The Road to Nice – Day 3: June 5th 2015 – Le Puy to Tarascon.

This was the day I was really looking forward to but I approach the bike with a degree of trepidation given the nightmare that was yesterday’s ride. Pulling out of the hotel garage (a hundred yards from the hotel) the Zumo directs me to the left then left again which is what I expected. It then directs me left and left again as it takes me back to the hotel which is the starting point for today’s ride!

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The plan is to take it easy and just enjoy the roads through the Cevennes. I have plenty of time and the choice of different roads. Talking of the roads they are mostly empty and the bike was running like a dream. I found it difficult to believe how easy it is to ride a fully loaded Thunderbird.

Due to the the heat and yesterday’s issues I wasn’t sure how it would pan out but as the morning progressed my confidence in the bike increases and the left hand bank indicator was finding the floor more often than I would have thought.

Brilliant bike, and I suddenly realised after a couple of hours that I hadn’t been aware of the seat. What a change from yesterday. Riding a bike can be sublime or shite and every level in-between. Today it was sublime.

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I stop for a coffee at a roadside cafe called Le Brind d’Ile on the D901 east of Barjac and end up having lunch. Good food and pretty cheap. While I’m at the cafe I tackle the Zumo and finally work out why it keeps trying to take me back to an earlier waypoint. With that solved I get back on the road.

The heat was starting to get to me again and I decided any further deviations would not be a good idea and set the controls for the heart of Tarascon (or the Hotel du Viaduc at least).

Blimey it was hot in Tarascon. A pharmacy was showing 38 and my bike thermometer when I got to the hotel was edging towards 110.

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The hotels have got cheaper the further south I’ve got. 160 euros in Senlis (b&b and evening meal), 89 euros in Le Puy and now 64 in Tarascon.

Plus points for the hotel – cheap and a private car park with a garage for bikes.

Minus points – no toilet in my room (but at least there was a sink and a shower)

The last couple of hours to Tarascon was slightly marred by the velcro tabs holding the knee armour in place coming loose and the hooks quietly scratching away at my knee. Gaffer tape sorts it out but it’s a bit sad that such an expensive piece of kit should suffer such problems.

Tarascon is only a small place but has an impressive castle.

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It’s still in excellent condition but is mostly very large empty stone rooms. I’d liked to have visited its sibling across the river in Beaucaire but didn’t get time. The castle was built in the 1400s and although it initially served both a military and residential function it became a military prison (which at least gave the prisoners a lot of walls to draw rather good pictures of boats on). The castle guide explains exactly what each room would have contained and it’s a pity they didn’t try to put some sort of furnishings in to those empty rooms. I mean, there’s an Ikea not far away that probably has a King’s Chamber Bed.

As I write this I’m reminded of  John Mayall’s Empty Rooms album. Oh dear…. I never really liked John Mayall’s voice and thought his lyrics could sometimes border on the banal but he had a knack for catchy melodies and had top quality musicians working with him. The Turning Point was very good but I was never keen on some of the mawkish nonsense on Empty Rooms. Which then reminds me of the first song I ever wrote – No Money Blues. A lot of barely literate teenage angst mawkish nonsense I’m afraid. I blame John Mayall.

An interesting diversion though (the castle that is) and splendid views from the roof.

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Why Tarascon? Blame Eric (sorry mate). He alerted me to Tartarin of Tarascon. A fictional character from a book by Alphonse Daudet. I read the book years ago and for some reason wanted to visit Tarascon the “home” of this braggart and adventurer so I was most pleased to find his statue. Strangely enough it was exactly as I’d pictured him.

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Eric was not overly enthusiastic about the town (it gets only a page and a half in his book) but then again he didn’t run it down either. He described it as a “pleasant one with a number of old streets” and an “agreeable place for a stroll”. I don’t think it’s changed much.

After the by now customary couple of beers I found the restaurant the hotel had an arrangement with. Le Terminus was perfect for what I needed and I stuffed myself with a smoked salmon salad and an entrecote (saignant of course). I rather wobbled my way back to the hotel wondering if I were about to explode and swore I’d never eat chips again…

All in all I liked Tarascon. It’s an unassuming sort of place. Some interesting things to see and a worthwhile overnight stop if you’re ever in the area. A lot like Eric said then.

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