journal excerpt of bicycle trip 1998:


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Sete (two photos pasted) ©TPH98 (jpg 5.89kb)


Sete Monday 5 October 1998 9:30am

Hotel 165FF
2 beds sink bidet wc down hall and outside!

Yesterday morning in Montpellier, it was overcast and cool (about 15C) We went to a patisserie and bought quiches an ate them with coffee from the bar next door. The coffee was really strong - too stong for my taste but T loved it (especially because he got to finish mine as well as his).

There was a man reading the paper when we ordered our coffee. T asked about the forecast and they said it's supposed to be sunny but pretty iffy for the beginning of the week. I said, "but no snow" and got a big laugh - not just from the man with the paper but a younger man sitting further down the bar.

By 10:30 we were ready to head out. We stopped at a Moaroccan fruit market and bought bread & fruit but rejected his sleection of cheese, thinking we would find better cheese later on in the day.

We rode out, asking at an intersection for the direction to Perol and were pointed to where there is a bike path that took us all the way to Perol. It was a narrow paved path that followed the busy D route but because we were virtually alone on it, it was a pretty painless way to travel with pine groves between us and the highway.

At Perol, we went into a deadend street, looking for the Canal du Rhone. We asked a man with a little trailer on his truck and he said to follow him. He took us the short distance back, going slowly enough so we could follow (no doubt driving the following cars mad) and there we were!

It was raining ever so slightly but was an absolutely beautiful day.E at Canal du Rhone between Perol and Sete ©TPH98 (jpg 2.89kb) We had to ride through a flock of territorial geese before getting out into the real wilderness. We saw many more flamingoes, (so many more that we began to look upon them as rather common unremarkable things). But then we saw some of them flying, looking like very odd sticks in the air. We saw a flock flying south in a V shape. I wonder if all birds migrate in V's? We had to cross a barricade that told us circulation was forbidden. But it was clear that many cyclists before us had gone that way and indeed, we met several.

We stopped to gaze at the gate to the Cathedral de Maguelone where the pope resided in the 1500's (?) There were tours but we would have had to wait an hour (and who can say if the sign was correct? It was such a desolate area that it seemed nobody would ever come). We rode out to a point that was right on the Mediterranean and picked up rocks and shells as souvenirs.

Then on we went along the desolate bumpy road, listening to the sounds of the flamingoes (like hundreds of frogs) and water lapping. We saw a couple of very fast smaller birds with vivid turquoise backs. They were so fast that we just saw a flash of turquoise as they zigged and zagged right close to the water.

Because we had found no cheese store, we stopped for expensive (but good) lunch of sandwiches at Les Aresquiers. We sat in the bar and watched the happy families in the dining rooom with children talking animatedly to adults. Outside as we left, there were more children running on the beach and/or playing "Store" by the restaurant. A little girl held out her hand for pebble money and a big girl shook her head and handed her a flat rock and said, "ma Carte"

We got to Frontignan and went briefly into a horse fair that had free entry. We were badgered mercilessly by a man to buy a lottery ticket for only 10FF. He kept telling us it was ONLY 10FF. T said we weren't rich and he pointed at our bikes and helmets and said we could afford 10FF. We finally escaped and left without seeing any horses at all. We were a little annoyed that the local inhabitants who were coming in were being ignored entirely by this awful man.

Frontignan was shut up tight because of Sunday closing. Some locals told us there were no hotels anyway. We rode around a little and it appeared to be true. We met some bargers who warned us of the hazards of the North African influence in Sete (watch your belongings, old chap") and told us they barge in France every year ("takes a bit of discipline though") There were two men and a cowed looking woman who hardly spoke at all. Then back we went to the Canal du Rhone and went as far as we could until we saw that it disappeared into the Mediterranean. We did the last kilometre or so into Sete on a busy road and got to this hotel with little difficulty.
. .
. distance:42.42km .
av.sp:12.8 km/hr
max.sp:31 km/hr

It's turning into a beautiful day - it was quite overcast and foggy early this moring. We're high up in this hotel with a little balcony looking onto the roof top of the building across the street. The lady of the hotel brought our breakfast up to us on a tray. What decadence!

