Bordeaux to Med

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					                                                                             Parklands   ACCOMMODATION
                                                                         Railton Road
                                                                                         We planned to stay in youth hostels, hoping in this way to combine economy
                                                                            Guildford    with the company of the open road and a modicum of comfort. We thought that
                                                                    Surrey GU2 9JX       such a historic route would be rich in youth hostels and so were surprised to
                                                                      0870 873 0060      discover that they could only be found in Bordeaux(FUAJ), Agen(FUAJ),
                                                             Toulouse(FUAJ & UNESCO), Carcassonne(FUAJ) and Narbonne (UCRIF), near
                                                                 to Gruissan, our destination on the Mediterranean. We hoped that the gaps might
                                                                                         be filled by gites d'etapes, but found that none coincided conveniently with our
TOURING                                                                                  overnight stops, and so we decided to stay in small family hotels.
DEPARTMENT                                                                               Hostels and small hotels allowed us to avoid the extra baggage involved in
                                                                                         camping, but we achieved economy by "camping" in our hotel rooms, with the
                                                                                         help of a travelling kettle; a box of decent tea bags; lightweight knives, forks and
                                                                                         spoons; melamine crockery; and food from nearby supermarkets. To make eating
                                                                                         easier, we always asked for a table and chairs in our rooms, when staying at

                                                                                         In all cases we booked in advance, since we found it helpful to have a fixed
                                                                                         objective each day, and it avoided the tedium of looking for accommodation at
                                                                                         the end of a hot and sometimes tiring ride, as well as making things easier for our
            A Cycle Ride Along The Garonne And                                           young son who followed me on a Trailerbike.
                       Canal Du Midi                                                     MAPS
         Notes contributed by Warwick, Tricia and Philip Boulton 1996.                   Although the need for serious map reading and route finding was to take us by
                                                                                         surprise on this trip, we were well equipped to cope by our purchase of a set of
                                                                                         the excellent 1:100,000 Serie Verte IGN maps (nos 55,56,57,64,72). They were
In previous summers my family and I had cycled "downhill" along the Loire and
                                                                                         unfailingly accurate, contoured and of large enough scale to enable us to navigate
the Danube. Looking for a similar leisurely route in 1995, we hit upon the idea of
                                                                                         cities and the smallest country roads and tracks, which were popular with my
following a canal or flat river estuary. Study of topographical maps quickly
                                                                                         family who believe that relaxed cycle touring and main roads rarely mix well.
suggested the valleys of the Garonne and the Aude, linked by the canals Lateral
and du Midi, which would allow us to cycle comfortably between the Atlantic              GUIDE BOOKS
and the Mediterranean - entre deux mers.
                                                                                         I found no guide books which dealt adequately with the route we planned, and so
TRIP PLANNING                                                                            I made my own guide book, pasting together extracts from tourist leaflets, guide
                                                                                         books such as Michelin and the Helm Regional Series on Languedoc-Roussillon,
We prepared carefully for our trip since we have often found previously that even
                                                                                         et cetera. I also copied extracts from cruising guides to the canals of France
the best prepared tours can still provide sufficient surprises to satisfy our thirst
                                                                                         which described the countryside and towns through which our route passed.
for the unexpected. In addition to the details below a list of:- 'useful addresses',
hostels and guide books can be found at the back of this booklet.                        I looked at: "Cruising French Waterways", "Through France to the Med", and "
                                                                                         Through the French Canals". I discovered one guide dedicated exclusively to the
                                                                                                                    FR34.doc ~ Canal du Midi ~ This version printed 22/03/07 ~ Page 1
Canal du Midi, written by Tony Paris, and an English translation of a small but     main road, although we were always looking out for quieter, more rural roads,
lavishly illustrated French tourist guidebook written by Bernard Blaucotte,         running alongside main highways.           We found one such road through the
entitled "The Canal du Midi".                                                       delightful old walled town of Rions, where we stopped in the village square to eat
                                                                                    lunch. Surrounded by hushed and shuttered old houses, this enclosed dusty
TOWPATH PERMIT                                                                      square offered us exactly what we sought, benches, shade and an opportunity to
Regarding permits, we followed the advice of other CTC members and obtained         relax. On our way again, we stopped at Cadillac, named after the man who
a VNF (Voies Navigables de France) permit to cycle the towpath. As it turned        founded Detroit, and enjoyed a welcome rest drinking tea under an impressive
out, we were not challenged once and indeed saw very little evidence of any         colonnade on the lower side of the handsome market square. After St Croix, we
officialdom, but we were happy nonetheless to have this documentation.              turned left off the main road to climb the hill into Verdelais.
