We had trouble getting out of bed this morning when the alarm went off at 8:00. We stayed up late last night with Ingrid and Yves, talking and laughing for hours. Nevertheless, we rolled out of bed and stumbed into the shower to start the day. Today we would be leaving our dear friends in Estelle to move on to other adventures. As we walked through each room, making sure we hadn't forgotten anything, I felt a little like we were packing up and leaving home all over again.
We spent more time in Estelle than any other place in the last three months and we both felt a little sad leaving. Ingrid packed our tupperwares full of food, and Yves left us fresh herbs and sprigs of lavender in our panniers! We all sat down to one last breakfast together, then went outside for hugs and made promises to meet up again. We cycled off, waving goodbye until they were out of sight. Thank you for everything Ingrid and Yves! We will miss you!
After four days away it felt strange mounting my bike. No matter, a kilometer or so on the saddle and it felt great to be on the road once again. The riding day passed smoothly and and easily; we enjoyed wonderful, lengthy downhills followed by long stretches of flat roads between the dry Provencale hills and sunflower fields.
We experienced even more quintessential Provence when stopping for groceries. A tanned, leathery man saw our bikes in the parking lot and laughed. "Pastis!" he said, "You must put pastis in your waterbottles to give you strength!" From the looks of it, he had been gathering his strength all morning.
After the 50-60 kilometers we had planned to ride, we began our search for a campsite. As we rode the chirping drone of the cicadas was at times louder than the traffic! The kilometers wore on, and no campsite was to be found. We still had loads of energy and plenty of time, but we both wanted to quit while we were ahead. I was a little worried our easy day would turn into a long, drawn out one with campsite-searching.
Thankfully I spotted a fruit and vegetable stand and was able to ask one of the patrons, a woman who was stowing several purchases in her trunk where we might find a nearby campsite. She pointed down the road, only a kilometer away in the town of Crespian we would find what we were looking for. YES! Relieved to avoid a long, exhausting day we cheered while wheeling our bikes into Camping le Mas de Reilhe. According to the sign, it had a heated pool! Upon closer investigation, we saw that today was a cut-off date beween tourist seasons, meaning that we would either be charged 15 (normal), or a whopping 21, depending on which side of the coin we were on. With high hopes, and relieved to be "home" for the night, I walked into the reception office with my friendliest hello.
When I arrived a British couple in front of me, practically naked in what could hardly be called swimming suits, were making plans with the girl in reception. They intended to bring her to several parties, rescuing her from her apparently boring summer job. After thoroughly organizing her social life, the girl reluctantly turned her attention to me to inform me where we could set up camp. She frostily showed me a map of the site, and pointed to the pitch she had assigned to us—Pitch number 83, up a large hill in the far end of the campsite, some distance from bathrooms and water. Then she charged me 22 (1 tax) for our 6'x6' plot of land which would be used for less than 24 hours, the same as the British couple and their camper van. I felt like we'd been punished for some unknown crime and banished to the far reaches of Siberia.
As we heaved our bikes up the hilly path to campsite number 83, we passed at least thirty perfectly nice uninhabited pitches. Of course, we said to hell with where she had "assigned" us. We would be in pitch 76 stealing their electricity. Cooling clouds gathered overhead, and we quickly set up camp before it started sprinkling. I packed a backpack with our towels, and we walked back down the hill to check out the pool and the promising shelves of English books I had noticed in reception. Books in English are becoming more and more scarce; we jump at any chance to exchange the ones we've already finished.
We spent some time looking through all the shelves of books, excitedly picking out what would be our entertainment for the next few weeks. After picking out a couple, planning to exchange them with the books we'd already read (a common practice in many campsites), the girl at the counter informed us that it was a library and the books had to be returned. When Tyler asked if we could do an exchange, she informed us that it was unlikely but it depended on the book. She eyed us distrustfully and as we were about to leave, said that in order to keep track of the books she would have to write down the titles. Exceedingly annoyed, we 'checked out' our books and left to go for a swim.
As soon as we walked out of reception it started to sprinkle and sunburned tourists quickly fled from the pool to the safety of their motorhomes as if a bomb had dropped. Sweet. We would have the pool all to ourselves! We went through the gate, along with another "brave" couple, when a man came running out and warned us against swimming. "It may be a thunderstorm--" he said, wagging his finger at us and then pointing up towards the sprinkles, "Very, very dangerous!" We thought he was just looking out for us, so we smiled, said thank you, and continued making our way towards the pool. This did not make him happy; he ran over to usher us out the gate. He was closing the pool.
Even more annoyed, we left and took cold showers instead. An hour later as we were sitting in the tent listening to the sprinkles and reading, a golf cart driven by our arch nemesis approached. She jumped out and said that her boss told her to collect our books! Apparently since we had already paid they had no guarantee we would return them. She offered to take our passports as collatoral but we opted to hand the books over immediately, hoping to avoid future interaction with anyone running this disaster of a campsite.
Thankfully, it was. We cozied up in the tent to watch Lost while the rain picked up and finally became a thunderstorm; our first away from home. We loved listening to the crashing thunder and pouring rain, a rare pleasure reminding us of summertime at home in the Midwest.