Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
232Trip End Feb 28, 2007
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Breakfast was adequate. Some nice soft bread for a change. The day was already hot as I dragged the cases to the car...very Mediterranean ...dryish. Our hostess advised us that they had not had any rain since last November which certainly explained the dry surrounds. I don't know where the water came from to clean traveller's dirty bodies and the nursery over the way which even that early in the day was having some of its plants watered . Maybe they dig deep for ground water because most of the fields in the distance were green.
We drove through Lunel to discover that it was a very large industrial town. I was glad we did not drive through the night before and that we found those hotels as we entered the outskirts.
Montpellier was a total surprise. It looked modern. We crossed a long bridge over a wide unnamed river on either side of which was evidence of a lot of new buildings, formal gardens and public space. There was an Olympic pool in one direction and lots of municipal type buildings and fountains on the river bank.
I parked the car just the other side of that bridge and we walked back a short way to view the river, returned and took a direction which seemed to lead into town. Then disaster struck. Anne caught her foot in a crack in the pavement and went sprawling on the ground. She banged her knee, grazed her elbow and fell heavily on her right hand. She walked painfully back to the car feeling very sorry for herself and imagining the worst such as air lifting her back to Kinlochleven which I would not have a bar of. We cleaned up the surface injuries but the hand was the problem...it was the part that hurt.
It was very hard to concentrate as we tried to drive out of Montpellier all the while looking for a hotel. It was the wrong time of day and the streets were heavy with traffic. No time to stop or look around and I had an injured navigator. She refused to go to one of the many 'hopitales' that we passed or a docteur or even the la veuille dame we nearly ran over on a crossing.
We pulled off the highway and drove in to a town called Gignac before we were able to stop. I parked on a residential street first which was nowhere near a shop so I left Anne and went on a "main square" hunt. Having found it I ran back to the car, drove to the small square and parked in a car park through what seemed to be an old castle gate. We sat at a table outside a coffee shop and were served by a very sexy lady dressed in a tight white dress. Anne was cheery but not comfortable. Her knee had blown up but it was the hand that still hurt.
[ I forget which days but I watched England play Trinidad and Tobago who put up a tremendous fight against the lack lustre Poms. Previously I had seen Brazil beat Croatia in the last minute. In the 'Mimosa' I saw Germany beat Poland in the last minute as well. There are three matches this night.]
Lamalou-les-Bains was a small town off the main road which advertised at its turn off all manner of activities such as swimming, canoeing, climbing, hiking, tennis and many hotels. We had not travelled far that day but we were not far away from Felines. Unlike many other French towns Lamalou was set in a valley along a dry river bed not on the side of a hill. [I should imagine that it was a fast running stream before November but I really think they should cross off the canoeing part of the activities sign...at least temporarily.] There was lots of activity in the town...which was unusual for French towns...and the street was wide and had pavements to stroll along. On a side street we saw a sign to a hotel and went in to make enquiries. The owner did not speak English but I got the message across and obtained the key to a room which I off and inspected. Very motel-ish or cabana-ish. A line of rooms around a swimming pool and that which was most important a place for the car almost in front of the room. I went back to the car, drove into the hotel and unloaded Anne and the cases. The TV was useless. No game on that tonight was my first thought.
We went out for a walk around town. It was early afternoon so we were not ready for a meal. We sat outside the casino and had a beer and a cup of tea. When I say casino I mean a place where you can play the pokies. That was all I could see inside. The Woronora RSL club was bigger if not quite as elegant perhaps. It was after all the original Hotel de Ville. As we sipped our drinks on the patio I watched a football game through the entrance of the casino on a large screen but I only gave half my attention to it.
My curiosity was aroused more by the constant flow of people passing by with limb injuries. After the third wheelchair had wheeled into the casino I thought it must be fate because of Anne's situation. But in the street were men on crutches, ladies with arms in plaster, young men with pinned hips, the occasional neck braced person and lots and lots of oldies. What was going on I was thinking. As we walked back to the hotel there were even more disabled. All I could think of was that they had all come to grief by overindulging in one of the many advertised activities (except canoeing). Maybe it was like one of those Swiss towns with magical mineral waters or maybe there had been a vision of the Virgin Mary eating thin crusted pizza at one of the many eateries around town. Anne looked not at all out of place as she limped along with a plaster on her elbow and a bandage around her hand. She did not take kindly to my hints that she follow the crowd to the see where the pizzeria cure was.
If we could see a hospital or a medical centre or any evidence to show why these people were here I would be happy...but nothing.
We strolled up and down the town and then looked for somewhere to eat. I rather fancied some fish and chips but no such luck. In the end we settled for an Italian restaurant...not the Virgin pizzeria. The tables outside were reserved so we sat inside. Three strange things happened. The first was that I ordered yet another pizzza (which turned out to be not very nice). The second was that we were joined inside by a young man and his parents with their dog. So sitting quietly next to me was a dog. Five minutes later another couple rolled in accompanied by their dog and sat opposite. Dog was given bowl of water whilst owners puffed on their cigarettes...indoors. Thirdly, the outside reservations were taken over by a group of ten young, noisy, smoking persons who were either in wheelchairs, on crutches or had some other obvious disability. Well. I just had to find the magic waters and dip Anne in them. I was very tempted to simply walk up to those youngsters and ask in my best Frangalais as to just quois est going on. But I did not. Someone might have hit me with a stick.
Back at the hotel all was revealed. A talkative German in the next cabin explained that 'Les Bains' meant 'baths' and that up in the hillside there most definitely was a complex containing mineral baths, a hospital and a plethora of uniformed professionals all prepared to dunk bodies or part thereof in the warm. salty. sulphuric, volcanic waters to ease all aches and pains. In fact he himself came twice a year to help with his arthritis.