Wake up in Limoges - spent last night, after dinner, browsing through tourist brochures trying to find a porcelain place in Limoges - for which it is internationally famous - to visit in the morning before rolling wheels to Carcassonne. Not much luck - lots of places shut in January - or open only in the afternoon - or closed on Mondays - never mind, it provides a reason for returning (as if I needed one). So, we head directly for the autoroute and a whole lot more traffic than yesterday - going very fast. It is still grey and drizzling, but not quite as cold as northern France. The undulating countryside gives way to more defined hills, initially small but getting bigger as we travel south through western France. Once again, we have the toll - no toll routine on the same road. Today we need to stop for petrol - we discover that on the car's display, when the tank is full, it displays a maximum number of kilometres, and it counts down as you travel, letting you know how much fuel is left, in terms of kms to travel - neat little device
. French service stations provide you with plastic gloves, too, as we discover when we make a pit stop for the car and both of us. Drive a little bit further to find an aire with lunch - quiche Lorraine, with 'salad' (lettuce) - just the right size, different from what we get at home, but really nice. The traffic increases as we near Toulouse - it is the fourth largest city in France, and we get into the wrong lane, which leads us to re-travelling a section of the autoroute - and paying the same toll twice! There are more villages in sight of the autoroute, but our speed inhibits focussed picture taking. We have seen more animals - sheep, cows and chickens - and rows of what we think are espaliered apple, and other fruit trees. More interesting countryside, too, with larger hills, and vilkages tucked into far horizons.
At 3.30 pm, we hit Carcassonne, call Isabelle and meet her at the flat - it is on the other side of the river, 500 metres from the Porte Narbonnaise, of la cite. We are on the first floor, a gauche, of a very, uninteresting, dirty grey building in a dead end street, just around the corner from the main road. Definitely, nit much to look at from the outside, but the front door opens onto a light, bright living area - freshly painted and newly furnished - new kitchen and bathroom. The sliding doors open onto a timber balcony (laid over the concrete), complete with glass table, 4 chairs and 2 long chairs. The bedroom is at the front, once again, newly furnished and fresh
. It is such a lovely place - what is even more lovely is the stunning view from the balcony - majestic during the day, but stunning at night (see pics). Two hassles - no washing machine (advertised as having one, but not yet installed - there's a laverie around the corner) and no wifi - nearest ones are McDos and a cafe called Red Alerte in the basse ville across the river. Unlike other apartments that we have stayed in, this one has no basic kitchen staples, so we head out to the local, little supermarche that we are told (by Isabelle) is on the main road a gauche - to discover that it's closed on Mondays. Never mind, we walk in search of milk (we have cereal - so we can at least have breakfast tomorrow), but cannot find anywhere within 15 mins walking distance. Turn back for home. Decide to focus on getting dinner instead. We have been told that there are many restaurants in la cite (by Isabelle), so, we make tracks to la cite and wander around. Yes, there are lots of restaurants, almost one on every corner, but there aren't many open, and the two we try to go into tell us that they're closing soon. We walk out of la cite, but not before purchasing a guide book on Carcassonne, and arrive at the pizzeria we saw on our previous walk, but they're not making pizza tonight - unfortunately, beggars can't be choosers, so we find a Patisserie and buy both savoury and sweet pastries, which, with the coke we brought from Chartres, is dinner. The shopkeeper, from whom I bought the guide book, had an unusual French accent, and it didn't dawn on me until just now that her accent was Occitan. 800 years ago this land became part of France, previous to that it was an independent region where they spoke the langue d'Oc. French has its origins in the langue d'Oil. It is wonderful to hear that Occitan still exists, and this lady hasn't been the only one I've heard. Peter is busy, working on his blog, and I'm watching Who wants to be a millionaire? in French - trying to improve. I'm pleased to say that I do know some of the answers. Have just looked out from the balcony - what a view!