4:15 pm It's been a much needed (for me anyway) easy day. T is still out riding. I'm tired and going too slowly for him so he has left me here in our little garret. We rode around Sete going a total of
. .
. distance:16.04 km .
av.sp:9.4 km/hr
max.sp:23 km/hr

After breakfast, we went high up to the top of the city. The road had to be at a 45º angle and we both walked. But it was worth the climb. We reached Panomramique des Pierres Blanches (sunny 18C) and saw a beautiful, if hazy, view of the surrounding area - the Mediterranean to the south dotted with fishing boats and some sail boats, oyster beds in the Etang to the west and norht and the city itself to the north and east.

There is a nature path there with a few signs. I was amzaed to learn that the olive is not indigenous to this area but was brought here by the Greeks and Romans. It, of course, has taken hold and is a big part of the economy. And jasmine is indigenous. Could this be the heavenly scent we are inhaling everywhere?

We headed down again towards the coast and stopped to watch the waves crashing against the rocks on a beach that does not allow swimming. We got to the Theatre St.Jean de la Mer and looked briefly at a cemetary across the road. The road is carved through huge section of roack and the rock face on either side is entirely lined with green chicken wire.

I am still malingering with this disease. We went to the pharmacy and got another course of medicine (prescription dose!). I was told if I'm not better in three days, I have to see a doctor. What a bore. I'm going to get better. I really don't want to waste time in a doctor's office.

We're both sorry that it isn't a bit warmer becasue it would have been fun to swim. I suppose we should be thankful that it hasn't been raining the way it seems to be everywhere else in France right now!

Last night, we had a very mediocre dinner at Au Piq'Boeuf. It was my fault because I insisted on going to a place that would serve paella. The waiter was very weird and puffed around like a rooster when T had the audacity to ask if the bouillabaise was really good. The only really pleasant thing that happened was when a little boy from a neighboring table came up to T and in a sweet little voice, earnestly asked him (in French) if T spoke English. T said in a big kind voice, smiling, "Oui!" and the boy turned around, embarassed and terribly pleased with himself and ran and hid in his mother's arm. The family all beamed.

For what it's worth, we had

menu 80FF
T: 6 oysters (very fresh except one)
E: coquilles St.Jacques (a bit fishy)
T: bouillabaise
E: paella (overdone)

Rose Listel Domaine de Jarras
gris de gris vin de pays des sables du Golfe du Lion

E: Baveroi du chocolat avec creme anglaise (too sweet and woo much lik Sherif pudding)
T: creme caramel - grainy

total 236 FF

Brr. I certainly hope tonight's dinner is better. I'm convinced that the dinner made me sick again because I was so much better yesterday afternoon. Sete Canals ©TPH98 (jpg 2.77kb) Before dinner was fun though. We walked around gazing in wonder at the canal and all the boats morred. The fishing boats were particularly wonderful, lined up beside big stacks of nets all coiled and ready to go.

We looked at a number of restaurants, all seeming very touristy because most places were closed because it was Sunday.Sete Canal du Rhone night ©TPH98 (jpg 2.77kb) The one we chose seemed like the least of the evils (except T said there were a couple he would have preferred but they didn't serve rice dishes.) After last nights' fiasco, I don't care how sick I am, we'll go to whichever restaurant seems to be the best. After choosing our restaurant, we went to 'the Simpson Bar' that had pictures of Homer, Lisa, Bar, Maggie and Marge all over the walls. They didn't serve DUFF beer though; in fact the bartender had never even heard of DUFF beer. But I had a regiional aperitif of Muscat. Delicious. He served me from a bottle of Chateau de Muscat de Frontignan. T had his usual Ricard. We asked about Byrr and the fellow says it's too old fashioned for him to serve.

Sete Tuesday 6 Oct 7:45 am cool cloudy

It poured with rain last night. So far the paper weather forecast has been pretty wrong. But we seem to have escaped getting drenched so far.