CYCLES AND EQUIPMENT                                                                This was a fascinating town. It boasted the tomb of Toulouse-Lautrec, which we
                                                                                    visited; but Verdelais was also known in the last century as a major centre of
Our bicycles were a Dawes Galaxy, with a Trailerbike attached, and a Raleigh        pilgrimage and consequently its main street is an impressive boulevard of fine
Pioneer. Each bike carried two water bottles, which were in almost constant use.    town houses. At the far end of these, we found the path to the town's "Calvary", a
Apart from a small tool kit, spare cables, extra inner tubes, and an oil can        bleak hilltop with three crosses, on the climb to which we passed a series of
(because of the dust), we took no other spares in the belief that expert help and   beautiful stone-built shrines representing the stations of the cross. What a
parts would never be very far away, but we were careful to pack our CTC list of     strangely moving experience it was to find such a stark and poignant re-
French bicycle vocabulary. This was mainly useful for explaining the workings       construction in such incongruous surroundings; the beauty and abundance of the
of the Trailerbike to numerous inquisitive strangers.                               encircling vineyards and the broad Garonne flowing peacefully through the
The weather was wonderful; there was no rain and each day was scorching hot.        valley below. On returning to the hotel, we were invited to sample a glass of the
We found that our supplies of sun oil were heavily used, and were pleased that      area's most famous product, Sauternes wine.
we had cycling shirts with capped sleeves. Mosquito/insect repellent cream was      We spent the night at the Hostellerie St Pierre, which was hospitable, roomy and
an essential, and we found the most effective brand was a French preparation        comfortable, although it had clearly seen better days. The price for 2 adults and
called "RNG Gel Anti-Insectes". We also took water purification tablets since we    child in a ensuite room was 180FF. That evening we tested for the first time one
consumed so much water in the heat that it was not always possible to fill the      of our budgeting principles. We located a local grocery shop, shopped prudently
bottles from entirely reliable sources.                                             with an eye to our lack of a stove, and then ate in our room. We also bought
                                                                                    croissants, chocolat pain and a plastic bottle of UHT milk, which enabled us to
ROUTE                                                                               enjoy a satisfying French breakfast. "Camping in the room" seemed to work well.
DAY 1: BORDEAUX TO VERDELAIS                                                        DAY 2: VERDELAIS TO TONNIEINS
On our first day, we set ourselves a modest 24 mile target, which would give us
                                                                                    Our second day's ride, of 45 miles, began with a delightful downhill freewheel
plenty of time to get into our rhythm and deal with those little mechanical         towards the Garonne, shimmering in the early morning heat . We rejoined the
adjustments which always seem to be necessary on the first day of a cycle tour.
                                                                                    D10 for a mile and a half, then crossed the river into nearby Langon and, after a
We left Bordeaux by the north bank of the Garonne on the D113, which became         little difficulty resulting from road closures due to repairs, we found the minor
the D10 at Latresne. To our relief, the road was not unduly busy and allowed a      road which ran past cornfields and gypsy encampments along the southern bank
fast and comfortable ride along gently undulating terrain near the river. We        of the Garonne towards Castets-en-Dorthe, where the Canal Lateral begins.
stopped for mid-morning coffee at Langoiran, finding a pleasant paved square
overlooking the water. We also bought food for lunch, and then returned to the
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Arriving at the canal, we were told by the lock keeper that the northern towpath       such as stuffed tomatoes, couscous, pizza slices, olives and nectarines. We ate
(chemin d'halage) was "cyclable". We were delighted to arrive here and put away        our feast at an impressive panoramic viewpoint in the cliff-top park overlooking
our maps, looking forward to a relatively trouble-free transit of the canals. Within   the river, after which, considerably revived, we sped along the D143, which
two miles, the condition of the towpath forced us to reconsider our expectations -     crossed a wide plain within a meander of the Garonne and quickly brought us to
the towpath was not a realistic proposition for ordinary touring bikes, laden with     our destination, Tonniens.
