Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Monday, 9 June 2014

Day 3. June 8, 2014. Balaruc to Saint-Thibery. 33 kms.

When you're lying awake with a dreadful head ache
And repose is tabooed by anxiety

I love G&S. I cannot maintain that Sullivan was the world's greatest musician, although I think he had moments of greatness, but certainly Gilbert was the greatest lyricist. Those magnificent lines came to me last night as I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. The way the rhythm forces the stress on to the last syllable of the first line, and emphasizes the rhyme, is quite superb. And then the rhythm falls over itself  at the end of the second line. I can't quite recall the next lines, but I remember they end with "impropriety". What a rhyme! Marvellous stuff - a good example of the richness of our language and Gilbert's genius.

Having woken up at two-thirty, and unable to get back to sleep, I decided to make a virtue of necessity, and leave early. I hoped I would get some breakfast at Bouzigues, the first village.

At 5:45 in the morning it was cool and pleasant walking. As I walked out of town along a bicycle path, I experienced some glorious early morning avian revelry. Seagulls were crying overhead, magpies were flitting from tree to tree, and smaller birds were chirping about in the branches. Pleasant agricultural aromas were wafting in the wind, soon to be replaced by the smell of the sea. I walked along an isthmus between two bodies of water. On one side was the Etang de Thau, a huge sea lagoon where salt and fresh water mix together to produce a fertile brew. Stretching out to sea were rows on rows of posts indicating the production of some kind of sea food. Gulls and pelicans and ducks were seeking their breakfast. What a birder's paradise! On the other side was a large pond, where wading birds seemed quite literally to be walking on the water. In winter I would have thought they were walking on ice. Was there some kind of scum on the water on which they could stand? Or was the water only half an inch deep?

I arrived at Bouziques. I had to make a little detour down to the sea to get to the bakery. But I couldn't find it. Then followed  a ridiculous little sequence that resembled a childhood game. Remember when you had to find something someone else had hidden and as you wandered around the room they would say "hot" or "cold"? Well I could smell the bread, this tantalizing odour wafting towards me, but as I walked on it disappeared. I walked back, it got stronger, but no bakery! I walked round and round the block. Finally, where it seemed strongest, I peered in through a barred window and looked down upon an egregious  display of plumber's butt. The baker was crouching down at his oven. I tiptoed away and hurried around to the front, one street across. The entrance was set back from the street front, without a prominent sign. A most discreet bakery. I guess everyone in the village knew where it was. The lady told me she had seen me walk by several times. I fortified myself with a couple of croissants and pressed on. But no coffee, unfortunately.

I headed inland to the next village of Loupian. It was easy going, as the sun was still low on the horizon behind me. Soon I came to my first vines, but a farmer was coming towards me on his tractor spraying the vines with a thick cloud of some noxious pesticide. I sped up to beat him to the end of the row. I managed to get there before him and race on, but unfortunately I was still  downwind. Foul, most foul! Too bad he wasn't respecting the sabbath. I'm thinking seriously about drinking organic wine, but what does "organic" actually mean when it comes to wine?

After that, It was a steady march along the Via Domitia, which linked Rome and Hispania. It was the first Roman road built in Gaul. The Romans built something to last forever, expecting their empire to survive that long. Even today, it is still a serious road. In one place I could see what must have been the tracks of Roman or medieval carts worn in the stone. I began to feel the heat. 

I must have walked for almost 20 kilometres along that Roman road as the sun rose higher in the sky. By the end I was anxious to leave the ghosts of the legions and reach my destination. I struggled for a few more kilometres along a highway, and finally arrived at Saint-Thibery. I have not been so stiff and sore since my first day of walking the Coast to Coast when I struggled to keep up with a lanky Yorkshireman who bounded around the lake.

I am staying tonight right in the centre of the village at a chambre d'hôtes run by the genial M. et Mme. Brigand. Restored by M. Brigand, an architect, it is full of various curiosities, which he is only too happy to explain. It was most comfortable, and I was made most welcome.

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