Uneventful flight and transfer journeys. We walked the first leg of this stretch on the quiet coast road.
The alarm went off at 02:30 am. We drove to Stansted in the summer dawn and caught the 08:05 Ryanair flight to Girona. Ryanair calls this Barcelona/Girona. The airport is in the Barcelona region but miles from the capital.
At Girona we got a local bus to the city centre where we caught the regional express train to Cerbère. We were welcomed into France by aggressive police demanding to see passports. So much for the Schengen agreement! When we last came to Cerbère, we crossed the mountain col and met no police unless the charming couple who greeted us with Bon Dia / Bon jour were under cover.
We walked 3.9 km from the station to our accommodation. The staff at the Village des Aloes were as pleasant as the station staff were nasty. France begins to redeem itself.
On the evening of Friday 22nd Mini came round for supper as usual and we had salman and round greens and seeskweem and caramel sauce which Mini seems to like. I must try her on fudge sweets some time. We enjoyed reading about Laila's escape in the Beccles and Bungay Journal. We watched some Chelsea Flower Show that Neil had recorded. I really liked the herb garden but some of the others left me cold. Mini left quite early and I went to bed to get in a few hours sleep before our middle of the night departure. I had just dropped off at 7.45 when the phone rang and woke me. One can't really complain about a phone call that early and any way what's the point once you are thoroughly awake. I only dozed off and on after that before getting up at three for our three thirty departure. I was ready very quickly as I had prepared everything the night before. This meant I could be sitting on my bed knitting a sailor's hat when Neil came down to put his things in the car.
The drive to Stansted was uneventful as was the journey. You can fill up an evaluation of the airport on line and I'm going to do that as I hate having to wait for two hours in the shopping mall part rather than being able to go straight to my departure gate as is possible in most airports. Once in Girona we went to the ticket kossack. Now it is summer there is one outside and the queue was very long not like in February when I was the only person in it. We got our tickets and got on the bus just as it was about to leave. Once in Girona we had 30 minutes to buy and compost our billets and have a sandwich before the train came in and we were able to enjoy a nostalgic ride through our previous walks. Neil photographed the mechanisms for changing wheel gauges at Port Bou. Then we entered the tunnel and were almost immediately in Cérbère.
Here we had to leave the platform through a narrow portal and bugger me even had to show our passports or other piece of identity. The only crossing with the EU (outside the UK) where this is the case. Then we walked to the Village des Aloès – just thee kilometres and hunted out the Reception. It opens at 15.00 hours so I;m glad we didn't wait till 16.00 to find it. Our apartment is small but nice but help no sheets. I'm sure the website said sheets and towels were provided. I went down to reception to have a look and a reconnoitre. No evidence of sheets anywhere. If we were supposed to have brought our own I didn't want to admit to not having any. We's just have to get some on Monday when the shops opened. Then Neil passed over the sheet he had been looking after with the mip on it. There it said you could hire sheets and towels etc. I went back and asked about it. You get them from the little shop which opens at 5pm. The restaurant is open from 8 to 8 so we can have chickens and pizzas galore.
It was OK carrying my mustang with my whole week's worth of kit in it. The only problem was the Obelix belt which was too short with the bag so distended. I must join two belts together next time do this. My back and abdomen which have been playing up like hell lately (arthritis set off by exemestane) seemed to enjoy the experience of being clasped in a tourniquet as they have calmed down. They may also like the much higher temperatures.
I have forgotten my flash disk.
At 17.00 we went to get our sheets and saw that there was a nice little shop down there. We got all our basics excepts bogroll which we forget. I have brought a small emergency supply so we can survive until Tuesday when he will be open again at a time when we are here. I have just found some accents on this baby computer. I must see if I can make them work. We then went next door to hire our sheets and the same very nice man came out and said he did the sheets as well so that was lucky. Everyone here is really nice. The way I remember France being. Only the Cérbère ticket man enbodied the bureaucratic attitude of the petty official – probably a worldwide phenomenon not just France.
Tomorrow we can get up when we like and do our walk to Banyuls. We can go the high way or the low way. I can't believe how much my backside is alleviated. I suppose that confirms Dr Smith's diagnosis. Nice here, less nice back in the cold and wet. Neil had to try three times to get Mini on the phone. She must have been out a long time. We think this complex is a bit like Ryanair who are now thinking of charging you £5.00 to check in on line and even more to check in at the airport. We have to pay extra for our sheets and to have the apartment cleaned at the end. As it's so small and as we always leave our accommodation broadly clean this won't be a hardship We have bought blue antibacterial washing up liquid which can double as something to put in the toilet at the end. It will dye the water and have a suitably disinfected aroma.
Even with the extras it's still cheap. There are a lot of deposits however, 200 euros for the flat 50 euros in case we don't clean it and 40 euros for the sheets. You also have to pay extra if you want to watch telly. We have decided we don't. We now have very little spending money but we won't need much. Jane is getting tomorrow's picnic because we didn't know there was a little shop here. Their website could be a lot more specific eg by mentioning that sheets and towels are extra and that there is a Kurtax to pay when you arrive. My bedroom door cannot be opened when Neil has his door shut so we have to agree to leave one of them open. If the handles had been at different heights this would not have been an issue. Otherwise the flat is nice, a lovely big balcony offering delightful prospects over the sea, a bedroom window with pummocks behind it, an end of terrace location so no neighbours, no one underneath, a shop on site which is open until 8pm and roast chickens and hot pizzas also on site. The only thing missing is wholemeal bread.
May 2009. We started our trek across France by walking 3.9 km from Cerbère railway station to our accommodation at Village des Aloes. We followed the main road which was not too busy but not too pleasant either. Later in the week we worked out another shorter and nicer route but it involved a cliff edge path, a short stretch between the railway line and a steep embankment and a walk across private but empty (while we were there) land. This route is 2.4 km and only a short stretch is on the main road. In the direction from Village des Aloes to Cerbère there are no "No Entry" signs. In the other direction there are several. There was a fairly well worn path so clearly we were not the only ones using this route. In the dark or during high winds, this route could be thoroughly dangerous in places.
Days one, two and three were mountainous. On day four we reached the Perpignan plain where apricots and cherries were ripening. The last day was mountainous again with fine views over lakes and the sea.