buildings along the river frontage with their balconies overhanging the water have all been spruced up and the town is just finishing off a massive programme of pedestrianisation, laying out new paving and squares, plus lots of new fountains. At the OdT we obtain information about a bike shop and head there before finding our hotel. They also tell us that tonight is the Castres midsummer music festival with numerous bands performing all around the town. At the bike shop a combination of some French and miming of bicycle repair actions explains we are interested in buying a new chain splitter. They produce one, but it is a massively heavy block of metal. It must weigh at least four times as much as the Park Tools workshop model I have at home. After a bit of indecision we opt for the insurance policy approach and buy it. We also show them a Sram quick link and buy a pack of two more. A bit of chatting and looking at the trike explains the chain issues we previously had. The shop assistant from the motor cycle side of the store explains that you get recalcitrant Sram quick links to close by fitting them into the chain just behind the chain ring and then, with the crank horizontal, stamping on the pedal; and the cure for a stiff link is to grab the chain and flex it sideways nearly to breaking point a few times. Just the kind of mechanic to whom I would pay money not to service one of my bicycles.
Our hotel is very town centre, but mid afternoon is still in ‘no human being involved’ mode so we phone to get a door lock code, park the trike in the hotel garage next door and let ourselves in for S&W. Later when we formally check in at the reception we are warned that as this is a town centre hotel there is no question of expecting to sleep tonight because the very loud rock music outdoors will continue through to morning. We assume this is a sort of verbal ‘small print’ warning to avoid us complaining the following morning.
Once refreshed we take a stroll around the town to see the sights, which include lots of bandstands being put up in all corners of the town, some of them quite close to each other. We also check out various eating opportunities and select a restaurant for later that evening. Sitting in the main square at a café we find that we are mid way between a jazz group and another bandstand playing loud recorded rock music while they are setting themselves up, so we migrate nearer to the jazz. This clash of so much loud music so close together remains a feature of the festival throughout the evening and night. Although there is a timed programme the times and overlaps of performances don’t seem to be followed.
A bit more studying of the maps and our itinerary leads John to agree with Sheila that trying to get further north than Albi tomorrow will help us to be in Cahor (where we have a booked hotel) by Thursday. Cordes sur Ciel is a three star medieval town (on a hilltop), which seems to be about the right distance and an interesting place for an overnight stay. We return to the OdT who are very helpful in assisting us book a hotel, which is not too far out of town to require a longish walk back into town, nor right at the top of the medieval town centre. One that is on the edge of town and can be reached by us cycling around the town to its northern entrance gate looks to be ideal.
We eat dinner in doors at our chosen restaurant, which is a good decision because it insulates us from the rap performances taking place immediately outside the restaurant, which are not our first choice of musical entertainment. As the evening progresses we wander the streets and squares taking in the atmosphere and music, including a spell in the large courtyard of some public buildings where a very accomplished silver and reed band is performing. When we decide it is our bedtime, the town streets are flocking with crowds and looking down any of the main roads into town there is still a solid river of people flowing into town.
Closing the shutters and windows makes no significant difference to the decibel level and we take to bed without great sleeping expectations. But, at about 3 am the music stops abruptly. Luckily for us, but unfortunate for the festival-goers, a spell of heavy rain has come through bringing things to a premature close. _
Not too many, but some thing come up so often in the course of our cycle touring that it is not worth writing them out in full each time:
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