It’s my last day.
I wake up to an overcast sky; quite a relief after three days of unforgiving sunshine – no need for the protective lotion today. Thinking back over the week, and revisiting my daily blog I realise I’ve touched on only a fraction of the curiosities I had intended to put into my Cabinet. The truth is that I’ve been so taken with the physical reality of being here, with its constantly shifting spectrum of sensation, that I’ve had little time for cerebral contemplation. It just goes to show the futility of detailed planning; I’ve long since learnt on these trips to “go with the flow” and trust my instinct.That said, however, I must try, in the remaining hours, to cram as many idiosyncratic items in the Cabinet as possible.
Let’s go back to Homo Sapiens – an endlessly fascinating and curious creature. For a start he (no gender significance) is bi-pedal. That in itself is a curiosity; imagine the geometry of a tall person, and the continuous and subtle adjustments to balance which need to be made to remain upright. Other curiosities include: our lack of body hair (a startling contrast to all other primates; our limited ability to swim (difficult to understand in the context of Survival of the Fittest); and the unusually long dependence period of our offspring (again, making us, one would think, very vulnerable). And then, the almost miraculous properties of our skin: elastic and flexible, but with structural rigidity; amazingly sensitive to touch; waterproof when needed; and with a remarkable ability to heal quickly when damaged. Our physiology has undergone many adaptations to make us “fit for purpose”; do you realise, for example, that the 300 million alveoli in our lungs provide a staggering 100 square metres of surface area for the efficient absorption of oxygen?
Above all, of course, there’s our brain. Its striking enlargement in comparison with other primates opens up boundless possibilities for abstract reasoning, language, introspection and emotion, with an appreciation of beauty through the development of art and music. And then, of course, curiosity; without it, where would be the fields of science, technology, philosophy and religion? Homo Sapiens, a truly remarkable and miraculous creature, must take pride of place in my Cabinet. Anyway, enough of this for the moment; I have to get to Montpellier.
I used the dreaded word! Having spent the week having to get nowhere, today is different; for once, the destination is more important than the journey. Horror of horrors – it gives the day an entirely different feel.
The first part is grey and dull. I take my time along a number of long straight roads, with an industrial backdrop, into a fresh but warm headwind.
Once I’ve left Sete I enter an expansive landscape of inter-locking lagoons now imbued with a hazy sunlight.
A short detour to a beach-side tourist office confirms that there should be a series of cycle-ways taking me generally in the direction of Montpellier Airport – a peaceful, if uninspiring start to the day.
Glancing to my left, I spot a flock of pink flamingos
Not surprising, I suppose; after all, we’re no more than 20 miles from the Camargue.
Detouring into the village of Vic-la Gardiole I discover a Sunday market in full swing
Its function as a meeting point is clearly as important as its function for retail. I enjoy a late breakfast consisting of a pain au chocolate, an eclair and a fruitjuice. Sounds revolting? Delicious!
The sun now comes out – it’s getting warm, almost hot. Many local Sunday cyclists are now out and about, probably on the way to the beach.
I pass a Muscat Domaine – one of my favourite dessert wines. I never knew it comes from around here.
A few miles further on, a bizarre sight: half a dozen men engrossed in model aeroplane flying. If you look closely, you might make out the mini air-sock or even the scaled down runway.
I’m not sure that photo worked!
All, though, is not what it seems. 100m down the road I come across a memorial plaque – this was the site of the original Montpellier Airfield (1920 – 1926) and is preserved to commemorate the early pioneers. Perhaps, not so bizarre after all.
At Lattes I encounter another, this time mega, market. I’m in good time, so stroll around and enjoy a delicious snack of fish mouth-bites, deep fried in a spicy batter. It has a name, but I forget to make a note.
From here to the airport is entirely uneventful. After checking Daisy-May and panniers in, I start writing up today’s blog.
Distance 27.3 miles (a short day)
Av speed 9.2 mph (I’m being lazy)
Elevation gain 278 ft
For the whole trip
Distance 274 miles
Total elevation gain 15,388 ft
Average speed 9.9 mph
Oh yes- my age?
Well, 2450 has a surprisingly small number of prime factors: 2x5x5x7x7.
If you play around with these, you will find only a small number of possible permutations for the ages of the family. In fact, after you have eliminated all those that are biologically impossible, you will find that only three remain. The vicar, being a good mathematician, would have reached this stage quickly.
Having a good eye for a pretty woman, he eliminated one immediately.
The remaining two (ages for the mother) were very close together – hence his difficulty. When, however, he was told that he was the oldest person present, he knew their ages immediately. This last piece of information must have been a discriminator. Logically, there is only one age the vicar can be!
As I said before, in a few weeks, I will be 17 years older than the vicar.
That’s all ’till next year.
It’s been a good one – one of the best.