Days 13 to 15
Toulouse to Narbonne
We were expecting a hot sunny day. Looking out of the bedroom window it was drizzling but this stopped by the time we left the hotel. The day remained overcast and cold - so much so that we had to put on warmer clothes after lunchtime.
The hotel in Toulouse was overlooking the railway station and the canal - when we left we crossed the road and took this picture. The cycle track was exceptionally smooth and was used by lots of commuters, most on bikes. It passed under all the main roads so the first 30 miles was completely car/lorry free (but not bike free!)
Sometimes there was a separate walkers path as shown on this next shot. The cycle path is on the extreme left. After about 18 miles we stopped for tea and talked to some local cyclists who advised us to call into Gardouch as there would not be many other places to pick up supplies. So after a further 6 miles we left the track and entered the village to buy lunch. En route we stopped to watch a boat pass through a lock and were impressed by the automation - just the push of a button. By 12.15 we had completed 28 miles and found a park bench to relax on and eat lunch.
The stats for the day were 40.2 miles : 11.5 mph : 1043 ft climbed
We left Castelnaudary at 8.45 and headed towards Carcassonne with the wind behind us and along long straight level roads for the majority of the way. It was only in the last 8 miles that we came across any small gradients. The result was that our average speed between the two towns was over 16 mph and it only dropped to the overall average of 14.5 because of traffic congestion in the latter town. Amazing!
We were allowed to book in early to the Hotel Bristol which overlooks the Canal du Midi - it was only 10.30am. After showering we went out for a walk through the town aiming for the medieval city perched high on the hill above the new town. It was a good 2 kms away so we stopped for lunch in a central park, then took tea and made our way up a steep hill to the old town.
It was a beautifully clear sunny day and the temperature by now was approaching 25°C. We had good views over the new town and to the SW we could see the Pyrenees and to the NE the Massif Central. There were hoards of visitors. The old town is very well preserved and on a cooler day we might have spent longer walking around the ramparts.
We did spend time in the Basilica where a male four voice choir called "Doros" were singing - they were very good. We returned slowly to the hotel stopping for ice cream and drinks on the way. Got back about 3pm, lay down on the bed and didn't wake until 5!
The stats for the day were 23.2 miles : 14.5 mph : 390 ft climbed
We left Carcassonne at about 8.15am in a temperature of 20°C which then gradually increased throughout the morning exceeding 33°C at lunchtime. Not a cloud in the sky was seen all day.
The canal cycle path was not good enough for us to cycle on with our road bikes so we cycled along the roads which very much followed the route of the canal. Due to our growing reputation as speed merchants we had to ask three young frenchmen to either hurry up or let us through. They decided on the latter! We saw lots of cyclists going up and down the canal and nearby roads, heavily laden like us. We didn't succeed in finding a boulangerie until we reached Trèbes and no drink options were possible until near the end of the morning.
We found refreshment beside a busy lock where the lockmaster's wife had a stall set up selling drinks, ices and other knick knacks on request. We took advantage of this by purchasing two Amande Magnums which tasted absolutely delicious.
We sat under a tree eating our ices watching the boats going through the lock. Soon after we arrived at the village of Roubia - here we found a restaurant which served us with liquid refreshment. Madam very kindly offered to fill our water bottles with iced water. We then cycled for another half hour and stood under a shady tree to eat cold pizzas and cake. The size of the ants put us off from sitting down!
Only 7.5 miles left now, part of which contained a long gentle climb over a couple of miles before we dropped into Narbonne. The last few miles seemed endless because of the heat. We arrived at the hotel at 1.30pm to a friendly welcome.
The stats for the day were 45.2 miles : 13.5 mph : 919 ft climbed