baggage, and with a reasonable distance to cover each day. Our speed dropped to
                                                                                       This was beautiful town to arrive at, built on an eminence above the river, with
an average of 4mph and our shoulders soon began to ache with the effort of
                                                                                       its ancient walls falling precipitously to the Garonne. Our hotel, the Hostellerie
preventing the bikes from lurching into the canal or colliding with trees after
                                                                                       du Chateau, was in the centre of the old town and was welcoming and generous.
having been thrown off course by a succession of raised tree roots, like an
                                                                                       Our bicycles were stored without hesitation in the bar and our host, Monsieur
endless cattle grid. Admittedly, this was high summer and the ground was
                                                                                       Cosneau, pressed upon us, free of charge, numerous bottles of mineral water.
parched, but the path was narrow, bumpy and offered little pleasure to the cyclist
                                                                                       "Did we really look that hot?" we wondered. Our room was clean, comfortable
hoping to enjoy a relaxed and uplifting ride along the water's edge.
                                                                                       and deliciously restful, and cost 210FF for three people. After eating, we strolled
So we were forced to leave the towpath and confront the need to plan a route           around the town, spending most of our time sitting in the main street listening to
along roads. Fortunately, for much of the canal's length, there were minor roads       the town band crucify its repertoire for the entertainment of citizens and tourists,
only a few yards from it and at a similar level. Very occasionally, such "parallel"    while our son played table football nearby with some local children.
roads were not available and more careful route finding was required in order to
maintain the flat gradient which my family preferred. Generally our "shadowing"        DAY 3: TONNIENS TO AGEN
of the canal was very successful, but only with careful attention to map contours      The next morning, we set off on a 36 mile journey to Agen. This day's ride, and
and the detailed information on minor roads which our maps offered.                    also that of the previous day, were very easy, as we followed the flattest and most
Turning off the canal at Mazerac, a couple of miles beyond Castets, we took the        direct route over the wide plain between the river and the Canal Lateral. The
D124 to Bassanne, then on to Puybarban, and the D225 to Fontet, at the edge of         Garonne valley between Langon and Agen appeared to be a major maize growing
the Garonne. We then followed the riverside road through the villages of               area, and it was pleasantly relaxing to cycle for hours on end along quiet winding
Tartifume, Hure, and les Hourneis to Meilhan-sur-Garonne. After a cooling              lanes lined on each side by dense fields of giant sweetcorn. Although the road
refreshment-stop there, our route squeezed between the canal and the cliff, and        was ascending all the time, the gradient was so gentle that there was no sensation
then we crossed the canal bridge to follow the D116 and D143, which ran for            of climbing and the cycling seemed effortless. The leisurely character of this ride
about twelve miles parallel to the canal, with an escarpment on the other side. On     was only occasionally disturbed by encounters with small farm dogs, bent on a
only one occasion, at Caumont-sur-Garonne, did the road re-cross the canal and         little roadside "aggro", and by the refreshing necessity to charge through showers
force us to climb. We stonked up a steep hill, bought ice creams in a boulangerie      of water being sprayed over the fields (and roads) by the farmers' oscillating
at the top, and then, awash with perspiration, we sat in the welcome shade of the      sprinklers.
