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Sat Mar 14 2015: Europe, Tentatively...

It's been two weeks now and I'm worried about Neda. She has been motionless on the couch for all this time, Kindle in hand, and if weren't for the regular tapping of the "forward" button, I'd have to check for vital signs. We are holed up back in the same apartment that we stayed in over Christmas in Calella, just outside of Barcelona. There has been no movement, either by bike or by foot. The last few months of travel have knocked the winds from our sails and we are suffering from travel fatigue big-time.

Two weeks ago, the ferry spilled us onto the sunny port of Barcelona and we rode out into the glorious arms of Europe, and more importantly into the land of EspaƱol, where Neda could freely communicate again. I was more than happy to relinquish the reins. The plan was that we would stay somewhere familiar and recuperate, and then as the spring slowly thawed the north, we'd venture out and see if the snow had melted.

At least that *was* the plan. Normally Neda only needs a few days of rest before she gets ants in her pants and is raring to go. But it's been two weeks now and she's only left the apartment a couple of times only to shop for groceries. *THAT* was very unusual. Honestly, I didn't feel like pulling up the stakes either, but we had a team meeting and debated the pros and cons of staying or going. Even though we're still not feeling 100%, there seems to be this frustrating pointlessness to just sitting around and waiting for... what? The weather reports seem to be encouraging. How long will it take for us to feel ready to continue on? We have to acknowledge that our journey is now heavily influenced by four seasons instead of one.

Perhaps we needed to force ourselves out of this lethargy. Otherwise we'd be stuck in Spain in this comfortable little apartment watching the summer slip away.


Skirting east of the Pyrenees mountains, which would most certainly be snow-covered this time of year

It's a slow chore to pack our bikes and we wistfully waved goodbye to Calella in our mirrors for the second time. The warm, sunny microclimate of the Barcelona region had given us a false sense of weather in Europe as the grey clouds of south-west France greeted us at the border. I am acutely aware that I am now back on language duty again. Not much of a break... :( and Neda won't be happy that she is incommunicado yet again.

We are both second-guessing the decision to leave Spain.


Perhaps the still-stark-naked vineyards of Southern France are trying to tell us something...

And so castles in the rain...

We didn't get to see Carcassonne last year because of the weather. So we headed up there. And it rained...

The citadel of Carcassonne is a huge medieval fortress set on a hill above the vineyards of south-western France. The architectural plans look like they were lifted straight out of a Disney fairytale movie, although in reality it was probably the other way round. With the dark clouds roiling in the background, you really felt like there could be a magic mirror on the wall that could tell you who was the fairest of them all.

We'd settle for just an accurate weather report...


Cacassonne is France's second-most visited tourist attraction behind the Eiffel Tower

The inside is filled with souvenir shops and pricey restaurants

There is a traditional dish in southern France called cassoulet, which is a casserole with pork and white beans. Almost every restaurant inside the citadel served it. We window-shopped the food, but were reminded just how expensive everything is in Europe, so we held our appetites in check until we hit the grocery store on the way back to our AirBnB.

This is something that's going to take some getting used to again after our relatively cheaper sojourn in Morocco.


The fairest of them all

Another major difference that we've noticed in the south of France (which we do make a note of everytime we ride here) is that most drivers are very laid back. Such a contrast to the chaos in Morocco or the aggressiveness of Italian drivers. Most people drive under the speed limit and seem to be in no rush at all. It's actually nice riding down here.

I wonder if maybe there are very stiff speeding fines here. We still remain invisible to photo radar because of our Ontario plates, but really, we're in no rush either and the roads are still slick with freezing rain.


This gargoyle is straining to listen to our incessant whining

Did you know that gargoyles originally were used to divert rainwater away from the building? Spouts were routed through the throat and out the mouths of these creatures. The French word gargouille is derived from the Latin for "throat" or "gullet", and it also sounds like "gargle". If there is no spout in a gargoyle and it is purely ornamental, then the correct architectural term is a chimera, not a gargoyle.


Chimera

I think our favorite part of Carcassonne are the chimera on the Basilica de St-Nazaire, inside the citadels walls. As usual, I take my usual pictures of votive candles inside the church.


Basilica de St-Nazaire

Stained Glass Goodness

Rose Window

And then I was all like Pew Pew Pew Pew Pew

One of the more handsome chimeras standing guard outside

A purple haze in the air obscures the sunlight


happiness staggering on down the street, footprints dress in red

Mostly it's French tourists that pay a visit to the castle during the weekdays

All along the watchtower, princesses kept the view...

These are our first steps back out into Europe and we're wondering if we've jumped the gun both on the weather and our willingness to continue our travels.

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