Got home after about 2 hours (mental note never to fly from Bristol again), and I slept well last night. When I woke this morning, my tummy was still sufficiently dodgy that I just turned over and went back to bed, telling the clients that i'd be recouperating today. After all this holiday nonsense, I need a rest!

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