village square to cool down.                                                           Leaving Tonniens, we retraced our previous day's route for a mile or so
Soon afterwards, we arrived at Le Mas d'Agenais. Stopping for tea in this              southwards over the river bridge and then set off along the D210 towards the
charming old town, my wife and I decided to divide our labours. Since we were          canal. Shortly before meeting it, we turned left on the D300 and then left again at
near to our final destination for that day, we decided that a refreshing bottle of     St.Christophe on the D427 in order to follow the riverside road through
white wine would be a welcome change to the warm water of our water bottles,           Monheurt and Monluc. When we crossed the D8, the road (now the D642) took
and so I set off in search of a corkscrew. The other members of my family              us on to Buzet, where a tributary of the Garonne, la Baise, joined the canal. We
mounted a cost-conscious raid on a local delicatessen, coming away with spoils         stopped at this point for coffee, since our attention had been caught by fire
                                                                                       engines drawn up alongside the canal at a basin where many cruisers were
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moored. It soon became clear that the firemen were simply enjoying a Sunday            on the map) all converge. At the top of the final sweltering hill we stopped for
morning get-together, with their appliances. The canalside refreshment hut was         refreshment, and enjoyed the unexpected treat of sitting outside a wisteria-
just opening, and we found a beautiful spot under a weeping willow tree, where         covered roadside inn, looking eastwards towards the confluence of the Tarn and
we sat with our coffees, allowing the air of warm and watery tranquillity to wash      Garonne, a few miles further on. Detaching ourselves from a discussion with the
over us. We left by the D12 for Thouars on the Garonne, shortly after which we         innkeeper about the wonders of the Trailerbike, we set off downhill towards
turned left onto the D437 for Meneaux. Crossing the D390, we found the minor           Moissac, taking the more peaceful pilgrimage route into the town, after turning
road to le Paravis and St Laurent. The road, now the D436, stayed with the river       right off the N113 past la Pointe and dropping down to a lower road, which
through Bequin but eventually curved southwards towards the canal at Plaisande.        became visible just after the confluence of the two rivers.
Here we rejoined the main road, the D119, and cycled along an undulating road
                                                                                       Moissac's jewel was its abbey, which was airy and spiritually uplifting. More
for the last few miles, passing through Drax before we arrived at our destination,
                                                                                       culture was on offer, such as the mediaeval cloisters and belfry. Those with
                                                                                       children, like us, seemed to choose the miniature train ride around the town,
Since it was only early afternoon and the sun was blisteringly hot, we headed for      which was short on splendour but long on diversion.
a new swimming pool complex where, relaxing under Polynesian umbrellas, we
                                                                                       We spent some hours in Moissac, sheltering from the midday sun and absorbing
ate a simple but satisfying lunch. The night was spent at the youth hostel near the
                                                                                       the charm of the town. We talked to visitors and locals, several of whom
canal, on the northern outskirts of Agen. Since we had failed to find a
                                                                                       persuaded us that the towpath could be cycled as far as our destination, Montech.
supermarket near the hostel, we accepted the offer of the warden's wife to cook
                                                                                       So we cycled out of town along the impressive viaduct and discovered that the
for us. Her meals were delicious and a change from salads in our room. We were
                                                                                       wide, newly gravelled path was not too bad, allowing us to travel at a maximum
the only guests, except for numerous mosquitoes which gorged themselves on us
                                                                                       of 10mph. We enjoyed the towpath, with its idyllic views, the delightfully
during the night since we had foolishly given in to my son's adventurous desire to
                                                                                       decorated locks, and the casual conversations with boatees as they paused to
sleep in the caravan in the hostel garden. The cost for the bed was 56FF per
                                                                                       negotiate the swirling waters. However, after five miles of the towpath, we began
person, including sleeping bag hire but no mosquito net!
                                                                                       to tire of our wheels repeatedly sinking into patches of deep gravel and our bikes
DAY 4: AGEN TO MONTECH                                                                 sliding sideways. We left the canal at Castelsarrasin and returned to the N113 to
                                                                                       ensure that we would get to Montech in good time for an evening meal.
We left Agen by the Canal towpath, heading for Montech, 43 miles distant. We
were beginning to realise that the towpath was often in a quite reasonable             We spent the night at the Hotel Notre Dame in Montech, a welcoming and very
condition as it passed through towns, where the requirements of dog owners,            well managed hotel. Our room, which cost 200FF, was bright and comfortable,
joggers and boat mooring necessitated a better surface, but it tended to deteriorate   with a luxurious ensuite bathroom. The town charmed us with its early evening
rapidly once the country proper was reached.                                           boules matches in the nearby bouledrome, and we later visited a nearby Italian
                                                                                       restaurant for our meal.
