Nov 30- Béziers, Narbonne, and “Résidence Les Barbecues”

30 Nov: First thing on today’s agenda: eat pancakes on the beach. We even got all fancy and brought out our table and used silverware and everything. Just like grown-ups.

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We left Sète and drove south along a small road built on the narrow piece of land separating the Étang de Thau and Mediterranean (technically the Balearic).

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Through Agde and bearing slightly north, we came to Béziers. I had wikapediaed this place and knew that I wanted to see it, but I didn’t quite take into account the steep narrow roads typical of a hill city like this. If one is in a normal passenger car, there is no real need for too much thinking or planning to be done about the steepness of roads, aside from the obvious deciding when to shift, etc etc. But when you’re driving a 4-ton bus plus hanger with like 60 horsepower, these things really, really matter.

Imagine the following scenario: you’re driving and you’re like, oh, I need to make a sharp left. So you slow down, put your blinker on, go to turn left, and all of a sudden see that you’re faced with an immediate 20% incline, beginning before you have even finished turning. Now you’re fucked. Since the turn was at a sharp right angle, you had to shift into second gear and have zero inertia to help you conquer this incline. So the only options you have left are a) shift into first gear and try to drag all four tons at snail’s pace up this fucking insane ramp and pray, pray, pray that your clutch doesn’t fail you halfway to the top, or b) you halt and retreat, but now you’re faced with the task of trying to drive backwards around a corner with an unwieldy hanger that you can’t quite see on a road that is three centimeters wider than your vehicle, with sidewalks full of people starting right after that, and apartments and storefronts starting right after that. It’s about as much fun as it sounds.

Needless to say, we needed to get out of this place fast. We stopped in a small parking lot (a parking lot!!!) and took a walk through the graveyard.

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We braved the perilous inner city streets to get across to the other side to get a view of the castle on the top of the hill and the old stone footbridge that crosses the water. And then, we left.

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On to Narbonne, where the roads are mercifully wider and less labyrinthine. We took a walk to the cathedral and around the old city. The cathedral was enormous and beautiful, as they always are. I can never get over the ubiquity of these things. Every twenty kilometers there’s some new colossal piece of extravagant architecture, to the point where it almost (almost) gets boring.

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The cathedral was filled, of course, with creepy art.

The usual; sculptures of dead bodies, paintings of people in mortal agony, body parts of saints in gold boxes surrounded with as much expensive shit as there’s space for.

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(^ ^Saint Body Parts)

We also saw a nativity scene which was missing the baby Jesus figurine. Philipp notices this and starts guffawing about the idea of someone stealing baby Jesus. I had to explain that people often don’t add the baby Jesus statue until Christmas day, because he isn’t supposed to be born before that (even though, of course, no one knows for sure when he was really born, but that’s a different post). He still thinks I’m lying to him.

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We strolled around in the inner city for a bit longer, and then we drove on.

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Just south of Narbonne we stopped at a Dia (the name of a supermarket) and found a ton of food. There was a nice old couple there doing the same thing that we were.IMG_6995

We really did well this time.

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Among a bunch of other stuff, we found two giant pieces of duck (I’m tempted to call them shanks, but I don’t know if ducks actually have shanks? Am I allowed to call them that?), four packages of lox, pork cutlets, six packages of fresh mozzarella, and artisan cheese. I never stopped being amazed by the level of gourmet the stuff that we find in the trash is.

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My rules about eating meat from the dumpster are as follows:

  1. Must be found and eaten on or before the ‘sell by’ date.
  2. Must still be cool
  3. Must be vacuum packed.

The duck legs and the pork cutlets met all these criteria, and since the sell-by date was today, they were going to be dinner. I definitely did not want to cook those in the bus (1- because of all the smoke, 2- I’ll never get the smell out, and 3- the struggle of washing the dirty pan afterwards). Grilling seemed the best option.

We drove until we found a small parking lot next to the water, on the Étang de Leucate. Philipp made a fire and we had a feast.

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After we left, I looked at the map and realized that we had coincidentally parked in “Résidence Les Barbecues”— the residence of barbecues, calling out to all weary would-be barbecuers, a safe haven for grillers of all walks of life.

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Voll gefressen, we packed up and continued driving south along the water to Canet-en-Roussillon. I picked up some last supplies from the French supermarket since we will soon be crossing into Spain (French Shopping List).

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To end the day, we roasted chestnuts and drank hot glühwein while we watched a movie. Today was a good day.

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