The goal on this day is to meet friends for dinner in Beziers. Along the way, though, my goal is to reflexively say Bonjour Madame/Monsieur every time I enter a shop or otherwise approach someone. After all, one of these friends has explained, not doing this is considered the height of rudeness (and why perhaps Americans in France are seen as rude, not the other way around.) I know I was a bit remiss on Day 1.
Then there’s merci Madame/Monsieur and bonne journee when leaving … can’t forget that! Honestly, it’s really not that much different than in Italy. And no harm in being polite.
This is the day we really see the Mediterranean. The route heading out of Sete is along the coast, even if there’s a wall or a small dune blocking our view. Still, it’s an excuse to take a short beach break!
We wade in to knee high and watch a group of seniors bob up and down as they jog in shoulder-deep sea for what looks like an exercise class. The beach itself? Lovely sand. Empty. This is not the Jersey Shore!
Soon after there’s another excuse for a break: a pump track.
I’ve never been on one of these. We start with the one for little kids. Three or four rollers then your choice of a wide U curve (easy) or tighter and sloped (I put a foot down), then three or four more rollers and the curve to finish the loop. While my friends help a dad pump up his tires, I’m encouraging his son who’s on a balance bike.
Then it’s my turn.
When the skateboarders on the bigger pump track take a break, I try that one too. More rollers. More nervous but can’t let the teens see that! Kind of weird on my upright bike but I try to push my weight back, thinking that’s how you’re supposed to do it. But really I’d like a lesson so I can look like I know what I’m doing.
It also would be pretty cool if there was one in my town. Or in a county park.
With all these breaks, it’s no wonder we’re making slow progress. Time to get serious…until lunch.
You know about how restaurants in the U.S. say they can’t find workers? This restaurant seems to have the same problem. Two hours. The French are complaining to the 2 people handling all the tables (or is it 1 1/2 because we didn’t see one of them for a long time?). We just stay quiet, pay as quickly as we can and get back on our bikes.
Now we’re on the Canal du Midi, which by the way is a UNESCO heritage site. (So when I want to complain when it’s not paved … too bad.)
It’s crazy: you are supposed to get a permit to bike it. And give the dates you’ll be cycling. Rose tracked down the information—all in French—and got us the paperwork.
And no, no one stopped us to check.
At least the permit was free.
Finally we reach Beziers. We’re staying in an Air B&B (well, Booking.com is what Europeans use) at the top of the city. A big climb. Just what you don’t need at the end of the day. And one-way streets get us all turned around.
Crazily, the area just off the big square in town is packed with middle-aged men living out their Harley motorcycle/Johnny Hallyday (1960s French rock star) fantasies, with plenty of vendors catering to their t-shirt and leather needs. Somehow they’re all gone when I return an hour later.
The Frenchman who owns our local wine shop has dismissed Beziers as the Coventry of France, and the friends we meet tell us that it was still really grungy fairly recently. Now it’s cleaned up and has some nice restaurants. Wander the small streets, enjoy the trompe-l’oeuil on some of the walls and chill.
This is the wine discovery of a wonderful evening full of good food and even better conversation. I’ll be asking my wine guy about wines from La Liviniere.