In 2013 we re-started our cycle touring in France by going from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Most of the journey was along the side of the Canal du Midi and it was quite an adventure.
Before the tour I had spent lots of very enjoyable time researching touring cycles and had purchased a fabulous traditional touring bike built by Spa Cycles in Harrogate.
We cycled about 250 miles over 10 days; it was tough, the weather was awful, it rained most days and the towpath alongside the Canal Du Midi was narrow, very muddy and had growing bushes and trees in it!
Perhaps since we did it, they have improved the cyclable tow path?
We flew from Leeds and Bradford airport to Toulouse with the bikes (Lynda’s and mine) partially dismantled and packed into 2 specialised flight bags.
We spent the first night at the Pullman Hotel in Toulouse and assembled the bikes outside the hotel the next day. We were all ready to get going and early Monday morning we cycled to the rail station to get a train to Bordeaux.
Trains were very delayed and we arrived at Bordeaux quite late in the day; much later than we expected and had some challenges in finding the Roger Lapébie path to Creon. Although its supposed to be famous the locals didn’t seem to have even heard of it!
However, it was a lovely cycle and a great start to the trip, the hotel was a bit challenging to find in Creon but was very good – with a nice and very welcome dinner – omelette and a buffet!
The next day was incredibly wet and started the weather we experienced for most of the trip. We did about 30 miles today and overnighted at Sauveterre. The last part of the cycle was very hilly and quite challenging in the awful weather. We stayed in a very nice private house.
Wednesday, we set off in the rain and found the canal quite easily – the previous day we had been cycling very close to the River Le Rhone but from now onwards we cycled alongside the Canal du Midi. We overnighted at Fourques sur Garonne in a private house and had a lovely dinner of roast pork! The host who was Scottish was great at putting our extremely wet clothes in her washing machine and drier!
Now we had a much better day and cycled along the canal to Damazan where we stayed in an amazing chateau which was run down and needed massive repairs. The elderly Madam made roast duck dinner for us which was lovely after drinking pastis with us! It was cold and wet but very entertaining.
It was very wet again, but we pressed on the next day to Bon Encontre. We were hungry and had the first “big lunch” fish and rice pilaf and Crème Brule – great cycle in the afternoon. However, the hotel we had arranged was terrible, so we changed plans and stayed at the Hotel le Provence in Agen.
Saturday, we had a great breakfast in the hotel and set off in the sun! – lovely! We had a great day cycling and managed about 30 miles, although parts of the Canal du Midi towpath were very challenging. We stayed at the Moulin De Mossiac Hotel at Mossiac.
Sunday, we had a rest day and explored the St Pierre Abbey. We decided to get a train Monday morning and “jump over Toulouse” to Castelnaudrey. We had noticed that lots of the canal towpath near to Toulouse were very occupied by homeless people which would make that part of the cycle over-challenging.
So, on Monday morning we cycled to the rail station and very easily got a train to Castelnaudrey. The Canal towpath was extremely rough and very challenging. We did stay overnight here and had a fabulous Cassoulet – the waitress was very alarmed we also ordered chips – nevertheless they were also fabulous!
Tuesday 25th June! An important day, my 60th birthday!! So off we went to Carcassonne! Another 30 mile plus cycle day. Lovely at first leaving Castelnaudrey but the surface got terrible and when we arrived at Carcassonne where we were staying, which was very close to the fortified part of the City it was quite a challenge getting across the modern section of the city. We had a lovely birthday dinner of Foie Gras, Roast Duck and Apple Tart – this was a great birthday to remember.
We decided to stay another day at Carcassonne at the Hotel du Chateau, and we explored the fortified City. We also decided to cycle back into the modern city the next day and get a train to Narbonne so we could avoid the horrible towpath and then complete the adventure and cycle down to the Mediterranean.
Thursday, we left the hotel near to the fortified area and pushed through the newer part of the city to the train station – lots of traffic! Great train to Narbonne which was lovely. They are working on the canal in the town centre to make it more a part of the tourism. Towpath was poor again, so we found the road to Gruissan which was lovely with a village, plage and little chalets. We stayed at a nice basic hotel where we had Mussels, duck confit and chips – lovely to have made it to the Mediterranean!
Friday, we cycled back to Narbonne, wow! We now had a tremendous headwind – even the hotel owners suggested we should get the bikes on a bus rather than cycle – we didn’t however and did make it! And we got on a train back to Toulouse. Went back to the hotel, dismantled the bikes and got ready to return to the airport. We did have a fabulous dinner in a fish restaurant which was a Paella with chilli and squid – one of the very best paellas we have ever eaten!