So we left the canal towpath where it met the N113 and cycled along this main
road for about 10 miles, taking advantage of its excellent hard shoulder. For most
of this distance the road ran parallel to the canal. We turned right off the road at
Golfech, going for about a mile on the D953, and then turning left again onto the
                                                                                       DAY 5: MONTECH TO TOULOUSE
D116 which ran alongside the canal for some miles.                                     The next morning, we were awoken by the sounds of industry outside our hotel
We rejoined the N113 at Malause and then gritted our teeth for the few hills           window, which turned out to be the early morning market, selling local food,
which separated us from Moissac, the beautiful Romanesque town where the               clothes and crafts. We bought cheese, bread and fruit there, but had to be on our
Garonne, the Tarn and the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella (GR65            way to France's second city, Toulouse, 36 miles away.

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Since Montech was very much a canal town, boasting its canal "water slope" as           We considered an expedition into the centre ville but the long, hot day had taken
its main attraction, we felt that we ought to leave via the canal. This proved easily   its toll and, after a short game of football with our son, we were content to shop
"cyclable" for the two miles or so used by strollers from the town but soon             locally and use the facility of the members' kitchen to prepare a simple but
afterwards it deteriorated and so we left by the next bridge, taking the road to        appetising meal. We stayed the night at the FUAJ hostel, which was so
Finhan, on the N113. We cycled along minor roads when they ran parallel to the          chaotically busy that, despite our careful prior reservation, we were forced to stay
main road, such as the lane between Finhan and Monbequi and that between                in a mixed dormitory, for a total of 175FF for three. The result was that my wife
Bessens and Grissoles.                                                                  was the only female in a room of twenty males, only two of whom she knew. The
                                                                                        night was uncomfortable, humid and full of the sounds of fitful sleep.
Here we joined the N20, which turned out to be incredibly busy, and so we
turned off quickly, taking the D49 to Ondes, where we stopped for refreshment.          DAY 6: TOULOUSE TO LABASTIDE D'ANJOU
This village is within commuting distance of Toulouse, the aerospace "capital" of
France, and it was clear that the consequent prosperity had turned villages such        We left the hostel very early next day, before our noisy sleeping companions had
as this into smart and well-equipped commuter dormitories. The bar we stopped           awoken. We had no breakfast or drinks and, feeling rather washed out, we
at was suburban rather than rustic.                                                     wished that we had stayed at the UNESCO hostel, which had family rooms. We
                                                                                        rejoined the canal towpath below the hostel and, happily segregated on our
After Ondes, we turned east to follow the road running along the north bank of          seventeenth century canal from the mounting noise and confusion of twentieth
the Garonne through Galenti, St Caprais, and Gagnac, where it becomes the D64.          century roads, we made a quick getaway from the waking city. The day was still
In the more traditional tree-lined village square of Gagnac, we sat alone in the        cool and our objective was Labastide d'Anjou, a small town near the highest
silent heat of midday eating our alfresco lunch, attended only by an inquisitive        point of the canal at the Col de Naurouze.
three-legged terrier, a gnarled canine veteran, determined to see us safely through
his territory. Despite appearances, the village was not deserted and, when we           We soon found ourselves in the countryside, and after a few miles spotted a huge
ventured into the darkness of the village bar to use the lavatory, we were              wooden galleon apparently aground in a field to the right of the canal. Since a
welcomed by a chorus of friendly greetings from locals who had been observing           road led off in that direction, and we spotted a sign saying "restaurant", we
our strange antics in the midday sun.                                                   decided to go off in search of coffee and croissants, and were rewarded by the
                                                                                        discovery of an outdoor restaurant alongside the galleon, where a waiter, still
After Fenouillet, the D64 entered the outskirts of Toulouse, crossed the autoroute      clearing up from the night before, took pity on us and provided coffee, bread and
(E9) and then descended immediately to the Canal Lateral, along the towpath of          jam. With Toulouse behind us and a meal inside us, we drank in the sights and
which we were able to cycle without difficulty into the very heart of the city,         smells of the countryside, and luxuriated in the growing warmth of the morning
where at a canal junction we turned smoothly left from the Canal Lateral onto the       sun.
towpath of the Canal du Midi.
