Friday, 19 June 2009

Friday 12th June 2009 – Tuesday 16th June 2009

Miramar Camping, La Londe-les-Maures (ACSI2009-1263) N43.11845 E6.24639

We move west along the coast, to visit an area we have intended to visit on previous trips, but never quite made it. The further west we go away from the St Tropez area, the less commercial it becomes. La Londe-les-Maures is a “real” small French town, rather than a purpose built resort.

It is Friday and we are in a new place, so church hunting is the first priority, after we have set up the van. We cycle into La Londe-les-Maures and begin looking for the church. A good bet usually is to find the “Marie” (Town Hall), almost always signposted and the church is usually nearby. We find La Marie, but no church is in site, we ask a shopkeeper who is just locking up his shop for lunch time (most small shops still close for lunch in France), and he tells us “la Bas” (over there), so we cycle off in the direction he points.

Sure enough we come to the church a few hundred metres along the road. Here we encounter another common problem in France, the name of the church is not displayed, and the notice board outside the church refers to more than one church. While Kathleen attempts to read the French notice, I wander around the corner looking for the street name, which may help us determine which church we are actually at. Sitting on a bench in the street are an elderly lady, and a younger one who I take to be her daughter or even Granddaughter. They are dressed in Moslem style including headscarves. The older one asks me (in French of course) what I am looking for (at least I think that is what she said). I first explain to her that I am English, and that my French is not good. Another torrent of French is the response. Kathleen arrives on the scene, and explains (in passable French) we are trying to find the mass times for the church.

The old lady takes it upon herself to solve the problem, and gestures to us to follow her. She leads us around the side of the church, to the priests house, and rings on the bell. An elderly priest emerges (at least I think he was a priest, since he is in his vest, and minus his dog-collar). We have clearly disturbed his siesta, and he is not too pleased. He does however confirm, yes, mass is 10:00 Sunday, at this church.

I thought it was very nice of the old lady to go to such trouble, especially when she appeared to belong to the opposition, or maybe she just enjoys disturbing Catholic priests during their siesta.

The church matter settled, we explore a little and stumble on a promising cycle path, which we follow to its end at Mauvanne (about 5 miles away), before returning to La Londe-les-Maures for a cooling beer.

This area is absolutely covered in cycle tracks, or “piste cyclible” as they would have it. So we visit the Tourist Information Office and attempt to get a map which will allow us to cycle to Hyeres, which we have been told is worth a visit. We are not too successful at obtaining a map, but we cycle off anyway, you cannot go too far wrong if you keep the sea on your left, I tell Kathleent. We get to Hyeres Plage, which we subsequently discover is further than Hyeres. It is fairly easy going, although there is a reasonable distance on the road, which is never too much fun. After an invigorating coffee (yes, coffee), we head back, and following the signs back to La Londe-les-Maures, we follow a quieter and more pleasant route back, although it is longer. We cover a respectable 20 miles, and on our return I treat Kathleen to an ice cream (I am just too generous, I know).

After lunch. Kathleen opts for the beach, I have run out of books to read, and I have read all of the English newspapers we have, so my options on the beach are severely limited (those of you who have been following regularly will understand why), so I set off to further explore the available cycle tracks.

I am instructed, that on my return I must go to the beach and help Kathleen carry her gear back. So I have to wander along a beach of (mostly) topless women, looking for Kathleen (who I know will have her top on, so this narrows down the odds of finding her). It is a difficult task, but someone has to do it, and I rise to the occasion. I manage to find her before it gets dark.

I rustle up a fairly passable spaghetti bolognaise for our evening meal, not bad if I say so myself, even if we are missing half of the ingredients in our sparsely filled cupboards, a trip to the supermarket is needed urgently.

While I clear away the debris of our meal and do the washing up, Kathleen mounts a concert on her guitar for our Dutch and German neighbours. It is amazing how they all know the same 60’s repertoire (Dylan, Baez, Everleys etc etc), true they are mostly in our age group, I can only think they all spent their teenage years in a marijuana induced haze in Amsterdam.

On the information board at the site, there is a notice for a choir concert at the church on Saturday evening (20:30). We decide to forego an evening of drinking and cycle along there. It is quite well attended, indeed when we arrive at 20:15, there is already a queue waiting to get in. The choir sing unaccompanied, and it is rather good. At the interval, there is a little “pop group” called “Never Mind”, consisting of two boys on electric guitar one on a keyboard. They did three numbers, which all sounded the same to us, but full marks for trying, since they are very young, only 15 or 16 I would say. I did wonder that perhaps it was not a Catholic do, since there were no raffles and no bingo!, but we did make a 5Euro donation. Pity I am not an MP, I could have put it on my expenses.

Sunday and Kathleen is off to church. I find a “la Presse”, selling English newspapers and occupy myself until she emerges. They have closed off the centre of La Londe (goodness knows where all the traffic goes to) and there is a market in full swing. Slightly more fun than the “tourist” specials, many stalls selling food, in particular sausages which look about 100 years old, and enormous pans of simmering paella which smells delicious. We round off the market at what has now become our “local” with a glass of chilled rose. We cycle back to the marina for lunch overlooking the sea. Having stuffed ourselves full and had another bottle of rose, Kathleen decides that we must do some exercise to justify it, so after a suitable rest, we do a 20 mile circuit on the bikes.

Monday, after visiting the supermarket for supplies, we cycle almost to Fort de Bregancon, (which is about 10 miles away) and is, we are told, the summer retreat of the French President (ie Sarko & Carla), but wimp out about 2 miles short, then return to the van to pig out on strawberries and ice cream, plus a couple of beers. We round it off with a spell lying on the beach, where Kathleen is trying to get her tan completely even.

Tuesday is to be our last day here, so other than a hair washing exercise, during which I disappear to buy a newspaper and a loaf of delicious walnut bread, we spend our time packing away our “outside stuff”, and mostly lying about eating strawberries and ice cream. We stir ourselves in a short peddle around in the evening just to keep our muscles from seizing up!

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