We sneaked away from the watery paradise of Empuriabrava back inland, with the idea of heading back to France. Our road leading out of Spain, the N11 north from Figueres, was lined with what appeared to be prostitutes, glamour girls in high heels and very little else, waving and bending over provocatively for the passing traffic. There was one woman every 100 metres or so, each taking ownership of a junction or a scruffy parking lay-by. Initially, we couldn’t decide if they were actually working this stretch of road, or if it was some sort of protest statement / art project*. (* They were most definitely prostitutes, as I read later that this border town is the sleazy centre of the Spanish sex industry. ) Most had an eastern European look, some looking grumpy and bored, others over-enthusiastic. It was certainly a strange and unexpected sight in the pre-lunch sunshine on Good Friday morning. We couldn’t quite imagine the clientele they were expecting to draw in at this time of day, in such public surroundings, but there must be demand.
A few hours later we were in a very different setting, parked up in a friendly Olive Farm on the outskirts of Trouillas, near to Perpignan. There were no gesticulating ladies of the day nearby, but instead a plethora of olive oil products to taste, products to browse and sunshine to enjoy. The producer, Les Oliviers de la Canterrane, had a wonderful free aire and, after making a few tasty purchases, we settled in for an afternoon of lazy sun-worshipping. The weather we had hoped for had finally arrived, just after we left Spain behind. We were blissfully alone most of the day, but around 4pm a string of vans suddenly appeared, slowly bringing the Olive Farm visitors today up to eight strong.
After a slow morning we said our goodbyes, heading north-west. We followed the main road north to Narbonne and then took back roads, cutting through the gorgeous Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park. The road was wide and clear, empty of other traffic and perfectly undulating for a combination of easy driving and beautiful views. It didn’t hurt that the sun was back shining brightly and we settled in to fully enjoy the drive. Looking around for pretty places to visit on our route, we settled on the village of Lautrec, north of Castres. After a few tries we found a simple parking area suitable for motorhomes just outside the village walls (43.704847, 2.139952 ) and wandered up the cobbled streets to explore. As is usual, we gravitated first to the stone church and the neat surrounding squares.
We were eventually drawn to the highest point, reaching the mound where the Moulin à vent de la Sallette sat. We circled through their gardens, watching as the views over the countryside unfurled in front of us. There was a table d’orientation on the top of the hill, pointing out landmarks as far back as the Pyrenees. We stood a while and picked out the route we had taken to arrive here, both on road from Spain and on foot through the village. The windmill was available for visits but we declined in favour of roaming their brightly flowering gardens. We dropped back into the neat stone village and passed through the narrow streets, slowly making our way back to where Benny was parked.
In late afternoon we stopped at a small aire in Labastide-Marnhac, just short of Cahors. This was to be our final stop before arriving back home. The village was hosting a wedding at the local château and we could hear their announcements and music. On one occasion a long procession of tooting cars slowly passed, marking the happy couple either arriving or leaving. Otherwise, it was entirely serene, the surrounding trees filled with bright blossom. The only other notable occurrence was when a Belgium couple, fully settled in with the best corner site in the aire since before we arrived, packed up their awning and left around 8pm; to go where? It seemed a strange call so late on. But we enjoyed one last night of simplicity and quiet before returning to our long list of jobs to do at home.