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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I said I had overdone things earlier, I got loads of sympathy that wasn't particularly deserved because one of the things I overdid was lunch.

Here's how it happened, and how I came to overdo other things too today. The gory details.

It's the last day of my holiday today so I got up earlyish, went out for coffee and croissant and took all the maps etc with me to plot a nice walk. So, coffee, croissant, brain in gear and I'm looking for the bus stop for the bus to Les Salins, another set of salt pans, these ones to the east of Hyeres.

Lo and behold there's an artyfarty market on today, selling things like spirulina (no don't ask me, I haven't a clue, ask Google), olive wood toys - and soap. In particular the cheapn nasty soap in dozens of flavours that is specifically aimed at the tourist trade ie me. This is the soap I was hoping for on Saturday. So I identify bus stop, discover it's 50 minutes till the next bus goes, and wander over to the market to choose 16 soaps. This is the stall after I've finished: the holes in the display are where I removed soaps.

I got vanilla, rose, orange and grapefruit, strawberry, orange flower, olive, cherry, bitter almond, apricot jasmine, mimosa, red berries, honeysuckle, limeflower, cinnamon and orange, and (loud cheer everyone!) lavender.

Soap is a traditional industry in Marseille, just along the coast, and of course the tourist trade capitalises on it. I'm a willing victim. This lot will keep me going for about eight months if I'm careful.

So, take the soaps back to the hotel, return to the bus stop, bus is already there, get on the bus, ten minutes later get off the bus. I'm in a bit of Hyeres I've never been to before, but it's easy enough to find my way as the path I want is part of the sentier littoral (coastal path).

Fab weather today, wonderful glittery sea, the sand here is - ahem - sand-coloured. The temperature is nearly 80F. I've got sea on my right, saltings on my left, lovely scenery. I walk along the path for a bit and there are HUGE dragonflies, like the ones in the UK, blue bodies, green heads, I suppose if you like that sort of thing you'd be thrilled. Also many butterflies, I see a bright yellow one that in England would be a brimstone yellow. I've no idea if it is in France. No flamingoes though.

Step over to walk along the beach for a while. I can see the Giens peninsula and La Capte where I had lunch on Sunday. There are people sunbathing and swimming in the sea, and as I get closer I'm thinking to myself 'That guy standing there is wearing very minimalist shorts . . .' and a moment later I realise he's not wearing any at all and in the same second see the notice that says 'Start of naturist beach'.

Ah. Aha. Ahaha hah. I didn't realise there was one of those along here. I'm guessing the people that use this beach are quite accustomed to the reaction that I am displaying. I'm guessing I'm typical:

stop in my tracks
avert my eyes
take a sharp left turn back to the path which runs behind the sand dune behind this beach.

Well honestly! I mean, I don't know what to say! Actually I could say quite a few things but not on here. I mean, I've been taking PHOTOGRAPHS all the way along the beach, I even took a bit of video. Visualise getting mobbed by 20 angry naturists.

I keep walking and after about half a mile more, with more photos, decide to turn back because it's really hot and I have nothing to drink with me and also it's gone 12 so by the time I get to a restaurant it will be time for lunch. Have got a huge appetite, oddly. Had intended to go along to La Capte and eat at the resto where I had the fish stew in Sunday but come to a very nice-looking one with a prix fixe menu for 20 euro.

It's nearly empty so I get a nice table by the window. Do I want an aperitif? 'Pourquoi pas?' I say, it's my last lunch after all, and order a pastis (if you've had Pernod you've had a pastis but NB pastis is drunk with water in France, not coke or blackcurrant cordial or any of the other things you might have had in it as a student. Got the tshirt on this myself). Glass of pink wine.

I order the 20 euro menu: fish soup which comes in a tureen (enough for two people but of course I try to eat it all), with garlic cloves to rub on the croutons (they are had so it's like sandpaper to the garlic), aioli (see previous blog for explanation), grated cheese and bread. This is just the first course you understand.

Make utter pig of self and also spatter front of second best blouse with soup which will be murder to get out in the wash as it's full of saffron.

Move on to shellfish gratin with rice and manage to eat the whole gratin but not much of the rice.

Finish with creme brulee and coffee.

Reel out of the resto and find as I suspected I have just missed the bus back. Decide at this point I don't want to sit around waiting for next bus, but will walk up the road a bit. In retrospect, mixed reviews for this decision.

Walk along a cycle track by some marshes and see an egret.

It views me with a reserved expression and paddles away a bit, up the channel. I don't blame it. By now my face will be resembling a tomato (heat, sun, too much food, alcohol, you get the picture) and the rest of me isn't what the doctor ordered either. Plod on. Look at time and realise next bus is due to get to the next bus stop in about 9 minutes and I have no idea where the next bus stop is, and it's certainly nowhere in sight.

Put on a spurt. Get to road junction and see bus stop across a car park. I won't say I moved like greased lightening because it wouldn't be true. However I advanced on the bus stop like an offroad vehicle on a spree. Collapse on the seat and lean hot flesh (mine) against the cold glass. About two minutes later, bus appears. A narrow squeak by any measure.

Get back to town and actually have to sit in the square for 20 minutes before I have the energy to walk back to the hotel. Once there have a long cold drink of water and flake out.

It's the excitement, you know. At my age, you can only deal with so much.

Mind you, there's a goal to add: be thin and confident enough to use naturist beach.

I'll get back to you on that one.
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