Day 22 Ė The road way less traveled

Today I was on the road by 7 and because I had picked up stuff at a supermarket the afternoon before I had the rare luxury of breakfast.

A mostly uneventful day which had me driving through the intestines of southern France roughly drawing a line towards Spain. French for me is nowhere near as easy to speak as Italian was though I still catch on quick and can get by. I listen to a lot of French talk radio in the hopes that some of it will rub off on me but itís mostly wishful thinking. Meanwhile, Iím on the lookout all day long Ė unsuccessfully Ė for a bookstore so I can buy a dictionary. Bookstores, like movie theatres, are apparently only available in large cities.

Iím also frustrated by the gas stations which are not plentiful in the countryside and are more often than not unmanned. That would be absolutely no problem in the states as weíre used to swiping our cards for gas but in France none of these payment stations take normal credit cards, only gas station cards. Keep that in mind if youíre ever driving through France.

On the other hand what an experience it was to walk into one of their middle-of-nowhere supermarkets and be greeted at first by a ho-hum selection of mineral waters, veggies and assorted knickknacks but then have your senses be blasted into orbit as you walk towards the back end of the store and are met with a breathtaking spectacle in all things dairy, particularly cheeses. And because evidently a 30-foot case isnít quite enough to carry all the varieties a French homemaker may need they gang-pressed auxiliary cases off to either side and the again more mobile cases wherever there was space; all brimming to spilling capacity with cheese of all imaginable sorts. Really, it was just an offensive show of opulence that has scarred me mentally. How am I ever going to look at that pathetic Safeway cheese section again with anything but disgust at the hanging imitation mozzarella cheese bags and low fat Velveeta tubs?

I was determined to sleep a second night in a row in the car to save a bit on the wallop Iím giving my Visa but it was snowing and I got the feeling it was going to get bitchiní cold tonight so although a little disappointed with myself I had Carmen The GPS take me to a charming little hotel perched on one of those mountaintop citadels where everyone there seemed glad to have not just a tourist but an American one as well. I shook hands with two strangers who reached their hands out and smiled. They looked old enough to have good world war two stories if I could only comprehend their language but their smile somehow acknowledged me as a welcome friend to this remote area.

The room was serviceable and at 36 Euros definitely on the cheap side. Add to that a totally delicious dinner of veal and pommes frites, just 10 euros, and I really couldnít complain.

Day 23