Cabinet of Curiosities – Day 5

It’s been a long day, but a good one.
You may take it as read that the weather is wonderful, the scenery is wonderful – at least most of it – and the cycling is wonderful. Is there anything left to be said? Well let’s see.
Before I start, perhaps I should briefly revisit yesterday’s puzzle regarding my age; I know that at least one reader has expended a bottle of wine on it, so far without success. And he knows my age! So, in fairness, I will add one extra bit of information which I had, perhaps mistakenly, assumed you would take for granted. The vicar, who has an eye for a pretty woman, is not a complete idiot in judging a woman’s age. With children, however, being a vicar, he’s pretty hopeless. Focus on the mother.
You now have absolutely no excuse. Go to it! To assuage any guilt I might otherwise have, not to mention bottles of wine expended, I promise to include full(ish) solution in tomorrow’s (my last) blog

It would be remiss of me not to comment on the quality of the hotel I’m about to leave. It’s superb. The sense of style and the eye for detail are rarely encountered. No trouble is too much for the host and hostess; Some day I shall return with Mary. At breakfast I start chatting to two other (Belgian) cyclists. They have come from Sete (where  I’m heading) and are cycling to Bordeaux (not in one day!). They advise me not to go on the Canal du Midi. The surface is apparently appalling. I don’t need much persuasion.
Leaving Lexagnan- Corbieres I soon find the road heading north to Roubia. To my left, the Montagne Noire; behind me, quickly receding into the distance, the Pyrenees and to my right, not too far out of sight…….the sea! I pledge to swim in it before the day’s out.
More vineyards, fields of waving corn, and poppies.

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When I reach Roubia, by ignoring road-signs and instead following my instinct I find myself on a farm-road. It’s a beauty; fine for cycling, but no traffic.

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I soon reach Capestan, where I stop for elevenses – an Iced Tea and a kit-kat bar which I consume sitting in the village square, watching the world go by.
Have you noticed how every bar of kit-kat indicates an opening strip which tears beautifully down the first finger? Perfect design and engineering! It works every time. Just shows that good design does not have to be about sophistication and expense; just needs to focus on fitness for purpose.
Leaving the village, I cross over the C….du…..M without a sideways glance and navigate my way through a network of country lanes towards Beziers. On the way I encounter a “Route Barree” sign which, of course, I ignore. This ensures 10 miles of delightful traffic-free cycling.

Beziers is an intriguing and historic city. I park Daisy-May and stroll the streets. As with so many Cathar cities the cathedral/castle occupies a dominant position overlooking the plain below.

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Sorry about the finger!
It also boasts a Roman Arena which I fail to find, in spite of following signs – which suddenly disappear. On the way out of the city, however I do discover another arena which takes me by surprise.

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In case you can’t read it, it’s a bull-fighting stadium; I hope it’s not still used for its intended purpose. I suppose this part of southern France shares much of its culture with its close Iberian neighbour.
The remainder of the journey to Agde and on to Sete is pretty uneventful. At one point, however, I glance to my right and spot ………the sea! The atmosphere has definitely changed: gone is the freshness and pristine quality of the Pyrenees; in its place the redolent but slightly tawdry nature of the Mediterranean. I know which I prefer.
A series of long straight roads follow,  to be frank …..rather dull. Time is also getting on. It must be half past six and I’ve been on the road since half past nine this morning. A long day.
Suddenly, a beach to my right!

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The last time I encountered a Mediterranean beach on one of these cycling holidays was five years ago at the foot of the Camargue (the Norfolk Broads with flamingos!). On that occasion the weather was cold, windy and dull; certainly not fit for swimming. Now, I have no excuse – I swim in the Mediterranean! Not for long (about 20 seconds!), but I do swim. Pledge fulfilled!
I finally arrive in Sete at 7.15 and book into the first ok hotel I find. And my room has a bath – sublime, after 65 (yes 65) miles.
Later in the evening, when I’ve started on the pichet de vin rouge, I glance up at the telly and – crowning glory of the day – ARSENAL HAVE WON THE CUP!
It’s been a long day – but a good one.

Distance                       65 miles
Average speed             11 mph
Elevation gain               1324 ft

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