Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Perpignan, France: Deja Vu

Heading to France with the snow-capped Pyrenees in the distance.
The Pyrenees mountain range separates France from Spain.  The Tour de France crosses the Pyrenees, and so must we.  But John and his excellent planning found a route that would avoid the higher elevations that we could see in the distance, glowing white with snow from the recent storms.  This route sneaks around the eastern end through the towns of La Jonquera on the Spanish side and Le Perthus on the French side.

It seemed most of the traffic was on the toll road, but we followed a secondary highway that roughly paralleled it.  Light traffic and courteous Spanish drivers made it easy enough.  There were numerous truck stops along the way with food and fuel opportunities, as well as a few sex shops. At one lonely intersection woman in platform shoes, leopard tights, and big hair dancing to music from the boombox next to her was also trying to attract some business.
Our first pique nique in France!
The pass was a gentle, easy grade, but then just as we crossed into France, it became narrow, steep, and lined with all kinds of shops selling t-shirts and cheap junk.  We huffed our way up with cars trying to get around us.  But once we crested to the top of the pass the commerce zone ended, the congested traffic dissipated, and we coasted down a winding road with fine views in many directions.

By noon the wind was picking up.  We knew of a municipal campground on a lake and we were on track for an early afternoon arrival.  When we got there the wind was howling and there were whitecaps on the lake and the campground was closed.,  Deja vu.  Due to open on April 1, which was the next day.  We peeked through the fence and saw someone zipping around on a golf cart.  We found an open gate and let ourselves in and rode around looking for someone.  Surely they would take pity on two cyclists caught in terrible crosswinds.

We eventually found a teenage girl, who was very surprised to see us.  We asked if we could stay, even though they were not yet officially open.  She said no, no, no, it was not possible, no, no.  We got the message, and after getting vague directions to the nearest hotel, we braced ourselves to ride into the wind.

The gusts were approaching 50 mph when we got out in the flats or anywhere that was slightly elevated.  At times we could not ride and had to walk the bikes,  We hunkered down at one point behind a concrete barrier and pulled out the Lonely Planet brick and saw there was a hostel in Perpignan, usually an inexpensive option.  It took us two hours to go 10 km, crossing the city with blasting wind, heavy traffic and few bike lanes.  We finally found the hostel, pulled up to the gate, and we both could not believe the sign stating that the hostel was permanently closed,  Deja vu all over again.

We went a few blocks, saw a hotel, and John went in and asked how much. One hundred plus per night, but if we wanted a less expensive option we could go around the corner and there was another hotel.  So we rolled  over there, went to the desk, and it was the same clerk that John had just talked to.  There was a hallway connecting the two reception desks -- both hotels were operated by the same company.  This one was 46 euro a night, and no problem taking our bikes inside the room.  It was getting dark at this point, so we checked in.
Our little haven from the windstorm.
The room was a marvel of efficiency.  A queen bed with a bunk above took up one half of the room, and the shower and a center fixture with a vanity on one side and a desk-like platform on the other.  The WC was its own sanctum with a door.  The wind howled outside all night, and it was still howling the next day, so we stayed another night.  We spent the day walking around the old core of the city, eating our first French meal of the most perfectly prepared crepes, and sucking up the wifi.  It all turned out fine in the end, and anytime John wants to stay in an Ibis hotel, I’m all for it.
Wonderful buildings in the hear of Perpignan's old center.

Many of the building exteriors are decorated with local rounded river rocks.

Cemetery/cloister in old Perpignan.

More wonderful narrow streets.

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Anita Herrmann said...

Hi brave tour de francionistas. I'm sitting with my legs up reading your fairy tale. How many km do you do in a day. You have to go early to bed. No reading with a flashlight under the blanket, duvet or sleeping bag. My eyes are every where. Have a good cycling day with no punctures. A big smoocher from peter. Hoi

Ann said...

Man oh man did you earn that day off!! I love the part about the one clerk/2 hotels. Ha ha ha.

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