Leucate, Surfing and Tristan the Tramp
Another day of chores ahead of us; hand fill our one hundred litre potable water tank, empty the grey water tank and empty our toilet cassette. Fill up with diesel, buy more petrol for the Honda generator, replenish our depleted gas supply, and drive to Leucate and our favourite laverie to meet Tristan-the-tramp.
We met Tristan two weeks ago. A stack of dirty clothing littered a sheltered corner between a supermarket and a laverie, a launderette, in a small shopping centre on the edge of town. Tristan sat at a small table inside the launderette with his whiskey bottles, rolling tobacco and cigarette papers lined up neatly in front of him. He smiled as we entered and offered us words of encouragement as we washed and dried, occasionally lurching from his improvised bar to volunteer more advice or assistance. Despite his circumstances, he seemed a happy chap. We left him with an au revoir and a bag of fruit. Both Cynthia and I looked forward to meeting him again.
Replenishing our potable water supply this morning was a cold affair. An icy twenty knot north-westerly tousled the heads of the pine trees towering above the rundown water point. Shallow ice-crusted pools dotted the uneven ground around the small manhole covering the rugby club’s changing room sewage outlet. Skating over the frozen surface trying not to drop a twenty-kilo plastic cassette filled with fetid brown slurry wasn’t easy.
The coast road south to Leucate offered an entertaining experience for the drivers of high sided vehicles. The area is renowned for its wind. There was plenty of it about today. Waving at fellow motorhome owners is customary on French roads. The passengers did all the greeting today. White-knuckled drivers held on for all they were worth as sudden gusts pushed tall but light motorhomes into the path of oncoming traffic.
Leucate village was even windier. The area is a Mecca for windsurfers. The first of three thriving surf shops opened for early season business this weekend. A pair of rubber-clad and barefoot surfers left the store as we passed. Cynthia and I shivered and turned up the Hymer’s heating.
I dropped Cynthia off close to a village centre boulangerie to buy some fresh croissants. Leucate’s streets are as narrow as they are busy. There’s rarely anywhere to park for large motorhomes. I drove in circles for ten minutes along narrow streets, trying not to catch an avenue of roadside plane trees with the Hymer’s wing mirrors.
We spotted Tristan-the-tramp as we left the village. The local gendarmerie had moved him from the relative comfort of the laverie. His new home was a sheltered wall next to a post office. He smiled and raised a half-empty whiskey bottle in salute as we passed.
We’ve finished our chores now. We’re parked by the water, rocking gently in the gale as we watch the sun go down.