I woke up this morning to a howling easterly that was honestly disturbing. I am sure the hotel lady thought I was nuts, just staring out onto the canal, watching the trees bend. It was also freezing cold – 2 or 3 degrees when I started out. But it wasn’t raining, so I didn’t have a real good excuse to not at least give it a try. So, after wolfing down as much baguette as I could I cycled out of Castelnaudary. This is the ‘port’, which is actually part of the Canal du Midi. In better weather, Castelnaudary is a major stop for pleasure craft on their way up/down the canal.
A few kilometers out of town I ran across the headquarters of the French Foreign Legion. They must have a lot of foreigners there because it took me a good 10 minutes to cycle past the compound!
The wind was strong, but at least consistent. I made around 15 km an hour in the morning I think, and made it to the incredible (from a distance) walled city of Carcassonne for lunch. Here are a couple of shots of the exterior, just because everything inside is either a crepes restaurant or gift shop.
While I was drinking my ‘vin chaud’ in Carcassonne it was actually snowing outside. The guy who made my panini thought I was nuts to be going all the way to Narbonne, and I admit to contemplating how easy it would be to just hop on the train down the hill and be home in Montpellier by tea/beer time…but it still wasn’t raining and I own these hi-tech shirts for a reason, right? So, I pushed off into the wind again.
And then it started raining, of course.
I’ve got the upper body covered when it comes to rain, but I never bought any Gore-tex pants/boot covers since I thought that it hardly ever rains in the south of France. The result was freezing wet legs, and after a while, freezing wet feet. But since I was wet I figured I’d just keep moving and suffer the rest of the afternoon. But it wasn’t all bad. It rained intermittently, and I cycled through some nice wine country. This is Corbieres, a region that produces a dark, earthy wine, with little subtlety, much like the country it is grown in.
The afternoon was long, but the wind died down a little, so it just remained wet and cold. I slowly made my way towards Narbonne, snapping this photo of…something, in the hills west of the city.
Around 5:30 pm I got to the hotel, which meant I’d been riding non-stop (except for my 30-min lunch) for about 8 hours – about 7.5 too many!
The next morning I woke up, had breakfast, oiled my chain, and took a look out the front door of the hotel for about half a second before deciding this trip was over. It was raining quite hard (for the south at least) and still freezing, so I hopped on the bike and rode the 500 meters to the train station and a warm, dry TGV all the way home.