And Wagon

I had the hostel room to myself last night, and a great night’s sleep, which I desperately needed. Upon waking I confirmed my decision to take the train to Carcassonne. Not feeling up to a 60 km bike trip, and no urge to remain in Narbonne. Eating breakfast, carefully, worked, but I still worried about the large filling on the right side, even eating on the left.

The hostel closing at 9:00 am and the train at 10:08 am meant waiting around at the train station. By the time the train arrived, I was in the right place, on the right platform, and had observed multiple other people on other trains with bikes. When the train rolled up, I rolled on-board. My most relaxing train experience yet.

I then watched multiple iterations similar to the “Berlin” scene(s) from the movie “Eurotrip”, except with the word “Carcassonne”, with people trying to figure out the correct train. Eurotrip could almost be a low-budget traveller documentary, just bumping up everything a notch for the movies. In town yesterday? A mime.

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Arriving in Carcassonne without incident, I headed to the hostel, buried deep inside the fortifications. The GPS routed me using the most direct path, from the back of the fortress, wending my way into the walls, up cobblestone streets and flights of stairs. Fortunately I live by my rule of being able to carry your touring bike up a flight of stairs. A woman at the train station did not; I helped get her bike on and off the train platforms.

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I arrived at the hostel before check-in, so wandered about town, planning to be back at 1:00 pm in order to check-in and make the walking tour at 2:00 pm. In order to not rush about, I skipped the main castle until the afternoon. Check-in worked, but the time I received for the walking tour was off by 30 minutes in the wrong direction (regardless, the tour was fully-booked). Off to the castle.

I carefully ate one of my sugar waffles while waiting in line at the castle. While touring the castle, I nonetheless noticed the right filling missing. Hmm. No immediate pain, and some time left to go on my ibuprofin, I finished the tour and headed back to the hostel. Using the dental temporary filling, I built a replacement, which so far holds better than the earlier one. Less pain too – I think the seal on the other one failed the night before at the restaurant.

The castle and walled city of Carcassonne exceeded my expectations. I still prefer Visby, Gotland, but only by the narrowest of margins and associations. The double walls of Carcassonne add something extra, and the inner city retains that medieval, twisty streets feel. As evening fell, warm winds ripped through the city, a regular occurrence, with the winds either warm from the Mediterranean, or bitter cold from the Pyrenees. I took the carriage tour of the inner walls, adding another mode of transport to the trip.

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Right now my teeth ache a bit, but well within tolerable. I managed dinner (pasta and chili), and feel good about moving forward. Pain concerns me; as long as it holds off I’m ok. My first experience with a root canal was the sudden onset of extreme pain, hundreds of miles from home, an experience I’d prefer not to repeat. On the bright side, I’m no longer worried about the cost of a root canal in France. The temporary treatment for all four teeth (including two temporary fillings) was $57.

Tomorrow, all things remaining unchanged, I plan to cycle to Toulouse. I’m following a canal and a railway, so I hope to have easy roads and access to a nearby train. Carcassonne remained a destination I planned on from the onset of this trip; I’m grateful to have accomplished making the trip this far. I have only two remaining items on my actual itinerary: visiting my friend Fabrice in Pau, and the castle in Ireland I missed on our honeymoon.

I’ve received an outpouring of love and support from friends and family over the past couple of days based on recent events. I don’t know whether the trip outcome will change based on those events, but the response has been heartwarming.

Some have asked why I don’t/didn’t take a more proactive, legal, response. I gave that a lot of thought before I walked out of the med station. I’ll try once to sum up my various answers I’ve given. I’m in a foreign country and any legal response would likely be biased towards the locals. He only swung at me once, and can readily claim he defended himself and the waitress (however inaccurate I feel that is). The medics asked whether I’d been drinking – a normal question and perception of events, and at that point I was staggering and slightly slurring my speech.

I vacation at a level lower than most people experience, so ready access to people and transport means a radical adjustment from how most people think about travel. My address at the time? A campground, reserved for one night, 4 km outside of town. No concierge, no phon, no one who speaks English.

Entering the unknown legal system also likely means that becomes the end of my vacation. I’m not ceding that control; I’m moving on. I could be that angry indignant person, flailing away at the injustice,  but instead I’m living my life, my way. That’s not a goal I always succeed at, but I work on it, every day.

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