[After Káposvar, we cycled out of Hungary and through Slovenia and Croatia to meet up with a friend. We then found our way across Switzerland to Lyon, and followed the Rhône down the final European twin: Aix-en-Provence, once the home of van Gogh, whose images strikingly illuminate the place.]
Thanks to the generosity of the council we are staying gratis at the Hotel Negre Coste on the Cours Mirabelle. (It’s a sort of Milsom St with pavement cafes. And a canopy of plane trees. And better weather. And more fountains. And better coffee. And…).
We had a free session of hydrotherapy and massage at the Thermal Spa here last night, and will be returning to the UK (for a few days before the next leg of the trip) for nothing thanks to the sponsorship Bike Express on Thursday 29th – details to follow when I update the site next week. All of which means that if we carry on having similar generosity for the next 74 days, our daily average spend might get back to budget…
This morning (Wednesday 28th) we enjoyed a little reception with the tourism and twinning people (many thanks to Marina Caitucoli) and photo session with the local rags. Lively and intelligent people, great food and wine, and all told a very enjoyable stay. No wonder the place is so popular with tourists (and students, who make up 40000 of the 160000 population, about twice that of Bath).
The hydrotherapy session at the Thermal Spa is highly recommended, whether or not you’ve cycled 5000km. Thermae Sextii, the thermal spa, is built on the site of the old Roman spa (cf. Bath…). Designed to be “third millennium” in style, it’s like walking into a 1960s futurist movie, with spotless masseuses in white ushering you around the marble floors, high vaulted ceilings with peach walls, and Tardis-like little huts with the various treatment baths in. You expect to see Patrick McGoohan any moment.
I sat in a massage bath; I spent 20 minutes in a thing best described as a chair-shaped hair dryer; I blissfully enjoyed a 20 minute massage while being showered. All totally relaxing and quite wonderful. If Bath’s thermal spa is anything like this it will be an experience not to be missed.
There is also the best Internet cafe we found in France, with a billion terminals full of teenagers playing network games against each other. They keep shouting when they kill or are killed by each other. Here you can learn real French.
The keyboard layout is different here: AZERTY instead of QWERTY, comma instead of M, SHIFT to obtain numbers, and after half an hour I still couldn’t find the Q. But then, Qs are an English concept unknown here, as a trip to the Post Office yesterday showed.
We also looked for the Avenue de Bath, whose existence was supported by the Tourist Info but denied totally by the police. It turned out to be a building site with no sign, so the photo will have to wait till next time…