Life's surprises can be fantastic!
After rolling along below the fortress for a while, I turned off
on a shady, dirt path beside a creek. Unfortunately, by the time I
arrived at the campground, all the sites were taken. But the friendly
receptionist gave me permission to pitch my tent on the soccer field
-- that is, if I promised to stay close to the fence and not
interfere with the games.
Since I liked my "campsite with a view," I didn't mind dodging a
few soccer balls. Directly above me, on the plateau, sat the
magnificent fortress. At night, bathed in soft lights, it appeared to
be sitting magically up in the black sky. Even now, I become excited
when I think about this fairy-tale-like scene.
The next morning, though, I had to abandoned the soccer field. The
sun's rays were too harsh. So, after breakfast in the cafe and a swim
in the pool (it was a five-star campground), I moved to a spot among
the bushes where I found pools of shade and a few branches to hang
out my soggy laundry.
Later, I pedaled to the foot of the high plateau and hiked up the
steep incline to the fortress gate. Inside the thick walls I joined
swarms of tourists, sauntering through a labyrinth of crooked,
cobbled alleyways. I loved being in this medieval village among its
tall stone walls and ancient towers. Only when the heat became too
oppressive did I cease my wandering and seek refuge inside the cool
After eating lunch in an outside cafe, I took the castle tour.
With a guide, we strolled along its three-mile-long ramparts and
climbed inside several of its 50 towers, occasionally peeking below
through the narrow slits that warriors once used to shoot bows and
arrows, dump boulders or pour hot oil on their enemy's head. Grim,
Since there were no campgrounds on the next stretch of the canal,
I phoned ahead for reservations in a countryside hotel. What a
surprise when I arrived! The hotel was in an immense castle,
luxurious enough to be the Ritz, with lush green lawns, a swimming
pool, tennis courts and rolling hills in the distance.
Awestruck by its opulence, I eased through its ornate, iron gate.