Sunday, October 15, 2017

GR653A Day 13: Carcès - Brignoles

Another Sunday on the trail in France, with the associated problems: 1. hunters, and 2. shops all closed. We set out from our B&B in the morning fog, ignoring our hosts' recommendation to make a detour into the town centre to buy provisions from one of the few shops open on a Sunday morning. Our backpacks felt so much lighter without supplies! And our tummies were still full of bread, coffee and homemade jam. (You eat a lot of bread when travelling in France!) We calculated that we would be in the town of La Val in time for lunch. And in fact we were, after a pleasant 12 km or so rambling between vineyards and along forest paths. With hunters audible in the distance, but only mountain bikers and joggers for company on the path.

We arrived in the town of La Val to find the Sunday flea market in full swing. Bargains galore! Mariella bought some earrings - light enough to carry for a few more days! Then we found a pleasant sandwich shop with outdoor tables in the main square of the town and ordered the biggest Pan Bagnat yet, authentic FRENCH fries and a very large "quarter litre" of the local rosé wine. Just because it's Sunday! 

Stepping into the adjacent church after lunch, we were approached by a lady who introduced herself as a former pilgrim and was curious to know where we came from and where we are going - the first questions pilgrims ask each other! After chatting for a while and attempting in vain to hunt down the local priest so he could stamp our pilgrim passports, this kind lady pointed us in the right direction for the next leg of our journey, which is as yet unmarked. The old trail between La Val and Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume is now closed, and a good thing it is too, because it was very long and went up into the mountains, where there are no villages where you can stop overnight or buy food. The new route passes through Brignoles and Bra. Our destination for tonight was Brignoles, only an hour or so from La Val, where we found the cheapest place to stay yet: Lemon Hotel, 28 euros for a double room! It's a truck stop hotel - Brignoles is just off motorway A8 - with rooms set up like the Étap/Ibis Budget, only the bathroom and shower are down the hall, in little chambers with red and green lights over them to indicate occupied/free status and a disinfection cycle after each use. There are no keys, just a door code. Everything is automated - even dinner, if you want it! 

5 euros for a hot meal, served with a fork and a napkin, out of a machine. We declined and went in search of something better, but the only place in town open on a Sunday evening was the MacDonalds across the street from our hotel. Just as our hostess last night had promised - she assured us we wouldn't go hungry despite the Sunday closures as there was a "Mac D'eau" right next to our hotel. Amazing how even MacDonalds sounds glamorous in French! 

So it was Mac D'eau haute cuisine for us, and luckily for me, the chain has just introduced a veggie burger in France! Ordered via touchscreen for pick-up at the counter, so your language skills don't have to go beyond recognising your order number! 

We did however walk the extra kilometre into town to take a look around. Brignoles is a very pretty little town (population 16,500) with a medieval centre. I didn't take many pictures because it was getting dark, but here's one I particularly like, of a house with an old Dubonnet ad painted right on the wall.

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