A cycle trip down the 350 year old Canal du Midi from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. A map with all the photos is here.
Day 1 Wednesday 26th September Flight to Toulouse.
08:25 flight Edinburgh to Bristol EZY 428 arrives 9:40 £21.99. On plane met a man who was being paid to photgraph a girl in a tarten mini skirt for Edinburgh’s hogmannay advertising. 11:40 flight to Toulouse EZY 6139 arriving 14:30 £24.99. Got bus to traini station (30 mins) then stayed in Kyriad Hotel in two twin en suite rooms for €85 per room. Collected bikes. In evening we go to meet French people and some ex Edinburghers at an Irish Pub across the road from the hotel where the local tradition is to play darts. Our first drink was Guinness!
Day 2 Thursday 27th September Toulouse – Castelnaudary: approx. 34 miles
The bike path starts right in the city of Toulouse and leads you out to the Canal du Midi. Passed several locks and lunch in Villefranche-de-Lauagais where we ate the biggest bowl the world famous Cassoulet dish you could find. Tried to visit the biggest Rugby Museum in the world in Port Lauragais only to find it had closed so went to Canal du midi museum instead. Saw the Grand Bassin In the evening could eat no more so sat in a Castelnaudary cafe bar playing cards until the town closed at 9pm! It was offseason so everything closed. Stay in Hotel du Canal for €88
Day 3 Friday 28th September Castelnaudary – Carcassone: approx. 30 miles
A shorter run today as there is so much to see in the world heritage site of Carcassone. Made good time and stopped in Gallo-Roman town of Bram. Battered onto Carcassonne where we had lunch outside in the much warmer temperatures. Nice streets and shopping here, went to Sephora, before heading for the Pont Neuf which offered great views of the castle. Stayed in world famous Carcassone castle in the Youth Hostel located in the medieval town which costs £12 per night each for a 4 bed room. Raymondgot bit by the dog in the courtyard behind the hostel and had to go for a series of anti tetanus jags on return to the UK. We ate the oldest restaurant in Carcassonne and dined on wild boar stew before being chucked out at 11.
Day 4 Saturday 29th September Carcassone – Narbonne: approx. 49 miles
Passed through Trebes, Marseillette, Puicheric with 11th centuary Chateau and medieval streets to Homps. Then branch off on Canal Du Robine. Lunch in Ventenac where the waiter delighted in saying “non” to Raymond’s request for salt. The French in this part of France have a very good sense of humour. Took a short cut toNarbonne so we didn’t do the full 90 miles. Narbonne is another great town with its great gothic cathedral, its archibishop’s palace and its Roman underground warehouses. We walked the Via Domita in Narbonne, the 2200 year old Roman Road that connected Italy to Spain. Went to the museum of Roman art which was really good. Stayed in Will’s Hotel in centre of city for £23 each. It had new owners who couldn’t do enough for us and stood at the door waving us off in the morning.
Day 5 Sunday 30th September Narbonne to Beziers approx 40 miles.
Back up to Canal du midi in pouring torrential rain. Stopped in cafe in Ouveillan where Russell gets pranked coming out the toilet by the Jim Bowen lookalike owner. Andy buys 4 scratch cards for group and causes a village sensation by winning three out of four. Cycled on to Capestang with its 14th Century Church where we stopped for lunch meeting Andy’s uncle Peter. The rain stops. We then climb a hill by bike to get to a prehistoric settlement. At the top there is a charge to see the settlement which is a disappointment after 40 minutes climbing. Take pictures of the dried up lake from Enserune Oppidum and through the Malpas tunnel. When we reach Beziers we climb another hill to our hotel. Lots of Arabs in Beziers. Stay in Hotel De France near city centre for £15 each and find a restaurant on the main drag. Played 6 player clag in bar with loads of English.
Day 6 Monday 1st October Beziers to Sete to Nimes approx 35 miles.
Another day another puncture for Andy. Only got a few miles out of town before we had to spend some time sorting it. Quite a head wind today. Stopped for a seafood lunch on a floating restaurant in Agde, well-known for its fortified Romanesque cathedral built in basalt. Raymond and Russell cracked on to do the final leg into the wind through nudist colonies inhabited by over 60’s out doing their shopping and being chased by Rottweillers. Thery arrived in Sete just as the train was due to leave for Nimes. Raymond was in shock and needed a quick drink only to see the train had changed platforms so we then had a mad rush carrying bikes down stairs and tunnels to egt onto the train. at the end of Canal du midi. Train to Nimes €11. Stayed in Kyriad Nimes. Ate out in one of the many mnay restaurtants and street cafes. Nimes was our favourite town of the trip.
Day 7 Tuesday 2nd October Nimes to Toulouse by train
Spent morning going round Nimes with Roman ampitheatre and Maison Carree Roman Temple the oldest surviving Roman temple in Europe. Lunchtime Train to Toulouse €30. Took 3 hours, 3 games of cards, and returned bikes at 17:30. Stay in Kyriad Hotel again. Andy managed to book a table in the De Danu Irish pub and the giant plasma screen and watch Rangers beat Lyon 3-0. Everyone but Raymond had two teas ( we were hungry).
Day 8 Wednesday 3rd October Travel to Edinburgh
Bus from Station to airport at 07:30. Toulouse Edinburgh via Dublin Aer Lingus EI 533 10:40 to 11:40. Three pints of Guiness followed by Ryanair flight 816 Dublin to Edinburgh 15:10 arrives at 16:15 with loads of Celtic supporters on board. Home for a Deuchars.
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