It didn’t take long for my back to start complaining about the soft bed. Some people love soft beds. Sadly we don’t – Rich because of the NF2 tumour on his spine, and me because of the EDS. When the pain got too much I made up a bed on the floor using all of the spare duvets I could find.

Having not had very much sleep we abandoned our plans to catch the very early train to Quillan and walk up the nearest big hill. I do get frustrated that sometimes our health stops play, but we’re both guilty of trying to do too much, and the secret to managing our health quirks has been to accept them, modify our lifestyles where we can, and just get on with doing things, even if we have to do them differently. Both of us have stopped really caring what other people think, and whilst we’ll never climb Everest, we do still manage to have adventures which some might class as extreme.

Over a late breakfast we decided to catch the 11.45am train to Quillan, and just amble around for a few hours. Described as the gateway to the Pyrenees, Quillan is a very attractive town with plenty of facilities, but for us it lacked the small town charm of Esperaza. After exploring the side streets we found a shaded bench by the ‘washer women’ section of the River Aude – a natural beach which once served as the town’s laundry room. Whilst tucking in to our picnic of boiled eggs and salami we were overjoyed when four catalan horses and their owners joined us, and waded into the water for a paddle. Two of the horses playfully splashed their owners, and then lay down for an impromptu bath. We certainly choose our picnic spots well.

Back to the cottage on the 1.56pm train, in time for a nap before an early evening stroll along part of the Dinosaur trail – up past the cemetery and onto the hill marked by a cross, from which there are far reaching views over the town. Esperaza is very pretty to look at, but we suspect that there’s real poverty here. Food stamps are common, there’s definitely not much work around, and large families live in small properties. Whilst there are quite a few expats living out here, there’s a noticeable discrepancy between their wealth and that of the locals.

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