Saturday, August 04, 2012

Winnebago Nights (Part Quatre)

On Friday we left Lyon and went back to our camp sight. We did our best to avoid it, but it came time to "clean" our "facilities". After camping out in the parking lot 3 nights ago, we had to empty out the poo box, drain the dirty water and refill the water tank. None of us had ever done it, so it was going to be an interesting morning.

Since D and M have no kids, Hubby and I didn't hesitate to take up the responsibility. We've dealt with lots of poos and wees before, it couldn't be much different, could it? Well, we were wrong!

Toilets are magical things. We hear the call of mother nature, we sit on our throne and after we do our business, we press a magical button and all evidence disappears. Even in the wilderness, with the help of a shovel, you can bury the evidence. But what happens in a camper van? This is where all the magic disappears and you are faced with the harsh reality of mother nature's physical footprints. And its all presented to you in a poo box.

Warning: Graphic detail following. Do not read if you have major gagging reflexes.

I don't know how other campervans work, but with ours, it was very basic. You enter the bathroom, shut the door, open the lid which separates the toilet to the poo box at the bottom of the van, do your business, then shut the lid. When its time to empty the box, you find a designated poo box emptying facility, take the box out of the side of your van, twist the lid open, then pour it out. We KNEW we had only been doing #1's so picture our horror when more than we expected plopped out. This was definitely one lesson we learned the hard way. If we were to do this again in the future, we better make sure the rental company will guarantee the poo box had been emptied!!! See, there are things behind the scenes that takes you back down to earth.

So after all the necessities were done, we made our way to Suze la Rousse, which would be a short drive for us to the beginning of Stage 13 that starts the following day. By the time we reached the town, it was getting late since we were stuck in heavy traffic. We knew we were heading toward the right direction though, because a whole bunch of the sponsor trucks were stuck in traffic too. That night we found Camping Le Pont Du Lez which was quite literally just outside the town center.

This must have been the LV factory we drove past.

Camping Du Lez was the most "rustic" site we stayed at. As we entered the campsite with the sun beginning its decent for the day, I felt like we were entering a commune. There were no numbered lots, there were half naked people everywhere, laundry hung with abandon and distant stares as we found the "area" where we could park our van. I wasn't feeling very comfortable with where we were for the evening, so when we were told there were only 2 places to eat in town, my hopes for a good feed dwindled.

As we started our walk into town, simply thankful it was going to be a short one, I shuddered to think what crudities we will find in a sleepy town like this. I pictured bleach white lighting on plastic chairs, pot bellied cooks with half a cigarette hanging out of their mouths. In just a few meters past historic walls, we turned the corner and almost gasped at the restaurant that stood before us.

Breathtaking view as you enter the restaurant. You just had to pick a table outside.

My look of relief and happiness that we didn't end up at a neon lights, linoleum lined restaurant.

Le Garlaban is the kind of restaurant none of us expected. Since the entrance is tucked away from view as you walk into town, the way it seems to almost pop out of no where was an extremely pleasant surprise. We quickly chose a table, wasted no time deciphering the menu and ordered away.

A rather controversial and adventurous amuse bouche, bacon sorbet. I was totally intrigued, but alas the recipe needed much more tweaking.

Hubby's crab terrine.

A local wine that was quite good. It was with this bottle that we learned the term le mem and that you can buy a traveler which is called le voyager and bring home a bottle with you.

My stuffed chicken dish. It was a huge serving, a bit dry but tasty enough.

Hubby's steak. Moist and tasty.

The cheese platter that came before the dessert. I don't usually order the cheese platter, but this one was standard in the set menu. Good thing I had it because the dessert wasn't that good.

It was dark by the time we left the restaurant. But I just had to take a picture of the entrance.

Le Garlaban did not have to-die-for food, but the atmosphere and the way we "discovered" it makes it on our unforgettable meals list. Because it was so unexpected, we relished it. We took our time, enjoyed the wine they recommended and learned a very important phrase: le mem s'il vous plait. It means "same please". For some reason there was no translation for "one more please" on my phrase book. All they had was le mem in their restaurant/food ordering section. It sort of explained why the sales lady at one of the shops did not understand what I meant when I asked if they had another pair of the shoes I wanted since the one I tried on had scuff marks. I guess they don't use the word "another" much? Anyways, we tried le mem and the waitress immediately understood and brought the boys another bottle of the same wine. We went back to our commune happy and well fed for the evening.

The next day we drove to the start of Stage 13 which was at the town of Saint Paul Trois Chateaux. This was the only time we checked out the start of a stage. By the time we found a parking spot somewhere outside of town, on the side of the road, the sponsor trucks had already long gone. We walked past where all the team buses were parked. If we were true groupies, we would definitely have waited next to the BMC bus and waited for Cadel Evans to emerge from it. But in an eye opening moment into how guys operate, I realized they were not interested whatsoever in the man himself. Turns out the guys are only interested when they see Evans in action. Outside of it, he means not much. So at that time, a baffled me followed the boys further up the road to where the start line was.

The BMC team bus parked with all the other team buses.

Since it was already 30 minutes before the start of the race, there was not a sliver of space available at the railings. Hubby had to put me on top of his shoulders for me to take pictures.

One of the few celebrities at the start line. I have no idea who this one is, but he was quite good looking.

She seemed to be pretty famous too since everyone was taking her picture and asking for autographs.

I took a ton of pictures at the start line but thought I'd post the video instead. Imagine me holding my small camera and my big camera, both on the go while sitting on Hubby's shoulders.

It is lavender season now in France. We kept talking about frolicking in lavender fields. So on the way back to our car I finally stepped into one but could do no frolicking since it was swarming with bees!

After the bikes zoomed past, we had a quick look around town and headed back to Suze la Rousse to check out the castle we camped next to. Turns out it had been transformed into a sommelier school. Unfortunately it was lunch time so nothing was open. But there were a few things we could see from the outside, so it was still worth the drive up.

Entrance of the castle/wine school.

View of the town from the top of the castle.

This game court build in the 16th century was for King Charles IX when he visited Suze la Rousse. It was build in 1654! I just had to touch the walls, close my eyes and imagine myself transported back a few hundred years.

The game court is only one of a few still standing in France today.

The next stage we were planning on going to is one of the most sought after stages of the Tour de France. One of the steepest mountains the bikes would go up on during this stage is the Col du Tourmale. D and Hubby were both brimming with excitement everytime this mountain range was mentioned. Because it is such a sought after stage, we planned to get there a whole day before the stage starts on Wednesday. Since it was only Saturday, we decided to go towards Narbonne and find a campsite at any of the beachside areas there.

Next stops, Narbonne and Saint Bertrand de Comminges.

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