Last night we walked around a little and then went for a drink at the Simpson Bar again. It seemed to me to be full of rough types but when we sat outside, it wasn't so bad.

We watched some people row by in a dory. They looked very smart. I think there were 6 of them and each oar was beautifully in sync with the other. They seemed a happy mix of men and women of all ages - I guess it was a club. A few moments later, another dory came along and the rowers were not doing as well at all, oars going in the water awkwardly at all different times and coming out at different angles. The skip (right word?) made them all stop and start again at a much slower pace and they didn't do quite so badly as they came by us.

There was a small boy who was looking at a parked motorcycle. A police car came up and honked at a double parked car and the boy, sure that he was being chastised, ran behind T saying something like "I'll hide behind you..." There was a steady stream of traffic on the other side of the canal but our side was fairly quiet.

We headed back to the restaurant recommended by the patronne of our hotel. We walked past a really nice looking corner bar that we both agreed was the sort we preferred. The street was lined with the mmost beautiful ornate buildings.

We got to the restaurant and were greeted by the woman who had been cleaning the mirrors of the bar in the morning when we had come by to look. She had the most amazing mop of dry straight yet fluffy platinum and orange hair. It looked like she had hacked at at with nail clippers. Around her neck were some black glasses with rhinestones in the corners. They were hanging from some black beads and she often put them on to read her order book then took them off again to hurry away to the next customer.

She sat us down and immediately asked us if we wanted red or rose wine. And away she rushed. Then she came back and quickly asked which of the salads and reeled off what the salads were.

We were very confused but finally figured out that we should just get the 55FF menu (this friendly woman had assumed we would do so) which included wine. She repeated the salads again more slowly, smiling all the time. We made our choices and she smiled brilliantly and raced off.

The place was packed with a family at one table, an elderly lady and her daughter at another table, two working men at another, a single woman who looked a little sad at another table, another solitary elderly man in a peaked hat and striped sweater at another table and so on. Everyone, except the solitary ones, were talking and eating animatedly.

Le Grillon Restaurant

55 FF Menu
E: salade des tomates
T: charcuterie salad (meat only!)
E: taglietelle au saumon
T: cote du porc avec sauce au poivres verts

red wine

E: tarte aux pommes
T: Ille flotant

Total 110FF!

My salad had fresh tuna and onion slices and came with a bottle of salad dressing. T's came with some gherkins. There was ham, sausage and head cheese. While we were eating salad, the waitress, smiling at everyone as she passed them, came to say there was no more taglietelle, would spagghetti do? Fine. Another brilliant smile, race off, smiling again at everyone.

T's porkchop was fabulously tender and the sauce was really creamy. There wasn't just salmon in my pasta but mussels as well (maybe other seafood too?) It was very very good. My dish also came with an open raw egg yolk sitting in a brown half shell. I tried to disguise my look of horror (I'm not even very fond of cooked eggs) as T took it off my hands and mixed it into his spaghetti that he had got as his "vegetable". His choices for vegetables were mashed potato, frites or pasta!

Near the end of our dinner a man came in a sat down and suddenly the patronne (not our waitress) started yelling at himn to leave (because he hadn't paid a time before???) He yelled back at her. Their altercation silenced the restaurant. Our waitreess came over with our bill, looking a little embarrassed (but not much) and said quietly through the still shouting people "Je ne sais pas" I replied "Nous non plus" and she gave us another of her brief brilliant smiles.

After the man left, there was an awkward silence and then the 6 men at one table started joking with the patronne and the restaurant returned to its former self with everyone talking. Even the solitary woman who was smoking and drinking her wine, filling each glass to the correct level, began to talk a little with one of her neighbours.

We left with a chorus of Bonsoirs and T said a special Bonsoir to the single lonely woman. I looked through the window as we walked off and she was looking down at her glass smiling quietly and contentedly.

next stop Pezenas...

Our route:

route map bike trip98 (gif 3.34kb)

You can click on the map above for an enlargement of our route.

Thanks to excite travel for the France map template
and University of Texas library on line for the relief map template.

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© ejm 1998-99
Toronto Ontario Canada

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