Yesterday was our last day at Casa for this trip and today we are driving back to Guillaume, waiting patiently back at Fanjeaux in France. We treated ourselves to a meal out with friends to reduce preparation for departure. After a pleasant enough but unscintillating meal washed down, of course, by a drink or several, we threw the few clothes that would travelling with us in a bag and prepared for bed with glass of 103 brandy, just to help us sleep, of course. We retired shortly after 11:00 PM.
The 103 didn’t really work. First of all, the temperature in Casa Libélule was hovering around 28/29°C and sleep, even with our ceiling fan rotating at take-off speed, came only with difficulty. Above the modest murmuring of the fan, I fancied I could hear the occasional strain of distant music but it wasn’t particularly disturbing. Eventually, sleep did come.
Sleep was, however, short lived. I woke to what was now distant raucous music at what must’ve been 3:00 AM-ish (I couldn’t check the time ‘cos my phone was off with minimal battery power remaining). Unbeknownst to us, the neighbouring village of Alcalalí was in its fiesta week and had chosen tonight to end its festivities with a grand finale. T’riffic! With exuberant live cover versions of the Cranberries and Queen screaming along the valley and blasting at me up the side of our now water-supplied mountain, then in through our necessarily open bedroom windows, further sleep was never going to be an option. Being pissed-off, I went for one and returned to bed to be further tortured.
Somehow, Francine had still been asleep; now she wasn’t. We had set the alarm for 5:00 AM hoping to hit the road at 6:00 AM. Pointless, as it turned out. At 4:00 AM we threw in the towel, made tea, loaded the car and set about securing Casa for the duration. The ever-increasing crescendo of the Spanish at fiesta finally ceased at 5:00 AM, 30 minutes before we locked the door and drove sedately down the mountain side to begin our journey.
With sleep beginning late and being cut very short, I think I’d managed between 2 and 2½ hours of shut-eye. This is not a good way to approach a 500 mile/800 km drive. I didn’t feel too bad as dawn was breaking but once on the autopista on cruise control, the old eye lids began feeling quite heavy. We stopped for an early coffee. Not too long after we continued, those same old eye-lids were again feeling heavy. the temperature was about 25°C quite early on so warm air was blowing at me through the air vents. Francine began reading from her newly acquired Kindle version of the Rough Guide to Spain, trying to help distract me. She was reading the entry on Tarragona as we approached that very place when I suddenly became aware of a loud rumbling. My eyes opened – Darwin, they’d been closed! Sure enough, my eyes had closed briefly and I’d crossed the rumble strip and was now driving with half the car on the hard shoulder. Yikes! That has never happened before in my life. Clearly the history of Tarragona had been a tad too tedious. We decided that Francine should stop boring me with history.
I dislike it but I resorted to trying the air conditioning. What a difference cool, fresh air makes compared to air now approaching 30°C, combined with a shock to up the adrenaline levels, of course. I had no further eye-lid problems.
The only difficulty we encountered on the now much safer journey was
Bastardlona Barcelona, all inhabitants of which seemed to be rushing en mass towards the various bits of Costa Brava that surround it. This might have been a good time to visit the place since it should have been almost empty but we crawled, stop-start, around the surrounding autopistas heading for Guillaume.
Happily further excitement was avoided. For once, the northern side of the Pyrenees were as sunny as the southern side of the Pyrenees. The stark difference this time were the windsocks which had been hanging limply in the still air on the Spanish side whereas on the French side the Tramontane was blowing an absolute hoolie and had the French windsocks streaming out east horizontally. Hang on to your picnics! Having travelled for 8½hrs under clear skies, we finally drove into cloud 30 minutes from Fanjeaux, our destination. Hrumph! Extra coffee stops and traffic around
Bastardlona Barcelona had consumed an hour more compared to our downward journey. Several beers disappeared.
Once I stopped, I was trembling. Curious. The Fanjeaux skies had cleared for the evening but we were both utterly knackered. We hit the sack at 8:30 PM.
[Note to self: do not attempt a long journey the day after a bloody Spanish fiesta!]