                                                                                        Although we cycled into the wind for most of that day, our spirits began to soar.
This was a strange experience. The city completely surrounded the canal but did         It was a perfect ride. We rode endlessly along the towpath, which was wide, firm
not impede its progress, and so the cyclist pedalling alongside felt partly immune      and comfortable as far as Avignonet-Lauragais, just a few miles short of the Col
from the impact of urban traffic and society, although at times this immunity           de Naurouze. The canal, still Riquet's original construction of 1681, was lined on
seemed rather challenged as the canal became squashed between two                       both sides with plane trees, which provided welcome shade, as it meandered
carriageways of a ring road. Toulouse struck us as dusty, frantic and stifling; but     incessantly, following the contours of the land and presenting us with ever-
following our tranquil ribbon of water, we passed relatively calmly through this        changing vistas in light and shade. This was very different from the long, straight
oppressive cityscape and found our hostel only half a mile or so up a hill from the     reaches of Canal Lateral. Another difference we began to notice was that the
canal.                                                                                  Canal du Midi always seemed to pass at a little distance from towns rather than
                                                                                        through them, like the Canal Lateral, and so we began to worry that there had
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been no opportunity to buy our groceries for lunch. At midday, we raced away           D33, and coasted alongside the railway line to Bram and thence for the last 10
from the canal to the town of Gardouch, where we bought a melon, cheese, bread,        miles into Carcassonne.
rice salad and yoghurts. We quickly found our way back to the canal and ate at a
                                                                                       What a satisfying spectacle greeted us when we arrived at Carcassonne: a
pretty lockside hamlet which provided tables, benches and overhanging willows,
                                                                                       mediaeval walled city, sitting intact and imposing on top of a high hill and
an idyllic location for lunch.
                                                                                       separated from the nearby modern city by a river and fields. The FUAJ hostel
Restored by this meal, we pushed on towards the summit of the canal. Here canal        was in the centre of the mediaeval city and cost us 177FF for bed and breakfast.
users and autoroute motorists share an extensive and imaginatively designed            We cooked our evening meal in the members' kitchen and ate it outdoors in the
service area, Port de Lauragais, where roads and canal intertwine curiously. We        relative cool of the hostel courtyard. Afterwards, we watched a display of
had coffee overlooking the canal basin and visited the Riquet Museum in which          jousting between the concentric walls of the citadel, and then joined an English-
visitors could learn of the technological achievement which the canal represented      speaking walking tour of the city, learning about its architecture, nineteenth
in its day, and its subsequent impact on social and economic life in the South-        century restoration, and its mediaeval history, particularly its role in the rise and
West of France. The displays were fascinating. Of particular interest was the          suppression of the Christian heresy of Catharism. We had a thoroughly enjoyable
fountain outside, which led away the falling water through a series of small           stay in this extraordinary place.
opening locks, representing abstractly the basic principle on which Riquet's canal
was based. My son found a small wooden boat and became completely engrossed            DAY 8: CARCASSONNE TO GRUISSAN PLAGE (SOUTH EAST
in the problems of lock management. However, we did want to delay too long at          OF NARBONNE)
Port de Lauragais since we felt somewhat uneasy in the company of so many              Carcassonne marked the gateway to the valley of the Aude. Our final day's 55
noisy cars and hurrying motorists, and we were also keen to finish the last few        mile journey to Gruissan on the Mediterranean was smooth and swift, helped by
miles of that day's ride.                                                              a stiff westerly wind at our backs. Once again it was a scorching day and by its
At this point, the good towpath surface came to an abrupt end and, after a mile of     close my wife was suffering from some of the symptoms of sunstroke, despite all
dust and bumps, which reminded us vividly of the Canal Lateral, we left the canal      our precautions.
