"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you," said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."

('The Alchemist' Paulo Coelho)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tuesday 7th Sept.

Last night we had a lovely meal outside at the hotel where we were staying - that in itself is a treat - to be able to sit outside, with no breeze and not a breath of chilly air right up to 10pm. Up bright and early this morning, we headed off towards Sete on a beautiful early autumn morning. Jealous? You should be! :) There was a dramatic change in the scenery, from the endless flat fields of the north, now we were travelling through the Auvergne region with its mountains and superb views. I took photos again as we were driving but can't post them until we are back home with the benefit of broadband. The French seem to have invested heavily in their road system. Granted, you have to pay tolls on many of the motorways, but the driving is easy and, because the country is not nearly as heavily populated as Britain, the roads are far less crowded. Of course, in the towns, there is always the archetypal French driver who thinks that the rules of the road don't apply to him....no different to Britain then! Another outcome of the abundant space is that they seem to just build their motorways beside the older roads, rather than replacing them, so, when roadworks are necessary, the motorway can be closed off and the traffic diverted along the old route which is usually running alongside.
I am still intrigued to see the desolation of some of the little villages. Buildings stand empty, quietly rotting away and the whole effect reminds me of those old films which show soulless, mid-western American towns which seem to be totally bereft of human habitation. Keith got quite excited at one point when he saw a young mum with two small children walking along! On the other hand, some of the towns we have seen are very attractive, with lovely flower displays in the main streets, and obviously well kept, with no rubbish lying around. Their bins have lids, which deters wasps, and seem to be well used!
Anyway, the view of the Mediteranean in all its glory was well worth the long drive, although, as it was slightly overcast, it was not as blue as Keith remembered it from his youth. I persuaded Keith to buy some swimming trunks and tomorrow, we are off for our first dip! We will probably stay here until the week-end and then set off towards my old stamping ground, the south west, Bordeaux area and, in particular, Marmande, where I stayed with a family several times. I have long since lost contact with them and they are sure to have moved on, but it will be nice to see the area again.

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