I don't have engine brakes but did have to apply mine on the switchbacks going down. I spent a few days in the hills and the best thing about going up is you are usually rewarded with great views.
On Tuesday September 21st I arrived in the small town of Sainte Affrique.

On the recommendation of a fellow cyclist I decided to stay at a French B&B. They offered a dinner where you eat with the family and other guests. The hosts spoke some English but no one else in the group of 11 did so I was pretty much on my own. I had a long day and was hungry so was more interested in the food anyway. It was wonderful enjoying a traditional dinner with an aperitif, followed by salad, main course, cheese, dessert and coffee. The wine and food were organic with most grown on their property. The owner told me he worked in a high stress job as a central buyer for France's largest grocery chain and decided 4 years ago that the stress was not worth it. They bought a large old home with about 5 acres and have a small orchard, goats, a few cows and vegetable gardens. He said it was much harder than he thought but far more rewarding than what he used to do. It was a great way to spend an evening.

The camping sites in this part of France are closing so I decided to head south towards the coast. I was also still feeling the effects of a cold and thought cycling on flatter ground might be easier for a while. I put in another long day and was running out of daylight when I spotted a series of camping vans by the side of a river. I asked if I could set up my tent and was welcomed with open arms. I ended up about 10 feet from a fast moving stream which sounded just like those cd's they sell you in some stores to promote relaxation and a good night sleep. I had the real thing.
France - Southern France (September 21st - September 25th)(continued)
The southern part of France is noticeably warmer and more humid and I did have a full day of rain on Friday September 24th. I woke up in my tent to a torrential downpour so decided to stay put until it stopped. A few miles down the road I was back to sun and heat. I also had my first flat tire of the trip. The tricky thing with changing a flat is that you have to ensure that any sharp object that may be embedded in the outer tire is removed or you could puncture the tube again within a few minutes. In this case, the outside tire had a small hole so I replaced the tire and the inner tube. Now I do not have a spare tire and only 1 inner tube so will have to make sure I visit the first bike store I run into. You can really be stuck if you can't fix your flats.
On Saturday September 25th I approached Marseilles and have stopped for the night before I try and navigate through the large City. I left it for a Sunday as the traffic should be at a minimum. I had a challenging day with the wind gusting to at least 30 mph. It was generally at my side but with the bays and inlets along the coast, you end up going in all directions. In one case today I was almost at a complete standstill against the wind but thankfully turned around a short while later. I definitely prefer mountains to wind. I passed through some gorgeous towns, here is Martigues.