at Le Segala. Almost immediately afterwards, we cycled up a slight incline to          We left the mediaeval city by the back road, heading eastwards for Berriac and
Labastide d'Anjou where we spent the night at a small, modern and friendly hotel       rejoining the main road near Trebes, beyond which we followed the easy D610 to
called Le Gilladou. A room for three cost 180FF.                                       Marseillette. Here the road crossed the canal, which looked so charming that,
DAY 7: LABASTIDE D'ANJOU TO CARCASSONNE                                                endlessly optimistic, we set off again along the towpath, but within half a mile we
                                                                                       had become persuaded again of the superiority of tarmac, and rejoined the road to
Having passed the highest point of the canal, at 600 ft, the journey was, in theory,   Puicheric and Homps. Arriving at the latter at about midday, we found food in a
all downhill and the next day's ride did not disappoint during a hot but gentle 27     tiny village shop, shielded from the searing heat of the sun by a heavy curtain
mile spin to Carcassonne. Since the "cyclable" towpath had ended at Port de            over the doorway. We entered and, once our eyes had adjusted to the darkness
Lauragais, we left Labastide d'Anjou by road on the N113 to Castelnaudary,             inside, found ourselves face to face with a group of jolly villagers who were full
where we sought out a bicycle shop since I had discovered that morning that I          of questions about our cycling and affected a gratifying astonishment at our
had failed to pack a spare inner tube for my Dawes. We were rather surprised at        modest exploits. On their advice, we lunched at the side of the canal, borrowing
the expense of spares, but as if to prove the wisdom of this purchase, I suffered a    plastic chairs and a table from a couple who were cleaning cruisers for hire.
flat tyre within minutes, inflicted by the sharp cobblestones of old Castelnaudary.
This was repaired in the shade of the nearby Hotel du Canal, where we had              We then bade farewell to Monsieur Riquet's marvel, the Canal du Midi, and
coffee, near the town's beautiful inland harbour. We then left by a minor road, the    headed southeast on the D610 to Serame, immediately after which we turned left
                                                                                       on the D11 to Villedaigne. Rejoining the N113 for only half a mile , we left by a
                                                                                                                   FR34.doc ~ Canal du Midi ~ This version printed 22/03/07 ~ Page 6
slip-road which turned under the main road, becoming the D269 to Nevian.          Maison des Gites de France,
Passing numerous Minervois vineyards, which it would have been pleasant but       35 rue Godot-de-Mauroy,
probably imprudent to visit, we continued along this road, until we joined the    75439 Paris Cedex 09,
D607 which took us into Narbonne. Stopping there only briefly for coffee and      France (1 49 70 75 75)
fancy cakes, we bowled onwards for another 8 miles along the D168 and D31,        (Publishes annual guide "Gites
around the side of the Montagne de la Clape and arrived triumphantly, though      d'Etape & de Groupe", available
rather hot, at our ultimate destination on the Mediterranean, Gruissan Plage.     CTC shop, Stanfords etc )
There was a hostel in Narbonne, but we had arranged to be picked up by car. We
                                                                                  Towpath Permit:
made a rendezvous near the beach and, after a brief struggle with the bicycle
                                                                                  Le Directeur Regional,
rack, we were soon hurtling along the autoroute, which was fast, convenient and
                                                                                  Voies Navigables de France,
comfortable but lacked the adventure and charm of our previous eight days' ride
                                                                                  Bureau d'Affretement,
entre deux mers.
