For a while we know that the brake pads of our car are almost finished and we are going to a Peugeot garage in Narbonne this morning. The sky is gray, so going to the beach is not an option today. We are friendly received at the garage, but they are busy and we have to come back at the end of the afternoon. So first we will do something else and drive to Tautavel, a route that we have already partly driven yesterday. At Tautavel the oldest man-like remains of Europe have been found (la Caune de l'Arago), 450,000 years old and of course there is a museum that we would like to see. It was on the route yesterday, but then we were late and had no more time.
Our timing is not too good today because the museum is closed at noon. Fortunately, there is a restaurant nearby and the whole village seems to have lunch here, so crowded with French people. We would like to eat only a soup, as we like to do when we are on holiday, but there are only extensive meals available. The French kitchen is not really made for us, we just want a soup with some baguette! Seems typical French, but we have only seen few places where the French offer it. A whole meal around it seems to necessary.
When the museum opens, we receive an audio guide that is also in Dutch and extensively tells about all objects displayed. Most appealing to the imagination are the reconstructions of the living conditions of the people through the many thousands of years. Although, Teije can not keep his eyes off of all those stones that were once, long ago, modified by human hands to make life a little more pleasant. What does he want to do, type on the computer or make stone hand axes?
The museum tells a lot about the techniques used in archeology, there are many prehistoric finds to be seen and an image is sketched of how people in prehistoric times managed to survive in this area. Eventually it was not this branch of humanity that would survive, nowadays it is thought that current humanity descends from an ancestor who left Africa only 80 to 60,000 years ago.
On the way back we pass the castle of Aguilar and drive through the northern plains of Corbi ères back to Narbonne. We drive along the Abbaye de Fontfroide, which should be a very beautiful abbey, but we are too late for the last tour and we do not see the buildings nowhere, they are hidden in a valley.Back at the garage we have to wait a while and then it turns out that the right brake caliper is completely stuck and the brake discs are damaged in such a way that the garage only wants to install new pads if the discs are also replaced. Well, what do we have to do... they do not look too good, at least on one side. So, we better do that, and a new caliper for €70 seems to be a bargain, which in the Netherlands would costs double this price. But it has to be ordered first and on Thursday afternoon we have to come back again. There is someone who also translates the whole story into English for us. For € 285 all in all the car would be as new again, which is nice if we also want to drive on alpine roads.
In Gruissan we make another stop to see the village a bit better and it is a very nice place, if you stay at least in the old part. More to the north are the attraction and holiday parks and places that are only interesting for bathers.In the course of the evening the sky brightens up and becomes clear. It is still warm, maybe we will be able to hold a beach day again tomorrow. We have not seen a lot of beach while we have been here for a few days. We had planned that differently.
Wednesday 21 June 2006, a relaxing day on the beach of the MediterraneanFinally it is really a beautiful day at the coast and because we have only once been at the beach this holiday and our burned skin has cooled down again, we are going to bake in the sun again today. First we have a nice breakfast and then on the road.
It is now a weekday and much quieter than last Sunday, when many French people went out with the whole family to enjoy the warm weather. Yesterday and the day before yesterday it was always very gray in the morning and not really nice weather, today it is. We have our books, drinks and something to eat so that we can entertain ourselves for a few hours.
And it is wonderful to dive into the sea for a while to cool off and rinse off the sweat. Teije becomes restless and starts to build a sand castle, after all someone has to do that on the beach! The project takes hours, but the sea picks up faster than he can strengthen the castle. And yet it is a fun time spent.After a whole day at the beach we are tired when we come back to the tent and we wonder how that can happen. Is it the laziness that just settles in you, or does the intaking of all those sunrays require a lot of energy? There will undoubtedly be some theory about it, but we feel too lazy now to think of it.
We walk to the restaurant of the campsite to eat and a drink something, a cold orange juice and an ice cold beer, delicious with this weather. All the drinks that we have with us have become quite hot in the tent and our refrigerator (a bucket with regularly refreshed 'cold' water) does not work that well anymore ... Tomorrow we have another exhausting day of relaxation!
Thursday 22 June 2006, one more day at the beach and our car is fixed
This afternoon we have to go to the garage by car, so we decided to take a last visit to the beach this morning. The sky is already gray, but especially the wind is blowing hard from the interior. We are simply sandblasted by the wind once we are on the beach and it gets worse by the minute. Really everything is covered by the sand, our eyes and ears are full of it and it just hurts the skin. After less than an hour we go back to the campsite, and just sit quietly in the shelter of the trees.
Teije goes alone to Narbonne, it is a shame to sit on an industrial estate with the two of us waiting for the car to be ready. Along the way he makes some pictures, like this rice field, that we do not expect in these regions. There are many inlets here on the coast, but this must be fresh water, because we do not know better than that rice only grows in fresh water. But searching on the internet shows that there are experiments with growing rice in salt water, but nothing about this region in combination with rice.At the garage it is a matter of waiting and it soon turns out that the ordered caliper is the wrong one. Too bad, because in the Netherlands it costs twice as much, here it was € 75 including assembly. They clean it thoroughly in the oil completely and so we can hopefully be a few weeks ahead. Anyway, we have new brake discs and blocks, so we do not have to be afraid of sliding down a mountain without brakes in the Alps. Of course we have to uses the brakes softly the first thousand kilometers, but we make a 1000 kilometers in a few days during a holiday! The costs are a bit higher than was first said: we are € 290 poorer when Teije drives away from the garage!
On the way back, Teije takes a picture of the Canal du Midi, where we have already visited a few times. The Romans already had plans to connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic via a waterway, but it was not until the 17th century that this plan was made true. The part near Narbonne seems to have been one of the later connecting pieces. The channel is not really wide, but you can make beautiful boat trips, even rent your own boat for a few days to explore a part of the quiet route.We pay at the reception, because tomorrow we leave again, towards the French Alps. We must pay € 13 per night to pay for a pitch, car and two people, including electricity, so not really expensive. Then we search for the restaurant for a drink and then back to the tent. And now we hope that it will not rain tonight, because that has often happened during the last few nights. Of course we prefer to leave with a dry tent.