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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

They're in France...

Mazamet. Too much for tea at the hotel - must learn not to have the three course deal even if it sounds ok. Used the Internet to get a few things done - free Internet at the last camping place was useless.
Met an older chap from nz who was also riding around and when he mentioned 1200 G asked him if he was going pbp. The 1200 turned out to be an enormous BMW motor bike. He has done quite a few trips including Norway to nz.
We started in the morning just as the rain did, great timing. Tried an Aldi for a sim card to no avail but did have to queue for ages as the cheques were slowly written out and processed. Drizzle and overcast on the way to Castres so into the main square for hot chocolate.  Met an English cyclist Rosy who was also heading to sf. Decided to stay the night and after circumnavigating the town eventually found the camp. Set up tent and headed back to the Goya Museum which was worth the 5 euro.  Cidre hot chocolate and crepes followed then a trip to the supermarket which was around the corner but only visible after looking for it on the Internet. Rosy told us about a velo route to Albi which we might try tomorrow.
A few spots of rain on the ride back to the camp slowly got heavier with lightning to match. Our first home cooked meal turned a bit soggy. Retired to the tent at about a quarter to seven and two hours later it is still pissing down. The new tent survived its  first rain. Still overcast in the morning. Castres is full of one way streets and these ones did not work to our advantage as we were pushed away to the west twice so eventually went with the flow and found ourselves at a great boulangerie at a tiny town called Semalens. From here we headed north through rolling green hills and our first sunflowers. Glo was suffering and we rode through Lautrec without a sideways glance. The most direct route to Albi was deemed essential so we ended up on a busyish road which we realised had the gravel bike path beside it most of the way into Albi. Third time lucky to get a cold drink and ice cream in Albi before heading to Terssac  to get our paperwork from the pick up  point. As usual the strangers table was quiet and friendly. They also had noted that they will refund Peter and Jan's entry after they cancelled - the call of Vienna was more pressing!
No sign of Murk, our octinagarian friend from Lancefield. We rode off to the camping and with a few directions found our allocated spots and Murk already there with Australian flag flying over his camper van. He had talked his way in to the right place. After setting up the tent we headed down to the convivialati tent for some food and the best cidre  in the world. 
We are part of a contingent of 13500 cyclists and 2700 volunteers, mostly camping on the Albi airfield/motor race circuit. It is enormous - 1.5k  to the food area, 1.8k  to get to the gate. Mostly camper vans with some camping with bikes and panniers. Next year Dijon if anyone is interested!
First day's ride for us was the Sunday 3rd longest of the 4 routes.  120k  with 1400m  of climbing as it turned out. The climbs were  regular  and tending to the steep end of the scale. Past the enormous Aldi cathedral through the hills to the first Accueil  at Valderies for a very nice cake and short black. Nine  am, hardly anyone bothered to stop so we had the table to ourselves.  Beer tent was being utilized however. On to the beau village of Monastic for our jumbo sandwich. Saw Peter and Leigh coming in as we were going out again. They took the long route from there and we didn't see them again until dinner in the Permanance. Hot day, lots of cyclists, lots of hills with the occasional châteaux. Cidre  when we finished,  shower then off to dinner with 500 of our closest French cycling mates. And Alan Walker, Joan, Peter and Leigh. Then to a well earned sleep

Monday decided that the 60 of a flattish p2 course would  work for us and it did. Hot again so early start and finished by 12.  
Tuesday. Great day today. Ninety k started in the drizzle and ended in a pleasant 28 or so. Climbed up to Realmont with few other cyclists - I think lots of riders needed a break and sat out the weather in Albi coffee shops with the Donnan  team. Had a good lunch and look around Realmont. Lots happening in the town square and saw a poster for the next edition of Bubbles and Sebastian. Whoohoo for maremma films. Took short cut to Lautrec. Great place and turns out their windmill was used to crush a nut which provided a blue dye that Mark's great grandfather used to buy to use in their paint factory in Holland. A combination of road, gravel bike paths nasty climbs got us back to Albi in time for a cidre  and then off to tea in the potato restaurant with Alan, Joan, Peter and Leigh. Murk no where to be seen after visiting his dutch friends that he hadn't seen for 20 years. The 2 year old baby was now ready to get married!
Wednesday. Forecast was for 36 and Glo still coughing. The loud French voice had just ceased when the cough opened up and hopefully kept him awake til all hours. Easy to decide to have a day in Albi which we had not really had a chance to see this time around.  A Dutch couple chatted with us and Murk and it turns out they have stayed with a friend in Mt Macedon. After changing the charging system on the bike (the spinergy  was not giving much power at the speeds we were riding) we rode the 6 k into Albi. A coffee in front of the enormous church could have been more leisurely but G was on a mission. Crowded church first then 3 hours in the HenryToulouse Lautrec museum. Great museum and great palace which contained it. No sign of previous owners - chased out by one of the revolutions? Afternoon meet a strong around town then stayed for the organ recital in church number 3. Back to the camping trying to do the very tired looking riders coming back from the days programme. No sign of Peter Donnan, Leigh Patterson and Joan who were  planning to do the longest ride because it was flatter than the second longest. 150 k in the 36 degrees would be a fair ride.  Off to the permanence for dinner, still  no sign of Joan who appeared during the main course - taking her time and getting lost. No sign of the accordion player, lastseen fast asleep and very sunburnt at about 7 pm.  dinner included some very nice polenta  - first edible polenta I've come across! Still warm at 9.30

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