                                                                                  8 port St Etienne,
                                                                                  31079 Toulouse,
Federation Unie des Auberges
de Jeunesse (FUAJ,)                                                               HOTELS/HOSTELS:
27 Rue Pajol,                                                                     Auberge de Jeunesse,
75018 Paris,                                                                      22 cours Barbey,
France (1 46 07 00 01)                                                            33800 Bordeaux,
International Youth Hostel                                                        France ( 5 56 91 59 51)
Federation: (IYHF),
9 Guessens Road,                                                                  Hostellerie St Pierre,
Welwyn Garden City,                                                               Verdelais,
Herts AL8 6QW (01707 332487)                                                      33490 Saint Macaire,
                                                                                  France (5 56 62 02 05)
Union des Centres de Rencontres                                                   Hostellerie du Chateau,
Internationales de France (UCRIF),                                                4 Place Edouard Herriot,
72 rue Rambuteau,                                                                 47400 Tonniens,
75001 Paris,                                                                      France (5 53 79 01 13)
France ( 1 40 26 57 64)
(a private system of Hostels - no membership needed. A hostel guide is            Auberge de Jeunesse d'Agen,
available).                                                                       17 rue Leo Lagrange,
                                                                                  47000 Agen,
Gites d'Etape:                                                                    France (5 53 66 18 98)
                                                                                                             FR34.doc ~ Canal du Midi ~ This version printed 22/03/07 ~ Page 7
Hotel Notre Dame,
                                              ACCUEIL DE FRANCE:
Place Jean Jaures,
                                              12 Cours de 30 Juillet,
82700 Montech,
                                              33080 Bordeaux,
France (5 63 64 77 45)
                                              France (5 56 44 28 21)
Auberge de Jeunesse,
                                              Donjon du Capitole,
125 avenue Jean Rieux,
                                              31000 Toulouse,
31500 Toulouse,
                                              France (5 61 11 02 22)
France (5 61 80 49 93)

Centre pour UNESCO,
                                              15 Camille Pelletan,
Forum des Arenes,
                                              11012 Carcassonne,
BP 3156,
                                              France (5 68 25 07 04)
3127 Toulouse Cedex,
France (5 62 13 62 13)

Le Gilladou,                                  USEFUL BOOKS
Labastide d'Anjou,                            Paris, Tony              THE CANAL DU MIDI,
11320 Aude,                                   Enterprise Publications, 2a Southmoor, Buckleigh, Bideford, Devon EX39 9PU
France (5 68 60 11 63)                        (01237 475024)

Auberge de Jeunesse,                          Blancotte, Bernard     THE CANAL DU MIDI (English translation - Roger
rue de Vicomte Trencavel,                     Depledge), Editions Loubatieres, 10 bis, boulevard de l'Europe, 31122 Portet-sur-
Cite Medievale,                               Garonne,Toulouse(5 61 72 53 90
11000 Carcassonne,
France (5 68 25 23 16)                        McKnight, Hugh         CRUISING FRENCH WATERWAYS,
                                              Stanford Maritime, 1988.
Maison des Jeunes & de la Culture(UCRIF),
Centre International de Sejour de Narbonne,   Cruising Association FRENCH INLAND WATERWAYS,
Place Salengro,                               Ivory House, St Katherine's Dock, London E1 9AT (0207 481 0881)
BP 403,
11104 Narbonne Cedex,                         Bristow, Philip           THROUGH FRENCH CANALS, Nautical, 1987
France (5 68 32 01 00)
                                              Harper, Mike              THROUGH FRANCE TO THE MED, Cadogan
                                                                         FR34.doc ~ Canal du Midi ~ This version printed 22/03/07 ~ Page 8

Notes from information sent in by Vince O'Neil, 1993
Vince's route followed quiet roads running parallel to these waterways, plus some
sections of canal towpath and some cycle paths. Surface condition varied from
excellent to horrific (poor surface, brambles, tree roots...)! On these sections
cyclists may need to walk with their cycles and progress is likely to be very slow.
(More detailed comments on surface quality along the route can be found in the
CTC notes compiled by Warwick, Tricia and Philip Boulton 1996).

Useful translations     chemin de haulage = towpath
                        piste cyclable = cycle path
                        écluse = canal lock

Cycling permit and maps
A cycling permit for the canal towpath sections, plus useful maps and diagrams
of the canal can be obtained from the regional waterways office at 8 port St
Etienne, 31079 Toulouse. Vince called into this office and found the information
very helpful. A copy of the map which he obtained (which shows the canal in
detail with all its locks and bridges), is available from CTC Touring Dept - please
send an SAE. This map is best used in conjunction with a detailed road map
(e.g. the IGN 1:100,000 scale map.
Municipal campsites are shown on the map overleaf. They were found to be
cheap and adequate, ranging from 13 - 80 francs. Camping at the side of the canal
is forbidden.

Account of another Bordeaux to Narbonne Tour (1999)
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FR34.doc ~ Canal du Midi ~ This version printed 22/03/07 ~ Page 10